Why Do We Root For Kendall Roy Despite All His Wrongdoings In ‘Succession’?

My favorite moment from Succession is the last ten minutes of the season 2 finale, when Kendall Roy potentially declares war against his media mogul father, Logan. For the entirety of that season, Kendall had been his father’s trusted dog—doing Logan’s bidding without asking any question, following every instruction of his father to a T, and most essentially, who can forget “L to the OG”—Kendall’s iconic self-composed rap tribute to the big man on his birthday?

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Not that the Little Lord Fauntleroy hadn’t tried to upend his father before. In fact, in the very first episode of Succession, his heart broke when Logan stomped on his dream of becoming the Wayster-Royco CEO by refusing to step down, which set the course of the entire show. So, Kendall tried his hand at winning the approval of his disapproving father while trying to ascend to the throne right from the very beginning—until he accidentally killed the waiter at his sister’s wedding and fell into the blackmail trap, aka his season 2 situation. That is why it was particularly satisfying to see him finally giving it back at the press conference, looking right at the camera. I bet that was intentional, knowing Logan would be watching. And Kendall was right, after all. Logan did watch, and that little smirk on his face clearly implied that Kendall had what it takes—the killer instinct.

Cut to Season 4, Episode 4, the one right after the episode where Logan died. Kendall walks into the same bathroom where he went on a rage-fueled rampage in the very first episode after not getting the CEO seat, but this time we find him oddly calm. Five minutes later, he comes out and asks Hugo to run the “Logan was a bad father” narrative in order to strengthen his co-CEO position, and we see a smirk on his face, very similar to the one that his dad wore.

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The thing about Succession is that, despite being a version of our world’s Game of Thrones, it doesn’t have a morally righteous character. Everyone is some kind of a psychopath, and all of them are doomed. And honestly, that is what makes the show far more exciting than it would have been if it had had a bona fide “good guy” from the beginning. Yet, the majority of the audience root for Kendall. We feel shattered to see Kendall standing helplessly in the middle of the busy NYC road after failing to reach the office building for the all-important meeting to decide the fate of his father. We get devastated when we see Kendall crumbling into a million pieces on his own birthday. We hold our hearts in our mouths when an intoxicated Kendall drowns himself face-down in the pool, in a failed suicide attempt. We cheer him on when Kendall successfully manages to pull off something as ludicrous as Living Plus, at least on the surface level.

However, we can’t overlook the repeated drug abuse problems. Or the fact that despite having a POC ex-wife and kids, he sided with a notorious fascist like Jared Mencken. Or being a terrible husband to Rava and an absent father (who is no better than Logan) to his kids. I don’t know about you, but the way this dude talks to his ex-wife in the latest episode when all she wants is to get away with the kids for legitimate safety concerns is infuriating to watch. Not to mention, the way he behaves with Jess after learning that she is planning to leave is extremely problematic. Kendall Roy has all these awful traits, and he’s far from being a good man.

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But there is still good in him after all. Under the thick layer of all the insanity and cringiness that potentially make him one of the greatest meme materials both in the world of the show and the internet, Kendall Roy does have a heart. Remember when he went to meet the dead waiter’s family with Logan? All he could manage was a blank stare before cleaning the glass. It genuinely bothered him that a man died due to his inability to get a handle on his drug problem. He genuinely believed in paying for his sins, which is why his entire “robot-on-command” personality in the second season came off as one of the most earnest portrayals of a dejected man. Of course, we have to give due credit to Jeremy Strong, the actor who is infamous for his notoriously methodical process of playing characters where he wouldn’t even hesitate to ask to be sprayed with real tear gas while playing a protestor (The Trial of The Chicago Seven). Strong plays Kendall in a distinctive manner where you can’t help but laugh at him, loathe him for his certain antics, but also love to see him win. Interestingly, Strong is also known for isolating himself from the rest of the cast to stay true to his character. In fact, Brian Cox has even shown concern for his well-being, which only adds an extra layer to the already dense Kendall-Logan rivalry, if that makes any sense.

What further works in Kendall Roy’s favor is the lack of another remotely cheer-worthy character in the show, which I consider a masterstroke by Jesse Armstrong. Connor is never a part of the game; Shiv is selfish and keeps changing sides; Roman is a minefield of issues; Tom is a fawner; and Greg is a conniving snake. Even though Succession put out all these fascinating characters constantly plotting and scheming for the coveted throne in front of us, the noteworthy heroic moments are only reserved for Kendall. From the press conference in the Season 2 finale to the solo beach scene at the end of the Living Plus episode where Kendall fearlessly runs towards the water (referencing the pool incident from Season 2) to all the cool walks wearing his signature black sunglasses– Kendall is the flag-bearer of whatever little scraps of heroism Succession has to offer. In the current season, a hefty amount of dark energy has been infused into the character—so much so that we are actually calling it “the dawn of the Villain Kendall era” (the vampire overcoat in Logan’s funeral can testify to that), which is clearly an implication of his inevitable transformation into a Logan-like persona.

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If you think about it, the Roy family and the world of Succession represent the top tier of the capitalist food-chain—people who don’t even get affected by something as big as a pandemic. For them, flying around the world in their private jets is pretty much like going to the nearest grocery store to buy cigarettes. One of the many reasons the show works for so many people, including yours truly, is actually the lack of relatability. In the midst of all that, watching a faulty, broken-hearted, sad man trying to fight for the throne has an undeniably romantic charm. Kendall Roy is definitely no hero. He’s neither an anti-hero nor a villain; he is rather an amalgamation of all our hopes, dreams, and personal demons that we constantly battle with. With Succession airing its last episode in less than twenty-four hours, we will finally know who is getting the throne- but even if it doesn’t go Kendall Roy’s way, we will forever believe in his supremacy.


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Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra likes to talk about movies, music, photography, food, and football. He has a government job to get by, but all those other things are what keep him going.

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