Succession has a knack for building up tension to the point where the loathsome main character of the week finds themselves minutes from a public performance and a shared knowledge that whatever happens out there is going to be a disaster. Tom Wamsgans up on Capitol Hill. Frank Vernon with no script to fall back on in front of a room full of investors. But no one has been in this unfortunate position more than Kendall Roy — the No. 1 Boy who wants nothing more in life to have that honor mean something. And we've seen him weasel out of such peril by taking the coward's way out not once, but twice before.
He pulled out of the liberal comedy show with a Samantha Bee-esque host because he realized he didn't actually want the smoke, a choice that led to even more humiliation. He opted not to cover Billy Joel at his drug-addled 40th birthday party disaster despite extensive rehearsal. Everything was there to suggest he would do the same — hell, that he should have done the same — last night and pulled the plug on a Hail Mary attempt to juice Waystar's stock price at the 11th Hour through a devious plan to warehouse the elderly and nuke them with content after Roman and Shiv saw handwriting on the wall warning of what should have been a disaster.
Yet he didn't. He went out there, just him on a stage with his father beaming in from the afterlife like Dr. John Hammond on the Jurassic Park ride, and pushed through the early stumbles to do what always works in business. Which is to say either the biggest number or the biggest idea regardless of any supporting reality.
He felt he had to because he's the CEO now. If you forgot that, his skin-tight flight suit saying as much was there to remind. Make no mistake. He looked ridiculous and will be proven ridiculous for throwing out projections that would make the WeWork guy squeamish, potentially opening himself up to professional and legal liability. In this world of smoke and mirrors and polished bs, though, he won the day.
Really, that's all the Roy kids care about. Strip away the surname and the billions of dollars and it's plain to see that they are all desperate daytraders, desperate to prioritize the short-term wins over the enduring ones. Maybe on some level they all agree with dear ol' dad in his assessment that they aren't serious people and have learned to relish the brief moments they ascend to the top of the depth chart because a correction is always coming.
So we saw Kendall, shirtless and voracious and happier than we've ever seen him diving headlong into the Pacific Ocean as the sun set in paradise. With a few tweaks it could have been the series finale, and a downright satisfying one at that. A redemptive arc that's meandered through four seasons with self-inflicted tragedy and his penchant to impose tragedy on others.
In the back of our minds there was that terrible thought dancing around. The idea that he might drown here as opposed to that resort pool where people actually thought he died. The memory that one of the best days of his life ended in the water, where a caterer's last day ended.
But none of that happened. Kendall is not only living, he's Living+. There's a gleam in his eye impossible not to notice even if you look closely enough you can feel the impending consequences coming in from the distance.