Kendall seems very drunk in the final scene, and given his battles with addiction throughout the show, some have speculated that there might be other substances involved here. But, as Vox’s Emily VanDerWerff wrote, the show has not explicitly shown us that, and it would not feel very tonally consistent to do a surprise reveal in the season finale that Kendall had been using drugs without previously depicting it along the way.
The timing of a widely-circulated New Yorker profile of Strong, which was published the day the episode aired, has many thinking the actor is bidding farewell to the defining role of his career thus far.
“To me, the stakes are life and death,” Strong said. “I take [Kendall] as seriously as I take my own life.” Slate television critic Willa Paskin made a savvy point related to The New Yorker’s recent profile of Strong. “Textually: I don’t think Succession works [without] Kendall,” Paskin wrote. “But extra textually, I find it hard to imagine the New Yorker ran a whole profile that omits what would be The Big Story, a week before they could tell that whole story.”
There’s a major plot point left unresolved, too, one that The Ringer’s Charles Holmes called “the Chekhov’s gun of Succession S3”: Kendall’s role in the death of a caterer at Shiv’s wedding. The pair left the event looking for drugs and crashed a car into the water, which Kendall was able to escape from, but the other man did not.
Logan references this during his private dinner with Kendall towards the end of the last episode. “How long was that kid alive before he started sucking in water? Couple of minutes?” Logan asks. Kendall is clearly shaken, and the next time we see him, he’s splayed out on a pool float, beer bottle in hand, face in the water, which some people are pointing out, may have been the point.
The New Yorker story also includes an anecdote that seems potentially connected to the episode’s cliffhanger. Apparently, during his break before the third season, Strong was on vacation and rode a “motorized surfboard,” which he said made him feel like he was flying, but the sensation was perilous. It’s a clear metaphor for Kendall’s arc this year, where he starts off on a righteous high as a symbol of the woke crusade against the indiscretions of Waystar Royco. But by episode eight, he’s been brought low, and wants out entirely.
“He thinks he’s flying, but he’s about to fall any second,” Strong said.
There’s one more big hint that Kendall has unfinished business–the mention of a podcast about the Roy family that wants to interview him. His publicist, Comfrey, tells him about it and the fact that they’re sniffing around the caterer’s death, wondering whether it may have been caused by Logan’s intimidation. Kendall seems intrigued, and going on the podcast to tell the full truth–both about his father’s misdeeds and his own role in the young man’s tragic passing–would be the ultimate self-sacrifice, since he’d likely lose his freedom in the process. Despite Kendall’s desire to leave this whole dynamic behind–he says if he’s allowed out of Waystar he’ll be “a ghost” who won’t even give a speech at his father’s memorial–Logan is hellbent on keeping his son under his thumb. Increasingly, it seems like the only true choices for Kendall are either taking them both down or dying.
But Succession has been renewed for a fourth season, and it’s hard to picture the series going on that long without Kendall, since so much of its white-knuckle tension comes from the battle between the Roy family’s lone crusader and his siblings and father.