Without a doubt, Succession's Kendall Roy, impeccably played by Jeremy Strong, is one of the most well-written characters on television at the moment. No matter how sleazy, rotten, and selfish he is, somehow we always wind up feeling bad for him. His tendencies to betray his loved ones — specifically his father, Logan Roy (Brian Cox) — exude a desperate quality, as if every move he makes is a cry for help.
Whether Kendall publicly annihilates his father and his company's reputation, or accidentally-yet-carelessly kills an innocent waiter, he always possesses a looming sense of dread. Our empathy for Ken isn't something we're proud of, but it's undeniable. As for said manslaughter — vehicular manslaughter to be exact — it's been brewing inside Kendall since the jarring Season 1 finale, and he just can't keep it bottled up any longer. The pain has become too much, and only the truth will set Kendall free.
What a tortured soul Kendall Roy is. His constant search for connection, meaning, and happiness has been a muddy one laced with booze and a laundry list of drugs. He'll likely never win back his ex-wife, Rava (Natalie Gold), and he's perhaps soured his relationship with his children for years to come. Kendall's inexplicable sorrow was only amplified at Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Tom's (Matthew Macfadyen) wedding during the Season 1 finale.
In a desperate attempt to search for drugs, a highly intoxicated Kendall drives himself and waiter Andrew Dodds into town. But a sudden deer in the road forces Kendall to swerve, the car going over a bridge and into a body of water.
While Kendall was able to save himself from the sinking vehicle, he briefly attempts to rescue an unconscious Andrew before giving up and fleeing the scene.
In the end, Logan is the only one to discover the details of the fatal incident, sweeping it under the rug for his desperate son. In exchange for the protection, Kendall goes to substance abuse rehabilitation and essentially becomes a servant to his father's wishes. From that moment on, Kendall is trapped in a cage he built himself.
Though Ken does rebel against his father in Season 2 and 3, he trusts that Logan loves him enough to take the secret to his grave. Amazingly, even in the midst of their ruthless family feud, Logan doesn't tell a soul.
Kendall finally confesses the vehicular manslaughter he committed to siblings Shiv and Roman.
In the Season 3 finale, "All the Bells Say" — set at Caroline Collingwood's (Harriet Walter) wedding in Italy – Kendall unveils the secret that has been haunting him for two seasons, further contributing to his low self-worth. When Shiv wants to discuss the details of the undesirable deal Logan is making with Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård), the CEO of streaming service GoJo, Kendall wants no part of it.
Shiv sternly asks Ken, "Do you have an angle on this? Are you speaking with Matsson?" It's that accusation that makes Ken hopelessly fall to the ground, as having an "angle" is the furthest thing from his mind. After relaying to Shiv and Roman (Kieran Culkin) that he's "not here," and that "there's something really wrong" with him, Ken's siblings finally start listening.
As his thoughts spill out like word vomit, he says, "I killed a kid." Silence. With grace and sympathy, Shiv and Roman let him talk (though Roman, of course, cracks a joke or two). In a heartbreaking moment, Kendall states, through messy tears, "I'm all apart."
The admission is cathartic, one that feels like a weight lifted. This raw conversation, spontaneously set in a pile of Italian dirt, is one of the most honest, meaningful scenes the Roy siblings have had all season. And though Roman isn't exactly good with vulnerable feelings and emotions, his vulgar, blunt sense of humor actually aids in comforting Kendall.
"You know, one waiter down, that makes sense. It took me forever to get a f--king drink at her wedding," Roman says. "Who's the real victim here? I waited three quarters of an hour for a gin and tonic."
Though undoubtedly morbid, his cracks get Kendall – who's still in the midst of a mental breakdown – to let out a giggle.
How a scene can simultaneously feel light and heavy is beyond us, but Succession always finds a tactful way to pull at our heart strings. No matter the amount of insults, betrayals, and fights (both public and non-public), the Roy kids are forever there for each other.
Seasons 1, 2, and 3 of Succession are currently streaming on HBO Max.