[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the Season 2 finale of Succession. Read at your own risk!]
That sound you heard late last night was the collective gasping of every Succession fan in America as the tail end of the Season 2 finale unfolded. Because after a full season of sad sycophancy and groveling -- and, yes, one humiliating rap ode to his old man -- Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) finally decided to go public with how he really felt about Logan (Brian Cox) and told the world that his dad is "a malignant presence, a bully, and a liar." More importantly, he admitted that Logan was directly aware of the cruise line scandals and cover-ups that threatened to cripple Waystar Royco and that he had documents to prove it. (Thanks, Cousin Greg [Nicholas Braun]!)
But was Kendall's about-face actually a surprise for Logan, or did he orchestrate the whole thing?
To find out, let's back up a bit. In the beginning of the episode, as Greg fumbled his way through his congressional testimony, Logan got word that the shareholders decided it should be him who went down with the
cruise ship. He then gathered his family and closest associates on the yacht, which was conveniently out of range for cellular service. The group endured another of the series' signature agonizing round-table affairs, in which everyone threw the blame on someone else -- or went with pitiful pleas, like when Shiv (Sarah Snook) essentially surrendered her shot at the top spot by begging for Tom (Matthew MacFadyen) to be spared. Logan and Kendall did attempt a last-ditch privatization deal with Stewy (Arian Moayed), but when that failed, Logan ultimately settled on Ken to be the fall guy.
The optics worked, his position fit the bill, and besides, Logan knew there'd need to be a blood sacrifice -- giving up a thing he loved so much "it would make the sun rise again." Ken seemed more than willing to accept that dishonor. Considering how much guilt he still had over that deadly car crash and his failed coup of dear dad last season, his embrace of the sword made sense.
However, Kendall did have one more question: Was there ever a time that his father thought he could take the top job? The answer was a reluctant no; Kendall wasn't a killer, and to be the new Logan Roy, he'd have to be. So, Kendall gave Logan a kiss on the cheek (the kiss of death), and, with Greg and his paperwork in tow, flew away and declared an end to Logan's reign.
There are plenty of takeaways to be had here. On the one hand, we could interpret the ending to mean that after being asked to send away not one but two girlfriends, facing prison time, and suffering through his myriad other grievances throughout the past two seasons, Kendall finally had enough. When his dad said he wasn't a "killer," he decided to prove him wrong once and for all.
On the other hand, there are plenty of fans who think that Logan was the real mastermind of this moment. If the board wanted Logan's head, there's not much he could do to stop it; so instead of fighting, Logan isolated everyone and pushed Kendall just far enough to make him worthy of the top job. That way, while Logan would go down, his son would rise (remember the little metaphor before?).
If true, this theory would certainly explain why, when watching the news conference from the comfort of his yacht, Logan merely shushed his other children and seemed to have a bit of a twinkle in his eye and a twist in his lip. Was that fatherly pride we saw there?
Let's take a vote. Did Logan orchestrate Kendall's betrayal, or was it Kendall's moment alone?
Don't worry, folks. Succession has already been renewed for Season 3, so even though that excellent ending could've served as a satisfying series wrap, there's more Roy family drama still to come.
Succession Seasons 1 and 2 are currently available on HBO.