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Succession season 3, episode 8 cliffhanger: What happened to Kendall?

Logan and Kendall face off in season 3's penultimate episode.

succession-s3-e8-alexander-skarsga-rd-kieran-culkin
Jeremy Strong is adrift as Succession's tortured heir Kendall Roy.
Graeme Hunter/HBO

People gathering in glorious sunshine to make their loved ones as miserable as possible... who doesn't love a wedding? HBO's Succession has always been a study of wealthy wretchedness, and season 3's penultimate episode spares no one in its bleak juxtaposition of untold opulence and unbearable emotional agony -- including one of the show's main characters in a riveting cliffhanger that has viewers on edge before Sunday's finale. 

Featuring the long-simmering father-son showdown between Kendall and Logan, episode 8, titled Chiantishire, is streaming now on HBO Max. Spoilers ahead!

spoiler alert

A fight for a knife in the mud

Life is a number on a piece of paper. It's a fight for a knife in the mud. That's Logan Roy's philosophy, beamed into every house in America. 

Logan had a hard life, born into a working-class environment, sent away from his mother and abused by his uncle. He had to claw himself out of harsh circumstances. But wealth and success haven't lightened or enlightened him. They've only hardened his world view. Still hewn from granite, he stews in an aggressively misanthropic view of the world and the people in it.

The problem is, Logan forces his toxic world view on the world. Through his media operation, he poisons global discourse with this assertion that life is a fight, that other people will screw you and you have to screw them first. He thinks he knows how the world works. But he'd also rather poison his grandson than show his son even a scintilla of conciliation. To Kendall, he's evil.

Kendall's total disinheritance

Head shaved and clad in soft earth tones (but still wearing his medallion), a melancholy Kendall is the ghost at the feast. Except he's increasingly haunted by the kid who died at Shiv's wedding, now the subject of renewed press scrutiny and on top of that an opportunity for Logan to twist the knife.  

Amid the beautiful scenery, Kendall has never been so unhappy. He and his fellow elite have all the luxury and privilege they could want, and it isn't what they need. Wealth is simply a weapon to be wielded, a bolster to an overweening sense of superiority that doesn't match their all too human insecurities.

By the end of the episode, Kendall's face down in a swimming pool, presumably dead drunk... and also possibly dead dead? As the camera swims below him and his beer bottle gently bobs into the depths of the luxury pool, some viewers took this to mean Kendall may have drowned. I admit that on first watch I rewound these final moments a couple of times, but that was to satisfy myself that surely he couldn't be dead. For me, Succession isn't the sort of show to deal in anything as melodramatic as a cliffhanger here. 

The scene feels more to me like symbolism, Kendall adrift in a moment harking back to Logan's cruel taunt about a dead boy "sucking water." And he's basically the main character! The loss of Jeremy Strong's intense performance as the fulcrum of the show would surely deflate the planned season 4.

And yet it's also a cruel show. What could be more cruel than Kendall's death, tawdry and pointless with no resolution between him and his father? They had their showdown but it only made clear to Kendall that his whole crusade has been for nothing. 

Meanwhile, off screen, the timing curiously lines up with a gloriously scathing New Yorker profile of Strong, in which creator Jesse Armstrong and Strong's his fellow actors are deliciously candid about their colleague's histrionic acting techniques. It's certainly got people talking ahead of the finale. 

Harriet Walter returns as a rather more subdued Lady Caroline, struck with fear of macaroni and memorials.

Graeme Hunter/HBO

What happens in Sex Vegas

The episode starts with Shiv in her comfies at home while the big deal goes through. But Roman's continual dismissiveness galvanizes her, not to mention a heart-to-heart with Lady Caroline. Ducking out of the bachelorette party (she presumably couldn't bring herself to call it the proper Britishism, a "hen do"), Shiv's mother shows a vulnerability and honesty rarely seen in the Roy clan.

But even when her mother vulnerably tries to unpush Shiv's buttons, a Roy can only take that as mashing down harder on the button in question. Lady Caroline mentions her mother would turn in her grave, evoking a line of generations of cold mothers. And as Shiv races to start a family, she's another dysfunctional prospective parent planting the seed of another generation. God help the poor kids.

Not to mention Tom, who feels a little raw after a night of spicy pillow talk strays into the realm of emotional cruelty.

Chiantishire

The episode's title, Chiantishire, is a nickname for a part of scenic Tuscany in Italy popular with posh Britons (chianti is a local wine, and -shire is a common name for an English county). This is the picturesque setting for Lady Caroline Collingwood's lavish wedding to slime badger Peter Munion. But fans hoping for more brutal tongue-lashings from the waspish Lady Caroline will be disappointed, as even the acerbic aristocrat is mortified by Logan's petty feud with Kendall. 

Meanwhile, middle-class bridezilla and serial bankrupt Munion is a shameless social climber currying favor with Logan. He's also in the care home business, which is a telling detail. The UK care sector has been plunged into crisis by the twin blow of COVID and Brexit. Of course a man like that wants to snuffle his snout into the trough of government.

Feeling lucky

"Going to Macau. Feeling lucky." These five words throw the garden party into a spiral of confusion as eccentric tech big shot Lucas Mattson fires off scattershot tweets. These oddball social media posts are reminiscent of Tesla founder Elon Musk and his frequently combative online stream of consciousness.

Is he a visionary businessman shrewdly exploiting modern technology to advance his position, or just a dick? LOL, as if those things are different.

But Mattson is also desperately unhappy. He's sleeping miserably on the floor until he can properly research the best possible mattress. It seems that being extremely online can be just as isolating and awful as being extremely wealthy.

But as we barrel into next week's finale, Mattson lobs a growth bomb under the deal. Now the top brass realize that for WayStar to survive they may face a boardroom bloodbath. 

Is Kendall dead? Can Logan and Mattson save WayStar? Will Shiv knife Roman? All will be revealed (sort of, probably) in this week's season finale. Season 3, episode 9: All the Bells Say, airs Sunday, Dec. 12. 

Successive thoughts

  • Just as the press sniff around Willa's past, Connor proposes to the woman he met when she was an escort. What a beautiful moment. Aaaand she'll think about it.
  • Can you believe we first met Greg getting high and spewing out of a theme park animal suit? That kid wouldn't know what to do with Comfrey, but now he's looking past her at a Contessa on the next rung of the date ladder.
  • Roman may have finally screwed Gerri, and not in the way he's been craving. Which gives Shiv an opportunity, even if it means coldly disregarding the sisterhood.