“Family Death March”: Succession Series Finale

Jeremy Fassler
9 min readMay 29, 2023
Photograph courtesy of HBO

“I am the eldest boy.”

In five words, Jesse Armstrong and Jeremy Strong articulate the impulse behind Kendall Roy’s quest for power in a finale that brings all the themes of this extraordinary show full circle. Kendall Roy is not a visionary. He has no great ideas for what he’d do as CEO of Waystar. His plans to kick his father off the throne never work. He doesn’t have the business savvy of Shiv or the wit of Roman. So why does he want it? Because he believed that, as the oldest of his siblings, it was his birthright. It all came down to his entitlement and nothing else. The saddest thing is, when he finally admits it, he thinks it’s going to be enough to put Shiv on his side and vote for him as CEO. But it’s the argument of a child — and let’s face it, Kendall, Roman, and Shiv never really grew up.

Kendall throws his and his siblings’ immaturity into stark relief when, after learning that Logan promised all his kids the company at one point or another, he shares this memory:

Kendall: He fucking promised it to me. Promised. When I was seven, he sat me down at the Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton and he promised it to me. Seven years old. Can you imagine?

Roman: Yeah, pics or it didn’t happen.

Kendall: That was messed up. Like, he shouldn’t have done that. I’m simply saying he said a lot of things, and he said them to me first.

This is the key to their stunted adulthoods. Logan never let his kids grow up because by forcing them into an endless battle for his approval — and the company — he prevented them from developing their own identities, coming up with their own ideas, going their own ways. Instead, Kendall has linked his entire identity to his dad; Roman leans into his externally-imposed identity as the class clown; and Shiv, whenever she comes close to having her own ideas and developing her own identity, vacillates between becoming someone new and leaning back into battle mode. And their mother, who would rather have been anywhere else, never gave them the TLC they needed — hell, it was Peter who saw to Roman’s injuries when he arrived at their compound in Barbados because she couldn’t look at him. (And if you want a master class in how to write a character-defining line, look no further than Caroline’s “There’s…

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Jeremy Fassler

Correspondent, The Capitol Forum. Bylines: The New York Times, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, etc. Co-author of The Deadwood Bible with Matt Zoller Seitz.