A different ending. Jeremy Strong tried to improvise a much darker conclusion for Kendall Roy on the series finale of Succession.
The final episode, which aired Sunday, May 28, on HBO, ended with Kendall in despair after her learned his brother-in-law Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) is the new CEO of Waystar Royco. The eldest boy of the Roy family, as he called himself, walked through the city in a daze, gazing out at the East River before the credits rolled.
However, Strong, 44, tried to show Kendall going into the water — potentially to his death.
“Listen to the John Berryman poem that Jesse has named these finales after. John Berryman himself died by suicide, jumping into the frozen river,” the actor explained to Vanity Fair in an interview published on Monday, May 29. “I tried to go into the water after we cut — I got up from that bench and went as fast as I could over the barrier and onto the pilings, and the actor playing Colin [Scott Nicholson] raced over. I didn’t know I was gonna do that, and he didn’t know, but he raced over and stopped me. I don’t know whether in that moment I felt that Kendall just wanted to die — I think he did — or if he wanted to be saved by essentially a proxy of his father.”
Kendall had long hoped to succeed his recently-deceased father (Brian Cox) as the head of Waystar, but the board’s vote cut him out entirely. With no possibility of taking over his father’s company, the heir doesn’t know what to do with his life. “To me, what happens at the board vote is an extinction level event for this character. There’s no coming back from that,” Strong explained.
However, the Big Short actor appreciates how the show ultimately ended with Kendall looking over the water. “But what I love about the way Jesse [Armstrong, showrunner] chose to end it, it’s a much stronger ending philosophically, and has more integrity to what Jesse’s overall very bleak vision is of mankind — which is that fundamentally, people don’t really change. They don’t do the spectacular, dramatic thing,” Strong shared. “Instead, there’s a kind of doom loop that we’re all stuck in, and Kendall is trapped in this sort of silent scream with Colin there as both a bodyguard and a jailer.”
He added that killing himself probably would’ve been too big of a decision for Kendall. “I also don’t know if [Kendall] would’ve had the courage to actually go in that water, because my God, it would’ve been hard to do. But I think you even feel on a cellular level the intention or the longing to cross that threshold,” the Boston native said. “The way [Armstrong] leaves us with a kind of ambivalence stays true to his vision.”
Armstrong agreed with Strong’s take that Kendall has no idea how to move forward after the finale. As Tom’s wife, Shiv (Sarah Snook), is still in the game to control the company, and Roman (Kieran Culkin) is fully moving on after the mess they created. However, Kendall has always been working toward one goal, and he has no idea what comes after this massive failure.
“For Kendall, this will never stop being the central event of his life, the central days of his life, central couple of years of his life,” Armstrong told Variety in an interview published on Sunday. “Maybe he could go on and start a company, or do a thing. But the chances of him achieving the sort of corporate status that his dad achieved are very low. And I think that will mark his whole life.”
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All four seasons of Succession are available on HBO’s rebranded streaming service, Max.