As season 3 of Succession rumbles on, the show is becoming an increasingly excruciating watch (in a very, very good). I’ve realised that I’ve started to feel profoundly uncomfortable every time Kendall Roy, played by the incredible Jeremy Strong, comes on screen, because there’s an 80% chance he’s going to do our say something excruciatingly embarrassing, inappropriate or naff. It’s unclear whether this is because he’s ingesting huge amounts of drugs off screen or this is fundamentally the way he’s wired, but it’s a genius move. Kendall was set up as the hero at the end of Season 2 - giving a bombastic press conference where he revealed his father Logan Roy’s many many sins to the world, in an effort to take him down. But Succession show runner Jesse Armstrong doesn’t do heroes - and making Kendall just as unlikeable as the rest of the family is part of the appeal of Succession.
But the thing with Kendall, and maybe it wouldn’t work with an actor less adept than Strong, is that his ridiculousness masks a barely-concealed vulnerability that runs so deep our hearts ache for him - even when we’re hiding behind a cushion, gnashing our teeth because he’s asked Greg to ‘slide the sociopolitical thermometer up the nation’s ass and take a reading.’
No scene demonstrates this better than that moment in season 3, episode 3 of Succession 'The Disruption,' where Kendall is backstage on a TV set about to appear as a guest on a comedy show whose host has been mercilessly roasting him for weeks. He’s just read his sister Shiv’s open letter where she reveals his drug addiction, womanising and parenting shortfalls in a brutal and detailed takedown. As he absorbs exactly what the surgically cruel letter says, he walks slowly down the corridor, to hide from the show’s producers, rather than admit that he now won’t be able to appear with only 15 minutes to spare (anything to avoid people disliking him).
It’s in this moment, as Kendall’s face slowly drops the mask-like smile he’s been wearing for the last 10 minutes and settles into utter despair, that you see his entire character, with all its many foibles and vulnerabilities play out in full, without a word of dialogue.
It was a stand-out moment in a season already pitching above the first two, multi-award winning seasons of the show, and demonstrates why Strong is being hailed as the only actor who could have played Kendall Roy to such perfection.
So much so, that one scene is already being hailed as next Strong’s Emmy Reel (don’t forget, he already won Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series at least year’s awards). We're not the only people who think so, with Twitter hailing his performance.
In an increasingly polarised world, at least we can all agree that casting Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy was a totally genius move.