Why Succession Season 2's Finale Ended With That Killer Smile From Logan Roy

Logan Roy smiles end Succession Season 2 finale HBO

SPOILERS ahead from the Succession Season 2 finale on HBO.

Has Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) finally become the kind of "killer" worthy of inheriting Logan Roy's (Brian Cox) empire? The October 13 Succession Season 2 finale on HBO showed Kendall taking back control of his life and embracing his status as "the face" of Waystar Royco through the cruise scandal.

Ken threw his father under-the-bus in a press conference where he was supposed to -- per Logan -- agree to say he knew everything and directed the cover-up but it went no higher. Logan has been known to rage when things don't go his way, but he sat calmly through the press conference and, when it ended, gave an enigmatic little smile. Brian Cox, you beautiful tease, what exactly were you saying there?

After the Season 2 finale, Succession showrunner Jesse Armstrong confirmed to THR that Logan's little smile at the end was scripted, not a personal choice from actor Brian Cox, so it is tied to Armstrong's story arc for Logan/Kendall:

That’s in the script, but I think Brian performs it even more brilliantly than anything I could have suggested. But that was something he aimed for.

Brian Cox told Vulture "there was a certain inevitability" to the Season 2 finale. He also confirmed that the little smile in the end was meant to be a moment of pride:

Logan is really setting Kendall up to become the man he has not been.

I don't think Logan Roy was in on that press conference twist -- as in, I don't think he and Kendall planned it together -- but do you think Logan had an idea of what was coming? I'm torn on that. I don't know that Logan deserves that much credit as puppet master. I do know he respected the hell out of Ken's power move, though, as that little smile showed.

Kendall found the killer within. That might've been Kendall's best pitch to take over the company. It could've only been improved if Ken looked right into the camera and said "Fuck off." Logan would definitely respect that.

All season, guilt-stricken Kendall did things "because my dad told me to," in a dramatic shift from Season 1. But as Siobhan Roy (Sarah Snook) told Kendall at the start of Season 2...

You have a hard time finding a happy medium between worshipping [Dad] and wanting to kill him.

In Succession's 2019 season finale, Ken went for the jugular. I'm curious to know exactly when he made that decision.

Was it during the Season 2 finale's group discussion on the yacht, where everyone took turns throwing different names out for consideration as the big "blood sacrifice"? (I love that Roman stood up for Gerri, and was sad but not surprised to see Shiv do nothing to help Tom.)

Was it when Logan pressured Kendall to have his girlfriend/support system Naomi Pierce leave the yacht? Was it only when he had that ultimate conversation with his dad, which Kendall made very easy for Logan by repeating "It's OK"?

I wonder if he was already thinking of it when Logan brought up how convincing Kendall could be in front of a camera:

The hearings, you did so well. And now, you're the face....

After that, Kendall agreed to say he knew about the scandal (we saw in Season 1 that he went out of his way to keep out of it) and directed the cover-up but it went no higher.

Kendall then asked "just out of interest," did Logan ever think he could do the top job. Logan had a passive-aggressive answer that really gave us a major hint on what was to come:

You know, you're smart, you're good, but I just don't know. ... You're not a killer. You have to be a killer. But nowadays? Maybe you don't. I don't know.

Was that enough? Maybe Kendall didn't even know what he would do until Logan really put the nail on the morality coffin. Kendall said maybe he deserved being the blood sacrifice as penance for the boy -- referencing the Season 1 finale, where he caused a car crash that accidentally killed an employee. Logan said no, no no.

No Real Person Involved, it's nothing.

After that, Kendall gave Logan that kiss on the cheek. Perhaps a Judas kiss. I wonder if it was in that moment that Ken knew what he would do. Then the family had a last supper, with Kendall as either Jesus or Judas.

For all Kendall's personal failings, drug addition, brief turn to shoplifting, and lousy treatment of the women in his life who failed to please Dad, he has been shown to have a decent moral compass for the big picture.

Cousin Greg came with Kendall on the plane back for the press conference, which was probably another hint of what was to come. He had documents with him, and Ken said they would show Logan's signature on all of the payments and part of the cover-up. Greg gets flustered at everything, but he seemed calm through Kendall's press conference, so it seems like at some point he and Ken had a conversation about this.

Greg the motherfucking Egg. That little Machiavellian fuck. He always knows how to land on the right side. He may indeed end up ruling everything by the end of the series.

PR head Karolina was clearly not in on the final minutes twist, based on her "fuck, fuck, fuck" refrain after Kendall's ripped-up-speech press conference. Fans had to know a big twist was coming at the press conference, since it was left as the final scene of the season.

Succession Season 2 finale Kendall throws Logan Roy under the bus press conference HBO

Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) is now full Chief Operating Officer on his own. He and Shiv were clearly shocked by what Kendall did. Logan looked more proud than angry or surprised, but Succession Season 3 is now poised for another round of Kendall vs. Logan, but also Ken vs. the rest of the company and family too.

Succession creator Jesse Armstrong said on HBO after the episode that Logan thought Kendall was a good candidate for the blood sacrifice in part because he trusted him not to flip, and not do exactly what he did. Armstrong said they knew pretty early on the shape of the season, from where Kendall begins as a beaten dog and ends up doing what he did.

It felt like a true shape to us, as long as we could honor all the different stages of that journey.

Jesse Armstrong noted that the Roys have a shareholder meeting in a couple of weeks, and that press conference is only going to make things more complicated. Then again, the shareholders wanted Logan himself as the blood sacrifice, and Ken just served him up on a plate.

The family relationships are something of a shitshow. It's either well poised or a terrible mess depending on how you look at it.

Succession Season 1 was so much about Kendall, and Season 2 really gave a great focus to Shiv. Many fans figured Season 3 would turn a major focus to Roman, and maybe that's still the case, but Season 2 ended with Kendall refusing to yield the spotlight. However, his father certainly has cards to play against him, starting with the truth about Ken's drug-addled lethal crash. I'm expecting all of the dirty laundry to get out in the next season, which has already been renewed on HBO.

I'm also hoping for more awkwardly wonderful scenes of Tom finally finding the balls to stand up to Logan too:

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What is it with HBO and random chicken scenes? First Game of Thrones, and now this.

Succession Season 3 doesn't have a premiere date yet, but Season 1 had 10 episodes starting in summer 2018 and Season 2 gave us 10 episodes starting in summer 2019, so I'm happy to keep that same training rolling into 2020. Whenever it arrives, it'll surely come with a thousand more "fuck off" additions to this supercut. See you then?

Keep up with everything still airing on TV this year with our handy 2019 fall TV premiere schedule.

Gina Carbone

Gina grew up in Massachusetts and California in her own version of The Parent Trap. She went to three different middle schools, four high schools, and three universities -- including half a year in Perth, Western Australia. She currently lives in a small town in Maine, the kind Stephen King regularly sets terrible things in, so this may be the last you hear from her.