‘Succession’ Creator Says Kendall Roy Never Had a Chance in CEO Race

Jesse Armstrong shared more about the series finale in a new interview.

succession season 4 finale
(Image credit: Courtesy of HBO)

When Succession aired its series finale on May 28, 2023—in the middle of the writers' strike—the smash hit's creator wasn't able to give any postmortem interviews. Now, Jesse Armstrong is opening up about about the Roy family drama in several in-depth interviews, including one where he revealed all on how the shows' writers decided which sibling would or wouldn't come out on top.

A quick recap of the stellar feature-length finale's final moments: Just days after Logan Roy's untimely death, the board members of Waystar Royco meet to vote on the merger with Lukas Matsson and his company, GoJo. The night before, Kendall, Roman, and Shiv agree to bock the merger and install Kendall as CEO, in a too-good-to-be-true moment of solidarity. (Not to mention that "meal fit for a king.") However, at the crucial moment, Shiv changes her mind and, after a brutal fight between the three siblings, she votes the merger through.

Matsson gets control of Waystar and announces his puppet CEO as... Tom Wambsgans. At the end of it all, Tom and (a pregnant) Shiv ride off into their miserable future hand-in-hand; Roman drinks in a bar with a slight smile on his face; and a devastated Kendall sits on a park bench looking vacantly out at the horizon.

succession season 4 finale

(Image credit: Courtesy of HBO)

Despite Shiv's split-second decision, Armstrong told Vulture that there was never a chance that "eldest boy" Kendall would end up as CEO. He recalled that he would often bring up the proposition of Kendall winning the role in the show's writers' room, leading them to discuss whether there were any circumstances under which the character could achieve his lifelong goal. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you're not on Team Kendall), they decided that having him emerge victorious wouldn't be "a good picture of reality."

"The writers’ room was a testing arena for the truth," Armstrong explained. "Kendall taking over couldn’t happen because it just doesn’t feel true enough. If we wanted to make that happen, we would need a particular constellation of forces in the media, financial, political, and social worlds to make it happen. But we’d have been forcing it. And if we’re forcing it, why are we forcing it? We’re not trying to do anything other than be a good picture of reality, and to tell ourselves and other people how we think the world works."

"That is a long-winded way of saying I don’t think he ever would take over," he continued. "That’s just not how the show was constructed."

Jeremy Strong and Jesse Armstrong attend the Succession Season 4 premiere

(Image credit: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)

Armstrong also admitted that he considered ending Succession without ever naming a successor. In a conversation with The New York Times, he said that concluding the series without naming a CEO was another hypothetical he brought up to the show's writing team.

"That would be the sort of question I might come into the writers’ room with, like, 'What would it be like if we didn’t give a successor? Could that be interesting?'" he recalled. "Through a process of discussion with smart people, we were like, 'No, that would be annoying. Let’s not do it.' One of the reasons for ending the show is that it starts to become either ridiculous or annoying if you continually defer that decision."

Though the creator didn't know from the start how the series would end, he always knew that the tone of the finale wouldn't be cheerful.

"I did know, even from writing the pilot, what the tone of the ending would be," he told Vulture. "It’s not impossible that one of the kids could have emerged in some grubby way as the titular head of the company. But I knew there wouldn’t be a clean victory and it wouldn’t be a celebratory coronation, Star Wars style."

Contributing Culture Editor

Quinci is a Contributing Culture Editor who writes pieces and helps to strategize editorial content across TV, movies, music, theater, and pop culture. She contributes interviews with talent, as well as SEO content, features, and trend stories. She fell in love with storytelling at a young age, and eventually discovered her love for cultural criticism and amplifying awareness for underrepresented storytellers across the arts. She previously served as a weekend editor for Harper’s Bazaar, where she covered breaking news and live events for the brand’s website, and helped run the brand’s social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Her freelance writing has also appeared in outlets including HuffPost, The A.V. Club, Elle, Vulture, Salon, Teen Vogue, and others. Quinci earned her degree in English and Psychology from The University of New Mexico. She was a 2021 Eugene O’Neill Critics Institute fellow, and she is a member of the Television Critics Association. She is currently based in her hometown of Los Angeles. When she isn't writing or checking Twitter way too often, you can find her studying Korean while watching the latest K-drama, recommending her favorite shows and films to family and friends, or giving a concert performance while sitting in L.A. traffic.