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THE PERFORMER | Jeremy Strong

THE SHOW | Succession

THE EPISODE |With Open Eyes” (May 28, 2023)

THE PERFORMANCE | This week’s series finale was supposed to be a coronation for Kendall Roy. Instead, it was the latest in a string of humiliating defeats, and the ultimate one, with Kendall failing in his quest to take over for his late father Logan as CEO of Waystar Royco. But at the same time, it was a fittingly grand final act for Strong, as he found an exquisite pathos in Kendall’s downfall and put the finishing touches on one of the best TV performances of the past decade.

Kendall was riding high as the series finale began, supremely confident in his chances of becoming CEO. We’ve seen this swagger from Kendall before, and it always ends badly for him, but Strong still brought an unsinkable verve to Kendall, so close to his lifelong goal that he could taste it. He even showed us a lighter side to the famously stone-faced Roy scion, cracking a smile (!) and horsing around with his siblings, with Strong adding just a hint of childlike joy to Kendall’s endlessly complex persona. When it came time for the big board vote, though, Kendall overplayed his hand, and when Shiv hesitated about casting her decisive vote for him, he flew into a rage, barking commands at her like Logan used to do to them. As Kendall felt his chances of becoming CEO slipping through his fingers, Strong’s face softened, and Kendall began to plead: “If I don’t get to do this… I might die.” He was like a kid being denied his favorite toy, and he lashed out at those closest to him, asserting a primal authority (“I am the eldest boy!”) and physically attacking Roman for daring to bring up his children’s lineage. Strong masterfully played every emotional note along the way as Kendall clung desperately to the one thing he’s always wanted… only to watch it float away.

Once the vote was over and Kendall was denied the CEO job, he sunk into a catatonic state, with Strong wearing that deep disappointment all over his face. He didn’t say another word of dialogue after that, and he didn’t have to, with Kendall’s tear-filled eyes and slumped shoulders saying everything for him. He wandered around outside in a daze, unsure of what to do with himself now that his cherished crown had been ripped from his hands before he even got to put it on. It was a tragic ending for a tragic character, and though Kendall was far from perfect, Strong’s unforgettable performance made his flaws fascinating, right down to the final shot.

Scroll down to see who scored Honorable Mention shout-outs this week…

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