Every character in Succession can be explored in many different psychological aspects. We had the chance to analyze Connor’s psychology here, and each of the Roy siblings has room for a separate evaluation. Kendall is undoubtedly the most complex character of the set: he was in charge for a while, he always had a controversial relationship with his father Logan, and he shows emotions, but he’s also fine in figurately stabbing his father over Season 3. Is he a killer, though? It’s a question that comes back occasionally, and it’s not related only to that car crash in Season 1. Let’s understand better.
K.L.R., the killer theory: did Kendall really kill in Succession?
Let’s start with the facts that initially triggered the doubt about Kendall being a killer: in Season 1, Episode 10, Kendall drives the car, and an English caterer guy is on drugs in the passenger seat. It’s dark, and a deer shows up on the road. The caterer guy grabs the wheel violently and drives the car off the road, steering it into the water. Kendall emerges, but the other guy doesn’t. This episode will trigger the events we see in Succession Season 2, with Kendall as an obedient pawn in Logan’s hands after the family covered up for him about the accident. You can re-watch the car crash in the video below.
There has been a lot of debate on the Internet about whether Kendall can be considered a killer after the car crash. On Reddit, you can find two separate threads, here and here, both very detailed, with all possible positions about Kendall’s responsibility for that accident. On the one hand, he wasn’t the one driving the car off the road, and he tried twice to go down and save the caterer guy; on the other hand, he didn’t call the emergency service after the accident, and he contributed to the cover up the family organized afterward. So there are reasons to consider Kendall a killer (at least responsible for manslaughter) and others that support his innocence.
Succession left the accident open to this double interpretation, so the spectators could freely decide which side to pick. Surely, Kendall will remember that accident with a tremendous sense of guilt. You can see it when he breaks down at Caroline’s wedding: he apparently confesses to his siblings, saying, “I killed a man.” He feels the whole responsibility for that death, independently from how a court could judge him. In that episode, we have the feeling that Kendall is a good man, after all: he can distinguish right from wrong, and he tries to do the right thing.
At the same time, Kendall has always been a sharp character who always knew when to stab someone in the back. You have confirmation of this many times, including that moment in the last season when he instructs Hugo to approach the communication around Logan’s death in a way that will make people believe he didn’t act pretty in the previous years. Those occasions led people to believe in Kendall’s “killer instinct.” And that gave birth to the “killer theory.”
This theory suggests that Kendall’s character can be directly related to a killer. One of the clues is already in his name: Kendall Logan Roy, abbreviated as K.L.R., the letters that immediately recall the word “killer.” If this theory is true, Kendall could be a killer in many ways: it could directly refer to that car crash, sure, but figuratively, he can also be the one who killed his father through the legal battle he fought during Season 3. Even Shiv, in Season 4, alludes to the chance that “they killed Logan” by forcing him to re-negotiate the deal with Matsson. And his “killer nature” is brought up by Shiv in the series finale, as one of the reasons why she voted against Kendall.
Most likely, nobody would ever be able to prove that Kendall is a killer in Succession, now or in the future. But who can be 100% sure that there is no killer instinct inside him, even if it just belongs to his ability to screw someone over when the events give him the opportunity?