Succession season 3, episode 8 recap: Let “Chiantishire” be ambiguous
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Succession season 3, episode 8 recap: Let “Chiantishire” be ambiguous

After I completed watching a screener of “Chiantishire,” the penultimate episode of Succession’s third season, I figured the day-after chatter in regards to the episode could be about how Roman Roy had unintentionally despatched a photograph of his penis to his father.

He meant to ship it to Waystar-Royco interim CEO Gerri Kelman (with whom Roman has a longstanding will-they/gained’t-they), however mistakenly messaged his father as a substitute. That second was so memorable and so completely on level regarding the sequence’ distinctive mix of darkish comedy and company skullduggery that I figured it could be all any of us might discuss. (And the implications that Gerri might be the one to see her downfall resulting from Roman’s impropriety would possibly supply a complete extra solution to discuss in regards to the present’s unhappy, reasonable depiction of office misogyny.)

I used to be form of proper. Roman’s mis-text was a subject of a lot delight and amusement on Twitter Dot Com and different social media websites the day after the episode aired. For example, contemplate my favourite tweet on the matter and this completely excellent sloppy Photoshop, each of which seize Roman’s emotional journey all through the scene.

However Succession stans had been far more animated a few very completely different matter as soon as the episode ended: Did the ultimate shot of “Chiantishire” show {that a} sure character was lifeless?

Spoilers observe!

Image of a spoiler warning

Why that last shot would possibly counsel any person’s lifeless

Okay, however severely, should you don’t need to be spoiled on the ultimate shot of “Chiantishire,” please exit the premises now, as a result of I’m about to only present you that last shot.

Kendall lays on a pool float, a bottle of beer floating downward beneath him. He’s shot from below.

Kendall lets a bottle of beer float to the underside of the pool.

So that is Kendall Roy, as soon as the household golden boy and now the punching bag. He’s having a beer within the pool, floating within the Italian solar. His youngsters have excused themselves from sitting poolside, and Kendall is … not having a good time of it.

Director Mark Mylod cuts to a shot of this second that shoots up from the underside of the pool. Kendall sticks his face within the water, releasing the beer bottle so it floats down towards the digicam, however the other way up, giving all the things a curious, weightless really feel. Quickly, we see bubbles streaming from Kendall’s nostril, because the digicam slowly rotates round him in a counter-clockwise path. Lower to black.

So, uh, Kendall’s lifeless, proper? He simply drowned himself?

There’s at the least considerably compelling proof all through the run of the present. Kendall very incessantly submerges himself in water throughout the primary three seasons, and the primary episode of season three options Kendall, absolutely clothed, stepping into an empty bathtub when he must decompress for a couple of minutes. Succession loves its foreshadowing, and all of that water imagery might need been resulting in this very second.

Much more very important to this argument, nonetheless, is that within the season one finale, Kendall crashed a automobile he was driving right into a pond whereas excessive on ketamine. He escaped, however the younger waiter within the automobile with him drowned. Logan helped cowl up Kendall’s involvement within the accident, thereby drawing Kendall additional into his clutches. Kendall, distraught about this, has spent many of the subsequent two seasons looking for a solution to escape that darkish and horrible second, first by means of utter despair (most of season two), then by means of attempting in useless to topple his father whereas maintaining his father’s empire for himself (most of season three).

The loss of life of the waiter comes up in “Chiantishire” as nicely. It’s first invoked by publicist Comfry, who tells Kendall he has an invite to go on a podcast that’s digging into the various Roy scandals, together with the waiter’s loss of life. It’s later invoked by Logan in a scene the place he and Kendall have a final supper of kinds. Kendall is attempting to flee his household and the household enterprise for good, providing Logan a deal that may basically permit Kendall to change into “a ghost” (his personal phrases!). Logan rejects this deal and taunts Kendall with the truth that the waiter’s loss of life will without end imply Kendall is certain, at the least considerably, to him.

“How lengthy was that child alive earlier than he began sucking in water?” Logan says. Perhaps the episode’s last shot depicts Kendall testing his father’s concept as soon as and for all, in a approach that may scar his youngsters. If Logan gained’t let Kendall go, then Kendall would possibly do one thing horrible and drastic in an effort to obtain that finish.

Lastly, Kendall is an addict, however for many of seasons two and three, the sequence has depicted him as somebody who’s at the least attempting to remain sober. He has relapsed (particularly when his girlfriend Naomi is round), however he has largely stayed away from medicine. And but right here he’s consuming a beer, in what might be a refined indication of a fall off the wagon. Whether or not Kendall is utilizing this season has been a subject of dialogue within the Succession fan areas I’m in, however that beer bottle (which calls again to different scenes of him consuming all through the season) seems like a refined tip of the hat to the concept, yeah, Kendall hasn’t been sober for at the least a bit now.

Lastly, by way of “this certain looks as if the type of factor publicists place within the New Yorker shortly earlier than a personality in a present has a memorable sendoff,” a large profile of actor Jeremy Sturdy (who performs Kendall) appeared within the New Yorker simply hours earlier than “Chiantishire” aired. What’s extra, that profile made Sturdy appear … uh, very intense and possibly not probably the most enjoyable to work with? Actors have been kicked off of TV reveals for much less.

In order that’s proof, proper? That profile? All that foreshadowing? All these invocations of the waiter’s loss of life? That spinning shot of a person sticking his face into the water and exhaling his last breath? That descending beer bottle?

Nicely …

Why that last shot may not counsel any person’s lifeless

Kendall, looking really bummed out, walks along a beautiful garden path.

Kendall appears to be like so blissful to be at his mom’s marriage ceremony, don’t you assume?
Graeme Hunter/HBO

The obvious argument that Kendall remains to be alive is that any person discovered a number of stray photographs of him in a “arising on Succession” trailer from a number of weeks in the past. These photographs might be decoys utilized by HBO to throw followers off the scent of Kendall’s loss of life, however that seems like a really elaborate solution to attempt to idiot a handful of people that would possibly return and piece by means of trailers launched a number of weeks in the past.

So is that this proof constructive of Kendall’s survival? Not essentially. Stuff will get minimize from TV reveals on a regular basis. You simply by no means know!

The opposite foremost argument in opposition to Kendall’s loss of life is that, nicely, it’s actually, actually laborious to drown your self, particularly once you’re mendacity on a pool float like Kendall is and particularly should you’re an grownup (like Kendall is). Yeah, if he intentionally tries to inhale water, he’ll in all probability accomplish one thing, however his physique could be very rapidly going to show in opposition to him, as a result of your physique doesn’t prefer to inhale water. The almost certainly final result is that Kendall would play at drowning himself, solely to wind up coughing out liquid.

Now, the almost certainly solution to die by drowning in a pool is to overdose on some form of substance, and if Kendall is utilizing once more, possibly that’s what’s occurring right here. Perhaps we’re taking a look at a BoJack Horseman kinda scenario. (BoJack, for the report, lived. It’s actually laborious to die by drowning, even once you’ve overdosed.) However as I’ve argued repeatedly, Succession will not be actually a present that does reveals. If one thing is vital to the story, the present depicts it, and the handful of mysteries the present retains from viewers (particularly with regard to Logan’s lifeless sister Rose) are additionally mysteries stored from many of the characters. Kendall is likely one of the present’s foremost point-of-view characters. If he had been utilizing once more, it could minimize in opposition to the present’s M.O. to maintain that hidden from the viewers.

What’s extra, you should use the concept Kendall is testing simply the way it felt for that waiter to drown as an indication that he’s ready to do at the least yet another deed on this planet: Go on the aforementioned Roy scandals podcast to inform the true story of what occurred to the waiter. The ultimate second of “Chiantishire,” then, is an outline of a decisive second the place he decides to take himself out of the headspace of a Roy and put himself within the headspace of the waiter. It’s a symbolic gesture of defective redemption, which is one thing Kendall does on a regular basis.

Succession at all times has a watch on what’s humorous about its characters, besides in a few circumstances. Its depiction of familial abuse is handled with grave seriousness, as I’ve argued. However its depiction of Kendall’s psychological well being can also be handled with a stark realism that doesn’t sugarcoat the occasions when the character is both extremely manic or deeply depressive. So having Kendall die by suicide in a fashion that’s extremely tough to drag off, whereas maybe poetically apt, would additionally minimize in opposition to the present’s standard M.O.

You may make an argument that Kendall will die this season (a.ok.a. within the finale) however hasn’t simply but. It’s an argument I’m sympathetic to, given simply how highly effective the foreshadowing of Kendall being trapped in a roundabout way has been all season. However I’m additionally not going to make any predic — (Kendall provides an interview to the podcast staff that reveals he was there when the waiter drowned, then implicates his father within the cover-up. He then dies by suicide at a marriage that’s closely attended by the paparazzi, who will certainly make it into an excellent higher spectacle. Season 4 is all in regards to the Roy household attempting to suppress the podcast, a really actual textual expression of the subtextual concept that the one factor the Roys can’t cease is the inevitability of their enterprise mannequin’s loss of life by the hands of the decentralized information-gathering instruments of the web.) — tions.

In order that’s it, proper? You may’t argue with photographs of Kendall from an episode that hasn’t aired but! He’s going to be again, and it could be actually bizarre if the sequence immediately become Six Ft Beneath or Dexter and had a Kendall ghost lurking round to hang-out everybody. We did it! We proved Kendall is alive!

Or …

Is Kendall alive or lifeless? The reply is: He may be each.

I gained’t faux that Succession (or at the least the HBO advertising staff) isn’t attempting to tease the “is he or isn’t he?” nature of that last shot. The hypothesis by followers of the present isn’t being discouraged by the present’s PR staff, on the very least. The “subsequent week on Succession” preview that aired after “Chiantishire” doesn’t function Kendall in any respect, which is a fairly basic solution to protect suspense as as to if a personality is alive or lifeless. The HBO PR staff, at the least, knew we had been going to be speaking about that second.

I believe that goosing this explicit dialogue is a mistake on the a part of these entrepreneurs, actually. This can be a binary query, and we’ll rapidly know, subsequent week, whether or not Kendall lived or died. What’s extra, as with so many binary questions on TV reveals that air week to week, strains might be drawn and viewers who had been very a lot satisfied Kendall was lifeless will in all probability find yourself disillusioned if he’s alive and vice versa, just because it’s pure to need to be proper. Turning a wonderful, ambiguous shot right into a guessing recreation cheapens the shot.

However look past the advertising and what’s occurring here’s what at all times occurs with Succession when it does something somewhat ambiguous (and when it does something fully unambiguous, to be sincere): Individuals are freaking out about what the reply within the shot is, as a substitute of what the which means of the shot is. We’re so het up about whether or not Kendall is alive or lifeless that we miss that, throughout the shot, he’s type of each.

Give it some thought. This shot depicts yet one more absolute nadir for this man whose household treats him like a rock they drop right into a deep pit to see how lengthy it takes him to hit backside. He’s alive, however he would possibly as nicely be lifeless. He tried the entire resurrection factor when he went in opposition to his dad, however he misplaced fairly conclusively. Now, mendacity on this pool float within the Italian solar, all he needs is for all the things to only … cease.

That learn of the shot is true no matter whether or not Kendall is alive or lifeless. Once we see him, he’s each bodily alive and spiritually lifeless. How he navigates the huge gulf between these two states of being would be the work of the remainder of his life, whether or not that’s a number of extra minutes or a number of extra many years.

“Bodily alive however spiritually lifeless” additionally describes an HBO character in a famously ambiguous last shot that will or could not depict the second of that character’s loss of life: Tony Soprano in The Sopranos’ sequence finale. The purpose of that present was at all times that Tony and his households (skilled and private) had been without end certain by their self-centered, narcissistic selections and the psychological baggage they refused to unpack. We watched all the present ready for Tony to understand any of the methods he had screwed himself up, even somewhat bit, and the sequence finale was an extended clarification of why he couldn’t change and by no means would. It doesn’t matter if he dies within the sequence’ last shot as a result of he’s incapable of change and subsequently already spiritually lifeless.

However Kendall isn’t Tony Soprano. He has many different paths he might take. He’s realized how deep his father’s rot goes, and he’s realized that he can’t defeat him simply by attempting to have a greater PR and/or authorized technique. The answer could be to come clean with what he’s achieved and search redemption, or it could be to only slink off and dwell a lifetime of luxurious, slowly sliding into obsolescence. And, sure, if he bodily dies, all of that might be inconceivable to do. But when he confronts his utter despair head on, if he confronts his household’s position in no matter psychological well being points he faces, if he accepts the hurt that he has achieved on this planet and tries to atone for it, then he would possibly determine a solution to carve out a significant life for himself.

In contrast to The Sopranos, which was steeped in Catholic dread, Succession will not be a very non secular present. However submersion and emergence from water is a potent image of rebirth in loads of completely different non secular traditions. (You would possibly understand it as “baptism” throughout the Christian custom.) Don’t consider “Chiantishire’s” last shot as a easy binary between life and loss of life; consider it, as a substitute, as a personality on the precipice of a second when all the things would possibly change.

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