'Succession's' Season 2 Finale Sacrifices a Family Member and Unveils a New Whistleblower

"This Is Not for Tears" stepped up the #MeToo elements of this season's storyline by presenting Logan Roy (Brian Cox) with the choice of which family member or close associate to throw under the bus for misconduct claims.
Graeme Hunter/HBO

[This story contains spoilers for Succession's season 2 finale.]

Succession's second season came to a close on Sunday night with a bang.

The stakes were always going to be high for "This Is Not for Tears," given that in the first season's finale, the drugged-out antics of onetime model son Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) got someone killed the night of his sister's wedding. But in the second season finale, Kendall again took center stage with another jaw-dropper, whistleblowing on the role Logan Roy (Brian Cox) played in perpetuating misconduct at Waystar Royco during a press conference where Kendall was expected to take the fall for the scandal. Moreover, the finale revealed that seemingly spacey Greg (Nicholas Braun) was integrally involved in this latest attempt to oust Logan as CEO by providing documents that showed he signed off on millions of dollars in payoffs.

"You're not a killer. You have to be a killer," Logan told Kendall earlier in the episode, when Kendall asked whether he ever could have taken over as the company's CEO. During the last few seconds of Sunday's episode when Kendall proved him wrong, Logan seemed to smile slightly, as if in begrudging respect.

In addition to reigniting this Hamlet and Julius Caesar-like tension at the core of the show, "This Is Not for Tears" tied off a few loose ends that Succession's second season hadn't yet dealt with. First and foremost, it addressed why Kendall had been so obeisant to Logan following his cutthroat attempt in the first season to oust his father as CEO of Waystar Royco. Nominally, Kendall was chastened by his father's success in silencing any suspicions that his son had been involved in the death of Andrew Dobbs, the boy who was killed in a car crash at the end of the first season. Still, Kendall's long-suffering penance for his role in the death and new fervor to follow his father wherever he led was a sharp character turn from the shark-like businessman who initially sought out rival businessmen Sandy Furness (Larry Pine) and Stewy Hosseini (Arian Moayed). 

Kendall's season two-ending press conference, which neatly mirrored the conference that Logan's eldest son gave at the beginning of the season while he was obeying family orders, raised the question of whether Kendall had been plotting this moment all along or whether he opportunistically seized it. After all, Kendall began befriending Greg early in the season; Greg stole the documents that Kendall would later present to reporters several episodes ago. Perhaps Kendall's viral rap hailing his dad as "king of the East Side" was all a clever ruse after all?

The season ender also saw Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) confronting his wife Siobahn (Sarah Snook) about long-simmering tensions in their relationship. Tom has slowly been gaining confidence (and beginning to feel outraged for playing the patsy) all season long, feelings which erupted when Shiv suggested him during a discussion with Logan of who should take the fall for corporate misconduct. In a private cove, Tom exploded about a long-held grievance — Shiv asking him for an open relationship on their wedding night — and her latest request that they try a threesome.

"I'm not a hippy, Shiv," he said in one of the understatements of the year. While it's unclear whether they will stay married after Tom's revelations, Shiv later showed up for him by asking Logan to spare him from becoming the company's "head on a stake."

In addition: After a whole season of attempting to learn more about the company, Roman (Kieran Culkin) was named chief operating officer, though time will tell what his role will look like in the wake of Kendall's betrayal. Roman also stuck his neck out for Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) after an entire season of flirting with her and seeking her out for business strategy advice. Kendall's on-again, off-again flame Naomi Pierce (Annabelle Dexter-Jones) returned to accompany Kendall on Logan's cruise ship and was summarily kicked off, but not before telling Kendall, incisively, "Daddy loves the broken you." The reviews for Willa's (Justine Lupe) play came in and they are, well, terrible. In addition to Kendall's devoted-son act, this season's finale dispensed of an iPad.

In a move that will perhaps come as a delight to fans, the finale also got a little bit meta when Connor and Tom referred to their notoriety online. After a string of episodes that have produced many delightful Succession memes, Connor uttering the lines "I'm a GIF now, I'm a meme. I got memed" and Tom arguing he was "Deadcatting" at a Senate hearing were all too fitting. This Succession fan, meanwhile, is hoping "Sails out, nails out, bro" will soon gain digital icon status.

Speaking of which, the episode's setting, a Mediterranean yacht, recalled the many yachts that have been the backdrop to various dramas in News Corp. mogul Rupert Murdoch's —which showurnner Jesse Armstrong has called an inspiration for the show — life. Murdoch married his third wife, Wendi Deng, aboard the Morning Glory; he listed his 16,792-square-foot yacht the Rosehearty in 2013 after they divorced; Murdoch also fell on board his son Lachlan's yacht in 2018, an event that was so serious that it reportedly brought his children to his bedside. In this episode, the ship provided something of an opposite setting — where Logan decided which of his family members or close associates to publicly axe and humiliate — and yet in both scenarios, the placid, idyllic calm of the vessel was at sharp odds with the drama onboard.

Will Kendall's betrayal cause Logan to unearth evidence he was involved in the death of Andrew Dobbs? Is Roman being set up to fail? Are Greg and Tom finally over? It looks like viewers will have to wait until 2020 to find out: The show, as expected, was renewed in August for a third season, and is projected to return some time that year.