Kendall’s Water Symbolism in Succession, Explained

HBO’s ‘Succession‘ heavily focuses on Kendall Roy as it explores the power struggle among the Roy family. Throughout his quest to challenge his father’s authority and erase his past sins, Kendall is constantly associated with the recurring motif of water in the series. The water scenes come at crucial moments in Kendall’s story, particularly ones that highlight his inability to change. As a result of Kendall’s constant and recurring connection with water, viewers must be looking to understand the subtle nuance behind the scenes. SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Meaning and Symbolism Behind Kendall’s Water Scenes

‘Succession’ is a complex story of power accentuated by trauma that explores the lives of the Roy family members. Among them, the story of Kendall has a particularly Shakespearean nature as it is closely associated with the common literary motif of water. However, a lot of Kendall’s storyline deals with him wrestling his personal demons, including his substance abuse issue and relationship with his father, Logan Roy. The water symbolism seemingly combines both aspects to highlight Kendall’s state.

In the series, the motif first occurs evidently shortly after Kendall gets into a car accident. In the season 1 finale, titled ‘Nobody Is Ever Missing,’ Kendall does drugs with a waiter at a wedding. The two drive off searching for cocaine but almost run into a deer. However, Kendall swerves the car, and it lands in the water. In the accident, the waiter is killed, and Kendall flees the scene. The accident coincides with Kendall’s earlier attempt to challenge his father’s authority. Ultimately, Kendall is forced to turn to Logan for help, getting away with the waiter’s death. However, the waiter’s death and his involvement in the accident continue to affect Kendall.

Over the show’s four seasons, there are several instances of Kendall completely or partially drowning in water, which metaphorically represents his state of mind. In different cultures, water symbolizes purity and rebirth. Thus, the most obvious implication of Kendall’s water motif is his attempt to erase his past sins, including the waiter’s death. In the second and third seasons, these attempts become particularly evident as Kendall attempts to portray his virtuous side, marking his attempt at rebirth. However, Kendall’s attempts fail miserably, leading him back to his submerged state, as seen after his birthday party in season.

An alternative interpretation of Kendall’s recurring motif suggests the water represents Kendall’s relationship with Logan. After the waiter’s death, Kendall is inadvertently forced to be under his father’s thumb, as we see in the second season premiere. The water seems to be the weight of Logan’s expectations for his son. Moreover, it could also display Kendall’s desire to reinvent himself outside his father’s shadow or be free-flowing like the water. However, Kendall cannot achieve either state, resulting in the constant depiction of him in submerged poses.

The seventh episode of the final season, titled ‘Living+,’ seems to support the latter interpretation of the water motif. In the episode, Kendall champions the Lving+ housing and creates an inventive pitch for it during the launch event. Since the project was Logan’s last before his untimely death, it holds great significance for Kendall and the company. While everyone expects Kendall to crack under pressure, he succeeds in creating positive buzz about the project. Later, we see Kendall swim in the sea during the episode’s final moments. As Kendall freely swims in the water, it could mean he is finally free from Logan’s control over him and the weight of his father’s expectations.

The first interpretation of Kendall’s recurring motif could also be connected to the final scene of episode 7, as it could signify Kendall finally succeeding at his attempted rebirth. Although it is hard to argue how Kendall proving himself capable of carrying Logan’s legacy could erase his past sins, it is easy to see Kendall’s achievement in the episode as he finds himself worthy despite his mistake. Ultimately, the heart of Kendall’s character arc resides in the tragedy he is, and defining his recurring motif with a singular interpretation dilutes the Shakespearean nature of the show’s complex and nuanced storytelling elements.

Read More: Logan Roy’s Net Woerth in Succession