Where the Hell Are Kendall Roy's Kids?
Succession has returned, which means life has meaning again. And there's so much meaning to discuss — why is Roman's repartee so annoying when it used to be a highlight? (Insecurity.) How far can Cousin Greg go just by being the random extra guy in the back of a van? Is Logan going to literally blow a gasket and die rather than face the accusations against him and Waystar-Royco? But hot on my mind amid pandemic parenting month one zillion is: Where the hell are the kids?
Season 3, episode 1 begins with Kendall Roy slumping in a bathtub after blaming his father for all of the company's ills, calling him a "malignant presence, a bully and a liar." (Daddy did say he had to "be a killer.") Clearly, Kenny has to get outta dodge.
While we watch Logan combust, Shiv skitter about in all the shades of beige, and Gerri flip-flop from girlboss to Logan lapdog (a move which colossally pays off for her by episode's end), Kendall's driving around town figuring out where to set up his "action station," and ends up at the home of his ex-wife, Rava. He mutters something about the press being at his place, and thanks her for the chance to spend time with his kids.
Reader, there are no kids.
As Kendall interviews publicity teams about new Twitter strategies, he remarks that he's surrounded by "all these brilliant fuckin' women." There's the lawyer he hired out from under his dad's side of the battle; the PR team he won't let get a word in edgewise; his on-again muse, Naomi Pierce, who asked him for a dick pic after their families' deal went south thus kicking off a fiery romance in Season 2 (she brings dinner!); and of course, his ex-wife, Rava Roy, mother to his two children whom we do not see at all.
Sophie and Iverson aren't classic Invisible TV Children, though. They have appeared in prior seasons to make Kendall's relative instability and Logan's anger even sadder to behold than when it's not aimed at or impacting kids. They are notably absent from this entire episode, even though it largely takes place in their living room.
Rava is taken aback by Kendall showing up at her place though she swears in a most motherlike way, "it's fine." Her main role in the episode is to look exasperated at Kendall's presence, wave her hand (saying "it's fine"), then point to the cordless telephone she is holding, as if she is incredibly busy on a call with the year 1998. She's in no way busy parenting.
Even though Succession isn't set in the real-world era of Covid, which means the children could easily just be out studying Mandarin or at fencing practice or something, you'd think there'd be so much as a single shoe or plate of crumbs evident. Wealth might explain some of this lack — maybe the kids are in another wing of the apartment. But as Rebecca Mead wrote in the New Yorker this August, "The show makes affluence look vaguely diseased, and emphasizes the ways in which even the very rich cannot be entirely insulated from the drudgery of inconvenience." Executive producer Mark Mylod told her, "We try to find situations where the characters cannot control the world." Can you name anything less convenient or in control than children?
By not having the kids running amok through Kendall's war room, forcing him to wince out an "oop, sorry, you might hear my child shrieking in the background," the Succession team landed on another universal truth: Wealthy white men never have their work disrupted by child rearing. Even if their work has to happen in the place where their children live.
Parents on Twitter suggest that Rava, at least, would have kids and their clutter around, even if she had hired help to care for them, too. Many of us have learned this year just how much kids love clinging to their moms.
I do not exist on the same plane of privilege as even the currently most-disowned Roy son (I'm not even in the backup van on the same tarmac), but I do have a master bathroom in my home. In it you will find a neon orange, palm-length toothbrush and a tube of strawberry Tom's of Maine toothpaste my daughter left there just in case she "feels like" brushing in my bathroom and not hers. Kids just leave shit everywhere! It's the number one thing that kids do. Writer Melissa Petro tweeted, "when you have kids everything becomes about that. They take up all the space! They never just disappear."
Except on TV or in the beyond-imagination homes of billionaires.
In episode 1, Kendall's doing his manic self-absorbed spiral thing, which causes his estranged wife endless inconvenience. It's high energy and funny. Even though he has shown up for Iverson in the past, supporting his son's mental health in ways Logan never would have, in this moment he'd be a shitshow of a dad. Elementary-aged kids would suck the air out of the room in a way that a largely ignored ex-wife can't. After watching Squid Game, this feels like a generosity. For this one episode, at least, we can suspend disbelief and think that when Kendall goes off the rails, he's only harming himself.
Largely, in the Succession universe, kids don't matter. It's how Logan Roy ended up with four variably fucked up adult children, who each serve to illustrate the family's drive for wealth and ownership above all else. Their companies are their babies, and actual babies are kept out of view until they're old enough to be useful in a cash grab or contenders in the great next-CEO-smackdown we are seeing play out in Season 3. But Succession didn't invent hidden kids as a narrative tool. I remember the same thing happening on Party of Five, in which a handful of siblings are orphaned, the youngest of whom is an infant and the oldest are formative crushes Scott Wolfe and Matthew Fox. You almost never see the youngest; my mom and I used to jokingly refer to it as the 'invisible baby,' and pretend the teens kept him in a closet. Well who's laughing now that the most prestige drama on television is relying on the same trope 21 years later?
Kendall, for one. He jokes to Greg he "must be doing something right." He got his power lawyer. His ex said it's fine. IMDb tells us that Sophie, at least, will make an appearance this season. And, if my assumption is correct, he has one more brilliant woman heading his way: Shiv, who ends the episode with a dramatic change of destination. Where else would she be going? Maybe to hang out with her niece.