Bobby Axelrod Season 2: The “eyes” have it

Hello, friends!  Hope your summer is going really well.  We’ve rounded the corner to August now, which in Minnesota means STATE FAIR TIME! All the fried food on a stick, people watching, and petting goats that you can handle!

oh look, a slow day

I am basically inside the house hiding from the evil “day star” (I am fair with freckles, tanning ain’t for me!) so I’ve been re-watching some favorite shows to pass the time.  Season 2 of Billions, of course, has been an easy choice!  Let’s stroll back, together, and tell a tale of two Bobbies!

source: Showtime

Let’s do a little comparison work between the Bobby of season one, and the Bobby in season two. As always, I’ll be viewing Damian’s work through the lens of a Delsartean.

Stanislavsky can bite me.

Honestly, once you study Delsarte, it’s hard to turn it off, even for a brief moment. The way people speak to one another in public, the way advertisers position models in print ads, the way artists both past and present have depicted their subjects-all of it is Delsarte. It was developed through lots of observation, so it’s not really surprising that I find so much truth in it.  It is based, firmly, in humanity and reality, and I am so happy to be here, sharing it, once again!

“shows” being the operative word….

In previous posts, I’ve included a little quick snippet of an explanation. It’s hard to explain it all in just a few sentences! I recently stumbled upon this blog, and find that it sums things up quickly and beautifully and even has illustrations! Head over there if you’d like to read and see about the study, in greater detail. But for now, here’s one of my previous descriptions:

” In my first couple articles written for the blog, I delved into what the three zones of the body correspond to. For a quick and dirty recap: Mind, Heart, Body (I usually prefer vitality). Mind, your head. Heart, your chest. Vitality? Your pelvis. And within each of these zones, lies mind, heart and body breakdowns of their own. From head to toe, within all of our appendages, as well, macrocosm to microcosm, these three elements are all present. “

So in season one, “Mr. Mind”, aka: Bobby, was always leading by the mind. He points, he leans forward, he stomps. He’s always seeing the whole map, the whole plan. He not only sees his play, but also sees everyone else’s play, and how they will all go together, and that is definitely telegraphed all over his body. This ability to hone in, it gives him that Batman-like ability to be one step ahead, and to use each moment and development to benefit his cause. And while the mind seems to be the leader, backing that up, in many cases, was the vital. His forehead may have been tense with thought, and tilted forward, but across the chest he folded his arms with biceps flexed. When he needed to get really real? His jaw would tense and slide forward, his lower lip would pout out, wrapped tightly around his teeth.  Sometimes even the nostrils would flare up, a vital expression of the nose.  He wanted you to know he meant business, and FEEL it, too.

source: Showtime

As an aside: If you’ve ever watched “Key and Peele”, you’ll remember the “anger translator” sketch, where then-acting President Obama had a man who stomped around behind him, conveying his angry undertones of his calm statements.  That was what the vital zones were doing in those moments, for Bobby. He’d say the calm, cool, level-headed thing, and his vital side would chime in with “YEAH!!” and give an angry stare.

source: Showtime

And speaking of stares, the eyes are the big difference between season one and season two of Damian’s portrayal of Bobby Axelrod.

Eyes are on the head, of course, which lands them in the mind zone of the body. Within the head itself, the eyes are mind, as well. The “windows to the soul”, indeed. The eyes convey our thoughts. Delsarte said “the eye is the centre of mental significance in expression.”

This season bring with it the many ways in which Bobby’s world is building up and crumbling down, simultaneously. Season one’s life was much more stable, much more predictable. Really his biggest worry was the market, and we all know how great he is with that!  It was mostly wins for Axe Capital, and had been, for more than a decade. The only person who ever got to see anything flicker behind those baby blues was Lara.  But this season? He’s all over the place.

Looking at the eye, itself, it has within it the three elements, as well!

Image Credit to Story Monster.


(You may have caught on to this by now-in class my teacher, Joe, merely points and puts up 3 fingers and we all chime in!)

We see Bobby squint a lot, both season one and two. Squinting is critical, and its driven by the “mind” of the eye, itself, the pupil. When he squints? I swear his pupil is all you can see! Nothing but Mr. Mind!

But season two has brought a new part of Bobby’s eye to the forefront: the whites. I feel like we see way more of the whites of his eyes, these days. The whites are vital, so many times when he is really feeling the fear, intensity, rage, the whites of his eyes give him away. The only time I really saw it in season one was when he stood on top of the file cabinets after Dollar Bill got arrested. He looked SUPER scared, despite trying to rally the troops.  And when he stood in front of those troops, this season, to demand that they bring back an idea that would “shock the world?” Whites of eyes were FLARING.

So within those eyes, we have found Tin Man’s missing heart. The heart of the eye is the iris(or the “colored part”), and we see so much more of that, as well, this season. A particularly poignant moment is one (of many!) from last week’s episode “With or without you”. He’s at the pizza place from his childhood, feeling alone, fragile, scared. There’s a lot of eye whites in that episode, for sure. But when Bruno refuses to stop for Bobby, to sit down and chat? When Bruno makes it clear that Bobby has burned this bridge? There’s a a flash of those sad, blue eyes. You can really feel his loneliness and remorse in that moment.

source: Showtime

He has everything, but he also has nothing. And moments after that pain, he unleashes a super-scary voicemail on Lara, threatening to “lock her down”.  When wounded, Bobby will fight back. And Bobby fights dirty.

source: Showtime

That whole episode is so complex, played so shockingly well, that is deserves a stand alone post. So stay tuned for that! He was all over the place, and it was absolutely brilliant and terrifying. From the way the script was written, to the way Damian acted it? Holy crap. Triggering, to say the least. But epic and brilliant, at the same time.  Honest portrayals of ugly moments like that, where “coercive control” type behaviors are seen? They could go a long way to opening people’s eye’s to the reality of these situations, despite how disturbing and sad they are.  I’m really glad to have a team like the one at Billions who is covering such delicate subject matter.

source: Showtime

I’d say that it’s been mainly the eyes that has changed, this season. His swagger is still intact, his “feet up on the desk” moments, the hiding of his hands in his pockets, crossed arms. It’s all still there. It’s those beautiful details, those fleeting moments that run across Damian’s face, those have really gone so far in how he portrays the new challenges this character faces in season 2. And with the announcement of a season 3 heading our way?

source: @SHO_Billions

The best is, no doubt, yet to come.

7 thoughts on “Bobby Axelrod Season 2: The “eyes” have it”

  1. Thanks a lot for this piece!
    That’s why I love this blog! Besides the intelligent, fun and witty way in which information is provided and everything else, I always learn something new.
    It is very interesting for me to learn about Delsarte. I didn’t know anything about him and his work and teachings until now. I will definitely read more about it.
    I think we don’t even realize how immense is the contribution of our nonverbal capabilities and how much we give and perceive through them.
    I have to admit I’m not very interested in Billions – maybe that’s why I’m as poor as church mice.
    Anyway, the show didn’t catch me. I think that swagger is TOO MUCH even for Damian 😀 He looks tired and at times a little bit annoyed by that, and his eyes show that very clearly. Although he always finds a way to have fun while he is acting.
    I don’t know if he’s tired of his everyday life or whatever. I guess being an actor in a TV series can be boring sometimes. But that swagger doesn’t fit him at the moment.
    Anyway, you catch my attention and I have to watch the entire season 2 and I will be very focused on “With or without you”. 🙂

    1. I think Billions is first and foremost an American show because I cannot think of any other place where finance, politics and law go hand in hand as much as they do in the US. So the subject matter may not appeal to everyone. I totally understand. Having said that, it is a VERY smart show, in my humble opinion, with a wonderful sense of humor. I just think Damian is having fun on set. Brian Koppelman, the executive producer and show creator, said in a recent festival that the actors love to make each other laugh, and Damian LOVES to laugh. Gotta love him!!! Anyway, maybe next year we all watch Season 3 together and have FUN! We all discuss the episode here the day after it is on TV (and the UK sees the episodes just one day after the US) and people have different takes on different scenes and the exchange is so much FUN!

      1. I know it’s a smart show. I know that the creators had a set-up let’s say a “target” group of viewers when they planned to make the show. I know it is a fun and dynamic “picture” of real processes and facts that are happening now in both the political and the financial world. This makes viewers very involved in what they are watching. In recent years, the television industry has attracted some of the most talented, smart and innovative film makers, so the quality of the productions has become very high, and it all has a whole new dimension.
        More than a year ago, we had a conversation with an FB friend about the American TV series and how some TV shows have such bold ideas. I don’t know how they do it, but they manage to show themes and problems that are very awkward. You know… they have managed to bring to us – to bring to millions of “common people” information about politics, corruption, financial abuse, illegal wars, weapons, drugs trading, human rights, etc. Of course, they have to do it in a concealed way so as not to be censored. Cinema can hardly afford that. At least such projects are not well funded. Not to mention other types of “sanctions”. I haven’t searched the exact numbers, but it’s obvious that movies like, for example – “Syriana” or “Kill the Messenger” don’t have even one tenth of the viewers of these TV series with similar topics in the plot.
        So…I want to say that the show has all my sincere respect. I just think, or maybe it’s somehow an inner feeling that Damian is not in that swagger mood at the moment. It seems to me like he has to overact. I may be wrong, or maybe not. But in one I’m sure – that orange fond-de-teint is terrible! Come on … he’s a redhead, he’s not a carrot! So PLEASE someone to change the shade!!!
        I know it’s a GREAT FUN to watch a show and then discuss it with other people. So if they make some corrections of Bobby’s makeup I’ll watch season three with you – I promise 😉 😀

        1. Hello from Berlin airport! Heading back home today!

          We are 100% on the same page about cinema vs TV today. American TV has become a completely different animal than it used to be, and as a film buff, I find myself watching TV shows more than watching movies nowadays. Go, figure! The quality is so high in TV with good writers, directors, actors preferring to work on TV than in cinema because as you say it is so hard to fund films on topics that would not be “popular.”

          I certainly HEAR you about the make-up. We all thought it was too much in Season 1. But I think they toned it down in Season 2 and he looks much better. I also feel you about your inner feeling but I have a different take. I know this is not the kind of role that has a lot of room for subtlety. The subject matter is, after all, about two men having a pissing contest, and you can’t really do this in subtlety. So, especially in scenes at Axe Capital, say with Wags or Mafee, and also in rare scenes with Chuck, Axe is more of an “at your face” character. So is Chuck. Having said that, there are moments, the first ones that come to mind from Season 2 are Axe’s phone conversation with Benziger in Episode 4, Axe’s speech at Yale Club in Episode 8, or to his kids and to Wendy in Season 2 finale, where the actor we LOVE to see comes out and does his thing. That is why I think Axe is a role that gives Damian a chance to show more of his incredible range as an actor. But, of course, this is my personal take. I also admit there are things — other than Damian and the rest of the wonderful cast and the show being smart and having a good sense of humor — that make Billions a favorite for me. NYC is my favorite place on earth and the city appears as a great supporting actress in the show, and of course the show has a lot of game theory — what I literally do in real life — that has fascinated me from the Pilot.

          BTW, you can always give feedback about make up to show creators. Who knows they may take it into account.
          Much love, and talk soon <3

        2. Tsvetanka, you are not alone in this. I enjoy following our friends and enjoy watching DL, but the show and the characters – not so much.

          1. Thank you, Notlinda!

            Let put aside our personal preferences, readings, and criticism about the show. I have some concern. For an actor, being part of a project like this means to be “closed”, you know, in a sort of a “golden cage” for a long time. It can be fun, it can be lucrative, it can be glamorous, it can be a highly profiled experience like … The president of the United States to invite you to the White House for dinner. By the way I can’t help imagining if Trump really invites him and say he loves Billions (the show), what would Damian write on the DVD?!?! 😀 Back to the cage: It may be perfect in general, but there are some limitations, for example – you can’t grow a beard that makes you look stunning…, be more often on stage etc.
            Of course, I’m a nice fan and I wish him all the glory and wealth that the show can bring, but I hope it won’t last more than 3 or 4 seasons. Will see. “Vox populi (TV-viewers), vox Dei”

          2. Here is what Damian says, very honestly, and I love him for that, in his New Yorker profile when asked about his constant work in TV:

            “Lewis may be the world’s most famous actor who has never anchored a major film. When I asked him if he sticks to television intentionally, he said, “You shouldn’t think for a second that I’ve somewhere or somehow made a commitment to only doing these premium-cable shows.” He continued, “But there are other considerations, to do with family, which is hardly the answer of an artist, but it’s reality.”

            I know all our talk is speculation but I believe the truth is in there somewhere… I agree that he is probably at his happiest on stage but then I also think it should be a different story when you are an artist and a family to support. I think everyone wants to have utmost satisfaction in their profession but there are personal constraints to consider and being an idealist is quite hard under those constraints. Shall we agree on 4-5 seasons for Billions? 😀 Because a TV show that is cancelled after 3 seasons would be considered a failure in the US. We may say who cares but the studios care. I will never forget that Damian was almost not getting Homeland because of Life — even though it was a GREAT show — that lasted 2 seasons. Can you imagine?

            To be honest, I have been concerned if Trump would try and limit work visas for foreign actors like he is trying to limit work visas for foreign employees in general. We are living in crazy times to say the least.

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