While they have been shooting Billions Season 3 in New York since early September, we still have not heard a formal announcement from Showtime other than “sometime in 2018” about when we have our favorite show back on TV.
So Season 3 may still be a few months away but I think it is time we start talking about what to expect when we are expecting the new season!
And since we are talking about Billions being filmed at the moment, why not start with a few questions I was able to ask the show’s creators, executive producers and show runners Brian Koppelman and David Levien on social media?
We were lucky to have Mr. Koppelman’s “Ask me anything” Q&As on Twitter every Sunday before the new episode of Billions. And he was very kind to answer a few of my Billions questions, too! I already knew one episode took two weeks to shoot but I was also curious about…
13 hour shooting day. But then David and I are in editing and writing and all that, too.
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) March 13, 2017
…and whether they shoot the scenes in the order they would appear in an episode.
No. We rarely get the chance to do that. When shooting you group stuff together by locations and actor availability. https://t.co/MdIWgYeNdF
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) April 10, 2017
Koppelman and Levien also held a Billions Q&A on Facebook in April. I sent in a question but did not have the time to watch the Q&A live because JaniaJania and I were in London seeing Damian in The Goat that very day. When we were back in the hotel later in the day, we were ecstatic to find out Koppelman and Levien did not only give answer my question but also a shout out to our blog. It means the world to us and we cannot thank enough for their kindness.
You can watch the Facebook Q&A here. My question is the first one they answer and I highly recommend the entire Q&A since you learn a lot about the incredible thought process behind the show.
I am transcribing my question and their answer for our non-native speaker readers who prefer to read rather than listen.
My question: “Do you have the entire season planned before you start writing, or does the story develop as you write?”
Levien: “You know what? We really wish that we had the entire thing planned out. We have the elements of the arc planned. We sort of know the end point and we figure out the big stuff in between and then we film the dance steps along the way.
Koppelman: “We’re huge fans of, like Mad Men, I get asked this a lot online, I think we both do, ‘what’s your favorite TV shows of all time?’ My two favorite TV shows of all time are Mad Men and The Sopranos. And both Matt Weiner and David Chase have said that each season they try to do every idea that they have. They might have an idea where the show is going, at a certain point along the way, ending images come to you, or ideas about where the characters might go. But we try really hard to do every great idea, every story turn, every character move that we think of each season, we wanna do it in the season, We care a lot about making each episode really work. We want each episode to be as close to an hour-long movie as it possibly as can be. And so we try to jam as much stuff into each episode and into each season as we know how to do.”
Finally, I have to say this recent tweet from Brian Koppelman made my heart beat faster!
Can’t spoil it. Won’t spoil it. But the thing we are shooting tonight has been on the Billions writers’ room white board since beginning of season one. Not a plot twist. A moment in life. It’s about as Billions a thing as there is. And it’s finally happening. #Billions.
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) November 29, 2017
Mr. Koppelman tweeted later that the first person who correctly guesses what THIS refers to, when the scene plays, will win a Billions poster signed by him and Mr. Levien. Well, we are IN and good luck, everyone! 😀
Now, as we cannot wait to see what is in store for our characters in Season 3, thinking and talking about Billions is the best way to deal with our withdrawals. So, shall we?
Our first glimpse of the new season: An Axe and Wendy scene. As they seem to have a serious conversation, I cannot help think seriously about a couple of things.
Firstly, why do they talk on the streets of Manhattan rather than at Axe Capital? A few alternatives come to mind: It could be that they think FBI is listening so they have private conversations on the street. Or It could be that Taylor’s 7-3 bet was right and Wendy is not at Axe Capital anymore. Or it could be that Wendy is still at Axe Capital but the boss is choosing to keep his distance from the company while he is trying to dig himself out of the deep shit he is in.
Secondly, and more importantly, what are they talking about? To speculate about it, we may want to go back to Season 2: While Axe believes in hatred as the nature’s most powerful energy source, Chuck is right that, since he was acting out of malice, Axe took risks he would otherwise avoid and ended up getting played by Chuck. As Axe expected his Ice Juice operation to work like the poison-tip arrow going through one guy and killing another, he has become the guy that got “killed” when Chuck sent the arrow through Boyd.
No question Chuck has won a serious battle here. That said, Axe still has a card or two to play and he may be playing one of those with Wendy here. And even if he is not, I am dying to talk about how Axe may get out of this mess with a little help from friends and, yes, foes 😀
I believe your worst nightmare is more horrendous in anticipation than when it finally hits you. You may get knocked down but, hey, what does not kill you makes you stronger, and you stand up and fight, and often without any fear, especially when you do not have much to lose. This is what happened to Chuck at the end of Season 1 and we all saw how the man with nothing to lose has turned into the smartest and the boldest enemy. Similarly, windbreakers were Axe’s worst nightmare, and now that they have finally got to him, Axe should get his shit together and fight. I believe the fear he said he had in the back of his throat tasting like aluminum will disappear in Season 3 giving us a confident and rational Axe, much closer to the man we got to know in Season 1, with a serious game plan.
To see Axe’s options, let us re-visit a few crucial Season 2 moments starting with the one on everyone’s mind since the finale:
What did Wendy whisper into Axe’s ear?
While it is impossible to lip read, it seems Wendy says only a word or two: “Don’t worry” or “Hang in there” or “You’ll be fine” or…
I am kidding, But, in fact, I am not kidding, because I am expecting a somewhat different Axe – Chuck relationship in the coming season. The two men may end up being reluctant allies because the enemy of their enemy is their friend.
A common enemy?
I am talking about Oliver Dake.
I wonder what Dake is thinking as he looks at Axe and Wendy during the arrest: From his perspective, Axelrod has just hugged the woman whom he was willing to sacrifice a few hours ago through his lawyer bringing the $5M “bribe” back to the table. And it was this woman’s husband who told Dake to put a wire on his wife’s cell should he want to locate Axelrod. It may be too much to take in for Dake at the moment but he will take a closer look at Wendy and may find surprising facts along the way.
Chuck believes he has covered his ass by making Dake promise him no leak from the Eastern District about Chuck Sr’s involvement in Ice Juice. However, he still has no idea about Wendy shorting Ice Juice! Can you imagine the expression on Chuck’s face when he finds out? Maybe something like when he heard about the $5M check from Dake?
Axe, on the other hand, knows about Wendy’s short and how this insider trading, once made public, could affect her and more importantly Chuck, his current job as well as his future in politics. There may definitely be another thread Chuck left out there, however small, that Axe will find and pull but I think Wendy’s short could turn out to be a way out for Axe to save his ass.
A juicy piece of information Axe does not have yet is the following: Wendy went to Chuck’s office, violating her contract, to warn him about Ice Juice and shorted the stock on her way out of his office. Should there be an eye witness, violating her contract could be costly for Wendy (I still think she should have read that contract before signing!) but her short may look way worse than it would otherwise. She may, god forbid, look like an accomplice in this.
Axe knows Chuck Sr is involved in Ice Juice; however it is hard to prove since Dake and Boyd will keep quiet about it. Too bad Hall is not around… he would find a way! Axe also knows, thanks to Taylor’s research, that Chuck Sr’s money is tied up in Kingsford, where the casino is getting built, so it is most probably Chuck’s trust Chuck Sr has used to invest in Ice Juice. Would it be worthwhile for Axe to give a heads up to Mike Dimonda? He can definitely tell him Charlie Rose’s slot is now open, too!
Moreover, Axe knows Chuck sacrificed his best friend in his Ice Juice play. Ira can sue Axe for his losses but only AFTER (and if) Axe is convicted, which may take years. Chuck Sr cannot sue Axe even in his dreams because he cannot reveal his involvement. Chuck tells Ira he should protect him because he will benefit from having a friend in the Governor’s mansion and has his dad sign an affidavit saying he accessed Chuck’s trust on his own. Now, it is a long shot to get Chuck Sr go against his son but could it be worth for Axe to make Ira an offer he may, well, consider? 😀
Axe is probably playing with these and other scenarios that I cannot even imagine when Chuck finds him in jail in Season 2 finale. Thus, I do not think Axe is bluffing when he says:
“When I am done, you won’t be governor. You won’t be the US attorney. You might not even be an attorney at all. Yeah I might go down behind all of this, but one thing is for sure, you are gonna be right there next to me.”
“Wow. Like I said before, Bob… Worth it.”
Is it, Chuck?
Yes, we see Chuck and Wendy going home hand in hand in the closing scene, but we do not know what will happen in the next five minutes. It would be hilarious if Season 3 picked up right after they enter their house and figure it all out.
Chuck has told Axe no amount of money could wipe out the records of his tampering with Ice Juice stock. He has no idea Wendy’s trade is on those records, too! Wendy has told Axe she would help him to find his way back. She has no idea Axe brought the $5M “bribe” back to the table only a few hours ago. And, more importantly, she has no idea Chuck has used his dad and his best friend and lost his entire trust fund to catch Axe. Wendy will probably be disappointed about Axe, and get extremely pissed about Chuck losing everything but Chuck may seriously have a fit upon hearing about Wendy’s short! And we may find Chuck as Axe’s reluctant ally trying to dig him, and more importantly Wendy, out of this shit to keep his job, his reputation and his prospects to be the next governor of New York! Can you imagine Chuck frantically trying to stop not just Dake, but also Bryan from putting Axe behind bars? 😀
Finally, given the bumpy ride in Season 2, where does the Axelrod marriage stand in this mess? Here is an excerpt from my Season 2 finale recap:
“If Hall is the first to jump ship, Lara may be the second. She starts playing with her wedding ring as soon as she hears the news.
Lara wants to protect her kids so the fact that she does not want to run away and the speed with which she empties the safe makes sense. However, her visit to Bach, whom I applaud for his professionalism, to understand her “options” blows my mind. WOW. We find out, since there is no prenup, Lara owns half of whatever they own but she needs to go find counsel somewhere else. Where is that ride-or-die wife we have come to know?”
Our second glimpse of the new season: An Axe and Lara scene. Well, the heavy expression on Axe’s face implies that the Axelrod marriage is still going through a difficult time. The fact that they are speaking on the street hints they may be separated. And, hey, this would put Bobby in the exact same position Chuck was in by the end of Season 1, wouldn’t it? I am telling you, this show loves symmetries. So do I!
That said, I believe, despite their domestic problems, Axe and Lara will get out of this mess as a team. Because I would argue as a conflict scholar that “rally ’round the flag effect” comes into play immediately once there is an attack from outside! And in case they are separated, it may even be part of their contingency plan. Seriously.
Axe and Lara do not have anyone else to trust more than each other and will do whatever it takes to protect their kids and what they have built together. I would not be surprised at all if they chose to give an impression to the outside world that they are separated while they are, in fact, not, as Axe is handling the shit, for family and business reasons. I know I may be so off the mark here but it is all Billions to blame for the way I think about the possible scenarios! 😀 I am hoping to hear the conversation Axe and Lara have once Axe enters the house at the end of season finale. It should be quite hard for him to get into the house knowing he has failed his family gloriously. And this may set the tone for Season 3.