Wags’ Words of Wisdom By the Dozen
Wags, played by David Costabile, is my second favorite character on the Showtime hit series Billions–Axe being the first of course. Sure, he’s an acquired taste for some. But folks, I gladly claim Wags as my rapacious scumbag, too! So you better believe I jumped at the chance to write a blog post about Wags’ Words of Wisdom. Back in February of 2017, Showtime released their own Wags’ Words of Wisdom soundbite mashup:
And Showtime also furnished us fans with Wags’ Guide to Life:
So who is this Wags character I treasure so much? Mike “Wags” Wagner is the Chief Operating Officer at Axe Capital and right-hand man to Bobby Axelrod. Whether the boss needs an attack dog (dog, tail, wags…get it?), financial consigliere, or valet (and I don’t mean Downton Abbey valet, he’s no Mr. Bates), Wags is there to do the job most would never consider, let alone, execute. He can be vile, obscene and unscrupulous, characteristics I’m sure were required and proudly summarized on his curriculum vitae. He is Axe Capital’s advising guard on constant patrol, warning of the approach or presence of strangers and danger within the protected area of the hedge fund headquarters and a leader of the minions who work there. Every “Hefe” (El Jefe) needs an underboss like Wags.
Axe and Wags are a team to the core, a modern day Shaggy and Scooby Doo. Wags is Scooby of course–it’s the whole dog inference. Axe is Shaggy–tall and lean with a ginger mop. Pet and Master. They go together like peanut butter and jelly. Damianista even wrote about the dynamic duo in a post called Catching Up with Axe & Wags.
I can think of only a few magnetic twosomes that I have enjoyed watching on television just as much over the years:
Most of us know the history behind each duo pictured above, but we don’t know much about the Billions ‘brothers from another mother.’ I have always wondered about the backstory to Wags and Axe’s friendship and as if we need more reason to look forward to Billions season three, some of those questions just might be answered because the show’s co-creator and writer Brian Koppelman tweeted this tease about the pair:
I'll say this: if you are interested in their relationship and its origins, watch this season. https://t.co/XQIRJCpNiT
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) February 26, 2018
What I do know, aside from his childhood affinity for Yosemite Sam, is that Wags is a pinky ring-wearing, Vaportini drinking, vintage Mercedes driving, petite handlebar mustache sporting, sharp-dressed man with the swag of a thousand thoroughbreds. Wags is smart, sinful and downright sleazy, and I love him for it.
Costabile plays the character to the hilt regarding the seven deadly sins, especially the vices of lust, gluttony and greed. When it comes to lust, there are countless women, whether call girls, exotic dancers, or ‘swipe rights’ from the exclusive members only Tinder for the rich and elite called Raya and extravagance in the form of knocking back $5,000 bottles of Michter’s Sour Mash Celebration whiskey like it’s water. Which leads to gluttony. Wags is the very definition of excess when it comes to life. Booze in particular. He over indulges so much so that he requires intravenous hangover therapy. You can read more about that treatment modality here. Drinking, women and drugs — a Zen Garden as he says:
— Billions (@SHO_Billions) August 31, 2017
Then there is greed. Working in the hedge fund business, it sort of comes with the territory. In the movie Wallstreet, the character Gordon Gekko said, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works.” Wags certainly has a greed for life, money and love. He’s not passing up his career for a college professor’s salary anytime soon, and he tells Wendy just that:
— Billions (@SHO_Billions) August 2, 2017
Costabile describes playing the character Wags in this Billions season two behind the scenes interview, stating, “I play a lot of people in my life who have been very balanced, and then I’ve played a couple of people who are imbalanced. It’s much more fun to be out of line.”
Out of line or not, one thing is for sure, Wags and all his one-liners are more than memorable…they are wise. In interviews and panel discussions David has said about Wags, “I get to say all the best lines.” That he does. Wags’ words of wisdom, albeit unconventional, are nonetheless noteworthy and here are just a few that made my top 12. It’s Wags by dozen!
- “Those guys on the prime broker desk have looser lips than my first wife after the second kid.”
Wisdom: Know who to squeeze information from and who to trust.
- “You see an opportunity like that again, you grab it like it’s a horse cock and you’re Catherine the Great!”
Wisdom: Do not let good opportunities pass by. Never quit.
- “It’s time for you folks to sharpen your pencils and you better come back with one Traci Lords of an idea. And if you need that fucking defined, here it is: a barely legal, market-dominating, brilliant cocksucker of an idea.”
Wisdom: How to hit paydirt, 101
Wisdom: Know when it’s time to get down to business.
- “You don’t put ginger on the fish. It’s to clear the palette between pieces, not drown it out. And it is already precisely sauced. It doesn’t need a soy bath.”
Wisdom: How to eat sushi the proper way and respect the art form.
- “If humanity has to be rebuilt, it sure as fuck shouldn’t be in my image.”
Wisdom: Honest introspection, know your flaws.
- “I remember the first time I shit-canned someone. It tasted as sweet as the Mata Hari’s armpits.”
Wisdom: Be the best manager/supervisor you can be and get rid of the slackers.
- “You are here to keep the visigoths outside the city walls, not to impugn the judgment of the Caesar.”
Wisdom: Know your place, know your job and respect boundaries!
- “Only an immature man cheats on his woman.”
Wisdom: Be loyal.
- “That’s a little unsettling Donnie, since seeing the matrix is your entire fucking job!” and “This is an opportunity to be with us. STEP IT UP, Ben Kim, STEP IT UP!!”
Wisdom: Motivate your employees with pep talks on a consistent basis.
- “A couple more days it’ll be fucking Lord of the Flies in here.”
Wisdom: Recognize when staff need break time. Office Management 101.
- “We have to be more pure than the Virgin Mary before her first period.”
Wisdom: Avoid getting caught doing illegal shit and thus, jail time.
The Wags character brings a lot of humor to Billions. I’m certainly looking forward to more Wags-isms in season three, but until then, catch up on Why We Love Billions’ Sense of Humor from season one and season two.
This post has been the FUNNEST I have ever written for the blog thus far, and sadly, all good things must come to an end. I hope you enjoyed this lovely tribute to an actor who creates a remarkable character.
So let us all raise a glass to Axe and Wags, my favorite duo ever to grace the screen. Flat Bobby….don’t leave home without it!
Craving more? Here’s Wags by the Dozen Part 2.