From the Trader’s Desk: S3 Ep9 “Icebreaker” Axe: Killing Yourself to Live?

So you think it’s me who’s strange
But you’ve never had to make the change
Never give your trust away
You’ll end up paying till your dying day
Killing Yourself to Live – Black Sabbath

Is that what Axe is doing? Is he putting himself (and possibly others) in such a dangerous position, just so he can still be Bobby “Fucking” Axelrod? And in the end, will it be worth it? Is he Killing Himself to Live?

Happy Friday from the Trader’s Desk. Please indulge me this week, as I won’t be doing a usual recap, but more of my observations on the state of things at Axe Capital, and the possible consequences.

This week’s episode, “Icebreaker” was many things, but first and foremost for me, the word intense comes to mind. There was also an overtone of doom (at least in my opinion). Two main characters, Axe and Taylor, are putting themselves in precarious positions, although one is much more dangerous than the other.

Axe is still on his mission to raise $20 Billion dollars in the short span of 6 months. That is extreme for any fund, let alone one who has just had the shadow of the government over it. But, Axe wants/needs this investment, not just to trade with; he needs it to prove to himself (although he is saying it really is for the firm) that he can still be the Master of the Universe. And it seems as if he does not care where or who it comes from. Desperate Axe is always the Axe that leads to the path of destruction.

Taylor on the other hand is on a mission to establish themselves apart from Axe. They are playing a dangerous game as well. Axe is allowed to keep secrets, but will not take kindly to being kept in the dark regarding Taylor’s plans.

Axe needs an Icebreaker – that first big investor who will get the ball rolling. His idea? A dangerous Russian oligarch, Grigor Andolov. We know he has spent time in a Russian prison (and survived, which right there tells you something), and is willing to take the arm of someone who doesn’t say yes to a business proposal quick enough. We’re not talking Ivan Drago here – this is a very treacherous man. Hall won’t be able to cover Axe if he takes Andolov’s money, and Wags is hesitant (which is never a good sign).

Axe is willing to see what Spartan-Ives can do for him in regards to raising capital, but after a fruitless meeting, Axe knows there’s only one way to go to get what he wants.

Axe meets with Andolov at what we Ranger fans call the Nassau Mausoleum to try and get Andolov to ditch any other meetings with “candy-ass” managers and invest with Axe Capital. You can tell immediately this is a different kind of animal than Axe is use to dealing with. Axe is now dealing with a man who is used to getting his way, any means possible. Axe is similar, but the “odor” of violence (um, hello, he took a man’s arm!) puts Andolov in a whole different stratosphere. He wants to see Axe dance like a marionette, just because he can, and also because I think he senses the desperation coming from Axe. They agree their lieutenants will meet.

Even before it happens, you just know Taylor is not going to go for this. They sabotage the meeting by pitching “impact investing”: environment, social, and government investments. Nothing someone like Andolov would be interested in. It’s a very passive-aggressive move by Taylor, which is not like them. They are usually upfront, to the point, and frank.

Axe reads this for what it is: Taylor tanked the meeting purposely to block Andolov from investing at Axe Capital. Taylor believes they are protecting the firm; “international criminals are unstable” for a cap raise. Taylor is 100% right. As usual, Taylor is thinking, Axe is feeling.

Taylor is told the discussion to take Andolov’s money was already had – without them. Now that Axe is back, is Taylor expendable? What happens to people who get in the way of Axe’s blind ambitions?

This is the second week in a row we see Axe dismiss Taylor. I believe Taylor must start to look out for themselves, which is why I think they go on the down-low with the quant project.

I think the quants will do one of two things in the upcoming episodes: either save Axe and Axe Capital if and when it needs it, or be the foundation for Taylor to branch out on their own and become a rival to Axe. It’s a bold move by Taylor to literally take the quants “underground”, and if they are found out by Axe (or I could see Hall finding out!!) there will be hell to pay. I hope the quant project is the springboard for Taylor to break away from Axe. He is going down a very dark, very dangerous road; one that Taylor does not need to be a party to.

Axe goes to great lengths to get Andolov’s money, inviting him to his home “where his children sleep”, and basically pimping out the United States’ Secretary of the Treasury, Todd Krakow. Axe is getting deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole, and just like Taylor, I don’t understand why.

This isn’t just another “stock jockey” like Birch or Malverne; this is someone who will hurt Axe’s family or others who are close to Axe. Also, I can tell you that if I were an investor at Axe Capital and came to find out a criminal the likes of Andolov were a major investor, I’d pull my money out ASAP. There wouldn’t even be a discussion. Its madness, pure and simple, that this is the road Axe is going down immediately after having his indictment dropped.

 

Axe is a tough guy and can handle himself in most situations. This is the deepest end of the pool. Axe is a Bull Shark, but he is now dealing with a Great White. He says he is not ignoring the downside of getting involved with a character like Andolov, but he can’t let it override his need, Axe Cap’s need. This whole misadventure is ego driven, and damn the consequences. He thinks he can avoid the downside because he sees it. I don’t think he truly understands the downside here is violence. I also wonder, by introducing such a sadistic character, we won’t see some type of threat or harm come to Lara and/or the boys. Will that be enough to get Axe back on a better path? Right before the FBI took Axe into custody at the end of Season 2, he asks Wendy to help him “find his way back”. Well, he has done the exact opposite of that this season. He is more lost than ever.

Andolov in not so many words threatens Axe not to lose his money. Nobody can guarantee ROI (Return on Investment), so what lengths will Axe now have to go to ensure a “win”?

I trade for a living, which means I take risks every day. I also grew up with a Grandfather who was a bookie, so I’ve also been on the fringe of “organized crime” in my life.

That being said, I would never trade for or take money from a source where the risk would possibly put my family and friends in danger, or give the appearance that my firm was “toxic” and corrupt.

The very first post I ever wrote for FanFun was “In Defense of Bobby Axelrod”. I have no defense for what Axe is doing now. It’s reckless, dangerous, and most of all, unnecessary.

Whatcha gonna do?
Time’s caught up with you
Now you wait your turn
You know there’s no return
Take your written rules
You join the other fools
Turn to something new
Now it’s killing you
Hand of Doom – Black Sabbath

14 thoughts on “From the Trader’s Desk: S3 Ep9 “Icebreaker” Axe: Killing Yourself to Live?”

  1. Very good read, LT! I appreciate that you did analysis rather than recap. There’s not been an episode I’ve watched twice on Billions but I may look at this one again, ignoring my problems with and watching everyone take a step into darkness. You’ve made me curious. That’s a good thing.

    1. Thank you Notlinda! I didn’t like the episode for many reasons, so I thought focusing on the decisions Axe was making (and the potential impact on his family and firm) was the way to go.
      So glad you liked it!! 🙂

      1. I kind of feel you on this one Lady Trader. This episode caused me to regress backwards so to speak. The writers are killing me here or maybe they are trying to KILL Axelrod. Perhaps Axe should keep a private psychiatrist on retainer and let Wendy focus on the troops. I like Taylor’s thinking and hope our writers like her more. Chuck on the other hand is not going to stop “suffocating” until he “kills” the AG and Foley…the other Dark Lord. I know Black Sabbath is used a lot here but baby I can still hear that song from Ep3…..with a twist…….You want it darker……we kill all your flames. Nuff said…Thanks LT!

        1. Thank you for reading! This episode was one that had a lot of people feeling so many different things! I think that is why we all love this show – it makes us care about the characters!

          I agree with you on that song from Ep3. I have been using Black Sabbath lyrics lately for 2 reasons:
          1. I just love them!!
          2. A lot of people thing Black Sabbath is just “devil worship” heavy metal. If I can introduce people to the amazing lyrics, I may just make a fan or two!!

          Again thank you for reading, but even more so, thank you for joining the conversation!!

  2. Fantastic post!

    You are absolutely right. There is no defense for Axe at this point. The thing is I think he also knows, that last look in the episode, that Andolov owns his ass right now. As one of the readers has suggested, Axe may think he is above the law, but Andolov’s understanding of being above the law is a completely different animal. He is a nation state where capital punishment still exists.

    There is a HUGE storyline there for Taylor that may transition us over to Season 4. Honestly, I was thinking Taylor may make a move to save Axe’s ass using their new algrotihm when Axe gets into trouble with Andolov’s money, but you know what, the more juicy storyline, and maybe more realistic now that we see Taylor observing and reacting to Axe’s strange behavior taking the most unnecessary risks (not just Andolov, the BIGGEST risk, but also with Natural gas insider info from Krakow) they may well make a decision to go on their own, and lo and behold Axe has his own protege as their biggest rival. Maybe in parallel to Chuck and Bryan/Kate (I suspect Kate may go against Chuck, too, in the end!) I wonder if Axe or Hall will find out about the underground operation Taylor runs — could Taylor be another Ionosphere? My gut says no but what do I know? 😀

    Here’s the billion dollar question: CanTaylor can get some of the Axe Capital team with them when they go on their own? Who is the first name that comes to mind? Sweet Dudley! What say you?

    1. Thank you!!

      This was (is) Axe at his most reckless. It’s maddening! I think he knows his ass is “owned” but his ego is so out of control right now, he probably thinks he can deal with anything!

      I do think Taylor is going out on their own. Who will go with them? Plot description for Ep11: Axe and Taylor argue over Taylor’s place and worth at the firm. Wendy seeks Lara’s help with an internal Axe Cap problem. Plot description Ep12: Axe dominates a capital raise event, but is soon challenged by an unexpected competitor. Wendy reckons with past decisions, and chooses a side. Taylor takes a big position.

      If I could read tea leaves (and I can’t), could it be that Taylor takes Wendy with them? THAT would be a crazy way to leave off S3!!

      1. Oh God unexpected competitor could be Taylor! Taylor taking Wendy with them would be, well, CRAZY, to say the least. Can’t wait!!!

  3. Oh how the plot thickens and thickens. Do worry Lady T. I am a fan of Black Sabbath (Iron Man and War Pigs) and Pink Floyd’s “Several species of small furry animals gathered together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict.” This seems to describe The Billions crew. Accept the “Picts” are dollar bills, superstitions, egos, quants, strained ethics and Dark Lords. In the words of Damianista…..”CRAZY” and “Can’t wait”!!!

    1. I like your take!! And I like your taste in music!!

      3 more episodes left! Let’s see what ride they take us on!!

  4. Very good analysis! My take is They and her quants will contribute to bailing out the company. I cannot see John Malkovich signing on for more than this season. Plus this intense a character quickly wears out his welcome for viewers. The producers know this. But if Andolov does return for Season 4 then Axe can bring in Ray Donovan (relocating to NYC), who has already disposed of one Russian oligarch.

    Summary – They + quants save the day. Andolov is gone in the last few episodes with his money or swimming with fishes in the East River.

  5. Besides Ray Donovan which was a joke, Russian oligarchs are not all powerful. Bobby might have to find one of these people who can convince Andolov to back down and not harm Bobby and his family. That there will be serious consequences for Andolov if he tries to refuse. The threat could be to hack all his money in offshore banks and destroy it or take it. Quants can do this with a few days catching up? (joke) Hall might know super hackers.

  6. Axe is desperate and acting stupidly. I honestly think the writers are trying to tear Axelrod down and maybe Chuck too. Both are taking extremely risky moves that have major downsides. No way in hell would anyone legit businessman want to get involved with a Russian criminal. They don’t sue when they lose money. Andolov would take matters into his own hands if Axe lost his money. I think Axe’s path will go the way of a lot of real life hedge funders like Bill Ackman. They were so used to winning for so long but now they can’t seem to get a win to save their lives. Having Axe put in jail wouldn’t be good for the show. But having him continue to lose would be interesting to watch. I don’t see them killing him off but if Taylor saves his ass then leaves Axe Cap to become super successful on her own than that would be entertaining.

    1. SMT, you and I think alike! As my post says, the things Axe is doing is so reckless, and unnecessary.

      I thought I knew the direction the show (and Axe) was going in, but last week changed that (at least for me). Introducing someone like Andolov and the type of violence that he brings, add a new element to what could happen on the show.

      3 more episodes! A lot could go right or wrong for all our favorite characters!

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