Guess what time it is? It’s time for Wags Words of Wisdom, season three. Did you miss our first dozen that covered seasons one and two? Catch up by reading that here.
As I pointed out last time, Mike “Wags” Wagner, 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 we gladly claim Wags as our rapacious scumbag. He’s still that pinky ring-wearing, Michter’s whiskey drinking, vintage Mercedes driving, petite handlebar mustache sporting, sharp-dressed man with a childhood affinity for Yosemite Sam, as proven by his ass tattoo of said gun-slinging cartoon outlaw.
Wags continues to be the Chief Operating Officer at Axe Capital-that formidable attack dog, financial consigliere, valet and leader of the minions. He’s the right-hand man to Bobby Axelrod and this season we viewers were treated to some backstory about these two ‘brothers from another mother.’
In episode three A Generation Too Late, Wags explains to Taylor why he’s deeply loyal to Axe and how they met. While Wags was working at Lehman, a younger generation of analysts thought they had solved the secrets of the market that nearly cost him everything he had built over the course of his career. At a chance golf outing Axe warned Wags enough that he could sell at 50 instead of 2, saving his ass.
And we continue to get glimpses into their friendship and unspoken bond throughout the season in the following ways:
In episode four Hell of a Ride, we saw the ease of their dialogue when speaking of death:
“Dying in your 30’s is tragic. As is 40’s. Sympathy dissipates from there.
50’s is ‘such a shame.’
60’s is ‘too soon.’
70’s ‘a good run.’
And 80’s is ‘a life well lived.’
90’s? That’s a fuckin’ hell of a ride.”
In episode six The Third Ortolan, we see Wags express his love and gratitude toward his best mate by providing Axe with his version of ‘The Last Supper’ – a dead songbird delicacy. It reminded me of a very proud cat bringing home a freshly killed rodent and placing it at the feet of its master, “Look what I’ve done for you, my loving owner and surrogate family!” exclaims the cat.
After enjoying this sublime delicacy they partake in an evening cocktail together on Axe’s balcony. Wags tells his friend that he fought the law, but the law won. Then Wags plainly states,
“I’m gonna miss you.”
To which Axe replies,
“Thanks for the friendship.”
In episode seven Not You, Mr. Dake, Axe receives a ‘get out of jail free card‘ and Wags throws him a congratulatory party at the bachelor pad filled with ladies of the evening, like only a best bro would for his newly detached, single pal.
In episode nine Icebreaker, Wags explains to Taylor why Axe is THE best friend a man could ask for when describing how Axe is never wrong. When Wags fell in love with his now ex-wife, Axe warned him not to marry her, that it wouldn’t last. Even though Wags loved the way she danced, Axe knew the dance would soon end. Only a best friend would tell you the hard truth.
In episode ten Redemption, Wags the ever loyal subject boosts his liege’s ego, per usge. The Kansas City yokels are in town and Wags is playing Axe up to them like the great and powerful Oz, too busy to attend the meeting or step out from behind the curtain. But the two conspire to allow the KC group to catch a glimpse of the Winning Wizard in a contrived run-in at the elevator, so Axe can “ram it home” or as Wags so eloquently elaborates, “Squirt some of that winner musk all over ’em.”
In episode eleven Kompenso, Axe wants to bonus Wags with that little something that is indefinable, elusive, but pleasing. That je ne sais quoi, if you will. What better gift to get from your sidekick than a stack of dirty magazines. Oui, oui monsieur!
And there you have it, the backstory on Mutt and Jeff’s loyal friendship and how they display their love for one another. We at Fun Fun love Wags just as much as Axe does. In fact, some of the Fan Fun team got to meet David Costabile at the Split Screens TV Festival in New York back in June.
It remains true, Wags and all his one-liners are memorable and wise. Wags’ words of wisdom, albeit unconventional, are nonetheless noteworthy and here are just a few that made my top 13, a baker’s dozen:
- “If you’re gonna go around, go like a rich person. Take a chopper.” (ep 12)
Wisdom: Tardiness is unacceptable.
- “You think standing next to our boy will make that mirepoix of psoriasis, dandruff and irritable bowel syndrome disappear?” (ep 10)
Wisdom: How to handle public hug requests.
- “Like a short-haired pointer on a dabbling duck.” (ep 12)
Wisdom: How to smell money, 101.
- “Why should I trust you to do anything other than point me to the nearest avocado toast? For whom have you worked? Is this just a walk on the wild side to spice up the B-side essays? How much are you doing this for the money?” (ep 2)
Wisdom: How to perform a vetting and hiring process in 20 seconds.
- “We busted a cap in his ass, we didn’t just give him the day off.” and “Ya think, Rickles? You called him a pants shitter on the trading floor.” (ep 8)
- Two-for-one since it’s the same episode and same topic:
“I come bearing tithe.” (ep 4)
Wisdom: How to swindle your local church, 101.
“Speaking of eventuality…somebody got cozy in my forever-bed before I had a chance to secure it. Can I use your team of ninjas to help me find out who?” (ep 4)
Wisdom: He ain’t too proud to beg.
- “Like a pasty on the nipple of Lili St. Cyr in the bright lights of the Florentine Gardens.” (ep 9)
Wisdom: Know how to shine!
- “Give me a stick, I’ll dance like a Cossack.” (ep 7)
Wisdom: Money can buy happiness.
- “Look, I know you’re giving it to outside funds, not on the surface. It’ll get routed around the world first but then it will land in certain funds and suddenly they’ll get as hot as Farrah Fawcett in ’76.” (ep 2)
Wisdom: No amount of perfectly feathered hair is worth getting caught.
- “Like Squanto should have said to the Pilgrims, ‘Get the fuck out of here!'” (ep 1)
Wisdom: LEAVE OUR TERRITORY! Also, show wifey only portions of the cooked books, not where all the bodies are buried.
- “Hell yeah, doing lines off hookers’ hip bones…my cell phone in one hand and my…” (ep 5)
Wisdom: If you’re going to do drugs, do them in style.
- “You give, we match during the ‘Give Back Charity Drive.’ The largesse of Axe Capital on display, base to tip.” (ep 4)
Wisdom: Give [her] all of it.
- “Three things in life you can’t postpone without dire consequences: calling a doctor when gunshot, finding a toilet when traveling in India, and paying your people.” (ep 11)
Wisdom: self explanatory on all accounts
- “If you’re gonna go around, go like a rich person. Take a chopper.” (ep 12)
- Honorable Mention: “I imagine they all went to their doctor and got a shot of penicillin in their dicks.” (ep 8)
Wisdom: Don’t bring STDs back home to the mother land.
- Runner Up: When Axe’s boys asked ‘Uncle Wags’ if he was going to attend their baseball game he countered, “Is it official Little League? Can’t. Banned for life.” (ep 2)
Wisdom: Always ask yourself if it’s worth the arrest.
- Not original since the quote is from the movie Top Gun so it can’t make the official list, but still valuable advice: “Your ego just wrote a check your body can’t cash.” (ep 1)
Wisdom: Warning. Don’t make promises you can’t deliver.
Our time here has come to an end so it seems only fitting to conclude this with a Wagsy prayer (ep 11),
“And now I lie me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep and if I die before I wake, I pray that all my toys should break…so my fucking brother and sister can’t play with them.”
Mutt and Jeff On and Off the Set of Billions
Sad to see this end? How about taking a time machine to Season 1 – read ‘Catching up with Axe & Wags’ here.