A warning for those just starting to watch Billions in the UK, this blog will contain spoilers for all of season 1.
To know who Bobby Axelrod is means having an understanding of where he has been and how he has gotten to here. At the moment we just have ‘the here’ with a couple of anecdotes thrown in. Granted the 9/11 reveal was fairly big, but in the end just added more questions.
The simple view of Bobby Axelrod is a husband, a father and the owner of Axe Capital. Digging under the surface the clear picture starts to blur.
His wife loves him and is loyal to him yet it is clear there are things she does not know about him or about how he will react in certain circumstances. In Magical thinking Lara tells her sister Lu that she needs Bobby “to give her something” i.e. she needs him to share with her. It probably hurt her knowing he was off sharing his feelings with Wendy. In ‘the Conversation’ we see the first slither of doubts cross her mind even as the words she speaks say the opposite. I found it interesting that Bobby decided to leave all that money in the house rather than return it to the bank. Is this a test for his wife? At this stage I wouldn’t put it past him. Lara did not appreciate the inference of having to up and run soon by keeping the money in the house. Nor did she appreciate the affection with which Bobby spoke of Wendy in the same scene. It seems to me Mr & Mrs Axelrod may be about to hit choppy waters. I hope that boat came with life jackets.
His boys look up to him but then they are children who still think that dad knows best and are still at the stage where they prefer ‘cool’ dad far better than ‘realistic and responsible’ mum. The reality is that cool dad is not doing himself or his boys any favours. They are childish enough that they thank him for his undermining of whatever their mother says and does. They will grow out of that eventually.
Lara’s frustrations about the boys lacking street smarts is a valid one. Dad is aiding and abetting with it. He is far too soft with them. On the one hand you could say it is understandable that he wants them to have the best of everything, but going deeper I would say that someone just wants to beloved and he wants that father son relationship he missed out on with his own dad. This leads to him needing to be the ‘cool’ dad and molly coddling them far too much. Meanwhile mum is left feeling as though she is on the outside which I am sure is not something Bobby is meaning to do, but he does it nonetheless.
We know Bobby’s dad “didn’t come home”, where exactly he didn’t come home from we do not know. It could be that he went out one day and just never came back or it could be that he was serving his country and never came back. Whatever the exact circumstances they have clearly shaped Bobby into who he is.
While we require answers about Bobby’s past to fully understand who he is we can discuss what we see now.
In ‘the Deal’ Bobby is consternated about having to do a deal with Chuck and discusses it with Lara. She is all for it in order to protect the family, but initially Bobby is not for it. Lara is thereafter consternated that seemingly protecting their family is not the most important matter to him. I doubt very much that Lara would be pleased to know Wendy talked him round into taking the deal while Bobby was able to go home and say “I’m doing the right thing for all of us”.
So it would be very worrying for Lara then if she thought as I do which is that what Bobby values most is best viewed through the eye of Axe Capital and not his home life.
The younger Bobby Axelrod thought about getting rich and getting even. A young man in Axe’s position wanting to get rich is not out of the ordinary, but the ‘getting even’ bit is interesting. It is vengeful and speaks of someone with a serious Axe (pun intended) to grind with the world.
“You know, Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn’t been very rich I might have been a really great man.”
Wags quotes from Citizen Kane as he comes in to see Bobby who is supposed to be watching it in ‘the Good Life’. Later on it is Wendy who interrupts Bobby as he is watching it. We do not know if Bobby actually watches all of it. I see it as no coincidence that we are left wondering if Bobby watched all of Citizen Kane and nor do I see it as coincidence that Wendy and Wags are the two people who interrupted him while he is supposed to be watching it.
Maybe it would be better to simply refer to Wendy and Wags as Bobby’s arms. You take either of the two of them away and he is severely hindered.
A lesson our dear Robert seems set to learn as he has now violated Wendy’s trust and pushed her so far away from him. It is hard at the end of ‘the Conversation’ to imagine how Bobby is going to repair the damage he has done to his relationship with Wendy. Equally, however, it is hard to imagine that damage not being repaired. I imagine that repair coming from Bobby having to give without expectation of receiving from Wendy for once and having to earn her trust. We are told throughout season one Wendy is one of the very few Axe trusts completely and yet he seems to be constantly testing her. If there is trust, that implies no doubt and if there is no doubt there should be no need for tests.
Wags is to be respected not only because he has his boss’ back, but also because he does his best to reign Bobby in when he feels he is going a bit over the top. He may not always manage it, but he tries and he is not afraid to voice his opinions. When it comes to business meetings Wags is content and actually probably revels in playing ‘bad cop’ to make Bobby look better and make it easier to catch people in the Axe Capital net.
When Axe Capital is on the verge in the last few episodes and Bobby’s popularity is down the pan Wags is right there by his side knowing when to make jokes and when to be serious. When Bobby does his disappearing acts Wags holds it all together. We learn in ‘the Good Life’ that Bobby once ventured off to Scotland. I wonder what he was really up to.
It will be very interesting to see what Wags has to say about the Wendy situation. In ‘Quality of Life’ there is a scene at Donnie’s funeral and I think of it as a turning point in their relationship. It is, as far as I can remember, the first time we see Wags taking the lead in being concerned for Wendy. You see him noticing it and making the effort to simply comfort her with his presence.
We have seen these two in their two very different roles at Axe Capital and in Bobby’s life attempting to reign him in and get a hold of him individually. Perhaps it is time for the two of them to go in there together and sort their boss out.
Bobby Axelrod takes care of his people which appears to come with a caveat of unwavering loyalty, but he seems to expect far more towards him than he perhaps reciprocates. This will work while the people under his command are young, naïve and afraid of him. Those like Ben who are just starting out and too enamoured with the money they make to think too deeply about other issues or those like Mafee who thought they had the guts to stand up on their own two feet and leverage/walk away, but when it comes to it they don’t.
Wendy and Wags are none of these things and in my opinion they deserve much more in return from Bobby than they get. I cannot believe that with the experience in both life and work that Wendy and Wags have they will measure their value in money or cars. When Wendy puts Bobby firmly in his place in ‘the Conversation’ and gets her bonus hiked up to $5 million, I don’t believe this is Wendy saying ‘this is all that matters’. I believe this is Wendy making a statement of ‘since this is all that matters to you, I’ll take it’ or put another way if Axe insists on equating value with money then she will throw that back at him.
Bobby may say that in keeping information from Wendy and Wags he is protecting them, but I can’t get on board with that. Donnie needed protecting, Ben or Mafee would need protecting. Wendy and Wags do not need protecting.
If Wags is ever irritated by Bobby withholding information from him he is yet to show it. He clearly knows and has given no outward sign that it bothers him which is in stark contrast to Wendy who told Bobby in ‘Naming Rights’ if he kept her out of the loop again she would be gone. I feel that Bobby’s withholding does both Wendy and Wags a disservice. They put up with a lot to stick with him so he should trust he can share all of his burdens with them. The question is why does he feel he can’t? I will leave it for Damianista to delve further into this in her Bobby blog coming soon, but I do think it can be related to the loss of his father and young Robert bottling up his grief and feeling the need to take on responsibility before his time.
Leaving aside Bobby’s melt down in ‘the Conversation’ we see and hear plenty of examples of his trust in Wags and Wendy and yet he is always holding something back. It is as though he is afraid of them one day not being there and so does not share everything. He expects them to leave him to deal with it all on his own.
He never quite fully and unconditionally trusts as for example Wags does him. Wendy and Wags share this issue with Lara. The three people in Bobby’s life that we know he trusts the most and yet he is holding back even from them. Wendy’s patience seems to have run out and indicators from ‘the Conversation’ suggest Lara’s is too. How much does Wags have in reserve?
Time for the Captain to earn his stripes because goodness knows his two loyal Lieutenants have more than earned theirs.