Billions is returning to Showtime for its second season on February 19, 2017! The season premiere is now EXACTLY four months away and given they are more than half way through now with Season 2 shoot, it is time to talk about what we know about the new season!
Should we start with how a day on Billions set is like? And, for this, we owe big thanks to Brian Koppelman who opens a window for us all through Twitter and Instagram. We LOVED his series of tweets about a day on Billions set and JaniaJania storified it for us – fantastic job, partner!
Not that we need an extra reason to get excited about Billions coming back to our screens, but this little blurb Showtime provided along with Season 2 premiere date is more than tempting!
“Season 2 finds the characters vying for control in a changing world that presents an existential threat. For all of them, it’s a choice between evolution and extinction.”
Ha! Existential threat. Evolution. Extinction. Is this a National Geographic documentary or a High Finance drama? But, hey, this is the whole point, isn’t it? Billions has time and again shown us we, human beings, despite all our glitter and fanfare, are animals after all. It is all about survival of the fittest and we just evolve, refine, and adapt in our own special ways to keep our place in the fluid state of the world!
As Billions presents “existential threat” as a centerpiece of the new season, I cannot help go back to the explosive showdown between Axe and Chuck in the season finale. As Axe pulls a deal off the table, he leaves Nagasaki behind. But “the only enemy more dangerous than a man with unlimited resources is one with nothing to lose.” And Chuck is now THAT man. We hear war drums playing as Titus Andronicus starts their “Dimed Out.” I expect total war in Season 2.
And there is much more to get excited about the new season.
In directing news: Reed Morano, whose debut feature Meadowland is one gripping drama, is the director of the first episode. The second episode brings back Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the duo who gave us Magical Thinking, one of the best episodes in Season 1, that revealed the deep relationship between Bobby and Wendy! Not being able to get enough of that relationship, we cannot help wonder if Boden and Fleck will follow up on Bobby and Wendy in Episode 2! And the news about the director of Episode 3 makes me smile real big: Alex Gibney is certainly one of the gods for a documentary film freak like me! Gibney gave us some of the best documentaries such as Enron, Taxi to the Dark Side (with which Gibney won an Academy Award), Client Nine, Going Clear: Scientology and The Prison of Belief. It is thrilling he is directing his first narrative on Billions! Then we have a familiar name directing Episode 4: Remember Axe’s childhood friend Freddie? 😀 We cannot wait to see Noah Emmerich in the director’s chair! And, last, but absolutely not the least, we have yet another brilliant director, John Singleton, whom you may know from movies such as Boyz n the Hood and Shaft directing Episode 7. And here is Mr. Singleton on set with one certain billionaire!
In guest star news: Oh, I LOVED him as the more-than-eager-to-please ad man Bob Benson in Mad Men. And he is currently headlining Zoo, a CBS series based on James Patterson’s thriller of the same name. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am talking about the brilliant James Wolk, who will guest star in Billions Season 2 as an innovative and ambitious young tech billionaire Craig Heidecker!
Hmmm… Now that we have “existential threat” at the center of the season: Is Craig a friend or foe for Axe? Is he someone that looks up to Axe as a hero, like Bob Benson used to look up to Don Draper, or is he one of those guys that made a ridiculous amount of money at a young age who overestimates himself and underestimates anyone over 40? Will he help Axe protect himself from an “existential threat” or is Craig himself an existential threat to Axe?
Talking about existential threats, Chuck may be in preparation of one for Axe! Otherwise, why is Mr Rhoades going to Washington? A fan video here, and a picture below, shows Chuck walking to the Department of Justice in DC.
— Del Quentin Wilber (@DelWilber) July 26, 2016
As this tweet points out, Paul Giamatti and other cast members are wearing winter coats and scarves even though it is 95F in Washington, DC. So, we seem to be catching up with our characters a bit after we left them late fall/early winter at the end of Season 1.
Paul Giamatti and Maggie Siff confirm that in a very recent interview with LA Confidential and comment on where we will find Chuck and Wendy in Season 2: “Season two picks up soon after we left off and you see them regrouping. Wendy’s not at Axe Capital anymore, which makes things complicated for her and Chuck personally and professionally. They’re trying to figure out what to do with themselves.”
We know how Chuck’s personal interests and public good overlapped to take Judge Whit Wilcox off the federal bench… just to replace him with Adam DeGiulio (wonderful Rob Morrow is resuming his role in Season 2!) who promised to leave a “friendly” in his place at the Attorney General’s office. So we will see how “friendly” Chuck’s visit at Department of Justice will turn out to be. The stakes are obviously very personal for Chuck at the moment. Even though he is more than partially responsible for losing Wendy, he is probably putting all the blame on Axe for that. He is now the guy who has nothing to lose — Chuck Season 2 may be far more dangerous than Chuck Season 1.
As Chuck is going to Washington, Axe seems to be going back to his roots. The card table, that is. 🙂
In Season 1, we see Axe playing cards with his old buddies on his private jet in Short Squeeze. It is probably how it all started for Axe, isn’t it? Playing cards in friends’ basements. Feeling the adrenaline of taking risks. Honing his skills. Betting. Raising. Calling. Folding. Falling for the sweet taste of winning. And ultimately finding his way from card table to the trading table where he could use his skills in the most profitable way! Oh yeah I am writing this with Lady Trader’s voice in my ears: “Picking stocks is just legal gambling. You make a bet and hope to win.”
Axe is now back at the card table with… well, pros! Two professional poker players, Phil Hellmuth and Brandon Cantu recently tweeted about their cameos on Billions and here is our first glimpse of Axe in Season 2 thanks to a tweet by Cantu:
— Brandon Cantu (@brandoncantu) August 7, 2016
Having (at least) two professional poker players on set plus a casting call looking for extras with poker experience tell me the poker scene will be as authentic as it gets. And, hey, we would not expect anything less from Koppelman and Levien, the guys who wrote Rounders, a great poker movie! I will watch it again before Billions Season 2 hits our screens but one quick connection seems to be Texas Hold’em. It is the main game played in Rounders and an actor who worked as an extra in Billions poker scene posted on Instagram that he played Texas Hold’em with the big guys!
I do not play poker. But I know how relevant it is to what I do in real life: game theory. You are holding a hand, and what you play is not just based on your own hand but on your opponent’s hand as well as his play. But you obviously do not see his hand. So what you do is to try to “read” your opponent, understand what kind of player he is, form beliefs about his hand and predict what play he will make based on that hand. And you give your best response to THAT. You also know every play you make is a signal to the other side about you as a player and so you need to mix up your play and not let your opponent “read” you. It’s about probability. It’s about information. It’s about strategy.
Axe is a genius in betting on stocks. One major reason for that is he “reads” the players well. A great example is him figuring out in two seconds how Scott Kazawitz will play his hand in Lumetherm/Southern Wind/Electrosol trade in The Pilot. Add his photographic memory to this and Axe should be one hell of a poker player. Go get them Axe! 🙂
So we don’t know if Axe got Hellmuth and Cantu in poker, but we know they all had a fantastic time on set!
But what is this poker game for? Is Axe just indulging himself because he can do it? Some sort of celebration? A charity poker game to re-build Axe’s good reputation? Who knows? But we know Team Axe is there to support and root for Axe! A pic Malin Akerman posted on Facebook has Lara, Mafee, Dollar Bill and Ben Kim altogether!
Talking about Ben Kim… Well, NYC is a small town after all! I just thank my 8 year old nephew who brought us to Shake Shack for his favorite burger last week and we randomly run into Daniel K Isaac. My first words to him: “Ben Kim is eating at Shake Shack?” It turns out he does!
Daniel is such a lovely guy. When I introduce myself properly which means I basically tell him he might know me as @fanfundamian on Twitter, he says: “Oh we love you guys!” Thank you and we love you all back!
Back to the set: The biggest surprise of the poker scene may be…
— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) August 3, 2016
Hello, Wendy! What are you doing here? I know, I know, Maggie Siff may be there for a completely different scene that day. But after all that happened between them, the possibility of having Axe and Wendy at the same place at the same time is exhilarating! 🙂
In the interview we had with Damian back in June, he reveals Bobby and Wendy dynamics will continue into the new season. You can see our interview below…
…and I am transcribing it here as well: “The important thing to remember is he and Wendy knew each other and worked together before she married the US attorney. So they have a longer relationship than her marriage. And she considers herself to be responsible for building the Bobby Axelrod empire as much as he is. She considers herself a partner and he is very reliant on her. So, I think, we don’t deal with it explicitly within the drama because I don’t think it would be interesting to but they obviously had a conversation about the fact that she was going to marry the US attorney and they clearly had a conversation in their marriage about what would happen if Bobby ever came under investigation. We’re now at that point, Bobby is under investigation and she doesn’t want to leave her job. She likes it so much so she thinks why should she? So that conflict will continue and I think it will be useful for the success of the show so I think we want to keep that going.”
Yay! We want to keep that going, too! So much so that my wishes, hopes and fantasies for Season 2 center on Axe and Chuck, these equally driven and ambitious men, trying relentlessly to win Wendy back!
Well, boys, it will not be easy to get Wendy back. It will be hilarious. It will be a whole new dick-measuring contest. And when it comes to THAT with you two, sky is the limit. It will be EPIC. I am so looking forward to it.