Give me a few minutes of Billions video and I sit down and write 2000 words about it. I am as obsessed, if not more, with Billions as Axe and Chuck are obsessed with each other, and having watched the new promos here and here a few times now my head is spinning and my imagination is going wild.
First things first: I totally know promo videos are edited in a way to trick the viewer so there is no real spoiler but just a taste of what is coming — which I LOVE. And that is why “reading” a promo video is no different than reading the tea leaves, or in my native country Turkey, the coffee cup. Still, I cannot help dive deep into these short videos and try to put the pieces together! So here is my two cents on what I expect when I am expecting Billions Season 2!
Let’s take a step back and hear the final words of Season 1:
“The only enemy more dangerous than a man with unlimited resources is one with nothing to lose. And that is what you are looking at right here.” — Chuck Rhoades
Well, Chuck means it and Axe seems to buy it as a credible threat that he chooses to play offense this season rather than defense like he did earlier.
The promos set the tone for Season 2 and I cannot agree more with Axe that “change is coming.” I can even take the next step and say the change has come. I obviously do not know what change Axe is talking about but the change that has fascinated me the most in the promos, and I know I may be totally off the mark here, is the looks people give to their team leaders whom they used to look up to with admiration and respect, whom they used to aspire to be like earlier. They seem to be more exhausted than impressed by their leader now.
And, neither team is an exception here.
Axe pontificates to his team. To Wags: “As long as Rhoades is in that job, I am not safe.” Wags is surprised Chuck has been able to get under Axe’s skin. And to Orrin Bach: “I have called you here tonight to tell you how we are going to win.” We do not hear Bach’s response but his face seems to ask “since when are you the legal expert here?” Axe’s guys are not comfortable about Axe’s obsession with Chuck reaching new heights. Given that Axe may be the least of Chuck’s worries right now, what is the point of stirring up the hornet’s nest while he can just mind his own business and make more money?
And they seem to be right. Chuck feels like damaged goods in his office. Finding out, from Ari Spyros of all people, that an investigation into how his office conducts business is looming over him, Chuck desperately needs to re-build his reputation and asks his team to find a case for him that screams for justice!
My hunch is that the case screaming for justice may have something to do with Lawrence Boyd who runs the investment bank Spartan Ives and is known to never bet on a bad stock. We did not meet Mr Boyd in person in Season 1 but heard of him multiple times. Boyd is one of the most respected figures in the world of finance that Wags calls him “the healing waters of Lourdes.” But now that we see “windbreakers” leaving the Spartan-Ives building with boxes those healing waters may be turning into troubled waters.
Now, who would you go and inquire about how to solve a problem like Chuck if you are investigated by the US attorney’s office? Someone who has survived Chuck! That is why, I believe, Boyd meets Axe (now that I am thinking, Axe may well have offered his services) who tells him “there are no fucking rules, not if you wanna win.” And he must be pretty persuasive that next we see exactly who we expect to see when windbreakers are concerned: Hall. Team Axe is happy to share their playbook with Boyd so he can successfully deal with Chuck.
But, hey, the war does not stop there and it seems to continue at multiple fronts.
Axe is sitting in Wendy’s new office telling her “I need you back at Axe Capital” and gets a big no as an answer. Well, what did he expect? He says “sorry” in his sweetest voice and Wendy puts everything that happened behind her and comes back to Axe Capital in an instant? We know our guy is used to getting what he wants but he needs to understand Wendy is not a Philly steak or a private jet.
The recent experiences seem to have changed Axe a bit. He is restless. His arrogance seems to be accompanied by some anger now and the two do not mix well. I miss his signature smug when he says “It’s a good thing I’m a rich fuckin’ man.” It may not be a huge stretch to say Axe is a fish out of water without Wendy. Not that Axe Capital will be a rose garden if she comes back, or not that Axe needs her help every day but Wendy’s presence provides him with the peace of mind he desperately needs. As Bookworm has earlier suggested “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.” There you have it.
Besides… Axe is determined to destroy Chuck, first professionally but probably also personally. He wants to knock Chuck down so hard that he will not be able to get up again. And being able to get Wendy back in the company before Chuck can get himself into the life he used to share with Wendy will be more than a small victory for Axe. Oh I REALLY look forward to Axe and Chuck trying relentlessly to win Wendy back. Well, boys, it will not be easy. But 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.
You all know we have been envisioning some tension between Axe and Lara in Season 2. Malin Akerman confirms this without naming the tension but I am happy to give it a name: Rhoades. And not one but two of them 😀
Lara probably does not want to hear the name Rhoades ever again now that Bobby is off the hook and Wendy is gone for good. Her top priority is to protect her family and the life she and her husband have built together and neither Rhoades has a place in there. Remember we hear her saying “I don’t want to talk about her anymore” when Axe tells her Wendy is much more than what she thinks about her in Season 1 Finale. Besides, she has an anxious look when Axe suggests “you never know” so they had better keep the money and the gold they took out from the bank for their planned escape to Switzerland at home. I imagine that “you never know” makes Lara nauseous and has the potential to trigger a domestic tension especially if Axe gets to make trouble for Chuck. Which he will. You know what I can even see Lara work behind the scenes to bring Wendy back to Axe Capital if she believes Wendy is the only person that can keep her “out of control” husband grounded.
Regardless of what the tension is between Lara and Axe, it feels REAL. You see it in their body language. You hear it in the tone Axe uses with her as he asks “how?” when she says she will handle IT. We do not know what IT is, but IT is clearly something that makes Axe talk to his wife in a condescending manner which is planets away from the loving way we are used to seeing Axe with her and I need to say Lara is not the only person irritated by his tone.
Chuck aka the man with nothing to lose seems to have thought deeply about a story he shares with his colleagues in Season 1 once he realizes the whole Donnie thing was a trick all along: Chuck is 14 and on his way to be a grandmaster in chess — a Boris Spassky in his prime. But he gets obsessed about total destruction and forgets to play the game when he believes his opponent does not respect his game, or him, or for whatever reason is not worthy. And he is beaten and bathed in anger and defeat.
So Chuck now knows he needs to respect the game of the “bloodless man” who used his dying friend to play them. He gets back to chess table, now that I am thinking about it, this could be a brilliant opening scene symbolizing Chuck’s determination to win this, and is working on his game plan to gain his reputation not only in his higher-up’s eyes but also in the public eye as well as to get back his family life that fell into pieces, thanks to, in Chuck’s mind, Bobby Axelrod.
And he pontificates to his team over dinner: “What I figured recently is find another way. Which is what I am asking of all of you…” Bryan, Kate and Lonnie are listening silently. They seem to be sick and tired of their boss who is ready to do whatever it takes to gain HIS reputation back. Does he ever care about his team, their reputation and their promotion, while he is using the taxpayer’s money to make himself a hero? Given there is an investigation about his office’s conduct, this is not just about Chuck anymore. Everyone’s reputation is on the line which may impact their future promotions as well as Kate’s potential run for presidency 🙂 Chuck is not saying it out loud, but “find another way” sounds like “there are no fucking rules, not if you wanna win” to me that Team Chuck may not embrace it as enthusiastically as their leader.
The funny thing is Axe and Chuck have more in common than they know: They are both full of themselves. They just cannot see everything is not just about them and the actions they take have consequences for everyone around them. They put themselves at the center of a solar system where they obviously expect all planets to get aligned. Both men are equally driven and selfish when it comes to their ambitions that this may in fact be more detrimental to them than anything else.
Besides, they just cannot grow up. During the curious visit Chuck pays to Axe, neither Chuck’s “I love to sleep myself just thinking about you ripping the place apart” nor Axe’s “You know I never think about it. But of course I am not alone at night. Where are you sleeping now?” are words grownups would utter freely. These two are more like teenage boys than 40+ year old men but it is very realistic since, let’s admit it, men have the capacity to be adolescent boys when it comes to playing games! Oh and I need to add that I believe Axe is still pissed about how Chuck tricked him into ripping the place apart. Oh yeah, he is thinking about it. And I wonder if his change of tshirts from Metallica to Megadeth symbolizes his current state of mind.
Both Axe and Chuck see the other side as an existential threat that needs to be eliminated for him to survive and thrive. And, I believe, not the other side, but this belligerence itself could be the biggest existential threat for both of them. It is, in Paul Giamatti’s words, a “constant game of one-upmanship” and I cannot wait to take the wild ride along with them and see who will be digging his own grave and who will be the last man standing.