Billions on Showtime, Season 2, Episode 1: Risk Management

source: Showtime

First things first: I thank Showtime for releasing the season premiere early and giving me time to digest this extremely rich and loaded episode and fantasize a little bit about what may come our way. In a recent interview with CraveTV Canada, Damian hinted that the first episode is the calmest of the season. Given that this episode alone has several game changers, we are certainly in for a real treat! It’s hard to put in words but you can see below how ready I am for the thrill ride!

source: Damianista

Well, a few minutes in and Billions sets the tone for the season: What a difference a year makes! Both Axe and Chuck have lost their sense of security. They do not look like the super heroes they used to be last season and, hey, they do not have anyone else but themselves to blame for this!

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 to keep our place in the fluid state of the world. And I cannot wait to see Axe and Chuck adapt, in other words, up their game, push the limits of reason and behave appallingly, to survive 😀

I expect total war this season.

We pick up only three weeks after the man with unlimited resources and the one with nothing to lose had their showdown at Axe Capital.

Given that Chuck’s last words constitute a credible threat, Axe Capital is now Fort Axe! 😀

source: Showtime

No electronics beyond a personal phone, magnetic ID cards, turnstiles for entry and exit. And Wags performing on a cocktail of Oxycodone Acetaminophen and Dextroamphetamine tells me it has been a stressful couple of weeks at Axe Capital.

source: Showtime

Axe is more of a nation state than ever now, complete with his own Chief of Staff Stephanie Reed (Shaunette Renee Wilson) who, he says, will be present in all conversations between Axe and any employee even when they want to “pitch the cream” to the boss at the coffee machine. Stephanie is super charismatic and focused as well as connected enough to get Wags on Raya. All she asks from him is Chatham House Rule 😀

source: Showtime

Axe announces his strategy for the fund. Everyone has to step up their game so Axe Capital will not share the fate of the T-rexes. As Wags pushes the young analysts to come up with one Traci Lords of an idea, Mafee is lucky to have a brilliant intern, Taylor, who helps him save $10 million in a second. I cannot be not uncertain about any stock but I am not uncertain Taylor is a keeper! 😀 Taylor seems to be a wiz with numbers and we cannot wait to see more of them this season!

source: Showtime

Now, even though it is not exactly a “fire extinguisher malfunction” we can still call the problem at Axe Capital a “malfunction.” Axe is not functioning like he used to. He has lost his sense of security.

“As long as Rhoades is in that job, I’m not safe.”

The king seems to be losing sleep over how Chuck made him rip Axe Capital apart for a bug. He summons his generals to his residence, yet another fort with security cameras everywhere. He is obsessed with getting rid of Chuck for good and insists Bach file a lawsuit against him immediately.

source: Showtime

Well, the man who is willing to leave Nagasaki behind when he pulls a deal off the table obviously does not buy Bach’s “you can no more win a war than an earthquake.” But I applaud Billions writers for this brilliant tribute to Jeannette Rankin, the first US Congresswoman, a life long pacifist and the only member of Congress to vote against declaring war on Japan after Pearl Harbor. As a conflict scholar, I appreciate Axe saying it is easier to finish the enemy when he is at his most vulnerable. But, of course, Chuck is no ordinary enemy.

source: Showtime

We find Chuck exactly in the same position we met him first time in Season 1: Lying on the floor! 😀 He is learning how to generate offense out of defense which, in fact, can make Chuck more dangerous this season.

Yet, at the moment, he seems to be in deep shit.

Good old Spyros informs Chuck that the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) has opened an investigation on his office’s methods and conduct concerning an aborted bribery case against Axe.

source: Showtime

Enters Oliver Dake (Christopher Denham). As much as Dake has some Eliot Ness air about him, he is creepy. Looking like a man from a previous decade with his suit, haircut and glasses, Dake defines himself as an “octopus” that sucks up all the information he can get his hands on.

source: Showtime

And he does! The look on Chuck’s face when he hears from Dake about the five million dollars Axe transferred to Wendy’s account the day he dropped the case against Axe is, well, priceless. I confess I did not see this coming. Game changer #1!

If “the octopus” grabs Chuck with one tentacle, he grabs Bryan with another. Dake grills Bryan about his meeting with Axe at the pizzeria. Bryan reported the meeting but Dake wants to know why he waited for a day to report it. Did he think about what to leave out and leave in? No, this is not enough to make Bryan sing.

Bart Schooner, the head of criminal prosecution at the Southern District, is leaving public service for a 7-figure salary. At his farewell party at Battery Gardens (thanks Lady Trader for the tip!) Chuck makes it clear to his three Assistant Attorneys that Schooner’s position is now within their reach. Now, I know Billions loves metaphors. But this chess game in Washington Square Park may be the BEST one yet!

source: Showtime

Chuck, when cheated, chooses to take a constructive rather than a destructive approach and ensures that the cheater does not cheat again. He expects this kind of approach from his younger colleagues 😀 They can side with Chuck and one of them can be awarded Schooner’s job or they can side with Dake and deal with Chuck’s replacement.

Bryan asks the key question:

“How do you know he did the right thing after you left?”

This is what we call a commitment problem in game theory. It is hard for Chuck to convince them because he cannot make a credible promise that he will not bend the rules again.

Thus, my advise for Chuck would be to delay filling up Schooner’s position, if possible, until the end of the investigation. The assistant attorneys may be more likely to stay loyal should they believe they have a real shot for the job.

Home life is not any better for Chuck. He and Wendy are “nesting” so the kids live in the family home during the family crisis. And their situation may not be as temporary as he thinks. Wendy puts Chuck in his place when he again makes a point about Axe’s money poisoning their family life:

“I no longer have proximity to it, and you no longer have proximity to me.”

source: Showtime

Wendy is not only determined to keep her distance from the two alphas in her life, but she is also getting better and better at showing the finger to other alphas around her. As she crushes the asshole who makes an inappropriate remark during her presentation, I wonder if this kind of sexism is rampant in the industry.

Wendy is spot-on about the SAD nature of these guys:

“The thought that someone might know you need help is worse than getting the help you need.”

source: Showtime

Next is Mr. Krakow (Danny Strong) of Krakow Capital who starts with some smart game theory to identify Wendy’s type followed by an utterly stupid “you passed the test.” No, Wendy does not want your chocolate factory.

Yet, the ultimate finger goes to Axe when he shows up at Wendy’s new digs at 400 Madison Avenue under an assumed name. I wonder how she would react should she have known Hall reporting about her whereabouts to Axe 24/7.

source: Showtime

No wonder Bookworm believes Bobby is the boy who does not want to grow up. As much as Bobby and Wendy have this amazing on-screen chemistry that makes one think they have a romantic past, Bobby is more of a little boy when he is with Wendy. And when the little boy does not watch his language and says “that motherfucker is trying to poach my most valuable…” Wendy delivers my favorite line of the episode:

“I am not your anything.”

source: Showtime

I will not lie to you. I feel for Bobby at that very moment he hears these words, but then I come back to my senses: The kind of thing you did to her, Bobby… I would not forgive you in a billion years. Now, find the door, please. And no flowers, but, hey, maybe you can try “one girl is worth 20 boys” at some point 😀 Because IT IS, especially in this case. Axe has a commitment problem, too. He cannot make a credible promise to Wendy that he will not do wrong with her again.

source: Showtime

As much as I love Bobby, someone needs to tell him Wendy is not the harness driver that would do the dance for him whenever he feels like it or Orrin Bach who shows up anywhere anytime because Axe feels like meeting… which brings us to the Yonkers Raceway where lights literally turn on and off at the move of Axe’s finger. And I give it to him that he brings his genius to convince Orrin Bach about a lawsuit against Chuck.

Axe conceives the idea at a seemingly innocuous grill party at Axelrod Residence where he brings Matt, his brother-in-law and an NYPD detective, who does not particularly like Axe after finding out about his 9/11 deals, and Raul “NYPD Pension Fund” Gomez together. Gomez shares a story from his NYPD days where numbers helped them to deal with a drug ring:

“It’s hard to defend against numbers. That is a lesson you only have to learn once.”

source: Showtime


If Axe opens a lawsuit against Chuck, Axe will be the story. But if they go after everyone who Chuck fucked and buy up their claims then Axe will be just one in many where as Chuck will be THE STORY. Brilliant! Take a look at Bach when Axe first tells him he knows how they will get themselves a Howitzer. He seems to be sick and tired of Axe’s obsession with Chuck. Take a look at him again when Axe shares his idea about aggregating lawsuits. His eyes are lit! Mine, too! Game Changer #2!

This racetrack turns out to be the place where it all started. Bobby boy observed the men who processed information and he learnt how to bet! No wonder Lady Trader says “picking stocks is just legal gambling.” Bobby is still betting and he seems to have the upper hand at the moment while…

source: Showtime

…the desperate US attorney is now being summoned by the Attorney General for a meeting in DC like it is not enough that he’s just been served with 127 lawsuits. One is from a certain Bobby Axelrod who makes a Bivens Claim against Chuck.

“So I am to report to her Thursday. She will greet me warmly, shake me by the hand, and then she will fire me.

Dake seems to have more than one trick up his sleeve. He catches up with Brayn as Bryan walks through the NYC Municipal Building (notice Tony Rosenthal’s 1 in 5 in the background symbolizing the interconnectedness of the five boroughs). It turns out the call that started the entire investigation was made from a cellphone in Yonkers the night Bryan met with Axe!

WOW. Game changer #3! Did Bryan make that call?

Dake tells Bryan that he knows it is him that called, but does he really know? And is he, in fact, threatening Bryan? An “either you give me Chuck, or I tell Chuck that you called and let you deal with the consequences” kind of threat?

Unless the OPR knows the exact phone number the call came from, it could be anyone from Team Axe that was tasked with making that call. My head is spinning since it could even be a plan Axe and Bach put together: Invite Bryan for a meeting, make a job offer, then use his location as a ploy to call the OPR. And have your popcorn once Chuck finds out about it and all hell breaks loose at the US attorney’s office. I am telling you, I cannot think straight when Billions is concerned.

All cards are stacked against Chuck at the moment. So, where is Chuck Sr when his son needs him? And I am not ashamed to say I missed him! 😀

Author: Damianista

Academic, Traveler, Blogger, Runner, Theatre Lover, Wine Snob, Part-time New Yorker, and Walking Damian Lewis Encyclopedia :D Procrastinated about a fan's diary on Damian Lewis for a while and the rest is history!

26 thoughts on “Billions on Showtime, Season 2, Episode 1: Risk Management”

  1. Wow, you hit every mark partner! With all the perfect links to boot. Brava! (not much left for me to say in my post later this week…hm) 😀

    1. Thank you! It was so much fun doing all the research and, of course, this week was exceptional that I had the time to do all the research about references, etc. I admit the one I LOVED the most was that the smart woman Bach was talking about turned out to be the first US congresswoman of the US. I just love it, even though the two main leads are men, the show creators RESPECT women and make tributes at the right places. And I loved your tweet about Chuck and Wendy last night and their marriage. Cornerstone-y. I am intrigued. I am sure you will put it under the microscope and I can’t wait to see it! But, hey, we MISSED them so much, huh? It feels so good to have these guys back!

  2. Great recap! I love how you link everything! There are some things even I had to look up! 🙂 I also love how you see the bigger picture and highlight things I don’t see. Since I’m so focused on the financial side of things, I often miss others. Your observations on Wendy help me see her differently, since you know I just don’t like her!

    I’ll be diving in to a few different things “From the Trader’s Desk”, but thank you for the “legal gambling” line. It will be playing a big part in the post!

    Oh, and don’t worry, Chuck Sr. is lurking….

    1. Thank you! I think one big strength we have on Fan Fun is that we all pay attention to different details – it’s perfect!

      Ha, Ha, I am such a cheat when it comes to Team Axe! I LOVE Bobby, that is for sure, but I think one character that I could really identify with – mostly professionally, let me knock on wood, I have a very happy marriage – is Wendy. She is principled. I cannot say that for the two main alphas in her life 🙂
      I’d say they are principled, too; but pretty selectively.

      Oh, as I was watching the racetrack, the first thing that came to my mind was YOU – not just that line, but I didn’t want to give any spoilers. But it’s amazing. So I am so looking forward to the next Trader’s Desk. I know it will be very rich and wonderful!

      I asked after Chuck Sr last night during Koppelman’s Q&A on Twitter and he assured me Chuck Sr has a meaningful presence this season. Yay! We literally quote him at home all the time! “I’m impressed” and “”It’s getting goddamn ridiculous” are two favorites and then we laugh for 5 minutes 😀

  3. Love that you provided us fans with links to event/meeting/office locations. #breadcrumbs Now I know what the orange sculpture means. And even more kudos for seeing and retweeting Empire City’s tweet last night about #billions.

    I actually think Bobby knows Wendy is not the harness driver that would do the dance for him whenever he feels like it. But it doesn’t stop him from trying. It’s a game. Everything is a game. It’s all he knows. The hustle.

    I think that’s what draws him more towards Wendy, somebody telling him, his ego, “No!” He’s so used to hearing yes from his minions and getting what he wants in life, hustling who/what he wants. When someone says no, he has to switch up his batting (see what I did there? DiMaggio line LOL) and he’s ready for the challenge. Otherwise, he’d get bored easily. For Bobby, Wendy isn’t boring 🙂

    1. Thank you! You should have seen us (husband and me) working on Google Earth to figure out where Wendy’s office is! 😀

      I have written about it many times before but I LOVE New York. That is one place that I really feel I am home. Not in my native country. Not in the city that is my main residence. I guess, since I am an immigrant, I have the luxury of picking and choosing my home 😀 So, Billions being filmed in NY is really a dream coming true. I still can’t believe it 😀 It’s a real pleasure to figure out locations and restaurants that they use in the show – so much fun!

      Oh, yes, Bobby knows Wendy is not the harness driver. But the way he acts is as if he does not. Having some altruism, getting some positive payoff from giving to the other side, rather than always maximizing your own utility, could help in relationship games, e.g. friendship, marriage, etc. Otherwise, I am with Axe that everyone is always playing a game. We do it without thinking about it.

      I am with you that he knows who she is, and in fact, she is also the only one that he uses “thank you” and “please” with at Axe Capital. Bobby has respect for Wendy which I believe is the most important component, yes, more important than love, in a personal relationship. And I am so looking forward to seeing how the game will unfold!

  4. What a treat to hear everyone’s dissection/research/review of scenes of their interest. I loved the racetrack scene. I’m blaming sleep deprivation for not catching some references that I should have.

    I’m going to switch gears now. I came across Steve McQueen’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” tv show from the 60’s. It jolted me to see how much Damien physically looks like McQueen. I heard (from somewhere) that Damien is no longer in consideration. If anyone listening out there has any pull, take a second look. Damien would be perfect casting — perfect.

    1. How LOVELY to hear from you, Joyce! Isn’t it amazing that everyone pays attention to different details? The thing is Billions never wastes a sentence or a scene. Don’t watch sleep deprived 😀

      Have I ever told you that we’ve been pushing for Damian Lewis to play Steve McQueen in the biopic?

      We honestly have not heard much about the project for more than a year now and really thought it may have fallen through the tracks or something. What I have known was that Jeremy Renner really wanted that role. I see the physical resemblance to an extent, but I don’t think there is another actor that could do that role as much as justice as Damian would do. But, you know, things work differently in Hollywood, and for some reason, I feel like Damian is not as aggressive as the Hollywood types that could kill for roles 😀

      1. Wow. How did I miss this section of yours. I should have known you were on top of it. Just terrific pictures of them side-by-side. I do remember the question at the Times Talks. Maybe if the script is not complete there is still hope. I like Jeremy Renner and his choice of roles, though I don’t see him as McQueen. Possibly his physique and talent, but not his face. Damien would be the total package. I want to say I heard Damien was no longer considered back in the fall. Maybe it was in a dream. Wouldn’t be the first time.

        Ok back to Billions. I need to watch again when I’m awake. Good advice. Great picture of you above. Everything about your blog makes me smile.

        1. It’s all my partner, JaniaJania. She did all those side-by-side comparisons. First class work! And we, in fact, sent the first version of that blog to the producers of the biopic and they got back to us saying “Damian Lewis has some good peeps.” But then we really have not heard anything about the project even if we checked regularly since we really REALLY wanted that to happen. If not the movie, since Showtime loves Damian, they should do a limited series and Damian should play McQueen. I agree with you on Renner. Good actor but not the face, and not even acting when you are supposed to play a suppressed character. I know I am biased by Damian is the KING of that.

          Thank you for your compliment for my pic! I had made it my profile pic on my personal Facebook account and people said my excitement is all reflected on my face and so I thought why not share it on the blog? 🙂 I am really HAPPY Billions is Back! And it is our pleasure to make you smile. Much Love.

          1. This reminds me of my first time read, just the other week, of your story about breaking up with Costner for Damien. Great story. I don’t recall who replied that they were similar looking – not even in the slightest. So funny.
            Damianista we need another NY trip. JaniaJania I’m looking forward to meeting you someday.
            Thanks gals. P.S. I need to get on Facebook.

          2. Did I ever tell you (I don’t recall if I wrote that into that post) my husband told Damian THAT? 😀 He laughed. Poor guy!
            Some of my friends told me they were very similar looking and they could play father and son 😀 And I protested that Kevin should be the older brother!
            You are right they are very different physically. Kevin is a very all-American guy.
            Yesss!!!! We need another NY trip — hopefully sooner than later. My fantasy is to get together with everyone at a Damian event! 😀
            PS. I cannot agree more with your PS. And you don’t even need to use your real name if you don’t want to.

  5. Can a man get a POV in this outstanding fan fun? My background: avid chess player, former licensed financial adviser and compliance principal, law school student (did not graduate), art of war “professor” (just a Marine who taught classes/concepts at the War College), combat helicopter pilot, now elder statesman enjoying the weather in Southern California (the real OC). I love the show, the characters, the writing, and the analysis of the participants here.

    Chuck and Bobby are flawed! Who wouldn’t be with names that belong to boys, not men of power and prestige. Axe, on the other hand is a callsign any fighter pilot would be proud to have! Chuck would be the “goose” in his squadron with a callsign like “Wagon” which would be shortened to “Wags” which would be way too confusing!!??

    I look for Chuck to “allow” an indiscretion by Bobby to be turned into “doing the right thing.” But can we trust either of them in that scenario? I don’t!

    Please let me play…

    1. Hi Paul, welcome to the blog and thanks for your POV! Haha those two are boys that can’t just grow up. I really love your observation about their names. I didn’t even think about it and it is absolutely true. And your assignment of names to fighter pilots is priceless! We do Billions recaps every week and we would be very happy if you played with us! All the best!

          1. I hadn’t but have now and I LOVE your clear connections and parallels. Chuck as Hook!! wow.

            I only stumbled on you today so I have some back reading to do. I just finished season one for the third time in prep for the new season. Second seasons are tougher because the characters are drawn and the story has a trajectory. Much harder for the writers/story to surprise us in new ways while being true to the established characters.

            Great fun!

          2. I agree about second seasons and I have absolute trust in Billions writers to give us another 12-week thrill ride. Episode 1 is a delicious start. I have a soft spot for IQ and I think Billions Writers Room has an IQ off the charts!

            Peter Pan article is all my partner TBkwrm. She is brilliant.

            Thank you for stumbling on us today – look forward to our Billions conversations!

    2. Of course, join the fun! We need some gender diversity around here. Like I said in Twitter, Billions is a guy’s show about guys. But for the really smart anatomy of two marriages put in the mix. I think one unique appeal of Damian is that he can play a real “guy’s guy” and still be quite palatable to women too. Axe as fighter pilot? That’ll work!

      Your idea about Chuck handing one to Axe just to be the bigger man is an interesting one. I see Chuck as loads more mature than Bobby, so it’s plausible! Until….like that scene with the settlement check, his ambition gets the better of him.

      Please come back and read my take on this episode, posting Wed. Cheers!

    3. Welcome Paul! A male POV is always welcome! Also, nice to have some who has a background in finance like myself! Please join in the discussion and tell us what you think!

  6. Oliver reminds me of every character that has ever been played by Cillian Murphy. Creepy as hell.
    I have the ultimate crush on Bryan… or the actor… or both *swoon*
    I think Bobby acted in a very rash manner last season when I thought he should have waited Chuck out… but because of his Alpha male and competitive nature… makes him see a little bipolar.
    What about Lara? Lara is so badass it is not even funny. I love this lady so much

    1. Dake = Creepy. Agreed!

      Hmmm you need to talk to Tbkwrm about Bryan. I think there is *swoon* line over there 😀

      I think Wendy is the only one that can stop Bobby from rashing but he obviously could not share his strategy about Chuck with Wendy. And, now that he has lost her, we will see where his alpha maleness will take him!

      Lara seems to aspire for a new business, I am curious where her story will go. We have not seen much yet other than Lara reminding us messing with her is not a good idea 😀 She is as bad ass as her husband!

    2. Yeah, let’s chat about Bryan. Swoon indeed…absolutely both for me. I can’t say I am convinced he made that call. I will credit Toby for keeping it all ambiguous. You can’t tell what his face is saying at the end. “Crap, I have been caught” or “Crap, they (Axe and Orrin) have stitched me up”. Maybe Hollie dazzle will have a view on it?

      I really loved this season opener. It was very strong. Bobby’s behaviour leaves a lot to be desired.

      1. I’m not convinced Bryan made the call, either. Toby brilliantly keeps it ambiguous! But also when Wags asks Axe if he was involved in getting this investigation under way, I see a very brief smile on Axe’s face. Very subtle. I don’t know if it was a hint for us to use when we heard about the call made from Yonkers!!!

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