Just three episodes in and we have received terrific news that Showtime has renewed Billions for a third season! The news is not surprising given that Billions is the SMARTEST show on TV but still THIS WAS FAST! Congratulations to the entire cast and crew, we are over the moon for you and yeah, for us, too!
And who knew “Paulie Pennino” of Billions would come back to direct Axe in Season 2 Episode 4? It is a true delight Noah Emmerich is directing this episode! I love him as Agent Beeman in The Americans! And, hey, he is also directing Richard Thomas, who brings to life Beeman’s boss Agent Gaad in The Americans and whom I loved as John-Boy in The Waltons as a little girl, in this episode!
Axe is finally in the final three in his bid for the NFL team. Over lunch at Vaucluse, Mark Cuban tells Axe NFL does not like guys like them because they did come from nothing, earned their money calling bullshit openly and publicly and so they come across as people that can break the etiquette. According to Cuban, Axe needs to hang up the gloves and focus on changing the “hearts and minds” that will give him what he wants.
Because he believes more money would get him more love, Axe has increased his bid 100K over his initial bid which was already 100K over the highest sale prize ever. Now he needs to support the bid in ways that would remove “no” from NFL’s vocabulary. That strategy got him a 911 in his first year on Wall Street.
Bach arrives with a new look and good news: Chuck’s request for dismissal of their law suit was denied by the judge.
“Boom. Body Shot.”
Axe now needs to convince the NFL it was Chuck who crossed the line first so he wants to have the deposition immediately. He is confident no replicant or no lawyer would rattle him… until Bach gives him a pop quiz. Depositions are “unpredictable beasts” and Axe needs to learn where he should ask for a break.
Getting Chuck out of the way is absolutely necessary but not sufficient to get the NFL team. Axe needs to work on his public image. He calls Sanford Besinger, the third wealthiest man in the country, who leaves Cleveland only for a handful of economic conferences and to reel in billionaires to commit a big chunk of their net worth to his Giving Oath.
As they have hot dogs at Crif Dogs in Williamsburg, we find out Besinger is one direct man. He knows people avoid from pledging their money since it reminds them they are mortals. And THEY ARE. Men fuck, father and put their names on buildings and make money because it feels good. But “accumulation with no end in sight is gluttony.” A disease. Besinger has found the cure in giving away.
“The reason that nothing levers up your happiness like giving is because it puts you back in charge of the only thing that you ever really cared about – yourself.”
That may at least be a partial cure for Axe who seems to have lost control over himself for a while now. BUT can the man who came from nothing part ways with his money just like that?
Well, Axe has had his photos taken with Besinger while leaving dinner and had a statement written that talks about doing good for the communities and the usual blah blah to be read by either Bill Gates or Bill Clinton or both. His pledge is nothing but a show to prop up his public image to help secure the NFL team.
Marco, Bruno’s nephew, who looked like he was all suited up to meet Axe when he stopped by to pick up their pizza order in Episode 1, finally has his moment with Axe thanks to his uncle. Marc(o) wants Axe to consider investing in Sandicot where he is serving on city council: Not as a favor to his uncle but because of the casino coming to town. Axe is entertaining the idea because this is the ideal kind of giving, or in Taylor’s words, the kind of giving that would benefit him the most 😀 Taylor is tasked now with finding out the answers regarding Sandicot.
I agree with Lara that Carolina sauces are very vinegary and appreciate her love for The Wire — “It’s our fucking corner, Stringer!” — but cannot bring myself to enjoy her business tactics. Mercy Squad, a hangover relief service owned by Dan Wolfe, a private equity guy, is cutting prices to kick Lara out of the market. Well, we all know messing with Lara is not a good idea. She makes a deal at Cullen’s Tavern with some guys from her old neighborhood and pulls a trick on Wolfe to put him on the headlines for “aggravated pimping.” While I was thinking this could bring some tension to Axelrod marriage, guess what… Axe is proud of Lara!
While Axelrods do not leave anything to the Gods, Chuck is all about WWII this week.
He gets news that the AG will show him the Hans Gruber Memorial exit – a brilliant tribute to late Alan Rickman – unless he makes progress on the Spartan-Ives case. Time is running out.
Mr. McKinnon, whose wife had some fun time on Boyd’s plane in Optimal Play, is not able to help them because there has been no Spartan-Ives Treasury bid rigging since Boyd found out about the investigation. While Bryan tells McKinnon to man up, Chuck knows his Westerns well: McKinnon is John Wayne in Who Shot Liberty Valance. McKinnon is standing in where as other men in his position would tend to hide. This is just a set back but Chuck has a plan. He is thinking of Normandy!
Chuck starts with a search warrant sending Windbreakers to the beautiful Cunard Building just across from the Charging Bull that stands for Spartan-Ives headquarters in Billions! This first wave is just to make sure the second wave stands a chance.
He then meets Boyd at The Lotos Club and makes good use of The Franklin Effect: The most effective way of bonding with someone is not through doing a favor for him but asking a favor from him. Boyd is happy to sacrifice a few mid-level executives and coordinate press releases with Chuck so the investigation will be over and Boyd will have peace of mind on his boat off Antibes this summer.
I do think Bryan is not talking about coffee but Dake himself when he says he closes his eyes and thinks of England. Well, Dake may not be Bryan’s personal Anton Chigurh but he still gives me the creeps. Bryan is not selling Chuck out. Besides, he seems inspired by his plan that he is now eager to go through the Panama Papers to find an offshore account for Boyd. He does not find Boyd but does find Kate’s dad in there. And he goes to Kate’s apartment to share this information only to get a cold “I know” and no invitation to come in. In fact, her body language hints she may even have company.
What I like about Kate is she never leaves a loose end. She certainly keeps score and cannot afford anyone else to go to Chuck with this information about her dad. What she hears back from Chuck is quite reassuring:
“Anyone else in the world will fuck you over… friends, lovers, bosses. No, your father is the one person you’re gonna be able to count on when it matters.”
Well, nobody knows this better than Chuck! Chuck Sr has already taken the initiative to have Bryan followed and now that he knows it is impossible to follow Axe, how about his top people? And he does not leave it there, either. He also does his part to make Boyd believe the deal is real. Chuck Sr is determined to see his son as the NY governor.
Boyd thanks Axe for his help but he chooses to shake Chuck’s hand rather than cutting it off. And now that he believes Chuck has seen the bigger picture, Boyd goes back to business as usual… rigging the Treasury bids. So Team Chuck is back in business, too! McKinnon is ready to be a hero!
Bryan does what he tells earlier McKinnon to do: He mans up and tells Dake to fuck off at the East Coast Memorial honoring the missing American servicemen who died in the Atlantic Ocean while engaged in combat during WWII. What Bryan does not know is Chuck has seen his earlier conversation with Dake where Dake tells him he knows he made the call. Yikes! It will be delicious to watch how Chuck will follow up on that. Hope Chuck Sr delivers a tape on Bryan’s last conversation with Dake, too!
Well, every time Chuck and Axe are together on screen, I bow in front of the two actors who just STORM it together. If this is not acting heaven, what is? And I would URGE everyone to read the recent LA Times interview with Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis. Because they are BRILLIANT together off screen, too!
Back to Axe Capital: It is beyond hilarious Dollar Bill flinches when he spots Chuck at Axe Capital 😀
Axe conveys his message on his t-shirt:
Not Axe. Not now.
On the record. Off the record. On the record. Off the record.
Neither Chuck’s “Sometimes I laugh myself to sleep at night just thinking about you ripping the place apart” nor Axe’s “You know I never think about it. But of course I’m 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 us admit it, men have the capacity to be adolescent boys when it comes to playing games! Oh and I need to add Axe is absolutely pissed about how Chuck tricked him into ripping the place apart. Oh yeah, he is thinking about it.
The deposition starts well for Axe since Bach has guessed the first couple of questions right. Then Ira asks whether Axe would be willing to disclose the monetary damages he had because of Chuck. The answer is No. Now, since he is not willing to disclose concrete monetary damages, can Axe claim mental or emotional damages that Chuck cost him? Ha! Who wants the street to hear THAT? Ira certainly deserves his $1400 an hour rate.
Axe takes a break during which he gets a call from Besinger who is obviously disgusted by Axe’s “giving is later, headlines are now” strategy.
Axe is there only for the photo-op, not for the oath. And Besinger is pleased to let him know the NFL is turning down his offer.
“Sports franchises are how we knight people in this country. And you’re not royalty. You’re a robber baron.”
OUCH. We have seen expressions this season on Axe’s face that we never saw in Season 1. It is humiliation written all over his face now. Losing is not Axe’s thing, is it? But, hey, “hate is nature’s most perfect energy source. It’s endlessly renewable.” It is hate, I believe, that makes him get up from his desk and go back to the deposition room. And it goes without saying Damian’s switch from vulnerable to cocky in the blink of an eye is mesmerizing.
I do not know if Axe ever really considered hanging up the gloves, but now that the NFL team is gone, gloves are all out. And, yes, he has concrete monetary damages to report now. Chuck cost him a professional football team.
It is time for Axe to accept, privately if not publicly, the mental and emotional damages he has suffered lately and have a real session with a certain freelancer who seems to be more essential for him than ever. It is only Wendy, whose story I have left to the end, that can put Axe back together.
FarPoint is an innovative tech firm owned by an Elon Musk-like character, Craig Heidecker, who compares himself to Edison and Oppenheimer in terms of vision. Wendy is there to check whether Elena, the woman Heidecker is planning to put on his 1.2 billion vessel and send to another planet, is “psychologically bulletproof.”
Billions loves metaphors and the story Elena shares with Wendy about Wilco is brilliant. Tweedy and Bennett were true partners communicating at a level only a few could. But even though they knew they made each other better, they could not find a way to work things out. Bennett left and Wilco was still Wilco but never as good again. And Bennett, who just could not keep it together on his own, died a few years later of a drug overdose.
Hmmm… Elena does not pass the test but she gives Wendy some good food for thought! How can you find a true partner and keep them? When things get messy, how do you keep trucking? Wendy is soul-searching this season and these should be a few of her favorite questions she constantly asks herself.
And as much as she wants him to call and make an appointment, she seems happy to find Wags and his “Yosemite Sam” ass tattoo, which he does not know how he got, at her office door. He is one of the lost boys, one of HER lost boys, that needs help. And if Wendy wants to get her hands dirty, there is no other place like Axe Capital. She can start with Wags and move directly to the boss. He needs her more than ever.