Billions Season 2 finale left us with more questions than answers exactly in the way that it should. And as we countdown to Season 3, I want to add to the already long list of questions: Who do you think is the first person Axe talks to after his arrest? Chuck? Lara? His lawyer? Be open minded. Be creative. Make a guess. Find the answer below 😀
December 9, 2016 starts as an extraordinary day. I wake up to news any academic would kill to get! My co-author and I get a revision for a paper we wrote on civil wars from one of the top journals in the profession, and believe me, given that top journal acceptance rates wander around 10%, this kind of thing RARELY happens. So, I am over the moon and decide to reward myself by taking the day off for some shopping! And, while thinking the day could not get any better, I check my Instagram on the subway only to see a post made from 1 World Trade Center about Billions currently being shot in the area.
Well, I already knew they would film Billions there because I had seen a tweet earlier; however, I, the “know-it-all” Damianista did not even think for a second it could be an “Axe scene” since Southern Tip of Manhattan is mainly Chuck-land.
— Michael Greve (@mikegreve) December 8, 2016
But, now, this Instagram post made from 1 World Trade Center is the ultimate wake up call thanks to the key words in the post: NYPD. FBI. Prop Guns. Arrest.
My hearts SINKS and not for the reason you may be thinking. I am not feeling bad Axe may be getting arrested for whatever he has done. It may be best to summarize in one of my favorite Turkish sayings: “The grasshopper jumps once, jumps twice, gets caught in the third.”
And the location makes perfect sense. It is, in fact, GENIUS. We know the entire Axe Capital story kicks off at the World Trade Center, on September 11, when the planes hit the towers. Bobby is not in the office that day because he is in meetings with lawyers to deal with his partners who are about to kick him out of the company thanks to the shady deals he has been involved in. As soon as he hears about the towers, Bobby shorts airline companies, makes A LOT of money, Axe Capital takes off and the rest is history. It is 9/11 that makes Bobby Axelrod the hedge-fund king that he is today. And the king will now have to face what he fears the most, windbreakers, at the exact location where his rise to power begins. DELICIOUS writing.
OK then. Change of plans. I am now going to the North Pool to see if I can get a glimpse of the shoot.
Oh and I said my heart sank the moment I found out about the shoot but I still have not shared why. It is because I am worried about the crowds. 9/11 Memorial, any given day, is PACKED. People come to pay their respects at this beautiful memorial that moves you beyond words with its feeling of eternity.
And given that Billions is a popular show, I am freaking out someone will take pictures, share it on social media and spoil the whole thing for many fans. The only factor that may thin out the crowds today is the weather. Thanks to gusty winds, it feels in the 20s.
I know Billions is, at least in my case, not the kind of show you watch to find out what happens in the end but to see how the story folds out over the season. It is THE story that counts so maybe it is not the end of the world even if people talk openly on social media or post photos. Yet, as someone, who thinks of unsolicited spoilers as a violation of other people’s right to enjoy a film or a book or a TV show, I just hope NOT. And I know I will not talk about it to any living soul except for my husband and my partners.
Oh yeah my partners! In fact, before getting to the set part, it makes sense I share with you the first reactions I get from my partners when I share my story with them. I write to each partner, in separate messages, that I happened to see a Billions scene filmed at an interesting location in NYC, and that I am happy to share it which we will keep as a secret until the end of the season. And it is totally up to them to know or not know. JaniaJania, Tbkwrm and Holliedazzle want to know and here are their reactions as they find out about what I have seen (ps. Gingersnap was a good Twitter friend but not yet a part of Fan Fun team back then).
Holliedazzle: “Oh wow, possibly a BIG finish for the season. How exciting to be there! Here you are again, among the excitement, just like when you were there for the “fuck you money” scene, even inside his pockets.”
JaniaJania: “Was Wendy there?” (WOW! How does she know? She says she just wanted her to be there, and yes, she was!)
Tbkwrm: “I had expected it at the end of Season 1! He can’t keep getting away after all.”
Lady Trader is my only partner that prefers not to know thinking it may affect her writing. And she adds:
“Please don’t tell me he gets arrested.” (Yes, partner, you called it, too!)
Yes, Lady Trader, so we knew, didn’t we? We did not really know, but we knew! The two of us attended Billions Season 2 PaleyLIVE New York together in December and the following back and forth between Damian and Brian Koppelman hinted a bit about where the show would be heading to.
At Paley LIVE New York, Brian Koppelman and David Levien revealed they knew what would happen at the end of Season 2 before they even filmed the pilot and it turns out Damian recently told them “you said you were going to do this.” And then Damian talked about the fantastic world we are living in “where despicable people are marvelous and marvelous people are despicable” which is no more true than in Billions and so the show has to have a world view, a judgment, at some point. He said some themes such as the seducing and corrupting nature of political and financial power come to fruition in Season 2 in ways that they did not in Season 1. Brian Koppelman added: “You pick a billionaire, idolize him, there are consequences.” And I cannot agree more with him. Yes, there are consequences. There should be consequences. And, as Damian points out “there should be a worldview.”
Let’s admit it: We saw Axe playing dirty more than once: Pepsum Pharmaceuticals. Mundia Tel. Klaxon. Why? Not just for the fuck of it, or for money, but probably to feel the sweet adrenaline pumping in his veins. What drives him does not understand enough. Axe is addicted to the game. Every win feeds the addiction. He wants to win more. Bigger wins mean bigger risks. And while bigger risks have made him more focused and careful than ever in Season 1, we have seen a different Axe this season. Having lost his sense of security by the end of Season 1 and obsessed about getting rid of Chuck, Axe has not been able to see the entire board as clearly as he used to. He slipped a few times and trusted a couple of people he should definitely not have trusted. If only he had read our recaps 😀
Back to the memorial: As soon as I arrive at the south end of the North pool where the North Tower used to stand, believe it or not, the first person I could distinguish on the other side of the pool, with my very near-sighted eyes, is Damian. First, he has red hair and is a head taller than most people around him. Second, I said it before and will say it again: THAT WALK. I recognize that walk from any distance. This is what I am looking at.
While I am pretty far away from the scene, I could see Axe being taken away with his hands at his back. OMG it is happening! And I am still worried people may take photos and post them on social media. Then I am laughing at myself: if the show creators were so worried about that they would take extra precautions. The main precaution seems to be the set people kindly shoving people away. And, honestly, most people in the area seem to be tourists that don’t really know what is going on. I think I am overreacting just because I know SO MUCH about the show. But I get concerned when my favorite TV critic tweets spoilers!
I walk clockwise around the north pool and come closer to the set. The set people try to keep you a bit far away from the filming area and they obviously do not allow photos – not that I would take photos but there is a couple next to me that know some filming is going on and want to take photos, but good news is they do not know what show it is. And I have no intention to let them know 😀
They take a short break from filming and I see Damian walking around talking on the phone. Exactly like this. Well, I did not take any pictures and found this photo on Instagram. And that big coat he is wearing? It is to keep him warm during breaks. I am telling you — it is VERY COLD.
Oh then Wendy appears in a beautiful winter coat! I see Axe and Wendy hugging followed by the FBI and the NYPD arriving to take Axe away.
WOW. What a treat to see this happening in front of my very eyes!
And, I am happy to report all pics posted on social media were harmless in the end. Either people did not see what happened or they are just decent people who did not want to spoil it for others. Thank you!
When they say “Cut!” the set people are extremely happy. They have been there since 6 am. And while I think I cannot be happier because I am the first person who says hi to Axe seconds after his arrest, Damian tops it by saying Billions Paley LIVE post that I had written earlier that week was “excellent.” I probably have a surprised look on my face that he gives me the eyebrow and says:
“But I read your blog.”
I know, I know, I just still find it quite unbelievable. Thank you! And I remember to tell him his secret is safe with us!
Now… what a difference two years make, huh? Not for me, look at me, I am still looking like a 6 year old in the same down jacket I had on during Billions Pilot shoot in February 2015.
But how about Axe? He has come from “what’s the point of having Fuck You money if you never say fuck you?” to a point where he, in his own words, “fucked up.” And it will be a thrill to see how he will be able to dig himself out of this shit. Well, he will, right? 😀 And I believe, as I mentioned in my season finale recap, Wendy’s short on Ice Juice can be an exit for Axe. Chuck may, in fact, find himself trying to dig Axe out of this shit to be able to keep his wife, his job, his reputation and his prospects to be the next governor of New York! And I cannot stop giggling as I imagine Chuck frantically trying to stop not just Dake, but also Bryan! You can read my detailed speculation about what may come our way in the new season here.
Finally, you may ask if knowing what will happen in the last episode ever changed the way I looked at the season. NO. First, I saw it coming. Second, Billions, as I highlighted earlier in this post, is not the kind of show I watch to find out what happens in the end. The show feels like a crazy page turner but the thing is you want to read and absorb every page because it all matters! Billions takes its audience very seriously and does not give you one scene or one word just for the fun of it. You need to pay attention and take it one episode at a time. And that is exactly what I have done.
Later that evening Lewisto asks: “So you have got a revision for your paper from a top journal in the morning and you have got to see probably the most important scene of Billions filmed in front of your very eyes in the afternoon. Which one made you happier?”
I know he knew the answer when he asked. And, yeah, you know the answer, too. But I am proud to say my paper has got into the journal after a set of revisions. It is a mid-career home run. Cheers!