Oh my goodness, friends. It’s almost Billions Season 3 time! It’s also finally becoming something resembling spring in Minnesota. Our snow is melting, the first robins should be spotted any day now, and that’s great and all….but I really can’t wait for March 25th.
So I’ve spent some time, over the last couple years, comparing the way that Damian Lewis plays Bobby Axelrod in season 1 versus 2. This re-post will refresh your memory, and is also the perfect companion for a marathon re-watch session. Pop in those DVD’s and follow along!
Make sure you read all the way to the end, where I’ll weigh in on what my impressions and predictions are for season 3’s Bobby!
As always, I’ll be viewing Damian’s work through the lens of a Delsartean.
Honestly, once you study Delsarte, it’s hard to turn it off, even for a brief moment. The way people speak to one another in public, the way advertisers position models in print ads, the way artists both past and present have depicted their subjects-all of it is Delsarte. It was developed through lots of observation, so it’s not really surprising that I find so much truth in it. It is based, firmly, in humanity and reality, and I am so happy to be here, sharing it, once again!
In previous posts, I’ve included a little quick snippet of an explanation. It’s hard to explain it all in just a few sentences! I recently stumbled upon this blog, and find that it sums things up quickly and beautifully and even has illustrations! Head over there if you’d like to read and see about the study, in greater detail. But for now, here’s one of my previous descriptions:
” In my first couple articles written for the blog, I delved into what the three zones of the body correspond to. For a quick and dirty recap: Mind, Heart, Body (I usually prefer vitality). Mind, your head. Heart, your chest. Vitality? Your pelvis. And within each of these zones, lies mind, heart and body breakdowns of their own. From head to toe, within all of our appendages, as well, macrocosm to microcosm, these three elements are all present. “
So in season one, “Mr. Mind”, aka: Bobby, was always leading by the mind. He points, he leans forward, he stomps. He’s always seeing the whole map, the whole plan. He not only sees his play, but also sees everyone else’s play, and how they will all go together, and that is definitely telegraphed all over his body. This ability to hone in, it gives him that Batman-like ability to be one step ahead, and to use each moment and development to benefit his cause. And while the mind seems to be the leader, backing that up, in many cases, was the vital. His forehead may have been tense with thought, and tilted forward, but across the chest he folded his arms with biceps flexed. When he needed to get really real? His jaw would tense and slide forward, his lower lip would pout out, wrapped tightly around his teeth. Sometimes even the nostrils would flare up, a vital expression of the nose. He wanted you to know he meant business, and FEEL it, too.
As an aside: If you’ve ever watched “Key and Peele”, you’ll remember the “anger translator” sketch, where then-acting President Obama had a man who stomped around behind him, conveying his angry undertones of his calm statements. That was what the vital zones were doing in those moments, for Bobby. He’d say the calm, cool, level-headed thing, and his vital side would chime in with “YEAH!!” and give an angry stare.
And speaking of stares, the eyes are the big difference between season one and season two of Damian’s portrayal of Bobby Axelrod.
Eyes are on the head, of course, which lands them in the mind zone of the body. Within the head itself, the eyes are mind, as well. The “windows to the soul”, indeed. The eyes convey our thoughts. Delsarte said “the eye is the centre of mental significance in expression.”
This season bring with it the many ways in which Bobby’s world is building up and crumbling down, simultaneously. Season one’s life was much more stable, much more predictable. Really his biggest worry was the market, and we all know how great he is with that! It was mostly wins for Axe Capital, and had been, for more than a decade. The only person who ever got to see anything flicker behind those baby blues was Lara. But this season? He’s all over the place.
Looking at the eye, itself, it has within it the three elements, as well!
(You may have caught on to this by now-in class my teacher, Joe, merely points and puts up 3 fingers and we all chime in!)
We see Bobby squint a lot, both season one and two. Squinting is critical, and its driven by the “mind” of the eye, itself, the pupil. When he squints? I swear his pupil is all you can see! Nothing but Mr. Mind!
But season two has brought a new part of Bobby’s eye to the forefront: the whites. I feel like we see way more of the whites of his eyes, these days. The whites are vital, so many times when he is really feeling the fear, intensity, rage, the whites of his eyes give him away. The only time I really saw it in season one was when he stood on top of the file cabinets after Dollar Bill got arrested. He looked SUPER scared, despite trying to rally the troops. And when he stood in front of those troops, this season, to demand that they bring back an idea that would “shock the world?” Whites of eyes were FLARING.
So within those eyes, we have found Tin Man’s missing heart. The heart of the eye is the iris(or the “colored part”), and we see so much more of that, as well, this season. A particularly poignant moment is one (of many!) from last week’s episode “With or without you”. He’s at the pizza place from his childhood, feeling alone, fragile, scared. There’s a lot of eye whites in that episode, for sure. But when Bruno refuses to stop for Bobby, to sit down and chat? When Bruno makes it clear that Bobby has burned this bridge? There’s a a flash of those sad, blue eyes. You can really feel his loneliness and remorse in that moment.
He has everything, but he also has nothing. And moments after that pain, he unleashes a super-scary voicemail on Lara, threatening to “lock her down”. When wounded, Bobby will fight back. And Bobby fights dirty.
That whole episode is so complex, played so shockingly well. He was all over the place, and it was absolutely brilliant and terrifying. From the way the script was written, to the way Damian acted it? Holy crap. Triggering, to say the least. But epic and brilliant, at the same time. Honest portrayals of ugly moments like that, where “coercive control” type behaviors are seen? They could go a long way to opening people’s eye’s to the reality of these situations, despite how disturbing and sad they are. I’m really glad to have a team like the one at Billions who is covering such delicate subject matter.
I’d say that it’s been mainly the eyes that has changed, this season. His swagger is still intact, his “feet up on the desk” moments, the hiding of his hands in his pockets, crossed arms. It’s all still there. It’s those beautiful details, those fleeting moments that run across Damian’s face, those have really gone so far in how he portrays the new challenges this character faces in season 2. And with all those season 3 trailers we are seeing?
I am so excited. The Bobby of season 3 looks to be a completely new man. Season one’s relaxed, swaggering Bobby has been replaced by a tense, brooding and angry man. He still seems to be pounding the floor with each step, but his head is on a swivel, his brow is permanently furrowed, there’s tension running down from the back of his neck and into his shoulders.
The man in the image above is not the same confident winner who out-smarted the traders who left his firm without his blessing. He may be sitting in a similar power pose, but he is NOT feeling powerful. Those vital zone underarms are almost hidden, his weight is sinking back. It is as if he is pressing himself into the couch, trying to protect his back. The whites of his eyes are out, his jaw is firm. He’s like a coiled snake, ready to strike.
Bobby is one of those “quiet rage” people. When things go wrong, he turns within, he boils, he burns. He is desperately trying to convey calm, but the tension betrays him. This is a man who is out for blood.
Are we ready?