Billions on Showtime, 3.02: The Wrong Maria Gonzalez

Bobby and Chuck are a set of twinsies this episode of Billions, Season 3, Episode 2, “The Wrong Maria Gonzalez.” Where we saw Chuck mildly relishing in his win in the first episode and Bobby not-so-mildly wondering what to do about his loss, in this episode the two foes are on more equal footing.

Bobby can’t act on his investing instincts about the earthquake on the coast of Africa, which he knows will lead to a tsunami on the coast of South America, leading to losses for Axe Cap investments in Brazil, specifically flooded sugar crops and interruptions in shipping.

On the other side, the wheel of fortune doesn’t roll in Chuck’s favor to be awarded the judge sympathetic to his cause in Eastern v. Axelrod.

Both Bobby and Chuck have obstacles set before them, both master their obstacle du jour, in essentially similar ways.

I worked my entire life to put myself in a position where I’d be truly free.

Is there even such a thing? Bobby certainly seems to think true freedom is possible. He calls Wendy with this complaint and gets her sound advice, which, on some level, he absorbs.

Limits, constraints, can be useful.

Right? Takes that extra effort, that extra push, but why not see the obstacle as a challenge? It’d take a bit more effort than taking the instinctual split second cognitive leap that an earthquake in one part of the world is going to affect the flow of resources in another part of the world. But essentially a cognitive leap is a cognitive leap. A challenge is a challenge. Right?

Letting go… is another kind of freedom. A more powerful kind of freedom.

As if we didn’t see the enchanted charm of this city already, we learn that New York City judicial assignments are still done via wooden wheel and crank. Digital randomizers? Fuggedaboudit, computers are for losers.

Dake is resigned to deal with the free market-friendly judge they rolled. Chuck doesn’t want to risk it. He goes to Wendy for some advice. She knows the temperature in which both of the men in her life work best. She knows how to play both ends, and how.

To Chuck, she gives advice on how to be harder, more cut throat, go out and get what you’re owed. She knows the unfriendly judge owes Chuck a favor, so her advice is:

Impose your will on him, until he does what he needs to and repays the debt.

To Bobby, she provided the opposite. She advises him to be softer, let go to let in. Her goal? A happy medium, a place where both men can find peace in themselves and in their work. She’s a conduit for them both. A path between and around, to some greater insight, some alternative path to the near-sighted ones they set upon when left to their own devices. The writing gives Wendy that power, and Maggie Siff runs with it.

Lara, however, is on a different track, one that elicits sympathy but still not so easy to understand.

From the moment Bobby included his wife in the little play he did on Birch in Season One, kneeling down to share his screen with her, letting her share in the joy of facilitating Birch’s fall, we knew that Lara wasn’t just a trophy wife. She didn’t hold court over a gaggle of sycophants like other trophy wives we’ve seen. We never saw her compare notes on who was wearing whom and whose kids were going to what prestige private schools. Instead, we see her chopping a woman off at the knees for shaming her husband in public for having the audacity of surviving 9/11. She seemed very ride or die then, didn’t she? As if she’d not only survived a car bomb or three during her marriage to Axe and before, but that she knew how to crawl under the chassis on a moment’s notice, white jeans be damned, and defuse one too. And when the police got there to investigate, she’d be like “Car bomb, what car bomb, officer?” Bobby and Lara definitely had a Bonny and Clyde thing going when they were together that first season.

Now they aren’t together, what are they? She hints, not so subtly, that it hurts her that he doesn’t need her for the same things he relies on Wendy for. This behavior of Axe’s seems to be without any explanation really. Like, has he tried to tell Lara the same stuff he shares with Wendy, and have we seen her react in any way that would turn him off from every sharing again? Not really, right? So, a lot is left to the subtext. And the subtext I see is this: Axe needs to put stuff in discretely defined compartments. And Lara lives in the compartment marked home and family. He can’t see her as anything outside that compartment. That’s just who he is.

Lara can traverse the borders of her work and friendships to come to his aid, like she did when she covered up the 9/11 chapter in her friend’s book and when she shuttered her restaurant because the fire department came around with sledgehammers for Axe’s sins against them. She’s been shown picking up his mess several times already. She hasn’t been personally challenged enough that we’ve seen, but if she had, would he as readily come to her defense? Probably if it meant protecting himself too and the family. But, personally, putting himself in front of her to defend her against something, or take a blow for her? No, not seeing him ever doing that, even if she needed it.

Bobby looks after Bobby. Even though he’s included her and his boys as those he deems something above cannon fodder, are they really immune? Hard to trust it. And Lara clearly doesn’t.

In this episode we see Lara speak a longish speech to her friend who unthinkingly expresses some admiration over Lara’s ability to leave Bobby. It reminded me a bit of when Carmella briefly left Tony (The Sopranos), but in reverse. Carmella never made any motions about being a strong independent woman. Tony told her “hey, you knew what you were signing up for,” and she had no ground to stand on to complain. So when she left, and had the fling with the character played by David Strathairn, and when he couldn’t throw around influence with the same weight as Tony could, she came right back.

Carmella got the courage to leave from one of her cronies, right? Or maybe it was that woman don who ran her own organization…but ended up getting beat down despite being a woman? Anyway, someone inspired Carmella to leave, and she didn’t stay gone. Lara needed just one lie to leave and now the question is: will she stay gone? In her big speech, she is punching a hole in her friend’s illusion that leaving is all it’s cracked up to be. So, in a roundabout way, she’s actually giving advice to her past self. She tells her friend she’s smart enough to know that the people she pays to be around aren’t her friends, the charities to whom she gives will take her money, but have no respect for how she came about it.

When every relationship in your life reveals itself to be a trade on your husband’s net worth…

You’ll close the door on false friendships but you’ll still miss the attention and you’ll give anything to get it back, she tells her friend, ie herself. Then she drops a Stones lyric on her (that’s 2 for 2, show): Stay with your husband, you may not get what you want, but you’ll get what you need.

This speech of Lara’s was something Carmella would have been on the receiving end of. But, there are aspects of this speech that mean the same thing either way: there’s an Axe-sized hole in Lara’s life. She’s maybe finding that being Mrs. Bobby Axelrod afforded her some things she will never be able to achieve on her own no matter how many chassis she’s willing to crawl under or how many knees she’s willing to cap. She misses him and she’s trying to find peace in the fact that he doesn’t seem to need her for anything at all.

Still, all that said, the character never seems to gel for me. Goodness knows I’m no ride or die anything (my spirit animal is a sloth). But I’ve known women to have that quality to them. I’ve known at least one woman who embodies that old Enjoli ad “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you’re a man.” (My friend is the sort of a wild west die hard frontier woman from Alaska type, to be specific) But, I can’t really wrap my head around how or why. This trope is what Lara is meant to embody I think, so I can’t quite get the how and why of her either. She knows how to dig for clams and make the calls to get a kid off the admission list for Stanford. Okay, we got that. But, really? Who is she really when she’s not the inhabitant of one of Axe’s compartments? Frankly, I don’t think she knows either.

Back to the boys. We see the bit from the preview of Bobby, the shark, gliding through a sea of hotrods. Funny how the movement of his body in that bit of preview alluded to the actual content of the scene. Bobby gets bit by big fish Mark Cuban (who, “it pains me to say”, may have some bankable talent as an actor). Cuban says something akin to, “Sure, I love money, but not your money, which reeks at the moment like Fulton Fish Market at sunset.” Bobby smarts at the bite, then glides over to the next fish, another fellow investor, and delivers his own bite. And so goes the circle of life. “Little fish, big fish, swimming the water.” (a PJ Harvey lyric, if I’m not mistaken)

When he can’t stop himself from going into the office, Bobby is all shifty-eyed and skittish, flitting about, dying to intervene somewhere. Fortunately for him, he doesn’t intrude on anything more dangerous than Mafee eating lunch. Mafee makes some allusion to Fight Club maybe? Got a question out to the reddit boys, we’ll see if they respond and I’ll ETA.

My favorite tweedle dum and tweedle dee of this season so far? Dollar Bill and Mafee. Something so fitting whenever they’re in frame together.

Lots of great throwaway physical comedy in this episode. A bulk of it from Compliance Director Spyros.

Witness Bobby trying to read lips in the next office over as he tests the turning radius on his chair while Spyros plays with his selfie stick. So freakin funny!

With all the clear glass, and the angles and art, it’s like every frame has a precision to it, captivating to the eyes, without any hint of self-consciousness. The set folks outdid themselves this season. On that note, I have to call out my absolute favorite of all the great art in Axe Cap in this screencap, Baldesarri’s Astronauts and Businessmen. Love it!

More physical comedy when Bobby wordlessly says, “Really, does me enjoying an apple warrant screencaps?” And here, a meta-screencap, if you will.

We’ve seen that Dollar Bill misses his boss, but now we see he misses his friend too. He sweetly cuts the tension with some small talk on family vacation plans…until the casual mood is Spyros’ed. What masterful obsequiousness at play from Stephen Kunken’s Ari Spyros, and it’s all for real too.

We know Chuck is obsequious too. But, here, in a totally fake way, asking his favorite judge Rob Morrow’s Adam DeGiulio to step into the vacancy left when the free market friendly judge recuses himself. Slithering around like he’s not heaping favor-trading upon favor-trading. He’s doing his job, and he knows it’s sneaky as hell. He’s “almost” sorry, but, much like Axe’s secret parking garage meetings with other funds friendly to his business, the sneaking around is all par for the course. Chuck gets his judge. And then he probably goes home to shower off the slime.

Ultimately, Ben Kim comes in with a saving play for Axe Cap, a play that hedges on the positive of the situation instead of hoping it goes further south, and thus a play that Axe Cap has never done before. Is there always more money to be made from shorting than betting on success? Or maybe, since things going south is inevitable, there’s more risk to bet that things go up? I’ll let Lady Trader sort that out, as I hope she does some of the numbers we saw.

Don’t have to be a trader to note the downward plummet of the daily chart for Axe Cap. To pull that curve back up, Ben Kim found a sugar company in Thailand that is set to profit from the loss of Brazil’s sugar. Taylor can’t get the story out of fearful Ben Kim so she search histories it out from the IT guy and agrees it’s a good idea. Thus Ben Kim saves the day, without so much as opening his mouth.

Axe puts back into Taylor’s hands the 2 billion he had set aside. Or did he never intend to pocket it away anyway? Whatever the case, he trusts Taylor and knows that together they’ll be able to give Axe back some of the power and control he desperately needs while still keeping it all legal.

Could this be the first time that Axe has ever acknowledged an equal to himself, worthy of a trusting partnership? The thread of mystery brought on by previews and plain old guessing has teased that Bobby will be betrayed again this season. And folks around here are saying it could be Taylor, who now has been given incredible power to do Axe incredible harm. Not hedging any money on that bet myself, especially now since such a betrayal would be way too obvious. I’ve got a couple non-Taylor guesses but I’m happy to keep it a mystery for the most part. For now, it’s a beautiful thing, in terms of Bobby’s soul, that he’s found a true partner in his company, however long it may last.

ETA: Wow, in my rosey-eyed reading of that last scene, I seem to have overlooked the bit of slime still on Axe as he goes home for the night: the title of this episode. He got a woman deported, ya’ll, for doing nothing more than being a witness to his crime. The fact that the two “friends” who helped with the scam go home scott free and this woman who wanted nothing more than to work and make a better life for herself is bussed out is an essay of its own, but not for this space and time. (Some comment about shithole countries comes to mind…fwiw, the offense wasn’t about the countries, which, as a child of immigrants, I’ll be the first to admit, are indeed shitholes.. due to a multitude of reasons, some in and some out of their was about the people from those countries… who are just people like you and me) For now, check out the wee smile as he confirms that his creamed pea toast eating Hall stand-ins did indeed pull the necessary strings to send Maria Gonzalez packing:

57 thoughts on “Billions on Showtime, 3.02: The Wrong Maria Gonzalez”

  1. I am still unable to see how Wendy can be in both camps. She advises Chuck in getting a judge she knows will help his case, but provides emotional support to Axe. An emotionally stronger Axe will give him strength for his case….against her husband? Come on. Poetic license, if that’s what it can be called is one thing, that situation is simply unbelievable.

    1. I see that same conflict Connie, but believe that we’ll see how it all works out during the season. She’s playing both sides of the fence, as she needs to, but it’s going to have to come to a head eventually.

    2. I get what you’re saying, but I don’t think Wendy is picking sides in the battle, she just wants each man to operate at his full potential. I know it seems a stretch to not pick sides, but I tend to think Wendy is above such things. (unbelievable as that is) She knows what Chuck needs to succeed at his job and what Axe needs to succeed at his. Sure, Chuck sending Bobby to prison will put a dent in his job, but maybe she thinks that’s what Bobby needs to be even better coming out the other end. And I think she believes he will, no matter what her husband does to him.
      Now, I do have an issue with the fact that we haven’t really seen what Wendy wants for herself, and maybe we never will. Her role as empathe (she’s totally Deanna Troi) is not about her own needs, it’s about her insights into the needs of those she cares about and works for. Since we don’t know what she wants, we can’t really say she’s manipulating the situation to suit her own needs. (she doesn’t seem to have any!)

        1. It’s so funny that I have never watched Star Trek but I know the character names (not any specifics about them though!) thanks to my PhD institution having named all its servers after them: Troi, Riker, Picard, etc 😀

      1. I think we see a bit of what she wants for herself. At the scene with Chuck at the river (and I could be wrong about this, because I usually skip most Chuck/Wendy scenes on my second watch) she knows Chuck needs to change the judge and says something like “for our family”. She knows there could be dire consequences for her and her family if the case doesn’t end up well. She knows her short of ICEJ could come up, and she knows that she broke her confidentiality agreement with Axe Capital by going to Chuck and telling him about the short. I believe she is picking a side – her side. She needs both sides to “win” in some way to protect her from her role in everything.

        I think it is ironic that she is trying to tell Axe not to act on his emotions, but her act of shorting the ICEJ was totally emotional, since she refused a part of it back at the office and was just doing it as a “fuck you” to Chuck. She makes rules for people, but doesn’t follow them herself.

        I have never thought of her as anything but manipulative, almost always to her own benefit. As much as Axe has a god complex, I think so does she. Only she can fix Axe, only she can get Chuck to see what he needs to do, etc.

        And I think putting Axe in prison would more than “dent” his job. A federally convicted criminal would ever allowed to be involved in the markets or manage money every again. That is more than a dent to Axe, that would destroy him

        1. I think Wendy’s short puts her in the middle of the battle. She cannot choose sides because she will fall down with whichever side falls. And so she needs to orchestrate the battle in certain ways to the best of her ability so they don’t all burn together.

          I have a different take on Wendy’s short: I see it as a completely rational action taken to protect her kids’ future. She knows Chuck will lose a lot of money and I think she acts on her maternal instinct – it could be emotional but I think also a rational one in this particular case – to protect their kids’ future. I don’t think Wendy is more manipulative than the two men she is involved with and now that she also faces jail she needs to act on her own interest. That is what Chuck and Axe have been doing all along. Wendy is as smart as those men who cannot stop the pissing contest and I think it is these two men who have made her believe it is only her she can fix them. Because they both come to her when in trouble. Axe is calling her in the middle of the night for help and Chuck is calling her a marvel. Why would we believe in Taylor’s super-natural powers and not in Wendy’s? I find Wendy’s powers more believable probably because it is all about human psychology and I believe in the power of therapy. That said, it is all fiction after all, and Billions gives us, knowingly and very deliberately, larger-than-life characters that do a little bit more than their real-life counterparts 🙂

          1. It was a split second decision to short ICEJ and she was angry when she did it (when Mafee asked how much, she responded “as much as I can get”). Maybe she did think of her kids, but only after the fact; she was in the moment. But we’ll never know what exactly she was thinking, unless she has to talk about it with Dake!

            She certainly isn’t more manipulative that Axe or Chuck, that was my point. She plays this role of being above it all, but she’s not. Not at all. She’s in the dirt as deep as the rest of them. She’s just using the men in her life to make sure her hands look clean.

            I believe in Taylor’s “super-natural powers” more than I believe in Wendy’s because I believe in what Taylor does for a living a lot more than I do Wendy. I get Taylor; I like Taylor, but I can’t say either for Wendy. Her character, (for me) is flat and cold. I understand why she is needed – a the go between and the tug-of-rope, but Wendy as a character on her own? Not interesting for me. She brings nothing to the table.

          2. I think we agree to disagree about Wendy 🙂

            I don’t think anybody has become the CIO of a big hedge-fund in six months in real life and that is why I call Taylor’s powers super-natural. But they are a very interesting character to watch: We are now seeing them getting bent in the name of success and keeping their track record flawless. They have found the answer to the tsunami test in becoming a true doppelganger. (eg. the show loves symmetries, so we observe the same with Dake on the law side of things) Taylor has just become a partner-in-crime helping Axe to trade illegally. He is committing a crime and they are helping him with it and moreover they will benefit from his moves. They are extremely smart but this is also a depiction of how power corrupts. Amazing. This, as much as their creative ways to understand the markets like what they did with the chip company in season premiere, makes them a very interesting character to watch for me.

          3. We have always disagreed about Wendy. I really, truly want to get what I am missing about her. I just don’t respect what she does for a living; not the therapy part, but the “performance coach” thing. If you are a trader and need a “performance coach” in the office, you are in the wrong business.

            You are right, nobody would be a CIO in 6 months. But just as an IPO would not open at 9:30 and there would be no inventory to short an IPO in a day, Billions takes liberties to move the story along.

            Yes, Taylor is doing what Axe wants, but I think they are doing it more so that Axe has another sandbox to play in while they run Axe Capital. I don’t think this is power corrupting them – it’s being pragmatic. They need to establish themselves at the leader, and get Axe away. That it’s illegal is besides the point for them. I’ll go into it more on Friday.

          4. I think their plan is mutually beneficial. Taylor has seen they are still too unexperienced to connect the dots Axe can in two seconds. Axe is right when he says he will be their hedge. But sandbox is in the play, too, I agree. As I have said earlier I see it as a very smart and strategic move on their part. That said, you are absolutely right and “That it’s illegal is besides the point for them.” I cannot accept that. I have not violated one law in my whole life. I cannot sleep at night if I do. What makes these people so special that they can just ignore the law and do not even care that they ignore the law? I am so looking forward to your post on Friday.

          5. “What makes these people so special that they can just ignore the law and do not even care that they ignore the law?” Because that is what sometimes happens to people when they are in a glorified position. It could be in business, politics, sports, entertainment, etc. “Rules for thee, but not for me.”
            An example (and it’s hypothetical): a Duke basketball player gets to not have to take a test everyone else in his class does because of a game/practice, whatever. He’s important to the team, which makes him important to the school, and having a good BB team helps with $$ raising. Is it fair? No, but we glorify someone who can dribble a basketball, and they feel “above” the normal rules others have to follow. It’s not fair, but it’s the way the world works.

          6. I never meant to say this kind of behavior is limited to financial sector. It is everywhere. We see it in the legal side, too, in Billions. Every profession has its good and bad apples and Bobby Axelrod is not a particularly good apple in my opinion. Neither is Chuck Rhoades. As someone who has athletes in the classroom, I completely agree with your hypothetical example while I don’t think the scale is close, and also it is the university rules that forces us, the professors, make exceptions for athletes. I also believe in working to change the way the world works. That is probably why I am rooting for Bryan Connerty more than ever this season 😀

          7. I do love that you are the optimist. We need more people like you!

            I guess I’m more a a realist, and since I’ve been working in this business a long time, and it really hasn’t changed, I don’t know if it will in my lifetime or ever. I don’t see Axe as a good or bad apple – just an apple!

          8. Yep, maybe Taylor and Wendy are a yin-yan too. Taylor is all rationality, no emotion nor interest in developing emotion, whereas Wendy has her fingers firmly on the pulse of everyone’s emotional states and needs. She’s cold because she’s an empathe absorbing it all and never projecting her own.

            Yep, agreeing to disagree too with Lady Trader. 😀

          9. I think the character of Wendy in general is cold. I don’t get a sense of warmth from her, which would be a necessity in a therapist, I would think. I don’t get the sense she is doing what she is doing (“coaching”) because she gets a sense of purpose of satisfaction from helping people – I think she does it because it’s a way of controlling people.

          10. One note: a therapist does need to have a sense of warmth, for clients to feel safe for transference, among other things. A Life Coach, a Performance Coach, an Accountability Coach, not so much because those types of modalities are more solution-focused, less emotional.

          11. I see what you are saying, but (and I know that this is some that I’m hung up on) I just don’t believe in the whole performance coach thing. I’d never use one, and would have a negative opinion of a trader who did. I would know that I had a mental advantage over them and take that advance all day long.

          12. Ditto all of this!
            “She cannot choose sides because she will fall down with whichever side falls.”
            Exactly, she’s in a no-win situation with both these guys, and she didn’t write the big holes in their souls that only she can fill, the writers did. They gave her that power over them and she’s exercising it to the best of her ability. She never asked for that power nor manipulated her way into having it.

          13. She hasn’t manipulated her way into being the “savior” but she does relish that role. The power she gets from being the “go to” for these two men is her drug.

        2. Gah, we disagree so much on Wendy. Maybe I am looking at her with rose-colored glasses, maybe my judgment is clouded by her kick ass sense of style. It absolutely could be.

          I don’t see what she has to gain by any of it. Yes, she likes the money. And she seems to like the dom role with her husband. Other than that, how can we really say what she wants? Of course, she protects herself, who doesn’t? No one said she was altruistic. Not one person on this show is (nor in life, come to think of it) And yes, Chuck coming to her with the judge stuff, and the note the writing made of the decision affecting the family…that got Wendy’s attention, because she’s a mother. Chuck losing the case means exposing his part in manipulating the play, thereby affecting their family. Breaking her confidentiality agreement with Axe would only come into play if Chuck outed her for doing so, which I can’t envision him doing. Chuck’s plan was already on track, she neither helped nor hurt him by telling him to get out when she saw Axe pulling out. Her shorting the play was a fuck you to Chuck, and he seems fine with it so who are we to judge. Chuck and Wendy were partners in the crime, they made peace with that, it seems. She knows she’s culpable if Axe is found guilty, because she took advantage of the short too. She knows where she stands. She’s actually in a lose-lose position, isn’t she? Her husband loses = her family loses. Axe loses = she goes to jail too maybe or at least gets a hefty fine etc. If her ability to balance that lose-lose dynamic isn’t enough to warrant some sympathy for her, I don’t know what else to say.

          What exactly is to her benefit in any of this? Unless you think she really cares about the Maserati? In that case, I don’t know what to say either.

          Yes, Axe going to jail would destroy his trading career, it would not destroy the man he is, which he doesn’t even realize (and Wendy does) may be more than his work.

          1. You think she has a kick ass sense of style? I’ve always thought her outfits were boring. Very little color, and they give her a lot of tight fitting clothing, which is not flattering to her.

            My point was exactly what you said : she protects herself. You had asked what was it she wanted, and self-protection is it. And she is in a lose-lose situation that she put herself in, nobody else. So, if we don’t feel sympathy for Axe or Chuck, who put themselves in bad situations, why should she get a pass? She likes the money, but she cares about being “the fixer” – a god complex.

            Destroying his trading career would certainly destroy him. It’s what he has based his own self-image on. Could he be shown that he is more than that? Yes, but it would take work, that I don’t know if he’d be willing to do. At the end of S2 at the 9/11 memorial, he wanted to change and make things right. Well, as we see, he’s right back to his usual tricks. Axe will never see in the mirror the man others see. He’s too wrapped up in what he thinks he should be.

          2. About the God complex…a while back on another post, maybe even back in 2016, someone commented about the Id, Ego and Superego. That Wendy is the mediator (ego) between her id (Bobby, instinctual, aggressive drives) and her superego (Chuck, moral conscience).

            “if we don’t feel sympathy for Axe or Chuck, who put themselves in bad situations, why should she [Wendy] get a pass?” This is where you and I agree. Same rules for all apply. Others have said in the past that they don’t feel sorry for Lara because Lara knew exactly the type of man she married. No love for Lara, all love for Wendy. Wendy knows exactly what she is getting into with both these Titans as well. Although, it appears some are starting to come around to Lara…a little bit.

          3. Dude, hold on to that Ego, Superego, Id thing. That’s a post in the making. I vaguely recall such a comment but I can’t place the context. Definitely something work exploring more.

          4. Color me boring as hell, then. LOL

            I don’t remember ever saying that I don’t feel sympathy for Chuck or Axe. I feel for all the characters. (I usually don’t watch shows where I hate the principals or feel nothing for them…I abandoned Mad Men for this very reason) No one is giving anyone a pass.

            Yes, she loves her job.

            Yes, it would take work for Axe to see anything more in himself than being a trader. Frankly, someone like Damian getting to show Axe doing that kind of work? Well, that’s what the art of drama, in general, and TV specifically was invented for, IMO.

          5. I think we’ll continue this on Friday evening, and I’m starting to write up my post, so I hope that will give more insights. If not, we’ll talk over a mutton chop!

          6. And we can tweet a picture celebrating our friendship over mutton chops with a nod to Billions! 🙂

    3. My two cents: It seems to me she has to be in both camps. Because she has ties to both sides and she can go to jail because of what she did – the Ice Juice short! Stakes are very high not only for Chuck and Axe, but also for Wendy herself.

      On one side, Chuck may get into trouble because of the short Wendy did, because we know Chuck more or less had everything under control except for Wendy’s short, and she is most probably feeling responsible about that. She does not want to ruin her husband’s professional and political future. They had a conversation about this before Chuck went and made a deal with Dake about the latter hiding the short from public eyes (and especially Bryan) in return for a favor that would be named later. They are doing everything to avoid that. On the other side, Wendy knows Axe should know that she shorted the stock and that she may look like Axe’s accomplice in Ice Juice. And so it could be risky for Wendy if Axe did not kick ass in the court, either. So I think she needs to try and pull the strings to the best of her ability and have things go in their favor. Delicate business 🙂

    4. Connie – if I understand your question correctly, you are asking how Wendy cannot be seen as betraying her marriage vows way before her current difficulties. I don’t think she can and that is when I choose to take the show on its own terms. It’s so because they say it is.

  2. I enjoyed your post Jania. As a neophyte to discussing Billions your analysis is quite useful to me. Thank you so much!
    Re: Wendy, to make a reference of my own, it’s like the Carville-Matalan marriage. How does THAT work? I have to accept the show on its own terms.
    I’m not certain Bobby regards Taylor as his partner. She is indisputably key in this situation. He undoubtedly respects her but I feel a conflict brewing in their relationship. That should be fun!
    As for Lara, this rings true with me. When she realized that she was not really in this together with her husband, it broke her heart. It’s more than the one lie. She must rethink her life. Will she be able to accept what he can realistically offer? I hope so. It’s not nothing. Dreams are hard to recognize as such, then to accept. Reality can be a bitch but at least it’s real!

  3. Love the reap – gave me much to think about – I do have one bone of contention regarding Mark Cuban. While I like Cuban as a sports owner – I rooted for the Mavs when they beat the Heat to win the title the one year they made it – his acting is just really not there. When his giving his lines, his eyes betray what he is doing – it looks and sounds like he is delivering lines as opposing to embracing the role (even though he is playing himself). Contrast that to the skill of people like Lewis and AuCoin. They have scenes there where they express emotions merely with facial expressions, without saying a word. When Dollar Bill looks down on Mafee or Kim, or Axe shows his contempt for Spyros and his faux sophistication, we can clearly see what is going on in their heads even though they haven’t uttered a word. And they do it effortlessly – and it just isn’t that easy to do that. When you see Cuban deliver his lines, you can see the difference. Just as Lewis pretends to be a billionaire when he is in fact an actor, Cuban is pretending to be an actor when is, in fact, a billionaire.

    1. Of course, Cuban is no actor. My comment was a bit tongue in cheek. He does focus directly on Bobby when he’s talking to him, and you believe what he’s saying. So, in the sense of focus and getting us to believe the words, he’s ahead of a lot of folks who do call themselves actors. But, of course, no where near the holy trinity here: Damian, Paul, and Maggie. Not even close.

    2. I completely agree with you, Paul, about Mark Cuban’s acting skills! That said, being an actor pretending to be a billionaire should be easier than being a billionaire pretending to be an actor 🙂

  4. I love your post especially the focus you have on the two women in Axe’s Life and his Avatar 🙂

    The way you describe Wendy working Chuck and Axe in quite different ways is so spot on. She is quite aggressive with Chuck, isn’t she, when she sends him on his way to talk to Dake about her short, as well as when she sends him on his way to talk to Judge Funt and convince him to recuse himself. Wendy has very high stakes this season, she may go to jail for God’s sake for accomplice, and she is doing her best to hold the reins! I wonder if she knows deep down Axe will not listen to her and go trade somehow. I believe she does. She knows him like the back of her hand. I LOVE WENDY!

    I completely agree about Lara and her speech. I thought it was partly her own feelings and partly her handling of her fake friend Lily. When she tells her she’d better keep her name despite all the insult she gets from her husband (he only comes homes three weekends in an entire year) does she mean Lily cannot do what she is doing right now so she’d better suck it up? I have to say as much as she rubbed me the wrong way for a long while, Lara is growing on me. It seems, like it was soul-searching with Wendy last season, it is soul-searching for Lara this season. It must be very hard for her to see that she is just an extension of her husband, and even though money is there, many other perks disappear with Bobby disappearing from her life.

    Finally, It has not taken Taylor long to start bending, has it? They are now moving the money into the funds Axe hand-picks and if this is somehow leaked, they are a partner-in-crime, and it is the end of Axe Capital. They are putting the careers of a lot of people on the line along with their own doing this. I understand Axe may be a trade addict. And you are absolutely right asking in the post what it even means to be truly free. No one is. No one should be. There are rules everyone needs to obey and face the consequences when they do not. Axe will now make a lot of money out of the trades which he does not have any right to do. I agree with Damian who has recently said in an interview that Axe is the most criminal character he has ever played 🙂 Axe is a real outlaw.

    I also love it that both of us point out the fact that Axe and Chuck have so much in common in our opening paragraphs 😀 They do!

    1. Taylor bending their sense of right and wrong was a point I still need further clarification on, I think. Bobby said to Wendy he could have Taylor sideline some of the investing away from the main fund and that would be legal, right? Maybe he’s just outlawed from touching the main fund? Otherwise the ease with which Taylor slipped into that opportunity begs further exploration, Afterall they chewed out the guy who came in with a good idea for telling them to tell Axe it came from him. They said that would be wrong, right? Because Axe is not supposed to know anything about the main fund. Maybe the 2 billion is partitioned away so as to not affect any of their investors. What happens to it is not charged to anyone, thus it’s a free sandbox for Axe to play in as Lady Trader said. Looking forward to her explaining this to us!

      1. I am looking forward to seeing Lady Trader’s take on this, but what I know is that Axe gave up his license to trade and that is the condition under which the government gave him his $11 billion back.

        He told Wags, not Wendy, that Taylor can move the money to outside funds (Victor, Carly, etc) as if these outside funds would invest the funds for Axe Capital which would be legal. And Wags told him not to do it because one email or one recorded phone call will be the end of everything.Taylor knows what will happen is that they will put the money in the funds Axe wants them in, and then he will direct the trades through the private channels he has. And they are going forward with it. So Taylor is effectively helping Axe to trade – which is illegal. He is not allowed to trade. But Axe being Axe will not let anyone cut his “ability to see” 😀

        Taylor was pissed off with Rudy because he was implying Taylor was talking to Axe about trades, and and that is illegal. But what Taylor will do now is to put the money into outside funds, let Axe invest however he likes, and moreover benefit from his moves when necessary – which make them partners in crime. It is genius, absolutely, but it is illegal.

        1. In that case, I would love to hear Taylor make “moral” sense of this decision. I see this: They know what he will do, and they are helping to facilitate it. But, I think it’s illegal only IF there is an errant phone call or email. It was a warning from Wags, dangerous but not impossible. Sure, we know that Axe will be leading those other guys through some back channel, but Taylor doesn’t have to be a party to that. As far as anyone can see, Taylor doesn’t have to “see” Axe’s involvement. As long as Axe remains invisible, it’s legal. Heck, an invisibity cloak affords all sorts of possibilities for all sorts of crime, doesn’t it.

          Whatever the case, what a great loophole for the story to jump thru! Gotta say some of the plot developments in this episode exceeded my expectations of what this show would do this season.

          1. Agreed re: the plot developments in this episode. IMO the second episode was better than the first.

          2. That is correct. What I am saying is that they knowingly help him. But yes moving the money to outside funds is perfectly legal. They may pretend they did not know that Axe would trade through his private channels in case something about Axe trading leaks. And, you are absolutely right, what a great loophole for the story to jump. It’s genius!

  5. My favorite line ever: “As if she’d not only survived a car bomb or three during her marriage to Axe and before, but that she knew how to crawl under the chassis on a moment’s notice, white jeans be damned, and defuse one too.”

    This will be an interesting dichotomy when Axe POSSIBLY puts himself in front of Wendy –> “putting himself in front of her [Lara] to defend her against something, or take a blow for her? No, not seeing him ever doing that, even if she needed it.”

    Can I just say Stephen Kunken is rocking the acting this season?

    And I agree with Paul, I didn’t believe Cuban’s acting this season as much as I did last season in “The Oath.”

    In closing,
    One fish
    Two fish
    Red fish Blue fish
    Black fish
    Blue fish
    Old fish
    New fish.
    This one has a little star.
    This one has a little car.
    Say! What a lot
    Of fish there are.
    Yes. Some are red. And some are blue.
    Some are old. And some are new.
    Some are sad. And some are glad.
    And some are very, very bad.
    Why are they Sad and glad and bad?
    I do not know. Go ask your dad.


    1. Look at you quoting old Theodor Geisel 😀
      Brilliant thing to contemplate, if Bobby would ever step in front of Wendy to take a bullet meant for her. Man, I’d love to see that play out. Can’t even tell you how much I’d love to see that.

    1. I would and DID 🙂 I did not “discover” Damian Lewis until Billions. I now know I saw him in Dreamcatcher and An Unfinished Life without knowing who he was until after Billions.

    2. Probably would for Maggie Siff (though someone woulda had to tell me to, since I wasn’t familiar with her work before this). But the moral balance for sure would be more black and white without Damian graying it all up like he is apt to do everywhere he goes.:)
      The boys at Reddit asked a good question: “Tell the truth, which team are you REALLY on?” I didn’t contribute to that thread, but seriously I think I’m firmly in TeamWendy, and could never be as completely in either TeamChuck or TeamAxe.

    3. I know I would because it’s about what I do, and I can relate to it on a level only people in the business can.

    4. That is a very good question. I will give an honest and long answer so please bear with me 🙂

      Because my time is limited, I usually choose to watch shows that have already got nods at the Emmy awards or when they get highly recommended to me by my friends. I saw The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Homeland exactly in this way and they are probably the shows I would rank as my all-time top five TV shows with Mad Men being the very top one. There is nothing like it. But you already know that 🙂

      Paul Giamatti would be a BIG attraction for me because I ADORE him. And if I had read somewhere that the show producers’ most favorite show is Mad Men then I would definitely give it a chance. In fact, I would like to – at some point – write a post about the parallels in the two shows. They are very different but also quite similar in ways that fascinate me.

      And even if I had not started watching earlier, I would definitely watch after Trump became the president because of the subject matter. It is a great show demonstrating how broken the system is and leaving it to us to judge.

      That said, if it was not for Damian I would not watch it like I am watching now – thinking about every word spoken on it and trying to learn every legal and financial aspect of it. How lucky I am that Billions has turned out to be my dream show. It has Damian, in has New York, and it has game theory. Damian + New York + Game Theory = a big chunk of my life! 🙂

      1. I started watching because of Costabile. I stayed because of the excellent writing. I also have a few thoughts on Wendy et al but Damianista currently has them under lock and key. 🙂

        1. They are all in the safe – imagine something like the one Axe had in his former office at Axe Capital! This is a great tease for Paul’s upcoming analysis next week. Yes, we will have a new blogger giving his XY perspective starting next Thursday! 🙂 Stay tuned!

          1. Twitter. I saw where Damianista was commenting on a lot of the same tweets to the same Billions people that I was, so I DMed her asking if there was a blog out there where people discussed Billions, since my Billions fix wasn’t being satisfied. Lo, and behold….

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