It is no secret I am fascinated by Bobby Axelrod’s backstory in Billions, in particular his family background. And the few glimpses we had into the life of young Bobby in Season 1 tempted me to think hard and deep about this man, who grew up in a broken home, and kick off the series “Bobby Axelrod: The Boy Whose Dad Never Came Back.” This series takes a close look at Bobby Axelrod’s human side mostly as a husband, a father, and a son. You can see the first three installments here, here, and here.
Bobby Axelrod is not someone I would hang out with in real life. He terrifies me exactly like he terrifies the actor who brings him to life on screen. Yet, I have come to sympathize with his story and loved some of his qualities over the first two seasons: He grew up in Yonkers in a working class family. His dad left home when Bobby was 12. Bobby had to work as a paper boy and a golf caddy to make pocket money, played cards in friends’ basements and discovered betting at the racetrack. While he is now a self-made billionaire, Bobby did not forget where he came from. He is loyal to his past, his old friends, and Bruno, the only father figure in his life.
And, above all, he is happily married to Lara, a tough cookie from a similar background and an equal partner in the marriage, and he is a good father who spends quality time with his kids from coaching basketball to reading Harry Potter at bedtime. So Bobby Axelrod, as a family man, is everything his father was not to him and his mother.
However, by the end of Season 2, Bobby has not only broken the law but also broken Bruno’s heart by fucking Sandicot, Lara’s heart by lying to her twice, and mine, too, by doing all of the above. So this new post is a reflection of my personal disappointment in the man I have come to like.
While we do not know what words were spoken between husband and wife when Bobby arrived home after making bail in Season 2 Finale Ball in Hand, it is not surprising to find Axelrods separated at the beginning of Season 3. What is surprising is how easily Bobby seems to accept his separation from the woman to whom he decided to marry only after one date and has been loyal for more than a decade!
We now find him in an all-glass $48M penthouse kicking off his city life including blonde 20-something professionals visiting him! I mean, seriously?!?! How come this man who was shitless about losing his family when Lara left home with the kids in Season 2 Episode 10 With or Without You can embrace single life with light speed?
Wendy sort of answers my question in Season 3 Episode 1 Tie Goes to the Runner when Bobby tells him he would not stay in Westport under the circumstances:
“Guys like you head to the city when their marriages fall apart for the same reasons birds fly south instead of freezing their asses off. It’s in the genetic code.”
Or as my husband loves to remind me: Bobby Axelrod is just another man 🙂
So Bobby puts the last decade behind to take the fucking opportunities he missed as a married man! Who else remembers Bobby citing the “prostitute yacht” the Russians had five hundred yards behind the “family yacht” as an opportunity he missed when he left a pathetic message on Lara’s phone in Season 2 Episode 10 With or Without You? Oh well… Still, knowing how hard he tried to bring Wendy back to Axe Capital in Season 2, I cannot comprehend that Bobby has not lifted a finger to pursue Lara! Oh, and the nerve he has when he tells Lara he pictured her running around together with Birchie… Get a grip, man!
Here is a heartfelt confession: While I have been pretty good at guessing intricate story lines in Billions, I have been wrong about the Axelrod separation. My argument that this could be a show the two of them cooked together for strategic reasons is totally off and I know why. Exactly like a trader, I failed when I let my emotions speak for me. Since my strongest attachment to Bobby has been about him being a family man I did not want to believe he would find his way to bodily pleasures with women other than Lara so quickly. But yeah I admit neither the young woman who showed up at the apartment in the season premiere or any of the women at the party Wags throws for Axe after his case is dismissed at the court are yoga instructors! 😀 Is it very obvious I do not like the single Axe?
On the contrary, Lara, who constantly rubbed me the wrong way from her “Fuck Sandicot!” to her “Fuck Bruno!” in Season 2, has grown on me in Season 3. Lara is brave enough not to stick to a marriage in which she is not treated the way she deserves while she knows that divorce means the end of her glorious social life. I believe she is as honest as she is snarky when she advises her fake friend Lily to stay with her cheating husband because, otherwise, Page Six will never pay attention to her Halloween costume ever again 😀
And while she knows Bobby’s impulsive reactions well, Lara has the balls to speak her mind especially when it comes to Bobby neglecting the kids. I completely agree with her that boys arriving at their Little League game in a chopper is mortifying and that they do not know to be embarrassed is even worse. I know some viewers find Lara considering a move to California with the boys if Bobby takes the plea and goes to prison extreme. But I think this is not a strategic threat but a sincere protest because Lara knows the man she married would have fought the law to stay out of prison and be close to his sons as they grow up. She cannot recognize him now. And it is a good thing she does not know why Bobby considered to take the plea!
I also applaud Lara for not getting sloppy when Axe kindly asks her to stay the night after Lara helps him with the comps. This is not the way to repair a broken marriage. Besides, Lara does not want the kids to have false hopes about mom and dad. Way to go, girlfriend!
Now, given that trading is as essential as air for Bobby, I understand to a certain extent why he is focused on digging himself out of his own grave the first half of the season. But how about the second half? The moment you think, since Bobby is now back to Axe Capital, he may give more priority to his family… BOOM! Bobby is out there to take revenge from Lara. What the fuck?
We talked about how his dad’s walking out on his family when Bobby was a kid might account for the “possessiveness” we witness in Bobby’s closest relationships. The kind of revenge Bobby takes from Todd Krakow in Season 2 Episode 2 Dead Cat Bounce for trying to “poach” Wendy attests to, in my humble opinion, some pathological level of possessiveness. So does the aggressiveness in the messages he leaves on Lara’s phone when she leaves home with the boys in Season 2 Episode 10 With or Without You.
No one can walk out on Bobby Axelrod.
It is crystal clear Bobby has taken Lara’s words about a fresh start in California at face value and very very personal. He is now charging Lara 2/20 for investing her money at Axe Capital and being a true asshole for asking whether Birchie did not read their agreement.
“You threatened to take my kids across the country while I rotted in jail I was trying to look out for them. This is something we don’t come back from.”
His final offer is 1. 5/ 15 along with a 7-year lock up both for her money and the kids! Ha! And the moment Lara agrees to 1/10 and the rest, the agreement is in front of her to sign!
Is this the point of no return for Axe and Lara? The gap between them feels so deep that we may need a miracle to bring them back together. And I see that miracle in the Axelrod boys.
Bobby Axelrod is an oblivious dad at best in Season 3. He thinks the boys should be fine since his new apartment is stocked with video games and snacks. He cancels on his children when he has to meet the new Halls or when he feels like getting into a pissing contest with Taylor about who can stay longer in the office.
I felt for Bobby when he told Chuck in Season 2 Episode 8 The Kingmaker that he was forced to grow up when his dad walked out when he was 12. However, seeing his parenting in Season 3, I doubt that Bobby has completed the growing up process! Gordie putting his fork and knife down when he hears dad is not coming to dinner speaks volumes. Does Axe really think buying all the desserts at the restaurant would cut it for his kids? I am not sure if he deserves to spend time with his children and, moreover, if his kids are dying to spend time with him. I think Bobby’s claim to Frotty Anisman, as he turns down his business offer, that he has two boys at home who believe their dad could fly may just be a sweet memory now.
His boys cannot be more indifferent to Bobby’s arrival when he shows up, late, for Gordie’s birthday party. Lara’s clan is in full attendance. Lara is cold, her chef sister Lou is snarky, and her brothers are playing video games with the boys. And there is a surprise waiting in the kitchen.
We missed you, Bruno!
This kind man, whose heart Axe broke along with mine in Season 2 Episode 7 Victory Lap, is not only ready to do everything for Axelrod boys – a Margherita, a Clam with Bacon, and a Pepperoni coming up – but also to clink glasses with the kid:
“To your beautiful family.”
This is not just a toast, Bobby. It is fatherly advice. Family. Remember?
Bobby’s parental instincts seem to come alive in Season 3 only when he perceives a threat! Like when Lara tells him she and the boys may move to California. Or when Andolov brings up his kids in a conversation in Season 3 Episode 9 Icebreaker probably to test how tough Bobby is.
Andolov: “Why do you say that? Because you invite me over to the house where your children sleep? And this makes you tall and touch and proud? I’m a fucking businessman. And a real sweetheart. I’m Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Bobby:” Yeah. So am I. And if you mention my kids like that again you’ll find out just how fucking friendly.”
Should I go clap Bobby for being a super hero dad here? Hmmm… No. If he really cares about his kids, why does he even consider working with a man who is known to be violent?
To be honest with you, I thought Bobby would come back to his senses after Bruno’s toast to his beautiful family. Nope. But we know Billions never wastes a word: So (a) Gordie talking to Wendy about mom and dad’s separation, and (b) Lara admitting to Wendy that her boy is having some issues and that they will get some professional help hint to a possible family drama which could be the much needed wake-up call for Bobby!
Talking about Bruno, when we wrote about our hopes, wishes and fantasies for Season 3, it was my wish that Bobby would make amends to the man who let him have pizza without paying for weeks when he was a young boy. As much as I am happy to see Bobby and Bruno clinking glasses, I am sad we have not heard a true apology from Bobby. But maybe this is the best his kind can do.
Bobby: “Oh, fuck I never meant for business to get between us.”
Bruno: “Eh I should’ve never brought it to you in the first place. Friendship should stay clean.”
And while my wish about Bruno did not come true, a fantasy I did not even dare imagine did!
My jaw drops! The woman I always assumed dead is actually alive and well!
Bobby’s mom got only ONE mention until Season 3 Episode 10 Redemption and that was back in Season 1 Episode 5 The Good Life when Bobby pretended to quit the business and made breakfast for his kids at home.
And now that we know she is alive, the fact that we never saw Mrs. Axelrod at any family gathering or a birthday party implies that mother and son do not have a very close relationship. In fact, you feel the distance between them, a degree of awkwardness, at the door as well as during their conversation in the basement. There is more to this relationship than meets the eye, and an exchange between Bobby and Andolov early in the episode gives a hint.
Andalov: “She (Maria Sharapova) says you have a real forehand.”
Axe: “Do a thing, do it well.”
Andolov: “Your mother teach you that?”
Axe: “The opposite, maybe.”
While we do not know what exactly Bobby’s issue is with his mother, one regret Mrs. Axelrod seems to have about her parenting is that she failed in teaching Bobby not to drop the F-word anywhere anytime. And I agree with her that while Bobby might still talk the way he does now, he would have had that voice in the back of his head that would tell him not to. That same voice would also probably have told him not to check those Oui magazines in front of his mother!
Well, Bobby Axelrod has proven time and again self-control is not his strong suit. A good example comes from Season 3 Episode 2 The Wrong Maria Gonzalez where Bobby calls Wendy in the middle of the night to whine about giving up his license to trade and gets this:
“Realize that limits, constraints, they can be useful… Letting someone else run Axe Capital gives you a chance to realign who you are.
To get good at letting go.
Which is different kind of freedom.
A more powerful kind of freedom.”
We all know what Bobby does immediately after he hangs up, don’t we? Bobby Axelrod has worked his entire life to put himself in a position where there is nothing he could not do. He will trade even when he is banned, he will lie to his family when it benefits him, he will sell a colleague out when he sees an opportunity, and he will drop the F-word, well, just because he feels like it. Bobby Axelrod does not have THAT VOICE in the back of his head and I admit it works perfectly for great drama! Otherwise, Bobby could have been at a better place both in his personal and professional life.
We also learn from Mrs. Axelrod that his father, even before he left the family, was Bobby’s first great enemy. And while it is not hard to imagine Mr. Axelrod was not a great dad, could it be that Bobby creates enemies to motivate himself? Because when you think about it, he absolutely forced Taylor to go against him! And now that they walked out on him taking both Mafee and Andolov’s money with them, we know things will get to a NEW level of crazy that we cannot even imagine! I just hope Bobby finds a bit of time to reflect on his life and goes back to his old family man self. And until then, at least for me, Bobby Axelrod is NOT a Wilbury! 😀