What are the odds that the two most anticipated events of the year for yours truly fall on the same day? I got up at 5am to run NYC half-Marathon earlier today and I found out later that Showtime kindly released the Billions Season Premiere today which gave me time to watch the episode two times, sit down and write.
My one word review for the Season Premiere: WHOA.
Longer version follows. ENJOY!
Now that palace coup is complete leaving Axe paranoid and Chuck unemployed, what is next? As I love to say Billions loves symmetries! In Season 4 premiere, both Axe and Chuck have to do “diplomacy” which make them think about doing the “mature thing” but they are ultimately convinced by their inner circles to do the opposite! 😀
Having lost his throne to Bryan, Chuck has now opened a private practice but we all know he is looking for an opening to get back to the game! Ira has got word that the SDNY will look into Chuck’s prosecutions for any kind of misconduct with the obvious goal of trashing his legacy. And since everyone is lined up to “hang him from the yardarm” Senior thinks Junior needs to go on the offense and make the others defend. Well, all Junior wants is vengeance, too; but he is cautious for the right reasons. Chuck knows he may run for Epstein’s State AG seat and win. But he also knows the moment he makes a move he will find Jack Foley releasing what he has on him or at least threaten to.
Senior shows no mercy to Junior and gives us a golden Senior moment:
“I would slap your face and tell you to act like a man if I didn’t think it’d turn you on.”
Senior is ready to take care of Foley when the time comes. But Chuck, to be able to go back into the game, needs to build a power base now! And when Wendy seconds Chuck Senior and Ira, Chuck has no option other than becoming a honey bee picking up honey here and dropping it there 😀
Chuck now needs to go out of his way to get a gun permit for Mr. Brogan, a big gun in the city. It is almost impossible to get a gun permit as a private citizen in NYC: only the ex-cops and ex-feds can, well, almost! But Mr. Brogan needs one: he has horses, carries cash to and from the track, and his wife, well, “the kid loves jewelry.” 🙂
So Chuck starts his greatest game like Billy Phelan did, going from one restaurant to another, making one person happy at a time!
Chuck finds the police commissioner Sansome at Barney Greengrass, an Upper West Side staple, who tells him he would not help Chuck to get a gun permit for someone else even if Chuck was the US Attorney. Next stop is E.A.T. where Chuck finds Mr. Eisen who needs a ticket to the Central Synagogue’s Children’s Hannukah Service in return for introducing Chuck to one Ambassador Suarez. Mr. Eisen wants to sit with his daughter but his ex’s brother is the President of the board and does not let him in. Well, Chuck is on it! He finds Donny Deutsch at Michael’s. Donny can provide Hanukkah tickets if Chuck can get him First Tracks Season Pass at Deer Valley. File under “Things I never knew existed before Billions.” Chuck gets this one with a little help from Wendy: The two lunch at The Pool where Birchie is known to have his power lunches and it is Wendy who goes to talk to him for obvious reasons! Guess what? Birchie hurt his knee and his wife prefers the beach to the slopes anyway. So in return for a session with Wendy, Chuck has Birchie’s First Tracks at Deer Valley! So Donny gets his passes and provides the Hannukkah tickets for Mr. Eisen. But there is a small problem: Mr. Eisen can only introduce Chuck to someone who can introduce him to Ambassador Suarez. Lucky for Chuck, the NYC Park-Anywhere pass he’s been offering everyone since early morning works for Nacho, the guy who can introduce him to the ambassador. But the thing is Suarez is not taking meetings because of a family issue. Can Chuck solve it?
Would we ever imagine Axe giving this answer when Chuck asks how much it would take to move a charter school a few blocks away?
“It’d take plenty… But who cares? If it matters to you, I can do it.”
We find out when Chuck and Sean Ayles meet with Suarez at Marea.It turns out Suarez’ stepson who is 20 was involved with a 16 year old and had to register as a sex offender. But now that this charter school is coming to Tribeca, his neighborhood, he needs to move out to be out of the buffer zone. Ha!
The school moves elsewhere and Chuck makes the day’s last stop at Sparks Steakhouse: When Commisioner Sansome first likens Chuck to “turd remnant that won’t flush” Chuck should feel like shit! Ewwwww. But Sansome turns 180 degrees when he hears what Chuck has to say! Chuck heard the conversation at Sansome’s table in the morning that the police commissioner had a pitcher who could not play in the Police Benevolent Little League Playoffs because of his age. Well, thanks to Ambassador Suarez, that kid can now be whatever age he needs to be and can play in the Little League.
Doesn’t it look like a beginning of a beautiful friendship when we see Chuck and Sansome lying on the pavement talking about the day Castellano was killed at the exact place they are now on orders from John Gotti? It is not surprising Chuck feels for Castellano given that he met his own “Gotti” at Sparks:
“Boss one minute, in the gutter the next.”
It is a brand new day at Axe Capital, too, with Axe going around with bodyguards for protection against Andolov. That said some things never change at Axe Capital.
It is Axe’s habit to don a band t-shirt on a “new day”: Think of the day he has got the naming rights for Eads Hall or the day he thought he would buy an NFL team, or the day he was free again. Axe arrives at Axe Capital today in a Motorhead tshirt with the band’s “Ace of Spades” (kudos to Lady Trader for guessing it!) playing in the background.
Sidenote: For those of you wondering if these tshirts are vintage or only vintage-looking, Brian Koppelman was very kind to answer our question on Twitter.
There have been examples of each.
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) February 20, 2019
We know Axe has the capacity to reach high paranoia levels when faced with credible threats: Think of Season 1 Finale where he suspects Axe Capital was bugged. He tears down the company and turns it into Fort Axe with turnstiles, magnetic ID cards and what have you! And the current paranoia levels Axe has reached after Taylor left with Mafee and a big chunk of Axe Capital money including Andolov’s match the levels he reached in Season 1 Finale. He is now having every Axe Capital employee to sign no-competes so Taylor cannot steal someone else from Axe.
Axe also loves to make an example of someone at critical junctures so everyone understands what he is about to talk about is no joke. Think of the drill they had at Axe Capital in Season 1 Episode 2 Naming Rights which ended with Axe firing Victor.
Axe does not like the fact that Bonnie and Rudy are not the “incestuous ice dancers” he expects them to be. Axe asks Bonnie why Alex Ovechkin of the Stanley Cup Winner The Capital scores a lot and answers his own question: Because he has a partner like Nicklas Backstrom. Bonnie’s answer is that while Ovi has the skill to put his shot into the net Rudy does not. And given Rudy has signed his non-compete:
We first think he has fired Rudy because he has been underperforming. But no! Rudy has a picture with Mafee from a Taylor Mason Capital picnic and that is good enough reason for Axe to fire him.
“We now live in a universe split down the middle. You gotta pick sides. If you’re not on mine, you’re gone.”
What I find most interesting here is Wendy, who is often the voice of reason at Axe Capital, seconding Axe, and forcefully, too!
“You get on with it, or get fucked.”
WOW. Knowing that she feels used by Taylor, Wendy will certainly be more involved in business than usual this season. We see her telling Axe she has already bought Taylor’s headhunter so Taylor is not able to interview the best applicants in the pool. And as soon as they learn from the head hunter that Taylor is trying to recruit Mick Danzig, they hire him, too!
At this point I am not buying Axe firing Rudy at its face value. Even if Axe fires Rudy for not being loyal, can’t he use Rudy as some sort of a mole in Taylor’s company? Maybe getting him to approach Mafee as a close friend that Axe fired and extract information over drinks? Well, We know Mafee speaks his mind to people “out of family.”
While he is paranoid about who is on his side and who is not, Axe seems quite comfortable about the Arab State of Qadir’s pledge to Axe Capital. As Wags is headed off to their embassy to talk about the terms of their deal and warns the Kommandant “the competition” will have their top dog there, Axe is sure the Sheik would never sit with someone like Taylor.
Wags loses his cool and gets vulgar during the meeting with Farhad, the Sheikh’s representative, because he tries to dictate their own terms and insists on seeing Axe. And as he is leaving the Embassy Wags sees a “Kate Jackson hot” woman who is nobody other than Taylor!
Well, while Axe admires Taylor compromising their principles to get the job done, he confesses to Wags and Wendy that Taylor is in his mind all the time and they should not be allowed to close the deal with the Sovereign Fund. Wags is hopeful: He has not closed the deal yet, but he is still invited to Farhad’s party and he will now put one condition on the table on behalf of Axe:
The crazy party where naked women dance to Gillette’s “Short Dick Man” and alcohol flowing everywhere is where Wags feels right at home until it is not. When he conveys Axe’s message to Farhad, the latter invites him to the embassy for the Sheikh’s own party followed by a woman who seems to be taking care of Wags turns into Sharon Stone in Total Recall and Wags finding himself in a cell! I applaud Billions Writers for staying ahead of the news and writing this before the Embassy kidnapping and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Axe is trying hard to reach Wags who is nowhere to be found. Axe and Hall end up going to the Embassy where Farhad tells them all the guests left the embassy by 4:3o am. And, oh no, they cannot search the Embassy thanks to diplomatic immunity. Fuck!
Hall finds out the security cameras on the street do not have Wags leaving the Embassy and also a scandal that would give them leverage against the Sheikh. We all know how loyal Wags has been to Axe but the boss reciprocates and he is ready to say “Fuck Axe Capital!” and call the State Department if they cannot locate his right hand man by the end of the day.
The scandal helps Axe to get in the room with the final authority who turns out to be not the Sheikh but Grigor Andolov!
It turns out that word has got to Andolov the moment Wags mentioned Taylor’s name to Farhad. Andolov and the Royal Family have a symbiotic relationship. And the bottomline is while Andolov is setting Wags free as a favor to Axe now, Axe needs to get a grip and stop fucking with Taylor. Besides, even at times he can forget about anything else, he should not forget about Andolov.
It seems Axe will go around with bodyguards for at least a while more! And he now knows he is not free at all to crush Taylor. Isn’t it quite fascinating that the man who offered to take care of Axe’s “pest control” problem when Taylor fucked him over may now be Taylor’s guardian angel?
Back in Wags’ room at The Pierre, Axe suggests given that Andolov is willing to do things he is not and that he has eyes everywhere, maybe he should just run Axe Capital and not mess with Taylor. Do the “mature” thing.” Well, Wags is to Axe what Wendy is to Chuck. Axe is not one to quit. He is an American oligarch. Taylor must pay.
Axe comes up with the solution as the latter calls Andolov mercurial. Yes he is, but it is them making him mercurial! They just need to move in a way to make Andolov withdraw his money from Taylor Mason Capital. If Taylor loses, Andolov comes after Axe. But if they can make sure that Taylor does not lose, but does not win, either; they can make sure Andolov get out of the way.
“We do not put out this fire by pouring water on it. But by sucking oxygen out of the room. Completely.”
It is official. Bobby Axelrod is a GENIUS. So are Billions Writers!
Well, how are the coup plotters doing?
One of the first things Taylor does is to hire a COO to help run the newly formed company and protect it against Axe’s aggression. And Sara Hammond wants them to play the game like they should! Sara has a background in the military, she worked at The Naval Academy, and later in Silicon Valley. It looks like she may be Taylor’s Wendy this season, someone who speaks their mind and helps Taylor make decisions when they are hesitant. And am I the only one to feel some romantic vibe between the two?
Thanks to Sara, Taylor dresses up as a sexy young woman, becomes sort of a Daenerys Targaryen, holding a falcon on a terrace with Farhad, keeps their cool, makes a compelling argument about nature and seals the deal! And losing Danzig to Axe Capital helps them to figure out their head hunter is not reliable. Taylor will now hire a counter-intelligence specialist, too. Basically their own Hall! I wonder if the “New Halls” are available.
And while I am hearing Taylor when they say they will not tolerate things they are comfortable doing at Axe Capital, it may not take much time for them to understand that, to be able to keep their place in the world, they may need to bend and compromise! And especially when the urge to protect themselves gets the better of them, they may have the capacity to do things they never thought they ever would. It would be a total delight to see their growth and transformation in the powerful seat they occupy now.
In the meantime, the other coup plotter, Bryan James Flynn Connerty solemnly swears to support and defend the constitution in his new position as the US Attorney of the SDNY. One minute in, Attorney Jeffcoat borrows him for a NY minute to dictate first order of business: “Sloppy inheritances” aka Chuck Rhoades!
I wonder how long it will take Bryan to realize being the US attorney of the SDNY under Jeffcoat is not the place he wants to be. I have two words for him: Jose Lugo. I cannot tell you how badly I want Chuck and Bryan to join forces at some point and take down Jeffcoat!
And what about Kate? We see her sitting with Jeffcoat at the ceremony. While Jeffcoat tells her Bryan has got that position with a worthy kill, he implies that he may expect Kate to kill, too! He certainly knows Kate is a political animal with a lot of ambition. I am telling you, Andolov and Jeffcoat are the two sides of the same coin. They want you to kill for them in different ways.
So how will our characters tackle the problems they face? Well, as Scarlet O’Hara rightly points out, after all tomorrow is another day!