We are thrilled that Billions has been renewed for Season 5! To keep with that Billions state of mind, how about a fun visit to the best of Billions season four? Feel free to play along in the comments section. And for those just joining us, you can catch up on the rest by reading Best of Billions 1 , Best of Billions 2 and Best of Billions 3.
Damianista: Those Billions folks know how to create and deliver a season finale! With its fast pace, brilliant twists and turns, and all moving parts finally falling into place Extreme Sandbox is the craziest Billions ride ever! And it goes into history as the TV episode during which I yell the most at my TV 😀 😀 😀
Gingersnap: Episode 1 ‘Chucky Rhoades’s Greatest Game.’ From Chuck dancing a jig to Al Green to working the wheeling and dealing landscape of New York – he traded favors and moved like a honey bee from one meeting place to another, robbing Peter to pay Paul (plus all The Beatles) trying to secure his nectar, all the while to the backdrop of Fun Lovin’ Criminal’s King of New York and determined as hell to unload that Park-Anywhere permit. And smitten he was to finally find a recipient! Runner-Up: Episode 3 ‘Chickentown’ where Dollar Bill is about to wipe out the poultry community in Arkansas. I tend to gravitate towards the comedy of Billions. #ChickenBill
Lady Trader: It seemed like every week I would say that was my favorite episode, but being a true trader, I’m going to have to go with Overton Window. Axe and Wags had to get on the phones and trade old-school style and put on a clinic for the children!
The Tail that Wags the Dog: Infinite Game – any time I can be surprised by the game theory going on with the four leads I am impressed – add to that the emotional gravitas that Wendy and Taylor go through, add a dose of seldom-seen humanity from Bobby (in this case toward Bruno), and it becomes a classic. Especially when you add in the significance of Krakow’s meeting with Chuck and how that played out at the end of the season.
Damianista: Chuck’s Speech in Episode 4 Overton Window is the single most remarkable scene in the history of Billions in my opinion.
I know many see it as a betrayal to Wendy, but I see it as brave, honest, and necessary. You cannot hold a threat hanging over your head forever especially when what those people hold against you is some consensual, if unusual, sex life. And I seriously hope this scene helps shift the Overton Window in real life.
Paul Giamatti storms the scene giving a compelling performance and the characters’ immediate reactions to Chuck’s revelations are to die for! Long live Billions! And I love the reactions to his revelations as much as I love the speech itself!
Gingersnap: Axe and Wendy making the bed together in episode 12 ‘Extreme Sandbox.’ The tension in the air, the muddled meaning for the audience, screaming at my television….all pure Xanadu.
Lady Trader: It was cold and brutal, but Axe explaining to Rebecca why he backstabber her in Extreme Sandbox was riveting. He laid it all out there, and acknowledged who and what he is – The Terminator.
The Tail that Wags the Dog: Chuck’s public confession in Overton Window. First off, it got the whole S&M thing out in the open so it could be faced head on. Paul Giamatti’s acting throughout this monologue is amazing -he makes it look so easy and yet it isn’t. But maybe the best part is the scan of the faces afterwards – each actor, in their own silence, speak volumes about their own character and how they see Chuck as well – I could watch that over and over and spend hours analyzing what each character is thinking.
Damianista: Rebecca explaining to Axe in Episode 8 Fight Night why she is buying Saler’s, a company that looks like, in Axe’s words “a wheezing elephant ready to stumble to its knees.
“Show young girls that they don’t have to just dream about shopping at some department store. They can buy the whole company.”
Gingersnap: Orrin Bach in episode 6 ‘Maximum Recreational Depth’ when describing how Taylor fucked (that being the operative word) Axe Capital regarding Victor’s satellite firm:
“Spacey-style. Sneaky and from behind.”
Lady Trader: Rebecca Cantu – The Oracle of Truth:
“You snake motherfucker!”
The Tail that Wags the Dog: How can there be any argument here – Wags in Maximum Recreational Depth:
“My vengeance will come like I do. Slow, thunderous, and in your eye.”
Damianista: “King of New York” by Fun Lovin’ Criminals perfectly complements the brilliant sequence in which Chuck goes from one power joint to another and trades favors to secure a gun permit for Mr. Brogan in Episode 1 Chucky Rhoades’ Greatest Game 😀 Besides the song makes me dance like there is no tomorrow.
Gingersnap: U2’s New Year’s Day from episode 10, aptly named the same, ‘New Year’s Day.’
Lady Trader: If Billions uses 100 songs in a season, there’s a good chance at least one is a metal song. I’m a metal chick. So yeah, I’m going with Ace of Spades by Motörhead. Not only did I get the song right in my “Bobby Axelrod – a Man and his Music” post, but damn the lyrics just fit:
You know I’m born to lose, and gambling’s for fools,
But that’s the way I like it baby,
I don’t wanna live forever
The Tail that Wags the Dog: There are always so many to choose from – but I have to go with the opening song to Extreme Sandbox -“Behind Blue Eyes” – first off the song alone is one of the greatest Who songs, and one of the greatest rock and roll songs period – but it fits so perfectly with Bobby right there, with his struggle, both internal and external, and, of course, those perfect blue eyes of his.
Damianista: Chicken Bill! 😀 We all know how loyal Bill has always been to Axe. From “fake fight” to a public apology to Spyros of all people, Bill has always done what he had to do for Axe. But his final solution to the chicken problem in Episode 3 Chickentown?!?! Craziness of the highest order in the name of loyalty.
Bill risking his own health by getting into a quarantine area with thousands of sick chickens, stealing one with bird flu with the goal of making other chickens sick and potentially causing not only a serious food supply problem but also a public health crisis… This is taking loyalty to another level. And it is good to know Axe draws the line there!
Gingersnap: Minion can be a loyal buddy or a mischievous underling. For this category I’m going with the definition of an underling and that would be Todd Krakow. This little twerp is the best underling snark of them all. You just KNOW he’s up to something every second!
Lady Trader: It always has been and probably always will be Wags. Even when he tries to have an intervention for Axe, it’s out of love and loyalty. Who else would have been able to trade old-school with Axe? Only one man. Wags is the man you want in the foxhole with you – always.
The Tail that Wags the Dog: Bonnie – she is the rising star of this show, and I assume next year she will get even more to do, assuming she’s not still starring in Tootsie when it comes time to film Season 5. But she was the dose of life the AxeCap analysts needed – they were becoming too white, male and boring.
Best Axe/Wendy Scene
Damianista: Axe and Wendy in a bedroom in Season 4 Finale Extreme Sandbox!
Billions writers know how to ratchet up the tension, don’t they? I am biting my nails as Axe and Wendy explore what options Wendy has to sleep in Axe’s apartment and I am yelling at the top of my lungs:
“No, no, no, don’t do it!”
I just do love Axe and Wendy the way they are and I hope they stay as true friends and business partners for good. Please and Thank you! 🙂
Gingersnap: Same as Lady Trader, see below.
Lady Trader: I know some people thought it wasn’t genuine, but the scene in New Year’s Day when we finally find out Axe and Wendy’s backstory is my favorite. For a second, I believed Axe was a human, and I finally understood what Wendy meant to him. Defend you to the world, keep you accountable in private – that is a true friend and partner.
The Tail that Wags the Dog: Not so much a scene but a moment – when Bobby comes back form his trip to Fiji early to help Wendy with her defense – the look on Wendy’s face – such pure joy – again a tribute to Maggie Siff’s superior acting.
Best Axe/Chuck Scene
Damianista: Axe and Chuck talking over pizza in Episode 5: A Proper Sendoff
This scene is the perfect depiction of Axe and Chuck: They are two perpetual kids who believe they care about the sequences of their actions! Huh?
Gingersnap: Any scene between ‘Charl and Bub’ is a good one. We can’t get enough of them together!
Lady Trader: It’s their last scene as bezzie mates, and I love it because I knew it was coming, and now all is right in the world! In Extreme Sandbox, Axe makes his final demand to Chuck – not to charge Taylor – and Chuck realizes he was just a tool to Axe. And we all know what happens when Chuck has been wronged! I never wanted there to be a Team ChAxe in the first place, so seeing it dissolve was sweet!
The Tail that Wags the Dog: Overton Window – after Chuck wins the election after revealing his fetish. “She’s gonna beat your ass for it” – great line – great scene – Bobby gets Chuck to get rid of Grigor for him. And the chess game between the two continues.
Best Axe/Taylor Scene
Damianista: Axe and Taylor’s LIVE back and forth on TV in Episode 8 Fight Night
In 2013, the hedge-funder Bill Ackman and investor Carl Icahn had the most heated exchange live on CNBC’s Halftime Report. The two billionaires traded insults and curses (it was mostly Icahn that yelled at Ackman as well as the program anchor Scott Wapner) as traders and financial journalists had a field day in front of their TVs. Sounds familiar? 😀 You can see the real-life billionaire showdown in its entirety here.
Lady Trader: They weren’t on screen as much as I would have liked, but I did love the scene in “Fight Night” when Axe thinks he’s bested Taylor, but all he did was follow the bread crumbs they had left for him! Axe got the fracking bill passed, and lo and behold, Taylor owns the water rights in the area! Axe wants to hate what has happened, but has to respect Taylor’s play. It’s a recurring theme between these two!
Damianista: Bobby Axelrod. Loyalty is everything for the boss. As he tells Mafee in Season 1: “You don’t try to be loyal. You just are. Or you’re not.” Wags has always been loyal to Axe and the “Kommandant” is ready to say “Fuck Axe Capital” in Episode 1 Chucky Rhoades’ Greatest Game when he knows his right hand man is in danger at the Embassy of Qadir. Hats off!
Gingersnap: Ari Spyros. He is always backing Dollar Bill’s corner and trying so hard to fit in with the “in” crowd.
Lady Trader: Mafee gets a lot of grief; many people don’t understand why he is even at TMC. But, Mafee has had Taylor’s back at every turn, from calling out Wendy, to dressing down Math Man. Doesn’t everyone need a Mafee in their lives?
The Tail That Wags The Dog: I know a lot of my esteemed colleagues here are likely to say Mafee, but I will not. In fact, I was annoyed by Mafee all season -I’m hoping being back at AxeCap next year makes him likable to me again. No, my nominee for Best Friend is Ben Kim. Is there a nicer, more genuine person in that entire show than Ben? Even to Mafee, who betrayed them, he always greeted him with a welcoming smile (much to Dollar Bill’s chagrin). Everyone needs a friend like Ben Kim.
Most Appetizing Food
Damianista: Wendy is right that the pizza at Una Pizza Napoletana is too good an opportunity to miss.
I have seen it with my own eyes, folks: Chef Anthony Mangieri, a true perfectionist, prepares every single pizza himself! No wonder Pete Wells, the restaurant critic at the New York Times, calls it “a stand-up example of sit-down pizza.”
Gingersnap: Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream Parlor, from episode 6 ‘Maximum Recreational Depth.’
Lady Trader: I usually avoid the San Gennaro Feast in Little Italy because it’s too damn crowded. However, growing up in Brooklyn, there was a Feast at least once a week during the summer (my favorite was the 18th Ave. Feast in Brooklyn, AKA the Feast of Santa Rosalia) somewhere, and a sausage and pepper hero was the go-to meal. I can still smell the peppers and onions on the grill, so of course I’m going to have to go with the food from Arousal Template.
The Tail that Wags the Dog: Maybe not the most appetizing, but has anyone shown such vigor with their food as Bryan does with his sandwiches?
Damianista: Chuck’s long game is everything! Oh My God he has been playing Bryan since Episode 6! Thumbs up! WAY UP!
Gingersnap: Baby Willow. Charles Senior *face palm*
Lady Trader: Taylor going to Rebecca to make a deal. I didn’t think Taylor would ever give up in their war against Axe.
The Tail that Wags the Dog: Bobby burning the son of his old partner in “A Proper Sendoff” – never saw that coming. And it was so thorough, so vicious, and so Bobby.
Best Character Development
Damianista: Wendy. The woman we have always known as strong, confident and dominant struggled this season both in her personal and professional life. As a private person, she felt very much exposed when Chuck made their unusual sex life public. As an Axe Cap soldier, she violated doctor – patient confidentiality to help Axe screw Taylor. Slowly but surely Wendy came to a point where she could not recognize her life, her marriage, and herself. And she found her way back in a very ballsy and very Wendy move: Getting the truth out of her chest and facing the consequences. She is the best.
As I was very lucky to tell Maggie Siff, after seeing her brilliant performance on stage in The Curse of the Starving Class, I am looking forward to seeing Wendy keep kicking ass in Billions!
Lady Trader: I’ve never been a Wendy fan, but this season, Wendy became human. Her character showed a bit of weakness, and uncertainly, which I think made her more relatable and more believable. Nobody is always the confident, dominant person Wendy had been portrayed to be. Seeing her on this journey was a highlight of the season for me.
The Tail that Wags the Dog: Wendy – she went through so much this entire season. And Maggie Siff showed herself to be an actor on par with the brilliant and well-acclaimed Lewis and Giamatti. Hers was a theatrical tour-de-force this year, and she better be rewarded with an Emmy nomination for it.
Best Snarky Moment
Damianista: Axe welcoming Taylor back to Axe Capital in Season Finale!
Gingersnap: Charles Senior to Jock Jeffcoat in episode 11 ‘Lamster’
“Is it dick? I’m betting dick.”
Runner-Up: Charles Senior to his sonny boy Chuck in episode 1 ‘Chucky Rhoades’s Greatest Game’
“I would slap your face and tell ya to act like a man if I didn’t think it’d turn ya on.”
Lady Trader: Taylor calling Axe a “dinosaur”. Taylor knew that hitting Axe where it really hurts (his vanity) would cause fireworks. The student knows the master!
Damianista: As the shit train catches Jeffcoat and his wife over prayer at lunch table in Episode 9 American Champion, the AG first thinks his wife has farted! 😀 I am still giggling!
Runner Up: Ben Kim’s face as Wags is taking him to the meditation room for a cuddling session in Episode 10 New Year’s Day. Ben Kim looks like he is going to his own execution 😀
Gingersnap: I have two.
#1 – Dollar Bill in episode 3 ‘Chickentown.’ I still laugh at the chicken *bwaking* in the bowling bag, or that Dollar Bill even had that damn chicken in a bowling bag! “What’s in the bag, Bill?” and….
#2 – Episode 7 ‘Infinite Game.’ The Loo Boos Jock Jeffcoat and Todd Krakow sharing a moment at the latrine as they aim toward target flies. The juxtaposition of the two during their territorial toilet talk was terrific.
Lady Trader: Spyros in the white doctor’s coat in “New Year’s Day”. Ari has been the much needed comic relief of the season, and I’m here for it!
The Tail that Wags the Dog: Chickentown – the final scene of that arc when Bobby and Wags take Dollar Bill away from the crime scene – straight out of Chinatown – brilliance. After that, I would have to go with Spyros in the doctor’s outfit with stethoscope for the mock panel with Wendy – he is such an uncomfortable character that I almost feel for him – another brilliant acting performance, in this case by Stephen Kunken. (I know it may not seem like it because the character is so annoying, but it is not easy creating a character like that and selling it like Kunken does.)
“Futbol in this office, please.” — Adam De Giulio in Episode 6 Maximum Recreational Depth
Thank you, Judge De Giulio! Well, the judge cheers for Inter Milan and I cheer for Liverpool, but we certainly speak the same language. As a huge futbol fan, I am as offended as De Giulio when people call the best sport in the world soccer. It is called futbol, people, FUTBOL! And as he revealed at the recent Showtime Emmy FYC panel, this is Damian’s favorite reference in Season 4 as well. Anyone surprised about it? 🙂
Gingersnap: Chinatown from episode 3 ‘Chickentown.’ Chinatown has been referenced in Billions a couple of times but this time it was a re-enactment. The entire scene was spot on, from Dollar Bill’s longing last look down to the dramatic operatic music of Luciano Pavarotti’s La Fleur Que Tu M’avais Jetee playing over the chicken clucking. I was cry laughing!
“Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.”
“Forget it Bill, it’s Chickentown.”
Lady Trader: I am going to admit that I don’t get at least 95% of the references each episode. That is why I rely on Damianista’s recaps! However when you say your non-competes are as tight as “AC/DC in ’78” you’re basically talking directly at me!
Damianista: Axe is born to rock the Axe Capital dress code. I really like his casual high-end wardrobe with cashmere hoodies, quality jeans and trendy sneakers. But Axe in a peacoat is entirely something else! A classic is a classic for a reason, I guess.
Gingersnap: Bobby Axelrod. From his array of coats and jackets this season – the suede one and that peacoat – to the dressed down look of a baseball tee paired with dark jeans. Hot as fuck.
Lady Trader: I love Axe. Everyone knows that. But I have never liked the casual look in the office. If I had my own shop, everyone would be wearing suits, and I would certainly lead by example. What does this have to do with anything? Well once again Wags gets my best dressed award. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have. (My worst dressed would go to Rebecca. I loved her, but damn those high waist jeans were terrible!!)
Damianista: Who knew that a tiny little rubber band could work miracles?
Chuck goes to the men’s bathroom at Senior’s casino to put on his game face in Episode 3 Chickentown. He wears a tight rubber band around his thigh, pulls it off and… yikes! Well, the rubber band ring is all he can afford for a thrill now… and the game is on as he leaves the men’s bathroom whistling Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street.”
Gingersnap: Dollar Bill’s filofax of un-hackable ink from episode 4 ‘Overton Window.’
Lady Trader: I loved the use of the beautiful falcon in Chucky Rhoades Greatest Game. Is there anything Taylor can’t do?
Best New Character
Damianista: Bonnie Barella – technically not a new character but Bonnie came into her own in Season 4.
She is smart. She is strong. She is ballsy. Her performance at Axe Capital is impressive enough for Taylor to try to poach her. Bonnie is a natural leader who single-handedly organizes a collective protest in Episode 9 American Champion at Axe Capital to demand rights to get into The Flagship Fund. And guess what? Her colleagues may not be in but Bonnie is! Go, girl!
Gingersnap: Lauren at Mason Capital. From pickle juice hangover cures to Kellogg’s cereal bar, she knows it all. She (and the writers) got me to visit and eat at Kellogg’s Cereal Bar of New York this June because she’s dope.
Lady Trader: The introduction of Rebecca Cantu (the female Axe!) was refreshing. Here was a smart, beautiful, self-made businesswoman who wasn’t a stone cold bitch. She held her own (for a while anyway) with Axe, and had a heart. What was done to her was shameful, but I’m hoping it’s not the last we’ve seen of her!
The Tail that Wags the Dog: I would have said Bonnie even though she came in at the end of last year. If you’re going with characters that only came in this year, I would go with Rebecca – she was strong and independent and held her own against Bobby – I know there was no way it would maintain beyond this season but it would have been nice if it had.
Damianista: Axe and Wags. They are one of the best TV duos ever! And the “old school” way they get out of the natural gas positions in Episode 4 Overton Window is second to none. Old Burners. Dusty Dossiers. Carrots. Sticks. Done.
Wags: “Honey, baby, sweetie… It’s your dear old uncle Wags. Haven’t seen you since that tray of Kamikazes we stared down after Sohn…”
Axe: “You, me, at the Open. Uh-huh. Oh, my box on Arthur Ashe.”
Wags: “What do you mean you are not a buyer? How’d you just satisfy your need? I’ll believe you that you’re satisfied when I hear you moan and shake like an old washing machine and tell me who finished you off…”
Axe: “I’m sitting on half a mil Bay Pipeline and I want to exit silent and quiet like as Le Samourai.”
They can make an episode only with Axe and Wags on the phone with the primes and I am in!
Gingersnap: Axe and Wags. Brothers to the end. The way they played off of each other in episode 4 ‘Overton Window’ taking it back to old school trading was phenomenal.
Lady Trader: Taylor and Lauren. It was nice to see Taylor happy, and in love. I don’t know what the future hold for these two, but they were a great couple.
The Tail that Wags the Dog: Wendy and Wags – they had some great moments together this season, and you get the feeling that their friendship is very real – certainly their respect for each other has grown tremendously since Season 1.
Best and Worst Axe Moments
Best: Axe giving Bruno an awesome sendoff in Episode 7 Infinite Game ❤️
If you have been reading my Billions reviews for a while, you know that Axe broke my heart when he broke Bruno’s in Season 2 when he fucked Sandicot. And it is truly beautiful to finally see Axe making amends to the only father figure in his life! Axe is buying Bruno out tonight! And while the old man will now be able to make the sunshine state his home, Axe will keep the pizzeria. Bruno is right that Axe’s childhood is not in the hot oven, but it is inside him, in his heart, I love it that Axe cannot give up on the only place where he feels home. This is the Bobby Axelrod I truly like.
And, believe it or not, I was extremely lucky to watch this scene being shot at Rosa’s Pizza. You can read my story here. Salud!
Worst: Plenty to choose from! But I will go with that moment in Season Finale Extreme Sandbox where Axe lies in bed next to Rebecca and decides to choose revenge over love.
Damian’s face alone deserves an Emmy here! Axe’s worst moment is Damian’s best. I feel the cold that he talks about turning hot, to rage – his life fuel.
Best: Episode 10 ‘New Year’s Day’ when Axe and Wendy share that moment together in his office discussing their backstory and loyalty for one another. Only Wendy can bring out the human side in the Terminator.
Worst: Axe’s break up speech of the century to Rebecca in episode 12 ‘Extreme Sandbox.’ Beginning in Saler’s boardroom as he walks her back through his decision to fuck everything up between them, describing the ‘when’ and ‘how’ he planned to destroy both her business and their relationship together. Lying there in bed next to her, from the coldness of his decision to turning hot with rage, choosing revenge over love as she sleeps peacefully.
I want this back:
Best: Axe going to the mat for Wags after he was kidnapped in “Chucky Rhoades Greatest Game” showed what a true friend he can be – when he wants to.
Worst: Well it might be unanimous: what Axe did to Rebecca in “Extreme Sandbox” was shameful. I think Axe has now embraced his demons, and there may be no coming back from that.
The Tail that Wags the Dog: Easily his best moment was when he let Bruno retire on his own terms. His worst has to be the way he treated Rebecca at the end – that was brutal.
Damianista: Mr. Charles Koppelman.
Show creator Brian Koppelman’s dad makes a cameo for a second time in Episode 8 Fight Night as one of the heavyweights in NYC finance world. Mr. Koppelman is certainly a heavyweight, too, but in entertainment industry.
Gingersnap: Bruno!!! Hello and goodbye 🙁 He’s more of a recurring cast member but I have a hunch we may not see his character anymore, so I must give him a well-deserved nod.
Lady Trader: Hello Lonnie! I’m wondering how much bigger his hair will be if he makes an appearance in Season 5!
The Tail That Wags The Dog: Rich Eisen – Fight Night – he was hilarious – and not entirely legal either. He made palatable what was otherwise a fairly forgetful bout – I was hoping for more out of Dollar Bill and Mafee there. Fortunately, Eisen’s expert calling saved the scene.
Best of the Rest
Damianista: Wendy in front of the medical board in Episode 11 Lamster.
I KNEW IT! I obviously did not know what Wendy would do at the hearing, but I knew if there was one person in Billions who had the balls to admit their wrongdoing and bravely face the consequences, it would be Wendy!
Wendy tells the board she is a medical doctor and Taylor was her patient, and that she violated doctor – patient confidentiality for her own ends. Doing this, Wendy does not only feel good about herself and steals my heart all over again but she also protects the company. Because she is a medical doctor, all her previous sessions with employees count as confidential and she cannot be subpoenaed. LOVE YOU, GIRL! And, yes, in caps, too!
Gingersnap: Chuck and his S&M needs – from his nipple safety pin and rubberbands to the bondage platform. Excellent indulgence!
Lady Trader: The opening sequence of New Year’s Day was great – New York and U2. It set the tone for the rest of the episode.
The Tail that Wags the Dog: Best role this year in my mind goes to Chuck Rhoades Senior – he had so many great lines that made you cringe, and he was so pivotal in the whole overriding arc – he absolutely was one of, if not the most, valuable performers this year. And maybe even funnier than Wags.