No one knows what it’s like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes
No one knows what it’s like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies
Billions is returning to Showtime on May 3 Sunday at 9pm. While we cannot wait to have our show back on TV, it is time to talk a bit more about where we left our favorite characters and where we can find them at the beginning of Season 5. How about we start with Bobby Axelrod?
When Billions offered us a glimpse into the life of young Bobby Axelrod in Season 1, I was tempted to think hard and deep about this man, who grew up in a broken home and ended up marrying a woman sharing his blue collar background and raised happy kids. Well, this was who Bobby Axelrod was when I kicked off the series “Bobby Axelrod: The Boy Whose Dad Never Came Back.” And the family man Bobby was what I truly liked about this billionaire who is utterly reckless when it comes to business.
I took a close look at Bobby Axelrod’s human side mostly as a husband, a father, and a son in the previous seasons. We saw Bobby as a devoted family man evolving gradually into an oblivious husband and father; as a good “son” to Bruno turning into someone who breaks his dad’s heart when business is concerned. We also witnessed Bobby’s brief visit with his estranged mom after he listened to the monologue from Andolov about family in Season 3 Episode 10 Redemption. My first thought was that Andolov inspired Bobby to visit his mom. But when you think about it, Bobby’s visit is more about the vintage French magazines at his mom’s place that once belonged to his dad than about his mom herself. And the French magazines are for Wags – Bobby’s most loyal man and maybe his only family left by the end of Season 3.
If we need to reduce what rules Bobby Axelrod’s world to one word, it is loyalty. Bobby puts people into two categories and there is nothing in between. As the boss tells Mafee in Season 1, there is nothing like trying to be loyal. You are either loyal or you are not. And if you are not, you are in deep shit. Bobby may not be a Tony Soprano who takes you on a fishing trip and whacks you, but he can take you on a fishing trip and fucks your business while you are fishing and having beer. John Rice, anyone? Or Bobby may not be a Grigor Andolov who goes for a spring cleaning, but he does not shy away from ruining one’s relationship with their boyfriend, or their dad, or destroying their business and forcing them to come back and work for him. Taylor Mason, anyone?
Bobby’s obsession over loyalty certainly comes from the fact that his dad walked out on him and his mother when Bobby was twelve. When Wendy talks to Rebecca about men with childhood issues in the Season 4 Finale Extreme Sandbox, she is certainly talking about her boss as much as about her husband.
You can see the first four installments of my “Bobby Axelrod: The Boy Whose Dad Never Came Back” series here, here, here, and here. And, in the fifth installment today, I mainly focus on Bobby Axelrod as a boyfriend since his relationship with Rebecca Cantu, a self-made businesswoman, a female Bobby Axelrod if you will, is a central story in Season 4.
It all starts at an ambitious robotic raise by Patriot-Trust Bank in Season 4 Episode 2 Arousal Template. The robot company claims that the final product will be as smart as Will Hunting, Matt Damon’s super smart character in Good Will Hunting, and is looking for five investors to put in $100M in this round that includes anti-dilution rights. Bobby is here to invest.
Enters Rebecca Cantu, a venture capitalist.
I do not know about the robot but Rebecca has the brains like Will Hunting! Being the daughter of a mechanic, she understands how engines work, and she questions the robot’s hum which tells her there is a combustion engine in it. A combustion engine means the robot will have no use for the military due to efficiency, cost and security issues. And if they choose to develop the battery technology, the profit margins will be very thin.
Bobby, who is all eyes and ears about any opportunity to make money, is certainly intrigued by this woman who has just saved potential investors a lot of money. When he looks into her business portfolio, he sees opportunities.
Axe chooses Broken Shaker, a roof top cocktail bar and a NYC hot spot, for his “business meeting” with Rebecca. He compliments her for saving him a lot of money – if it had not been for her, he would have invested in the robot company. We learn that Rebecca left a shopping network and started her own business when she could not tolerate her bosses who did not only listen to her ideas but also had very basic thought process. When Bobby offers partnership, Rebecca is cautious: men in business constantly said no to her ideas because she was a woman, and then when she was looking for capital because she was a woman, and now that she is successful and does not need them, they all want to partner with her.
Bobby is very interested to buy half of Rebecca’s shares in a janitorial services company at 1.5 times the market price because he is in the middle of destroying the competitor’s business! But instead of sharing this with Rebecca, he chooses to be one red hot flirt.
As they end up in bed that night, I am not positive that Bobby is romantically interested in Rebecca but that he could be using all his weapons to convince her to do business with him. After all, why wouldn’t the man who suggested Wendy should seduce Maffee to save herself from Ice Juice shit in Season 3 apply the same method himself when he thinks it will be effective in making money for Axe Capital?
But who knew the guy from the Patriot-Trust Bank would call Rebecca to let her know that Bobby Axelrod has invested in the robot company – which he actually did to force the bank to cut the credit lines for Taylor! 😀 Rebecca storms into Bobby’s office questioning why Axe invested in that shitty robot and wondering if she fucked an idiot or someone deceitful last night. The smile on Wags’ face is priceless 😀
Rebecca threatens to give Taylor leverage unless Bobby gives her back half of the shares in janitorial services company that he bought from her. And as Rebecca gets what she wants, a new relationship begins there and then! Bobby is drawn to this woman’s brilliance and I bet they stop by Bobby’s penthouse before changing to hang out at San Gennaro Festival like two young dates eating hot dogs! 😀
Rebecca is a positive influence on Bobby’s life from the get go, both personally and professionally. When Axe Capital’s systems are hacked and Bobby cannot go to a meeting, it is Rebecca who does it for Bobby at the cost of cancelling her $100K “Vomit Comet” trip! And she does not only get rid of a CEO of a company of which Bobby has 11% of the shares but she also brings back 3 board seats for Bobby one of which she is getting for herself. And is it me or does it feel like a deja vu hearing Rebecca say “you’re damn right, I am.” Axe certainly has a “type.”
When you think about, it is not that hard to figure Bobby’s “arousal template” out: Tall, blonde, smart, ambitious, kick-ass woman with blue collar roots. That said there exist a few big differences between Lara and Rebecca.
Firstly, Lara, as she pointed out to her friend Lily who was encouraged to get a divorce after Axe and Lara separated, would be nobody without her husband. The respect her trainer had for her or the compliment in Page Six about her Halloween costume were all thanks to her husband. She was a young nurse when she met Bobby in a tent after 9/11, and while she became a businesswoman in her own right over the years, she always relied on Bobby’s money, support and connections. On the other hand, Rebecca is a self-made successful businesswoman.
Secondly, Rebecca has a big heart. Remember how cold-hearted Lara is when Bobby fucks Sandicot (“Fuck Sandicot”) and he breaks Bruno’s heart by doing what he does to Sandicot (“Fuck Bruno.”). And when she says…
“Did anyone ever help us, or look out for us? When my mother was closing the blinds so that bill collectors wouldn’t know that anyone was home?”
…Lara reminds me of Marie Antoinette, surrounded by her overly expensive wardrobe, saying “let them eat cake.” And while Rebecca is certainly not Mother Teresa, she has a big heart. Where Lara wants to get as much as possible, Rebecca wants to give back. Where Lara can do anything not to go back to her old days, Rebecca is confident she will not, because she does not depend on anyone else for her business and wealth.
As a young girl growing up in a small town, Saler’s catalogues served as her window to the big world out there and now she knows why she has become very rich:
“Show young girls that they don’t have to just dream about shopping at some department store. They can buy the whole company.”
I am sure Lara would just say “Fuck Saler’s” and move on.
And being the smart woman that she is, Rebecca realizes quickly that trust does not come to Bobby naturally. By Episode 6 Maximum Recreational Depth, her diagnosis for Bobby is spot on: Business is more personal to him than sex.
So I applaud Rebecca for being direct with her boyfriend. She wonders if Bobby is willing to go deeper than the “Maximum Recreational Depth” in their relationship. She wants more than sex and fun. She wants a real and honest relationship with no secrets. And as she leaves, I am hoping Axe will think at least a little bit about why his marriage ended in the first place.
Thank God he does!
Axe invites Lara for coffee. It is quite sad to see whatever has remained of that once very strong marriage and their conversation reminds me of Brody and Jess’ car conversation in Homeland Season 2. Heart breaking. It takes quite a long time for Axe to see his mistakes, doesn’t it? Should he have seen it a year ago, he may still have had his family. Oh well…
Their conversation reminds us, once again, what the most important thing in life for Bobby Axelrod is.
When Lara asks Bobby what it was about her that he loved the most.
Bobby is now setting Lara free. She can move to California with the kids and start a new life. Nobody can walk away from Bobby Axelrod without his blessing. Not John Rice, not Taylor Mason, not his own family. And while it is truly selfish of him to set Lara free now that he is ready to commit to someone else, his decision to go deeper with Rebecca is one of the best decisions he has ever made. Because Rebecca actively fosters Bobby’s best qualities. Honesty. Kindness. Generosity. Thanks to her, Bobby sets his family free. And, thanks to her, Bobby finally makes amends to Bruno!
Bruno has his eyes set on a property in Florida, and now that some people want to buy him out for close to a $1M, it may be a good time for him to retire in the sunshine state. Bobby, who does not get it, asks if they will open in Florida. Oh no, Bruno says, the water is different there, you cannot make the crust, but Bobby still does not get it. Well, they can fly the water down there — which is a real life thing! Or Bobby can make an advance payment for the Florida property, so Bruno can have it, spend the winter there, train a replacement at the pizzeria, and he can make the sunshine state his home, say in 5 years. BOBBY DOES NOT GET IT! They shake hands and Bobby is very happy with himself. SIGH.
Thank God for Rebecca who understands Bruno! Axe may not understand it, but after a lifetime in front of the oven, a quiet life in Florida may be the ideal life for the old man.
So Bobby, surprised that people may actually give up on fighting, visits Bruno to ask WHAT HE WANTS. And when he hears Bruno say he wants to start his morning at a cafe sipping espresso, catch a Pompano in the afternoon, cook it for dinner and maybe share it with a nice widow he will meet, Bobby buys him out. While Bruno is right that Bobby’s childhood is not in the hot oven at Capparello’s, I love it that Bobby cannot give up on probably the only place that feels like home.
If you have been reading my Billions reviews for a while, you know Bobby broke my heart when he broke Bruno’s in Season 2 Episode 7 Victory Lap when he fucked Sandicot. So it is truly beautiful to see “the son” making amends to “his father” now. And it is all Rebecca’s doing! Thanks to her, we now have Bobby ask someone what they wanted FOR THE FIRST TIME in the history of Billions! Oh, and believe it or not, but I was extremely lucky to see this very happy scene being filmed at Bruno’s or Rosa’s Pizza in real life. You can read the story here.
Back to Bobby and Rebecca.
Bobby is certainly in love. We cannot otherwise explain him, who has had difficulty understanding why Rebecca wanted to invest in Saler’s, a chain that is “like a wheezing elephant ready to stumble to its knees”, buying the shares Rebecca needs to control this shitty company. Bobby is doing it only for Rebecca because he now understands why she is doing it. That is what I would call the power of love! SWEET.
Oh and the way he manages the crisis when they find out several Saler’s shareholders have sold their positions to Taylor… EXEMPLARY.
It turns out that one person who holds lots of Saler’s company debt which can be converted to shares to take control of Saler’s is Sanford Bensinger! Given that Bobby and Bensinger are not on the most friendly terms, Bobby needs to find a way to make Bensinger talk to him. And he does. Bensinger is in town to buy the Chrysler Building — which a Chinese Consortium has been in negotiations to buy for some time. Bensinger who values American heritage more than anything believes that landmark buildings should stay American owned and buying the Chrysler building will genuinely make him the “American Champion” — the title of his biography to be published soon. And Bobby buys the Chrysler building just to have Bensinger visit Axe Capital!!! When Bensinger arrives at Axe Capital, Bobby is ready to sell him the building at his own cost with only one condition attached: Bensinger should side with Rebecca on Saler’s.
As Bobby leaves the stage to Rebecca to talk about her plans about Saler’s, Bensinger is more than impressed. Rebecca will keep the ice cream fountain and is adding an artisanal coffee bar. Coffee is good business and ice cream is the perfect reward for anything. And ice cream fountain? It is AMERICA.
Oh My God, these two know how to write an “American story” don’t they? I think they have chosen every word in this speech carefully and made Bensinger believe that they are the new Jack and Jackie 😀
Wendy is totally right when she tells Bobby that Rebecca is a keeper. She brings out the best in Bobby. Thanks to her, Bobby sets Lara and the boys free. Thanks to her, Bobby makes a great gesture to Bruno. Thanks to her, Bobby understands one may sometimes take risks for their ideals. It is obvious that this is a match made in heaven, and the only person that will gloriously fuck it up is the man behind blue eyes also known as Bobby Axelrod.
Next week: Bobby Axelrod: The Boy Whose Dad Never Came Back – Part VI