They are shooting episode 5 or 6 of Billions Season 5 in New York, and our favorite show is returning to Showtime on May 3, 2020 at 9pm ET/PT. And now that they have dropped the official teaser for Season 5, I am in such a Billions state of mind that I just sat down and wrote about what to expect when we are expecting Billions Season5!
Writing is such a fascinating beast. Billions writers have once again reset the story that allows them to go in billions of new directions in the new season. And while the teaser has given us a glimpse of some new story lines and new characters, speculation rocks until we have our favorite show back on our screens. So…
Axe and Chuck have seemingly won Season 4 by defeating the young rebels Taylor and Bryan, and eliminating the Russian oligarch Grigor Andolov and the Attorney General Jock Jeffcoat from their lives, respectively. But they also destroyed their own relationships with the women they loved during the process. I know these two love to say “worth it” but I doubt they can say it in this case.
When I wrote “What to Expect When We Are Expecting Billions Season 4” more than a year ago, I called it that Axe would get rid of Andolov and Chuck would get rid of Jeffcoat by the end of Season 4. But I was totally off expecting Axe and Taylor to team up and get rid of Andolov while Chuck and Bryan to join forces and dethrone Jeffcoat. As the two veteran players defeated the two big villains, they made sure they put their former proteges in their places!
Once the palace coup was complete, it did not take much time for Taylor and Bryan in Season 4 to realize that, to be able to keep their place in the world, they had to to bend and play like how their mentors always did. And especially when the urge to protect themselves have got the better of them, they found in themselves the capacity to do things they never thought they ever would. Taylor trying to destroy Rebecca’s business to take down Axe who invested in his girlfriend’s Barbie dream house?!?! Bryan using his brother Jackie to open the safe in Chuck Senior’s apartment so he can get his hands on the documents the Rhoadeses signed with the Treasury Secretary Krakow?!?! As they got more and more overwhelmed, the two young people transformed into individuals we had difficulty recognizing as Bryan and Taylor.
And the biggest mistake both made was to underestimate their former mentors! Taylor thinking of a partnership with Rebecca would protect them from Axe’s rage hints that they still do not know the distance Axe would go to take down his enemies. In the same way, Bryan not realizing Chuck figured out he was onto something hints that Bryan has forgotten that Chuck is typically a few steps ahead of everyone in his calculations.
By the end of Season 4, both young rebels are defeated. Taylor is sitting in the State Attorney General’s office and Bryan is being questioned by the FBI.
Let us start with Taylor.
Axe visits Taylor at the State AG office to break the news that he wants them back at Axe Capital. Taylor, even with their small company, was able to win against Axe several times, cost him his relationship and so Axe wants them on his side. They do not have to be best friends, they do not even have to be friends, he only needs Taylor’s brain. Taylor can bring along their team and they will have a pre-set bonus so they will know where they will land from the get go. They will also have a signed document with Chuck with a timeline for the state AG to make whatever he has against Taylor disappear. Oh, and Chuck is not a friend. Just a useful tool. Ha!
But what Axe does not know is that minutes before he came to visit Taylor, Chuck made Taylor an offer!
Now, we have seen Axe and Chuck becoming BFFs and helping each other in Season 4 with things they would not have been able to accomplish as easily otherwise. Coming from two different worlds, Axe and Chuck have different kinds of resources and connections at their disposal that helped both feel stronger in their personal games as they played along. Just to give a few refreshers: Axe helped Chuck to relocate a charter school in Tribeca so Chuck could solve the problem of an ambassador who was in the chain of people that he needed to make happy to get a gun carry permit for one Mr. Brogan. Axe, with a little help from the Burke brothers, made sure there was not enough participation in upstate New York primaries so that Chuck could handily win the primary for the state AG seat. In return, once he became the State Attorney General, one of the first things Chuck did was to kick Andolov out of the country. And when Chuck needed help, it was Hall to go check whether the safe was played with in Chuck Senior’s apartment. And while Axe arranged the “Nigerian oil warrants” trap for Taylor, it was ultimately the State AG that had the power to bring Taylor in. In short, both Axe and Chuck have benefited from their unusual friendship.
That said we all know Chuck is impulsive! Remember how he decided to go after Axe in Season 1? After Mike Dimonda, a journalist, asked him at a press conference in Billions Pilot that whether he was not going after Bobby Axelrod because his wife was working at Axe Capital! Seconds after the press conference, Chuck was plotting to make Axe buy that beach mansion and damage his “man of the people” image to open the way for a successful investigation. Remember how Chuck decided to sneak into Wendy’s computer to get the confidential information about Danzig? Just after he saw Axe and Wendy talking and laughing at the Axe Capital HQ terrace in Season 1 Episode 11 Magical Thinking. Remember when Chuck kicked off his Ice Juice Play? Seconds after he learnt from Kate about who bought Chuck’s as well as all first editions of Churchill’s six-volume Second World War on the market to make sure Chuck will never have a copy? (I wonder if Axe gave it back to Chuck once they became friends!) And now how has Chuck decided to make Taylor an offer?
Well, Axe has been rubbing Chuck the wrong way in the last couple of episodes. Axe cutting his vacation short to attend Wendy’s mock interview as well as Wendy’s schoolgirl-ish smile when she saw Axe and her trust for him have been quite hard for the insecure Chuck to swallow.
Axe and Wendy’s special relationship has always been Chuck’s soft spot. In addition, Axe telling him in Season 4 Finale Extreme Sandbox that he should go arrest Taylor rather than wasting his time does not sit well with Chuck! But it is ultimately Axe saving Wendy’s license through a $25M donation to pancreatic cancer research led by the chair of the medical board that revoked Wendy’s license, that brings Chuck to the edge! So I think Chuck is feeling it as he says the following to Taylor:
“When I look at the shambles my life has become From my firing, to my public disgrace, to my election with strings attached, to the destruction of my marriage, to my family falling into disrepair Ah, did I make mistakes to cause it? Perhaps. But a truer reckoning is: it all tracks back to one source. One man. A man so corrosive, so virulently infective as to strip me of every good quality I ever had: my kindness, my empathy, my sense of justice. Maybe even my ability to love.”
Now that Taylor knows that the two men would be willing to go at each other if opportunity presented itself, they want to use their hostage situation at Axe Capital for their own benefit. After all, being an insider – a Trojan Horse, if you will – is a more advantageous position than being an outsider under the circumstances. Taylor will do their best to get both men get their guns out and get out of their way, and let them kill each other. Realizing from Chuck’s words that Wendy may be the biggest friction between the two men, I wonder if Taylor may use Wendy to initiate and escalate the conflict.
In the teaser, Chuck is probably talking to Taylor about how to get Axe.
“People like us must destroy people like him. He wants to be friends. So we’ll be friends. Right up until the moment we drop him.”
Ha! It seems Chuck has forgotten the fact that he typically fucks up when he underestimates his opponent whom we find in Chuck’s kitchen reminding him that the world was not a very comfortable place when the two of them were not friendly. Is this a threat? And why does Axe feel the urge to say that? Maybe he has just asked for a favor and Chuck has said no?
It will be a true delight to find out over the season if Axe and Chuck’s “friendship” will pass the test of time or crumble away. And I wonder if Chuck talks about taking down Axe before or after talking to him in his kitchen!
And now that Axe has Taylor and their team at Axe Capital, how will this work? Will “Team Taylor” be a separate team working on different things or will they work along with “Team Axe”? Or will they be competitors at the workplace? The picture below does not look very promising, does it?
Now let us come to Bryan aka THE IDIOT!
While Chuck is surprised that Bryan has been so eager for tricks and even crime, I am not. As I wrote in my Episode 8 Fight Night recap, it seems to me that the U.S. Attorney seat is like the ring in Lord of the Rings. Whoever sits on it has an unhealthy obsession with the “precious” and wants to keep it no matter what. Accordingly, Bryan has chosen to be Jeffcoat’s pet to take Chuck down and is now going to pay for it.
One observation from the teaser is the notable absence of Bryan and it could be a very deliberate act by the show creators to keep us wondering his whereabouts.
Now, I cannot say I know the law but I think Bryan is not going to jail. Thanks to Kate, Jeffcoat’s Nixonian words “if I order it, it is fucking legal” is on record, and so Bryan did what his superior told him to do. I am not sure though if Bryan can practice law again. But even if he can practice law, there is no way he will have a government job ever again. And he would better forget about a cabinet seat in a potential Sacker administration twenty five years from now 😀
So here comes the billion dollar question we have been asking for a while now: Would Axe make a lion out of Bryan? 😀
Better a lion for a day than a mouse for life…. https://t.co/lRSU36wIev
— Damian Lewis (@lewis_damian) April 17, 2018
We already know Axe loves to hire those who know the workings of government offices (read “Ari Spyros”) like the back of their hands! Besides, in case Axe and Chuck go back to their pissing contest – and it seems Axe has a feeling that Chuck may want to go back to their old days – having Bryan on his side may give Axe an edge. I am giggling as I imagine a scene with Bryan and Kate in which the former represents a billionaire as Kate listens to him with a smirk on her face! And, talking about Kate, I bet Chuck has already put in a good word for Kate, she has been his right hand in dethroning Jeffcoat, to take the US attorney seat in the SDNY.
I give credit to Kate for doing what she could do to protect Bryan – she told him time and again to stay away from the privileged parts of the tape. But Bryan being Bryan, he took the bait, and unfortunately proved what Chuck and Chuck Senior have been saying all along: He is THE IDIOT.
Coalitions and conflicts constantly shift in Billions. The first three seasons gave us an inter-sectoral conflict where as the fourth one was inter-generational. So now that the coalitions may shift again, how about two cross-sectoral and cross-generational coalitions like Axe and Bryan versus Chuck and Taylor down the line? It would be EPIC.
Yet, as much as Bryan is an idiot, so are Axe and Chuck. They may have seemingly won Season 4 by defeating their enemies but, hey, they have both lost the women they loved who loved them back.
Well, I do not know what the exact medical diagnosis is but I do not think Axe is right in the head. The way he destroyed Rebecca’s dreams in such a sneaky, cold and calculating way is SICK.
I do not believe Rebecca got into a partnership with Taylor only because she cared about her relationship with Axe. But I figure it was a significant factor in her decision since she saw early on that business is more personal to Axe than anything else and that a conflict of interest could shift their relationship quite quickly. Moreover, Axe repeatedly told Rebecca how much he admired Taylor’s moves. So Rebecca, by negotiating with Taylor, actually saved Axe from a professional suicide – he was getting out of a lot of profitable positions just to help Rebecca buy her own house appliance company. I understand loyalty rules Bobby Axelrod’s world. But Rebecca did what she did because she was loyal to him. She loved him. And she did not deserve what she got in return. So while I always said I would take committed Axe over single Axe any day, I am okay with Axe staying single forever so he could not break another woman’s heart every again. I am wondering if Rebecca will appear in Season 5 to kick some “Ken” ass!
In the teaser, we see Axe single and bearded (yes, Santa got Holliedazzle’s letter!) on a BMW adventure motorcycle about to do some “single-man-in-his-late-forties- going-wild” kind of thing with his right hand man Wags next to him 😀 And whatever episode it is on, this scene should have been shot in the Adirondacks late October when Damian still had a beard!
Strolled in Lake Placid this morning. pic.twitter.com/INEWvpFa8C
— Damian Lewis (@lewis_damian) November 1, 2019
And… I really have to share this with you guys!!! I gave a shout out to Axe’s beard (we the Fan Fun girls have dreamed of Axe with a beard several times in our posts and on social media) on Twitter and then asked Brian Koppelman if Damian grew the beard for the show or they used it since he had grown it over summer… and, um, I started something funny there 😀
Stop EVERYTHING! Damian Lewis appears with a beard on #Billions S5 trailer! Some dreams come true, don't they? THANK YOU @briankoppelman and @DavidLevien! #DamianLewis #BobbyAxelrod #Billions #Wags #DavidCostabile #AxeCapital @GingersnapOnDL @theholliedazzle @zarqa @lisaglick926 pic.twitter.com/dqSSPZ9PbE
— Fan Fun Damian Lewis (@FanFunDamian) February 7, 2020
He grew it for us. We told him months in advance.
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) February 7, 2020
Ten days. https://t.co/qOtETNNqMA
— Damian Lewis (@lewis_damian) February 8, 2020
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) February 8, 2020
I CANNOT LOVE THIS EXCHANGE MORE!
Okay. Now that I am done with Axe, I am turning to Chuck!
I still think Chuck did the right thing by making their unusual sex life public because you cannot allow a threat hanging over your head forever. After all, it is mutually consensual, and so why should anyone give a fuck about what Chuck and Wendy do in their bedroom? Honestly, if I were Wendy, I would encourage Chuck to go tell the world about their BDSM. She did not.
The thing is his public revelation changes Chuck; it liberates him to a point that he declares he would need to do it with a professional if Wendy did not practice BDSM with him anymore! Whaaaa? And even though he does it with Wendy’s permission, doing it with a pro and in their family house alienates Wendy further and at some point it seems to me Chuck stops putting effort into his marriage. And the real blow comes in the season finale where Chuck pretends that he saved Wendy’s medical license when his wife thanks him for it. So Wendy feels loved, cared for, valued for a second and then finds out it is Axe, not Chuck, that saved her license by basically bribing the doctor chairing the medical board that revoked her license. Imagine her disappointment!
I always thought Wendy and Chuck were the strong couple in Billions. Because they are, unlike Axe and Lara, able to communicate except for a few hiccups. And because they can talk, and get deep, they have been able to resolve their differences. They nested for a season but got together at the end with an understanding that they would always be true to each other and they did… until, again, Chuck destroys it impulsively when he knows it is Axe that saved Wendy’s license! Doesn’t Chuck get that his actions do nothing but damage their marriage? What would he think if he knew Wendy ended up in Axe’s house that night? Wendy wanted to be with Axe and not with her husband that night. And I think if Axe had taken a step forward that night, they could have ended up in bed – a decision they would probably have regretted later. I know I am in the minority here but I love Axe and Wendy’s relationship as is, and I hope they stay the way they are, constantly dancing around it, but never get to it, like they did in Axe’s guest bedroom.
Now, I am not sure if we will find Chuck and Wendy living together in Season 5. But we find them dressed up like they are at a wedding in the teaser.
And… I spy with my little eye Chuck Senior sitting at the table in the background… Now, in case this is a wedding, Chuck Senior cannot be the groom, right? Right?!?! Oh. My. God. How funny would THAT be? 😀 😀 😀
As we are talking about Chuck and Wendy, I think it is time to “meet” an intriguing new character. The wonderful Julianna Marguiles is joining Billions this season as Catherine Brant, an Ivy League professor of sociology and a best-selling author. When asked about her role in Billions, Marguiles says Chuck is lecturing at Yale (his alma mater) this season, and he meets Brant there.
In the teaser, it seems like Chuck is visiting Prof. Brant’s classroom where Brant is talking about being submissive as a strategy to be dominant. I am sure Brant knows about Chuck’s sex life so can it be that she invites him to her class to talk about himself? And the look on Chuck’s face as Catherine Brant is talking? WOW. He is more than impressed with this woman!
Marguiles reveals a bit about her character:
“She’s a conduit for Chuck Rhoades finding another side of himself. She comes from a place of nonjudgment and isn’t deterred by his behavior, which he finds quite enlightening.”
Hmm… When I first read about Julianne Marguiles joining the show, my first reaction was that, given Chuck and Wendy are not on very friendly terms at the moment, she could be a love interest for Chuck. And, hey, you see Brant’s physical similarity to Wendy, don’t you? Like we have figured out Axe’s arousal template last season, I think we have Chuck’s as well: Beautiful, smart, ambitious, highly educated, dominant women. I cannot wait to meet my fellow academic Catherine Brant!
Another major character in Season 5 is the fantastic Corey Stoll who brings to life Michael Prince, a business titan and a social impact pioneer from a small town in Indiana. Stoll reveals that his character and Axe are competitors the minute they meet.
“He has that same competitive streak as Axe, but it’s tempered with this drive to do good. There’s a lot of conflict between Prince and other characters, but stronger than that is the fight within himself to reconcile being a capitalist and a good person.”
I can confidently add that the character looks quite cool. Yeah Axe has his private jet but it seems Michael Prince flies his own plane and lands on East River – well, hard to beat as a measure of coolness.
Axe and Prince seem to attend some kind of a conference/retreat for which I believe they shot at the iconic Mohonk Mountain House in Hudson Valley. And the two titans are having a conversation with an audience. I am thinking they may be talking about their respective approaches when investment is concerned: Axe is all about risk return trade off whereas Prince probably cares as much about sustainability.
The first words we hear from Michael Prince is that when he competes he is going to win. And when Axe reminds him that the game is not over, we learn that Prince is aware of that. They are probably not talking about a game of chess.
We may find some hints about the conflict between the two business titans in Season 5 episode titles. Episode 4 Opportunity Zone may be referring to a Trump Administration policy giving tax breaks to investors in selected Opportunity Zones with certain level of poverty and unemployment. Axe and Prince may be competitor investors in an opportunity zone. And Episode 5 Nordic Model may refer to Michael Prince’s ideals – a combination of capitalism and welfare state typically observed in Scandinavian Countries where free markets and efficiency are supported with free education and universal health care.
Another recurring character announced for Season 5 is Nico Tanner, a modern artist portrayed by Frank Grillo. While we do not meet Tanner in the teaser, I think the big canvasses Axe and Wags are looking at are his work. I am curious about how Billions will integrate Tanner and his work into the story.
Finally, Roma Maffia is joining Billions as the tough Manhattan District Attorney Mary Ann Gramm. And the moment we meet DA Gramm in the teaser, she is threatening someone:
“You step wrong, and you’ll have me after you.”
My first instinct is that she may be talking to Bryan. But then if she knows about Chuck’s unusual ways of doing business, she may be talking to him as well.
There are other observations from the teaser like Wendy and Chuck walking into a bright and modern living room together, Taylor wearing a helmet and breaking stuff, Wendy walking into Axe Capital PM/analyst working area with a surprised look on her face, Axe and Prince meeting at what looks like a huge warehouse with their lieutenants present (Daniel Breaker joins the cast as Prince’s chief of staff Scooter Dunbar) and more that if I start speculating about them this post will never end. So I’d better shut up here!