First things first: I hope everyone is doing well and staying home during these surreal times.
My earlier “What to Expect When We are Expecting Billions Season 5” post was based on my own thoughts and a few hints from the first Season 5 teaser trailer. The recently dropped official Season 5 trailer, and a second teaser, while answering a question or two I had, makes me ask hundred more 😀
We all know they edit trailers in a way that they do not give away much but a taste of what is coming. Still, I cannot help dive deep into the trailer, dissect it, try to put the pieces together and ultimately have fun! Speculation rocks until we have Billions back on TV on May 3 9:00PM ET/PT.
So shall we?
Now that the BFFs Axe and Chuck – at least seemingly – won Season 4 by defeating the young rebels Taylor and Bryan as well as eliminating the true villains Andolov and Jeffcoat from their lives, what is next for them?
In the opening moments of the official Season 5 trailer, Axe mini-lectures someone, most probably Taylor, on what kind of people the two of them are.
“People like us… We’re different. We need power. We need it to feel alive, maybe even to be alive.”
Axe’s words remind us of the “eat or be eaten” nature of the world Billions characters are living in. And the trailer tagline “anyone can be bought but no one can be trusted” hints that alliances will form and shift like sand while trust will remain as the most valuable currency in Season 5.
We have already seen in Season 4 finale Extreme Sandbox that the most incredible alliance of all, the one that can move mountains if needed, may be on thin ice in Season 5 thanks to yet another impulsive reaction by Chuck!
It seems like there is a switch in Chuck’s brain that turns on when he is extremely pissed off and makes him do something outrageous. Exactly like when Chuck sees Axe and Wendy talking and laughing on Axe Capital balcony and sneaks into Wendy’s laptop that night to get information about her session with Mick Danzig! Or exactly like when Chuck learns that Axe bought his Churchill books and he starts his Ice Juice play in which he sells out his father and his best friend to get Axe! And the switch turns on again in Season 4 Finale when Chuck finds out Axe saved Wendy’s medical license. Lo and behold, Chuck offers Taylor to take Axe down together!
Well, I admit Axe has been rubbing Chuck the wrong way in the last few episodes of Season 4. For starters, Axe cutting his vacation short to attend Wendy’s mock interview and Wendy’s schoolgirl smile upon seeing that Axe is there for her 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, I do not think Axe telling him in Season 4 Finale that he should go arrest Taylor rather than wasting his time sits well with Chuck! But Axe saving Wendy’s medical license through a $25M donation to pancreatic cancer research led by the chair of the medical board is what brings Chuck to the edge! His words to Taylor shows that he genuinely believes it is Bobby Axelrod who has robbed him of his good qualities.
“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.”
And the man Chuck believes that has stripped him of every good quality he ever had accepts the compliment when a rival calls him a monster in Season 5 trailer.
“Yes, I am a monster. A carnivorous monster.”
The aforementioned rival is Michael Prince – brought to life by the brilliant Corey Stoll. Prince is a business titan and a social impact pioneer from a small town in Indiana. And Axe highlighting the fact that he is a carnivorous monster makes me wonder if Prince is a vegetarian or a vegan 😀
Corey 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 would add that the character is quite cool. Yeah Axe has his private jet but it seems Prince flies his own plane and lands on East River – well, hard to beat as a measure of coolness.
From what I can read from the promo videos Axe and Prince first meet at some kind of photo shoot for the “deca-billionaires” which may be related to the title of the first episode – The New Decas referring to a new generation of deca-billionaires including Prince.
Axe and Prince also attend some kind of a conference/retreat which I believe was shot at the iconic Mohonk Mountain House in Hudson Valley. And they 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. And it seems this is where Prince calls Axe “a monster.”
The first words we hear from Michael Prince in Season 5 teaser 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.
And now we hear Prince in the official trailer say that he hates when someone messes with his money. I wonder if he is saying this directly to Axe or to the Attorney General of New York who may be taking a close look at his businesses:DWe may find some hints about the conflict between the two business titans in Season 5 episode titles. Episode 1 The New Decas may be referring to the likes of Michael Prince – a new generation of “deca-billionaires.” Episode 4 Opportunity Zone may be referring to a Trump Administration policy giving unprecedented tax breaks to investors in selected “Opportunity Zones” with certain level of poverty and unemployment – the kind of giving Axe loves! So me thinks 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.
One jaw-dropping moment in the new trailer has Chuck saying that Prince and Axelrod are at war and that he knows how to work this followed by Chuck and Prince shaking hands. Yikes! How to interpret this now? Since this is Billions we need to look at the handshake from different angles.
It may be that Chuck is determined to destroy Axe and he shakes hands with Prince towards their common goal. Or it may be that Chuck continues to be Axe’s BFF and he is just manipulating Prince.
We hear Chuck talking about destroying someone – I assume Axe – in Season 5 teaser:
“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.
Firstly, why does Axe feel the urge to say that? What does he know? And I wonder if this conversation takes place in Episode 3 Beg, Bribe, Bully – a title representing three ways of convincing someone to do something!
Secondly, if this kitchen talk between Axe and Chuck takes place after the handshake between Chuck and Prince, can it be that Chuck helps Prince in some way and Axe is now yelling at him for what he did?
“When did you help him?”
In another interesting moment in the trailer, we find Chuck, Senior and Kate Sacker in Chuck’s dimly lit office. I do not know if this conversation is about having Kate raid a business or about Kate’s dad attending a hearing… or neither… or both…
…but we see the windbreakers raid a business with Kate at the helm:
“Lock ’em up and shut ’em down!”
And there is some kind of hearing at the Ceremonial Court Room in Yonkers City Hall and look who is on the stand! I wonder if it is Axe’s words that make Chuck Senior leave the room… And is the bald guy sitting in the front seat Michael Prince?
And then we see a huge crowd leaving the building with Axe leading them… and I spy with my little eye familiar faces: Kate Sacker, her dad, journalist Randy Kornbluth recording a video on his phone, and Axe’s close childhood friend Eric. No one is smiling… Yonkers being an Opportunity Zone in real life makes me think this may have something to do with the rivalry between Axe and Prince. And Chuck Senior is also involved which means so is Chuck. My head is spinning!
It will be a thrill to see the tensions escalate between Axe and Chuck… Look at the scene from the trailer where Axe is terrified when Chuck throws wine at his “reproduction” Van Gogh! We all know the reproductions are staying at the Freeport managed by Danny Margolis while the real stuff is hanging in Axe’s penthouse! I am so looking forward to finding out if Axe and Chuck’s “friendship” will pass the test of time or crumble away.
Moving from professional to personal lives – yes the two men may have seemingly won Season 4 by defeating their enemies but, hey, they have both lost the women they loved!
I do not know what the exact medical diagnosis is but I do not think Axe is right in the head. The way he ruined Rebecca’s dreams in such a sneaky, cold and calculating way is SICK. Plain and simple. 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. That said I cannot help roll my eyes when Axe, with a bottle of whiskey in hand, approaches a woman – he is attracted to the blondes for sure – half his age in the new trailer.
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!
In Season 5 trailer, we now get to see the bearded Axe coming out of what looks like a tent looking like he will throw up. Well, it takes some guts to go on an adventure with Wags, doesn’t it?
Now that I am done with Axe, I am turning to Chuck!
I always thought Wendy and Chuck were the strong couple in Billions. Because they have, unlike Axe and Lara, always been able to communicate even in hard times. 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 Chuck ruins it when he makes their unusual sex life public even though Wendy tells him not to and then when he pretends he saved Wendy’s license when she thinks it is Chuck that did it! Doesn’t Chuck see that his actions have done nothing but damaged his marriage? And I wonder what he would think if he knew Wendy ended up in Axe’s house that night!
Now, I am not entirely sure if we will find Chuck and Wendy living together in Season 5 – especially Chuck eating guacamole and chips alone in his dark kitchen and visiting Wendy at an apartment hint that Wendy has moved out. She may be renting or is staying with her sister (what she did when the couple was nesting in Season 2) or a close friend.
Damianista’s note (03/23/2020): Damani Barham, one of our readers and a wonderful Billions fan has just let me know that this is the same apartment Lara was in when she left home in Season 2 Episode 10 With or Without You. WOW – great catch – this means Wendy is temporarily staying at one of Axe’s residences and Chuck should be pissed!
And even if I am wrong and they are still living together, the marriage is more than shaky and I bet it is Chuck whom Wendy is yelling at in the trailer:
“I told you never to come to my place of work.”
But then again we find them dressed up like they are at a wedding in the teaser.
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” two intriguing new characters!
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 she probably 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 – 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 recurring character announced for Season 5 is Nico Tanner, a modern artist portrayed by Frank Grillo. In the teaser, we see Axe and Wags looking at his giant canvasses…
…while in the trailer we “meet” Tanner taking Wendy’s hand… intriguing to say the least!
The new season blurb Showtime has given to the press says that Wendy forms alliances that would go against the interests of Axe and Chuck. Well, is this about Wendy’s “alliance” with Tanner or is it about the handshake with Taylor?
Taylor is one person who is looking forward to benefiting from Axe and Chuck going at each other. They want to use their hostage situation at Axe Capital for their own benefit, and being an insider – a Trojan Horse, if you will – is more advantageous than being an outsider if they want to eliminate the boss. We have seen Taylor vowing to have both men get their guns out and kill each other in Season 4 Finale. And realizing from Chuck’s words that Wendy is a major friction between the two men, Taylor may somehow use Wendy to initiate and escalate the conflict.
And now that Axe has brought Taylor and their team to 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? It seems, in Wendy’s words, that it is getting tribal at Axe Capital 😀
And Dollar Bill and Maffee are about to resume the boxing match they could not finish last season as Wendy intervenes!
Another new character we meet in Season 5 trailer is Savion Williams, portrayed by the 17 year old actor Akili McDowell, a teenager growing up where Axe did – Yonkers. Savion’s reflection appears on Axe’s car window at 48th Street and Lexington Avenue in the trailer. While I have no idea how the writers integrate him into the storyline, Savion being from Yonkers hints that a major storyline will revolve around Axe’s hometown this season.
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 – probably Chuck.
There are other observations from the promotion videos such as Taylor wearing a helmet and breaking stuff in what looks like a hotel room, Axe giving a talk at a school auditorium wearing a Rainbow t-shirt, 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), Gordie and a classmate standing in what looks like a boiler room, a power outage in a building, someone passing an envelope under Axe’s hotel room door and much more that if I start speculating about them this post will never end. So, I want to close instead talking about a character whose absence in the promos is notable.
Bryan “The Idiot” Connerty.
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, 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.
Now, I obviously do not know how the law applies in this case, but I do not think Bryan is going to jail. Thanks to Kate, Jeffcoat’s Nixonian “if I order it, it is fucking legal” is on record, and Bryan seems to have done what his superior told him to do. That said I do not think Bryan can practice law, either. And even if he can, there is no way he can get another government job. 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 do just that – 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 to take the US attorney seat at the SDNY.
Season 5 will be yet another season of some three-dimensional chess. I am dying to know who will say: