Trust No One
On Wednesday, April 8, 2020 fans were treated to the highly anticipated newly released promotional material for Billions season five. And like last year when I analyzed the poster art for season four here, I will analyze (and over analyze) season five all the same. Perhaps for the majority of us, though, waiting for this season’s poster art was bitter sweet as the entire world fights the invisible war. So I’m coming to you live from home during CoVid-19 quarantine.
But this guy’s tweets have been a substantial respite:
— Damian Lewis (@lewis_damian) April 9, 2020
Are there spoilers, clues, and hints hidden in the poster art? I immediately began scrutinizing the photos for suggestions and significance. When dissecting the details of the promo material, you’ll never guess what I found. So come with me on a deep dive and see if we can come up with an indication of what’s to come.
Firstly, let’s start with the initial promotional material.
Highrise – This could signify being on top of the world, perhaps each one pictured feels this way about themselves in their respective fields…making it to the big time. But a highrise can have a significant effect on evacuation should one want to escape. Does someone want to escape? More importantly, does someone HAVE to escape?
New York Skyline – The beautiful city that giveths and takeths when it deems fit.
Nighttime – The night can be seductive and sexy but it is often associated with danger and evil because of the psychological connection of the all-encompassing darkness and the fear of the unknown. The darkness is an obstruction of a major sensory system, the sense of sight. Who is flying blind this season? Based on the trailers I’ve seen, me thinks Axe is going to be blindsided. I think Axe will be hit so hard by something he never saw coming. Nighttime is also naturally associated with vulnerability and danger for survival. Look out Axe Capital.
Glass – At first thought glass brings to mind reflection, along with a certain fragility about it. But in this particular scene I feel it’s more about transparency, people seeing others for who they really are, and people who no longer have the desire to hide their emotions and feelings about each other. Taylor, on the other hand, has always had this notion of transparency but perhaps that’s an illusion for us this season. They may be feigning transparency while under the guise of a covert operation at Axe Capital.
Also, this glass gives the illusion of open spaces, freedom and expansiveness. Every HGTV home renovation show teaches that glass and mirrors make the space feel bigger and open! But it’s a trick. It’s not really open, free or expansive. I think this can be said about one of these characters who no longer wants to feel imprisoned, but rather, fly into the great expanse, outside the world immediately surrounding them.
The framing of the window panes in the building makes it feel like a cage of golden bars, a sort of prison, regardless of the natural light all the glass lets in. Does someone feel caged in? Does Wendy feel caged in? Does she want freedom?
“The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still.
A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.”
Wendy is going to claim the sky, y’all!
Distinctive Glass Panes of Separation/The Invisible Boxing Ring
Imagine a boxing ring, right? You have two prized fighters in the center of the ring with their coaches – lieutenants in command – off to the side and you have a referee.
Wags and Taylor are in one section of the glass together. Based on what I’ve seen in the two official trailers and subsequent teaser trailers, I feel this could signify their lieutenant status – Wags, the always loyal lieutenant of Axe and Taylor, the now working lieutenant/secret agent for Chuck.
Axe and Chuck are in the middle section – centerpieces of the landscape. I believe this means these two titans could be front and center this season, fighting each other in the ring again.
Wendy is standing in the corner, alone – nobody puts baby in a corner! She’s looking over her shoulder, not sure who to trust in the group she sees before her. In her previous role as referee, she was charged with enforcing the rules between these two titans during each dick measuring contest. And now the men seem apt for yet another match.
Green – When we think of the color green, we probably think of jealousy, ambition, greed, and of course money when it comes to Billions. But green can also signify life, renewal, growth, freshness, and energy. Because Wendy is the only one wearing green, I feel this season is about her taking charge of her life, a rebirth of sense, without Chuck. She is growing and moving on.
Blue – Wags, Taylor and Chuck are all wearing blue. The color blue is often associated with trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, and truth. I can see trust and loyalty when it comes to Wags, intelligence and faith when it comes to Taylor, and wisdom and truth when it comes to Chuck.
Red – But Chuck is also wearing a stark red tie. To me this signifies vigor and wrath. He’s hunting Axe this season.
Gold – The framing of the building windows, the heavy and luxurious curtains, and even the golden glow of light exuding from the windows of neighboring buildings reek of the hue. And when asked about the color gold? Most would probably say “rich,” as in gold bars. Gold is bold, empowering. It is the color of extravagance, wealth, riches, and excess. In other words, Billions 🙂 But also beware of fool’s gold.
Gray – Axe is dressed in his usual cashmere hoodie. Gray is a cool, neutral, balanced color. It’s also emotionless and moody, just like our Axe is.
Axe – He is standing at a partial angle, but standing firm and tall with his hands in his pockets. Some may say hands in pockets can mean insecurity, but this is Axe’s typical stance. He’s comfortable. A little too comfortable perhaps? But interestingly, Axe’s stance is a combination of what we call a ‘parallel’ stance and a ‘legs apart’ stance. In a parallel stance, two legs are placed parallel to each other. This is one of the best standing postures as it makes you look tall, straight and well aligned with your back. The people who prefer it are the ones who are awaiting a command of some kind. Axe is always at-the-ready, assembled for battle. Compared to the parallel stance, the legs apart posture is considered to be somewhat aggressive. This stance displays a straight posture with chest pointing outwards and the legs are spread some distance apart in order to make the body appear larger by occupying more space. Axe is brutally aggressive in business.
Wendy – She has one foot prominently forward. People who choose to stand with a foot forward are normally self-assured. They are confident about themselves. They know how valuable they are. They can handle pressure in different situations and are extremely dependable and loyal.
Chuck – Chuck is standing at a partial angle with one hand placed on his midsection and the other hand in a pocket. Chuck seems to have a combination of the ‘parallel’ stance and the ‘a foot forward’ stance (slightly).
Taylor – They are standing completely to the side, staring at what seems to be Axe and Chuck, the two forces they are playing against one another this season. They exhibit the ‘parallel’ stance.
Wags – He is the only one sitting while everyone else is standing. Sitting perfectly erect means that you’re confident. It can mean you are a strong and reliable person, and everyone turns to you when they need help or comfort. He is also the only one smiling.
What is missing from this particular promotional material are other characters we are used to seeing in at least the last two seasons’ poster art: Bryan Connerty, Chuck Sr., Kate Slacker, and last year, Dollar Bill. From the trailers I know Chuck Sr., Kate and Dollar Bill are still prominent characters this season, but Bryan is no where to be found. Ah, the mystery.
Now let’s move on to the official poster art and logo.
Last year’s logo was a solid black background with gold typeset and felt dark and ominous. This year’s feels lighter and transparent – from the reflection of the New York City landscape on what seems to be the side of an airplane, to the hollowed-out Billions typeset, and the blue sky. Who’s flying away with nothing but New York in the rear view? This is the first season that the Billions typeset has been hollow, which reminds me of having a hole or empty space inside. Void. Soulless.
Poster Art and Header
So the obvious tagline here is ‘Trust no one.’ It’s Billions, of course you trust no one! Wags is always up to shenanigans, Axe is ruthless, Wendy will cut a bitch, Taylor is sneaky, Chuck is dogged, Kate is shady, and Mike Prince is the unknown new blood.
The biggest difference between the main poster and the header is that Taylor has moved from a position on the left to dead center. Which bolsters what I’ve gathered from the trailers, that Taylor is the prominent winner this season, coming up from behind without anyone the wiser, squarely playing both Team Axe and Team Chuck. At first they may seem caught between the two teams, like being caught between a rock and a hard place, but they will no doubt work that to their advantage. And I’m stoked to find out how! To recap: Axe won season one, Chuck won season two, both Chuck and Axe lost season three, Taylor lost season four, so Taylor is a due for a win season five.
Runway Tarmac – The ground from which you leave. The concrete is hard, cold, and not inviting. It’s solid, final…a final destination.
Airplane – Is someone leaving? Taking a trip? Roundtrip or oneway? “Leaving, on a jet plane…don’t know when I’ll be back again.”
But we also know Axe owns twin jets and the official trailer showed Mike Prince flying a plane, probably his own. In a prior season Taylor was worried about taking Axe’s plane to a friend’s wedding, as they didn’t want to look opulent nor contribute to the carbon footprint. Axe, Wags, and Dollar Bill all flew to/from Chickentown in season four.
New York Cityscape – The New York cityscape can be seen in the background. Bye-bye Big Apple.
Luxury Items – A jet plane and the luxurious sports car signifies the lifestyle of the rich.
Sky – We see blue skies, but partly cloudy. On one side of the sky there is a clearing, an opening of sorts. Time and place for departure? Also, it seems the blue sky portion is more over Axe Capital employees and the cloudy section of the sky is over Team Chuck. Does someone from Axe Capital see an opening to take flight?
Five people are in mid-step: Bobby, Wendy, Wags, Taylor, and Kate. Yet two people are standing still: Chuck and Prince. Those in mid-step are on the go, not firmly planted. Perhaps they are changing, or they are in a state of fluidity-something about them is changing or their lives will be effected by someone else’s change. Whereas Chuck and Prince are firmly placed, solid in their footing. Static. Unchanging.
If you think in terms of coloring outside the lines, let’s look more closely at the defined runway lanes of the tarmac. Two people are inside the lane: Axe and Wendy. Are they heading along the same narrow path? Four people are outside the lane: Wags, Taylor, Prince, and Kate. Are those outside the lane not following the proverbial rules? To color outside the lines means to think creatively, to behave in an unconventional manner. Taylor will no doubt have to think creatively when working as Chuck’s Trojan Horse inside Axe Cap walls. Then there’s Chuck who is standing directly on the line. Does indicate he’s rebellious or perhaps he’s riding the fence or divided in his thoughts and actions?
Wags, Wendy, and Axe are all facing the same direction, perhaps looking at something coming their way. With Wags, Wendy and Axe all looking in the same direction, this could indicate they are aligned or headed in the same direction. Chuck, Kate and Prince all seem to be facing the opposite direction of Wags, Wendy, and Axe. At first I thought Chuck and Prince might be looking more in Axe’s direction, but at second glance, I think not. I think they are looking just past him. With Chuck, Kate and Prince all looking in the same direction, this could indicate they are aligned or headed it the same direction. Taylor is facing straight forward, regardless if they are positioned to the far left in the poster or dead center in the header photo. They are one. They are not aligned with one team or the other.
Now let’s think in terms of navigational direction. Looking at the poster, Wendy, Wags and Axe are looking east, but if you imagine yourself inside the photo, they are looking west. Chuck, Kate and Prince are looking east. In pop culture, we have the notorious East Coast vs. West Coast in Rap Music and in the Wizard of Oz we have Glinda the Good Witch from the North and the Wicked Witch from the West. Hell, they all could be facing North (for the most part) depending on the tarmac departure. So let your mind wander here, mine did…
Now I want you to look at both the poster art and header again. Remember earlier when I said Taylor had moved to a center position? Now think of a triangle and compare the two photos again.
In the poster art the triangle is Axe, Chuck and Wendy, with Axe at the point or apex of the triangle.
In the header art the triangle is Taylor, Chuck and Wendy, with Taylor at the point or apex of the triangle, just that the triangle is facing in opposite vertex.
Last season we saw the holy trinity union of Axe, Chuck, and Wendy as a force together. This poster shows the holy trinity separating – Axe is up front at the apex of the triangle, leading into battle alone, Chuck is stepping to the side, departing their triangle, and Wendy is stepping back from both men.
The new triangle apex is Taylor.
Wendy and Axe seem to be only two wearing an actual coat or jacket, like they are going somewhere. The rest are wearing pant suit jackets/sports coats. Are they the only two getting on the plane? Or is everyone getting on the plane?
Green – Wendy stands out in green just like she did in the promotional material Billions released before the official poster art. I feel she is on a path of renewal, growth, and freshness. In both official trailers we see her with an artist, a new man in her life perhaps and in the second trailer she is seen kissing him in what looks like an abandoned building. She is moving on.
Blue – Kate is wearing a light blue shirt to match the sky. Blue is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven. Blue is considered beneficial to the mind and body. Leaving New York via blue skies might be beneficial to the mind and body of someone in this poster, but I don’t think it’s Kate who is leaving on that plane. In fact, she might be there to stop the plane!
Red – The car is red, which is associated with strength, power, and determination. Red is an emotionally intense color so I imagine the ride to the airport in this car had some intense emotions behind it. Driving in a red car with the Big (red) Apple in your rear view seems fitting.
Orange – We see orange warning signs on runway in the near distance, then New York City further in the background. Caution do not pass go, do not collect your $200, leave New York now.
Purple – Wags is wearing a purple shirt in both sets of promotional material. One is more plum, the other more lavender. The color purple is often associated with royalty, nobility, luxury, power, and ambition. Purple also represents meanings of wealth, extravagance, creativity, wisdom, grandeur, devotion, pride, mystery, and magic. Wagsy is all of those things, is he not?
White – The plane is white, but most planes are. The clouds are white, but clouds are white. Regardless, I wanted to point out the color white in this season’s poster art and promotional material because all four prior seasons were dark and ominous or slate gray and cold. This season’s is much more airy and light. I don’t think this necessarily means goodness, innocence, and purity. But the color white is considered to be the color of perfection and can mean cleanliness. I think we’re wiping the slate clean here, for many of the characters.
What is missing from the official poster art are other characters we are used to seeing in at least the last two seasons’ promotional material: Bryan Connerty and Chuck Sr. From the trailers I know Chuck Sr. is still a prominent character this season, but Bryan is no where to be found. Wherefore art thou, little lion cub?
Mike Prince (Corey Stoll). This is the first time in the history of Billions posters that a brand new character we’ve never seen before in the show is on the official poster art material. Just how much of a guest role/recurring role is this? Not even John Malkovich made it to the promotional poster art of seasons past. Does this signify Corey Stoll’s role of Mike Prince as a more meaty role, perhaps a role we’ll see in subsequent seasons? Me thinks Prince will be around for sometime.
Analyzing Poster Art of Prior Seasons
Power Is The Ultimate Currency
The Mighty Will Fall
Axe, Chuck, Wendy, Lara, Wags, Bryan, Kate
Enemies Are Made To Be Broken
Axe, Chuck, Wendy, Lara, Taylor, Wags, Bryan, Kate, Chuck Sr.
Leave Them With Nothing
Axe, Chuck, Wendy, Taylor, Wags, Dollar Bill, Bryan, Kate, Chuck Sr.
Trust No One
Axe, Chuck, Wendy, Taylor, Wags, Kate, Prince
In seasons 1-4, the Billions typeset has either been above or below the photo in the poster art. This time the typeset is overlayed, like it’s cutting straight through Axe.
In both sets of the promotional material Wendy is wearing green – a green dress, then a green coat. In both sets of the promotional material the New York cityscape plays a character role.
My overall prediction based on this analysis, in combination with all the trailers that have been released thus far:
Taylor wins, they take down Axe Cap as Chuck’s Trojan Horse. Axe escapes and flies the coop on this plane, especially after seeing the trailer of him hiding out in a shady, run-down motel where someone slides something under the door to him. And then Wendy finding him sitting on the floor of an abandoned apartment? He may be escaping from the windbreakers only to be caught later. Wendy soars in her life with her new beau. Chuck gets whipped and spanked per usual. Prince becomes more prominent than we thought. No one can be trusted.
— Billions on Showtime (@SHO_Billions) April 12, 2020