The Kink of Billions – Season 5 (1st half)

At the end of Season 4, we saw Chuck come to terms with his kinky proclivities. While campaigning to be New York’s attorney general, he gave his “Overton Window” speech, where he said the following at a press conference:

I, in my private life, in the confines of my happy marriage with my consenting wife, practice sadomasochism…Bondage, dominance, all the rest. Masks, binds, ropes, fire, wow…even just saying it like that, I can feel my shoulders loosen for the first time in decades. I am a masochist. In order to experience sexual gratification I need to be tied up, punched, pinched, whipped, kicked or otherwise tortured, by my loving wife. 

In Season 5, we see the consequences of this breach of marital privacy, which is that his marriage is dead and Chuck is an emotional wreck. To heighten his misery, because the BILLIONS writers are sadists, they make Chuck attend his dad’s wedding where he faces serial indignities. One of the guys at his table eyes Wendy, asking, “What’s the statute of limitations on exes, these days?” When Chuck cuts in on a dance between Wendy and Chuck Sr, the father disses him as well. “You had your chance, Sonny. Maybe if you’d been this insistent when she was yours…” As a final blow, Wendy refuses to leave with him.

Chuck Sr. sweeping Wendy off her feet

In the interim, the world has adjusted to this intimate knowledge of Chuck’s, and Chuck has adjusted to being out as a sexual submissive. The women in his life, from Wendy to Sacker to Cat, all know how to play him. Sacker gets bossy with her boss. She even taunts him at the wedding, when he tells her to go back to work and to arrest the Crypto guys. “First I make you squirm, then I make them squirm.”

Wendy scoffs when Chuck pleads with her during an argument about their son. “Can’t we stop punching at each other?” She notes, “You flail at me wildly, and then you put your chin right there. What do you expect me to do?” Wendy basically blames the pain he’s feeling from her verbal attack on Chuck’s own masochism. She describes Chuck as being a “prisoner to his appetites.”

To get Chuck to attend her class at Yale and face a grilling from her students about his “Overton Window” speech, Cat asks if she can attend his class. When the students push back over his teaching style, she stands up and basically dominates the room. While she does so politely, there’s steel behind her manner. No surprise, Chuck wants to see more of her, and he goes to her class.

Cat showing Chuck’s Yale class who’s boss

Chuck’s openness and self-awareness about his masochism lead to a very dark, but funny moment in episode 2 when Chuck volunteers to be waterboarded. After he’s experienced waterboarding-lite, he announces it is actual torture. “If even I don’t like it.”

Chuck, the masochist, trying waterboarding

When Chuck participates in Cat’s sociology class, he first stands at the back of the classroom where he can relish her description of his speech. Cat is direct, as she begins her lecture, “Let’s really get into the text. ‘Masks..binds…fire…’ and this was all on television. Who saw it live? Why do you think he gave this insane speech. What do you think he was trying to do?” Her tone was non-judgmental, but she called the speech “insane” while Chuck listened. And then she gets the class to drill into it, in a discussion of humiliation, privilege, subversion. The students are unimpressed. They didn’t find his speech subversive at all.

Chuck being grilled by students in Cat’s class about his proclivities.

Cat proposes that masochism is “the pursuit of autonomy in and control over pain and suffering. Rhoades played subservient in order to win dominance.” This could be the most perceptive and flattering take on Chuck’s speech yet. It acknowledges that he’s been in charge of his own debasement, and she elevates and transforms the speech into a successful election gambit. Chuck then offers to take questions from the class. One student asks, “As a self-identified submissive, did you get any gratification. Did you get off on giving the speech?” Chuck answers, “The release I felt was more emotional than carnal.” It might not have been arousal, but he definitely felt something. Moreover, he appears to relish reliving that bonkers moment at his press conference.

As Chuck tries to put some distance between himself and his old carnal appetites, he winds up dating Cat. Her scientific curiosity and a pleasing non-judgmental quality seem refreshing to him. At a romantic dinner, Cat addresses his kinks straight on. “How often are you going to show up to our dates with a new bruise?” She then announces she was kidding, and Chuck invites her to ask questions. This seems attuned to his interest in humiliation.

Cat is emboldened, and tells him that not everything that works for him  works for her, sexually. Chuck inquires about his “modality.” Cat replies, “I can have fun in that modality, but it can’t be the only modality.” Chuck then urges her to go deeper in his questioning, seemingly relishing the possibility of some embarrassment, “Ask me anything, and be as direct as you possibly can.” Cat continues, “Some subs I’ve known don’t like…shit, fine, I’m just going to ask it. Do you like penetrative sex? Does it work for you? ” Cat knows his type, and she asks a very specific and pointed question. And even though we’ve seen Chuck fail at vanilla sex with Wendy he replies, “In the right setting, it really works.” This isn’t a blanket “yes.”

Chuck and Cat enjoying a romantic dinner and discussing “modalities”

Although their evening gets interrupted with a medical catastrophe, Cat and Chuck get together afterwards at his office. She’s direct – again –  and tells him they should get their evening together restarted. Chuck follows behind her, and we see them enjoying missionary position sex while kissing in bed, in apparent satisfaction.

Their next time together, sexually-speaking, happens after a discussion about sex workers and the Nordic Model (a controversial approach to addressing prostitution, which advocates for criminalizing the hiring of sex workers, rather than punishing the sex workers themselves). Chuck arrives at Cat’s place. He has not betrayed her trust on a legal matter, so Cat expresses relief because otherwise, “We couldn’t have enjoyed this.” She points to a gorgeous brunette in bra and panties, who is waiting for them.

“Is this a reward or to teach me a lesson.” Chuck won’t drop the idea that sex acts have ulterior motives, that punishment is potentially on the menu. He wants his erotic play to incorporate consequences.

“Both. Neither. Whatever we want to make of it.” Cat’s reply is vague, letting Chuck imagine whatever he needs to, consequence-wise, in order to heighten the moment. They enter Cat’s bedroom, and join the sex worker for a threesome.

Sex worker hired by Cat for their amusement

What Cat seems to understand about Chuck is that in the absence of classic BDSM tricks and tools, he probably needs an extra dose of novelty. There’s a personality trait called “sensation seeking,” where those who possess it seek out “varied, novel, complex and intense” sensations, that often involve risk-taking.

Justin Lehmiller writes in his book, “The Psychology of Human Sexuality”: “Sadomasochistic desires may stem from a sensation seeking personality, in which riskier or more thrilling activities are required in order to achieve arousal.” It’s a personality trait that is over-represented among kinksters.

The first time they were together, it was enough for Cat just to be herself. That was sufficiently intense and novel for a guy like Chuck. The second time, she upped the stakes and the novelty factor by including a gorgeous third party whose appearance — slim, long dark hair, gorgeous black lingerie — is aligned with Chuck’s arousal template. They might not be stringing him up on a rack, but the two ladies would offer Chuck a ton of fresh carnal stimuli. Everything should work at Chuck’s end until he reverts fully to type.

One of the themes explored in BILLIONS is whether our characters are fixed. It asks if monsters can be modified or mollified. While Chuck suggests that his monster has been mollified, his wiring suggests this is merely temporary. After all, he’s said so, himself. In discussing his appetites after an unusually brutal BDSM scene with Cassie, he told Wendy BDSM is something “I can’t live without. And I won’t.”

Something will happen that will send Chuck back to the dungeon. It seems inevitable. He handles stress and soothes himself by enduring pain, and this show tortures its characters every week.

The Kink of Billions – Chuck

The Kink of Billions – Wendy and the Dominatrixes

The Kink of Billions – Pervy Details

Author: Jane Boon

I'm an MIT graduate in technology and policy; a Ph.D. engineer turned novelist. My favorite stories lie at the intersection of wealth and deviancy, which is why I'm a huge fan of BILLIONS, and which is also the territory I cover in my novel EDGE PLAY, from Regan Arts. If you look closely at the scene where Chuck Rhoades visits the S&M club in the first season, you can spot me wearing a corset and standing by the bar. When I'm not playing dress-up, I divide my time between Los Angeles (my husband edits the LA Times), and NYC, where we have an apartment in Wall-Street-adjacent Tribeca. Follow me on Twitter: @JaneEBoon

One thought on “The Kink of Billions – Season 5 (1st half)”

  1. This season is a liberal’s wet dream and, unfortunately, almost unbearable to watch.
    I was always aware of the liberal undertones and even the in your face liberalism but season 5 is over the top and it’s wrecking the show.
    The Michael Prince character is a joke and no one would run a business or a fund the way he does and be successful. Liberals by nature aren’t successful business people and the wealthy ones generally don’t become liberals until they’ve accumulated untouchable wealth.
    I’ll watch but it hurts.

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