All day long I think of things, nothing seems to satisfy
Think I’ll lose my mind if I don’t find something to pacify
I need someone to show me the things in life that I can’t find
I can’t see the things that make true happiness, I must be blind
Paranoid – Black Sabbath
Welcome back to the Trader’s Desk. What a long, strange trip it has been over the last 15 months. I hope that this post finds you healthy in both body and mind.
Now, without further ado, let’s get into “Copenhagen”, albeit a tad differently. The name of the episode may be the Danish capital, but this Trader’s Desk is going to Spain. Instead of the typical recap, I’m going to just give a few observations, tapas style, as there was no real “fin-speak” this time around.
Do you even read? Somebody doesn’t know their Shakespeare. Mike Prince says he loves the “delightful demeanor” of the Danes. Well, I have one name for you – Hamlet. A more depressing Dane there never was!
Do we really believe in the Chuck 2.0? Even though he doesn’t want us to make a big thing about it, we are seeing a “new” Chuck – both physically and in actions. When I first saw the clean-shaven Chuck, it reminded me of the very first thing I saw Paul Giamatti in, Howard Stern’s “Private Parts” where he played a character named Pig Vomit! Then I thought of the amazing series “John Adams” where he played the lead role. He is also beardless in Netflix’s “Gunpowder Milkshake” where he stars along side Game of Thrones’ Lena Headly and Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan. Anywho, I like the new beardless Chuck!
As for the new Chuck in his actions, well, I think we are going to have to see. Chuck did the right things in his choices this episode, but what did he get for it? Bubkus! His Dad still doesn’t trust him to make medical decisions, he lost his teaching gig at Yale, he handed Axe a bank charter on a plate, and he lost his Cat! I’m with Damianista on this one. I think asking Chuck to go on the straight and narrow is like asking a lion to become a vegetarian. Only when he finally does go all Paul Kersey, it’s going to be epic!
Looks like the Cat’s out of the bag! And speaking of Chuck’s Cat, looks like she’s off to greener pastures. I’m not going to say I’m sad to she her gone, as I don’t think the character brought much to the show, or to Chuck. Well, they’ll always have Paris!
When it Rians it pours! Taylor has an issue with their employee, Rian. Taylor is surprised to find that Rian is working a catering gig on the side, and Taylor is not happy. If Taylor recognized Rian, then others may as well, then start to question why a TMC employee needs a side hustle. I understand where Taylor is coming from, but realistically, analysts rarely get face time with clients, so I don’t think it would be an issue. However, Taylor’s name is on the door, so what they say should go. Taylor wants Rian to put in the time, the work, the sacrifice, just like they did. Rian is not really having it, and being the snotty little millennial she is, pops off to Taylor and says they won’t be owned. I’m sorry, what? I would have fired that little wench for how she spoke to her boss! When you get into this industry, especially at the level of rarefied air that is Axe Capital and TMC, it becomes you; it’s who you are. As Taylor says you give up “nights, weekends, holidays” “your world becomes the job”. And it becomes less and less about the money, and more about the “elegance of success”. Preach!
My training to become an analyst took place after I had already put in a full 8 hours of work; I was the portfolio/admin assistant to the Large Cap Growth team and had my responsibilities during the day. I would then spend another 2-3 hours working with the senior analyst learning how to read a 10K, construct models, listening to earnings calls, etc. If you don’t want to put in the time and effort, then perhaps you are in the wrong line of work. Rian seems to come around, but I’m not buying it yet. Anyway, I would have fired her for wearing those damn high waters. Ain’t no one want someone who gets their fashion sense from Steve Urkel working for them!
Why can’t Wendy find a decent man? We know Wendy kicked Chuck to the curb (she didn’t acknowledge him at Senior’s apartment), she and Axe are not seeing eye to eye (she tells him “We haven’t been able to save each other from much lately.”) and her last fling (Craig Heidecker) went all Challenger on her. Her track record with the male of the species is not that great. However, I believe she can do so much better than the boorish, moody Tanner. He was rude just to be rude to Mafee, goes out of his way to not fit in with the Axe Cappers and basically acts like a caveman (and looks like one as well). After being Team Anyone But Wendy for a long time, I see she is the only one with a brain and a heart (and a cool $9M bonus don’t hurt!). And as for his “art”? Well, as the iconic Queen Alyssa Edwards once said “Mama, this is garbage”. I’ll stick to the Italian Renaissance Masters, thank you very much!
Possible effects of Miss Rona? This may be the first ever episode of Billions that didn’t feature at least more than one restaurant (and speaking of, did you know that Damianista has a book about all the amazing eateries featured in Billions? Well, order it here! Now! Ok, shameless plug done.). We know due to Miss Rona, the restaurant industry in NYC was almost decimated, and I’m guessing when shooting started back, filming inside restaurants was not an option. So, we may just be seeing more take away, because we know the writers still love New York’s best bars, café etc. and will always promote their favs in one way or another.
Another possible effect of Lady Covitina may be more one on one scenes. I have absolutely no problem with this, as I believe some of the best and most memorable dialogue has been between just two characters going head-to-head.
Let the music do the talking (if you got the Aerosmith reference, two bonus points to you!). Billions and music. They just go together like Quick Draw McGraw and Baba Looey. This episode featured Tom Petty’s “It’s Good to be King” played appropriately when Axe the King, takes down the lowly Prince. I will always want a metal song in an episode, but Tom Petty holds a special place in my heart, and I talked about why in my Desert Island Discs post a few years back. Coincidentally, it’s also the same song I picked on my Desert Island Discs!
It’s the skeletons that will always get you in the end! We know that Axe always needs an enemy and boy does he have one in Mike Prince! This rivalry just feels different to me, in that is not just about getting a better deal or skirting the law. For Axe, he sees something in Prince that he just needs to destroy, not just make him heel. Axe certainly is on the way to doing that by exposing the skeletons in Prince’s deep, dark closet.
I’m not going to go into all the gory details, as Damianista did that so well here; I’ll just talk about some things that stood out to me,
Axe is so upset that Wags got the gambling thing wrong is he willing to throw Wags under the bus? Wags? When you start to see your most loyal, trustworthy friends as disposable, then there is a problem.
Prince has no one to blame but himself for any of this. He told Axe to dig deep into his life, past and present. What the hell did he think a man as possessed as Axe (and with unlimited resources) would do? Prince has no idea who he is going to battle with! As the saying goes “When you come at the king, you best not miss.”
Axe finding out about Prince’s ex-partner David Fells, and the role he played in his demise was way more valuable to Axe then just shares in a company. This war is not about money anymore. This is about Axe coming up against a formidable adversary who is just as rich and powerful, but with a halo on his head. Axe knows he makes deals with the devil and embraces it. The holier than thou Mike Prince just gets under his skin like no one else. I will say, seeing Prince go from smug to shocked and dismayed was the most enjoyable part of the episode! And have we seen Axe smile so contently after detonating the Prince Bomb any time recently? I don’t think so!
Finally, something Wendy said to Axe I found very interesting:
“Figure out who or what from your past you’re still furious at because that’s where it always comes from.”
We have gotten slight glimpses into Axe’s past, but I think we can all agree that the rage, and the insecurities that Axe carries with him has its foundation in his childhood. I do hope we eventually get to learn more about Axe and his past as it may just explain, but not excuse, a lot of his behavior.