“From The Trader’s Desk”: Is This the End of the Beginning? Or the Beginning of the End? Billions S5 E11 Victory Smoke

Is this the end of the beginning?
Or the beginning of the end?
Losing control or are you winning?
Is your life real or just pretend?
End of the Beginning – Black Sabbath


After a quick trip to the West Coast, the Trader’s Desk is back for your Friday enjoyment. I have thoughts, so let’s get right to it.

I have always felt the idea of Axe turning Axe Capital into a bank was a bad idea. Why go through all the changes, and deal with all different types of rules and regulations? It’s not worth it. Also, this whole bank idea was purely emotional. Axe got the bee in his bonnet about the bank after Prince rattled his cage and “stole his shaman” at “The Mike”. It was a frustrated Axe no longer wanting to be the player at the casino but be the house. The problem is, Axe is a gambler, and I went into detail on why I believe that all the way back at the beginning of Season 2. He has become a deca being a speculator. He is good at trading and deal making. Why change and give up that shot of adrenaline?  This bank is all ego and emotion, and it may finally be the nail in Axe’s coffin.

But, before I give my thoughts about “Victory Smoke”, a  few observations about “Liberty”:

Chuck’s Jeffersonian Dinner – Paul Giamatti played John Adams in the 2008 HBO series “John Adams” (which is an amazing series). John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were bitter rivals during their time together in the Washington administration, and when Jefferson was Adams’ VP. When both were out of politics, they became good friends through the exchange of letters over many years. They even died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826. None of this has anything to do with Billions, but I thought it was a nice piece of trivia!

Stay Away from Mary Jane – Cannabis is a risky and stupid business to be in. Yes, it is legal in some states for medicinal and recreational use, but it is still against federal law. Also, many clients will not do business with firms that invest or deal with “vice” companies (alcohol, tobacco, casinos, etc.). Again, this is Axe looking to stop Prince from getting a “win” for his bank, and the blinders he has on is stopping him from looking at the big picture. He wants his bank to be legit, but wants to deal in weed? Stupid!

Breakfast at Chuck’s – OK. There has been much written and talked about regarding Chuck preparing eggs for Prince and Eva, so I need to add my two cents. That may have been the most boring 3 minutes I have watched on television in a while, and that is coming from someone who watched Season 11 of Doctor Who! And, to add insult to injury, Chuck uses oil to make eggs! Oil? No, just no. And over such a high heat? Nope, nope, nope. Everyone knows you use lots of butter over a low heat. I don’t cook much well, but the one thing I do make with some success is eggs, and that was no way to treat the incredible, edible egg!

The Fairly Odd Couple – Axe and Wendy!? Yeah, uh, no. I have been an opponent of this coupling from the start (partly because I used to be very Anti-Wendy). This just seems to come from two people who know each other well, are comfortable with each other, and are looking for a port in a storm. They are both going through an intense time and are both alone. This doesn’t seem like love, but convenience and proximity. I’ll get into this more a bit later.

Now, my thoughts on “Victory Smoke”:

Wendy’s conversation with Chuck while dropping off a check for a cool $25M was spot on. Everything Chuck has done over the last few years has drove them to this point of no return. Chuck may feel sadness, but he has only himself to blame. His manipulations and lack of caring about collateral damage in his plans and plots seemed to always set up Axe as the Knight in Shining Armor to Wendy’s Damsel in Distress. He treats everyone as a chess piece, moving them for his agenda, then wonders why he is alone.

He is willing to throw anyone and everyone under the bus in his pursuit of what he sees as “justice” or “fairness”, but at the end of the day, what has that really gotten for him? Wendy is gone, his dad will probably disown him, and he basically gave all his future criminal wins to Manhattan DA Gramm. He may get to finally nab his White Whale, but at a very high cost. Scorched earth polices are very rarely satisfying, and Chuck is not leaving anything alive in his wake.

Mike Prince says all the right things: he is a man of integrity, believes in the greater good, and is as humble as the day is long. However, he was easily manipulated by Chuck to use his daughters as bait to nail Axe. I’ve been calling Prince a phony and a fraud from his first appearance, and he never fails to prove me right. Now that his children know how shallow he really is, how long will it take Taylor and anyone else involved with him to come to the same conclusion?

Chuck believes Axe is “evil”. Really? I mean, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, tyrants who massacred millions of people for fun, those are evil people. It shows just how off the rails Chuck’s obsession with Axe truly is. When you start throwing the word evil around it really starts to lose its impact.

Wags seems to have become the performance coach for Team WAxe (yes, I went there). He sees how the difference in Wendy’s behavior now that her relationship with Axe has changed is impacting the business. She was always the voice of reason to Axe’s irrational side, now not so much. This is another reason why I think this relationship would just never work. People act differently when a relationship changes from friendship to love interest (at least in my opinion). Where once you were not afraid to speak your mind, perhaps you hold back because you don’t want to hurt your partner’s feelings, especially in the budding phase of a relationship. Axe thinks he loves Wendy because she keeps him grounded, but if she is no longer doing that, will he find her attractive as a partner in a romantic relationship? And will Wendy “make peace with who he is and not try to change him”? Does she think that Axe the boyfriend will change his spots? Just ask Rebecca how great a boyfriend Axe can be!

Which leads me into Fiji. The look on both Axe and Wendy’s faces while talking about a picturesque spot like the South Pacific Island says it all. It’s sounds like the perfect place with no cares or worries. Are they using it as a metaphor for their future? Are they both just imagining each other as idyllic partners in a perfect relationship? Instead of going to Fiji, it sounds like they are both on Fantasy Island!

One thing bugging me this whole episode was why didn’t Axe make sure he did his own due diligence on FYC and Winslow? That would be the first thing anyone who was using their brain would do. I know Axe was just trusting that since Prince did a due diligence everything must be on board, but since when does Axe trust anyone? I worked for BNY Asset Management that was part of Bank of New York. During that time, it was mandatory you took a class titled “KYC – Know Your Customer”. Just saying you didn’t know your customer or client was a crook was not good enough in the eyes of the law, and anything that even remotely smelled fishy was something to question. But, as we know, Axe was not thinking, and even his minions just wanted to make the boss happy and really didn’t dive deep into the background of Winslow. The need beat Prince to the punch, and fund Axe Bank caused Axe to fall right into the trap set up by the Horsemen and possibly make the final fatal mistake.

For the first time I can remember, Axe doesn’t know what his next move will be. If he runs, he knows he will lose everything, and Wendy certainly isn’t running with him as I doubt she would leave her children. If he stays, he is looking at the real possibility of prison time, and he will lose everything and then he won’t have Wendy. It is looking like a lose/lose situation.

This is Axe in a corner. And even though things look hopeless, I would never bet against Axe, especially when he’s up against a wall. That is when a Carnivorous Monster will really bare their teeth.

Bring on Episode 12!

Author: Lady Trader

"Lady Trader" is a Brooklyn girl, and a Wall Street lifer! Recently fought cancer, and won! I love heavy metal, history, sci-fi, oh, and blogging about Billions and it's great lead actor, Damian Lewis!

6 thoughts on ““From The Trader’s Desk”: Is This the End of the Beginning? Or the Beginning of the End? Billions S5 E11 Victory Smoke”

  1. Hurrah! Somebody else hated that egg bit. Not only do you not use oil, I think he cracked just 3 eggs, for 3 people? Come on.. not enough since he didn’t add anything. What, one lousy bite of greasy egg per person, well maybe two. Scrambled eggs need some little bits of ham, cheese, onions… something! And get that child off the surface where people are going to eat. I know it was supposed to relate to that other movie… so what, lazy script writing. I haven’t commented on this second part of season 5 and probably won’t, but couldn’t restrain myself after Lady Trader’s post.

    1. Thank you for reading Connie! I agree 100% with you! No seasoning? And I eat 3 eggs myself, so yes on the portion side! I’ll take a Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast over that fiasco any day!!

      1. The breakfast scene was an homage to the final scene of the movie The Big Night. Watch the scene from the movie. The busboy Cristiano (Marc Anthony) sitting on the counter as Chuck’s daughter does and gets the bread. Secondo (Stanley Tucci) cracks and scrambles three eggs, adding seasoning, in olive oil over high heat. Even the way Chuck scrambled, cooked, gets the plates and portioned out and served the eggs was the same. In the movie Primo (Tony Shalhoub) enters mid scene but Prince is already there but lingering back. Even the dialog or lack there off is similar. Basically Chuck asking his daughter if she is hungry. It was their big night.

        1. Thank you so much for reading. I hadn’t heard of that movie or scene so I had no idea it was a reference to it. That being said, I still don’t understand what it added to the storyline that was in Billions, still think it was boring, and am still shaking my head at eggs with oil! I know that the writers have their reasons for things, but that one is a head scratcher for me!

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