I am not good at saying goodbyes. I want them to be as short and painless as possible. But there are times I first think the goodbye has been short and painless and then it starts to sink, makes me want to get it out of my chest and have a closure. The good-bye to Bobby Axelrod falls in this category.
You may ask why since I am a fan who has made some serious noise about Billions. I have said time and again that it is my dream show: it has my favorite actor in it, it is filmed in my favorite place on earth and it deals with game theory – what I teach and research for a living. And not just that but I have written 60 episode recaps for God’s sake – I actually pulled all-nighters every Sunday to write the recap for the first three seasons! I have live-tweeted almost every episode along with the show creators, cast members and fellow fans. I have even written written a book about the show!
So how come I thought I would not write a personal ode to Bobby Axelrod?
Firstly, I have known that Damian Lewis would leave the show for over a year. Showtime shared this information with the publishing house and they shared it with me. I obviously kept the information to myself and knowing it has not decreased the pleasure I had from watching Season 5 one bit. Because it is not about what happens in Billions, it is about how it happens. So I knew that this was Damian’s last season as Bobby Axelrod but I had no idea if he would leave as a winner, in cuffs, or in a coffin 🙂 Strike the last one – I never thought they would kill off Bobby Axelrod. Come on, this is not Sopranos or… well, Homeland!
The long-time readers of this blog know that I launched this blog to be able to cope with Brody’s death in Homeland. The first ever piece I ever wrote about Damian’s work is Lamenting Nicholas Brody in which I declared myself a Brody widow. While I was a regular academic attending to my own thing, Nicholas Brody appeared out of nowhere and blew me away! And saying an unexpected and sudden good-bye to Brody was fucking hard. I really had to sit down and write my thoughts and have some sort of closure.
So, secondly, since I knew Axe would never have the kind of end Brody had, I thought I would be ready to part ways with him when the season ends. If he left as a winner, fine, but even if he left in cuffs, he might deserve it. As Damian shares with an interviewer earlier, when women come to him saying they think he is portraying their hedge-funder husband in the show, he feels like asking them:
“Are you visiting him in jail?”
Honestly, Bobby Axelrod has had a great end considering the circumstances. Yeah he had to leave the country for Switzerland but he has two billions dollars in his pocket, courtesy of Mike Prince, and an instant Swiss citizenship! I agree with Gingersnap that he is probably sampling the chocolate and cheese after skiing in the Alps! 🙂
So, why would I sit down and write a tribute for him like I did for Brody?
And, thirdly, while Billions has been my dream show, Bobby Axelrod has never been my dream character. And, exactly like Damian, I would never be able to understand why some fans idolize him or want to be like him. I completely agree with what Damian shares with New York Times:
“When I’m walking down the street in New York, it’s: ‘Axe, you the man!’” He’s a really despicable human being, but no one seems to care.”
Well, I believe this is because Damian has given Bobby Axelrod great depth, a human quality and some incredible physicality which I have discussed here. But then again, yes, Bobby Axelrod has done quite a few things that puts him in the despicable category 🙂
Bobby Axelrod made his billions shorting the airlines industry on September 11. And I have to say while this is a very cold, calculated act, it can still be justified as a rational action – where everyone sees a tragedy, Bobby Axelrod sees opportunity. After all, he did not personally hurt anyone.
But then he used a terminally ill employee, Donnie Kahn, to trick Chuck and he actually played God banning Dr. Gilbert from telling Donnie about the experimental treatments that would be available to him.
He destroyed Sandicot, an entire town, when he realized that it would not have the casino he thought it would and he broke Bruno’s heart along with it.
He pretended to engage with Bensinger’s Oath to help him with his public image (which was badly stained after how he made his billions was revealed) for the NFL team he was trying to buy.
He had Maria Gonzalez, a poor immigrant, deported to Guatemala without even blinking an eye so he could be cleared in the Ice Juice Case.
He got to work with a Russian Oligarch (a murderer to be precise) just to have his Ice Breaker after coming back to Axe Capital cleared of all charges against him. Well, he at least said no to Andolov when he offered to kill Taylor!
He used a Freeport not to pay customs duties and sales tax for the paintings he bought at Art Basel. And thanks to Danny Margolis, who owned the Freeport, Axe stored the replicas there while he enjoyed the originals at his glass penthouse! And, you know what Bobby, the rich not paying their taxes is the most annoying to me.
He worked behind the scenes to destroy Rebecca’s company while she was on an Extreme Sandbox trip with Wendy because she partnered with Taylor. And he destroyed Taylor’s company along with Rebecca’s forcing them to come back to Axe Capital and work for him.
And this is what I could remember just off the top of my head…
HOW COME DID I END UP WRITING MY OWN PERSONAL GOOD BYE TO BOBBY AXELROD?
Because, ladies and gentlemen, while Bobby Axelrod is a true monster, unlike Chuck Rhoades and Mike Prince, he is not a hypocrite!
UNLIKE Chuck Rhoades and Mike Prince, who claims to be doing what he does in the name of justice and who claims to be a monster from Monsters, Inc. respectively; Axe has always been honest about who he is. He has never pretended to be a Robin Hood or a Mother Teresa. And while he destroyed quite a few lives and businesses, UNLIKE Chuck and Prince, who threw their best friends under the bus to maximize their own benefits, Axe has never hurt anyone close to his heart. And, UNLIKE Chuck Rhoades and Mike Prince, Axe has not pretended he is taking his every step within the boundaries of law. In short, unlike Chuck Rhoades and Mike Prince, Bobby Axelrod is not a hypocrite. And so I believe he deserves a proper sendoff. So here you go: a short walk in the Billions memory lane with my favorite moments of Bobby Axelrod. I am aware that these may not be the moments many Billions fans would choose as Axe’s best moments in the show because they are not the ones in which Axe is a terminator or a monster or is a winner. These are the moments of a flawed man who has the ability to shine when he remembers he is a human being – vulnerable and mortal.
So in chronological order…
That worn out “Master of Puppets” t-shirt is a statement of a teenager from Yonkers who is probably listening to Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” and taking a job as golf caddy in the summer of 1986 to make his pocket money for the year. Bobby is happy for the job. He makes $16 a round until Ellis Eads fires him, not from the round, but from the club, only because the young caddy witnesses his grandson making fun of him.
Axe is here today to get even with the spoiled brat who spoiled his summer job and nothing else matters (You see what I did there!) 🙂 And yeah Axe may come across as a monster in the scene, but what he does is very human in my book.
Even though he promises to give $100 million for naming rights and $25 million for the family to remove their name from the hall, he subtracts $16 million from that check. Ha! As much as it’s some proud old money, Axe knows that the Eads family does not have the luxury of closing the door on his face. This check is their only way out of looming bankruptcy.
“Because none of you – not one – has done a single day of work from the moment your prick of a miserable grandfather fell facedown in the sand in Palm Beach.”
Team Axe regroups at Axe Capital as soon as Mike Dimonda tells Axe in a private meeting that he will publish a piece titled Blood Money about how Axe made his fortune on 9/11. While Sheryl has all his denials written and will share the real story with Forbes, and Orrin Bach is going for a defamation suit and will find a ghostwriter to write a best-seller about the real Bobby Axelrod, Axe simply says no. The guy who burns the world over The Punch video now keeps calm as the world finds out about what he did on 9/11.
Axe justifies his means for the ends. He did those trades before he knew it was a terror attack. He saw an opportunity in making 750 millions dollars that day. He knew the firm and the surviving families would need that money. He’s not proud of himself. But it is what it is.
I love the boy whose dad never came back standing in front of these men born with a silver spoon in their mouths It is all about to whom you were born to for them to let you play and NEW money is not welcome here at the Yale Club. As much as I despise the fact that Axe drinks Sandicot’s milkshake, I cannot help root for him to be the bull that fucks the men in this room!
“They say that a boy never really becomes a man until he’s buried his father. Now, mine has been dead to me since the moment he walked out when I was 12 years old. I don’t remember if I cried, but I do remember that I was forced to grow the fuck up.”
This is certainly not an easy conversation to have with kids who most often see dad as a superhero. I applaud Axe for being truthful with his boys in Season 2 Finale. He does not want to fail them like his father failed him. Axe admitting what he would not admit to many to his kids is one of his shining moments on the show.
“The government is a bunch of fucking liars, guys… Listen. Look, that’s not true. Sometimes they lie. Sometimes they tell the truth, just like everyone… Like me. Most folks, they find this out about their dad much later, but everyone finds it out. I’m a flawed man. I’m not perfect. I’m not always right. I don’t always win. I fucked up. I did do something wrong.”
As “Bravo, Wags!” goes to Wags’ tombstone for getting the last burial plot in New York City, the light-hearted exchange my favorite duo has in the episode’s closing scene may not be as trivial as it seems.
Dying in your thirties is “tragic.” As is forties. Sympathy dissipates from there.
Fifties is “such a shame.”
Sixties is “too soon.”
Seventies… “a good run.”
And eighties is “a life well lived.”
“That’s a fuckin’ hell of a ride.”
True. Some go too soon, some have a good run while some have a fuckin’ hell of a ride. Yet, death is still probably the only equalizer we have in an otherwise very unequal life.
Axe joins Andolov and his family – including his wife, his ex-wife, his mother and his kids at Tatiana Restaurant. And the biggest family surprise of the episode starts with Axe realizing the little boy in Andolov’s story in Season 3 Episode 9 Icebreaker is Andolov himself with his mom doing what she had to do to protect her son.
Damian’s eyes let you know that Axe is thinking about his own mom, the woman who gave him life and who raised him on her own, as he holds Andolov’s mom’s hand.
And as I am thinking Axe will probably drive to the cemetery to visit his mom, he pulls in front of a nice house and knocks on the door.
We know that loyalty rules Bobby Axelrod’s Billions. He tells Mafee in Season 1: “You don’t try to be loyal. You just are. Or you’re not.” Wags has always been loyal to Axe and the “Kommandant” is ready to say “Fuck Axe Capital” in Season 4 opener when he knows his right hand man is in danger at the Embassy of Qadir. Hats off!
Axe and Wags are one of the best, if not the best, TV duos ever! And the “old school” way they get out of the natural gas positions when there is a cyber attack on Axe Capital computer network is second to none. Old Burners. Dusty Dossiers. Carrots. Sticks. Done.
Wags: “Honey, baby, sweetie… It’s your dear old uncle Wags. Haven’t seen you since that tray of Kamikazes we stared down after Sohn…”
Axe: “You, me, at the Open. Uh-huh. Oh, my box on Arthur Ashe.”
Wags: “What do you mean you are not a buyer? How’d you just satisfy your need? I’ll believe you that you’re satisfied when I hear you moan and shake like an old washing machine and tell me who finished you off…”
Axe: “I’m sitting on half a mil Bay Pipeline and I want to exit silent and quiet like as Le Samourai.”
Well, they can make an episode only with Axe and Wags on the phone with the primes and I am in!
Bobby Axelrod is a good son to Bruno, the only father figure in his life when he gives him a proper sendoff.
Axe broke my heart when he broke Bruno’s in Season 2 when he fucked Sandicot. And it is truly beautiful to finally see Axe making amends to the only father figure in his life! Axe is buying Bruno out tonight! And while the old man will now be able to make the sunshine state his home, Axe will keep the pizzeria. Bruno is right that Axe’s childhood is not in the hot oven, but it is inside him, in his heart, I love it that Axe cannot give up on the only place where he feels home. This is the Bobby Axelrod I truly like.
And, believe it or not, I was extremely lucky to watch this scene being shot at Rosa’s Pizza. You can read my story here. Salud!
Axe Capital is running a mock hearing with Wendy on New Year’s Day because her medical board hearing is fast approaching. While Wendy is openly sour with Chuck, who is constantly checking the time and wants to get done with the mock hearing as soon as possible, she has the biggest smile we have ever seen on her when Axe makes a surprise with an early return from his vacation with the boys in Fiji.
Wendy’s schoolgirlish smile speaks volumes. It is obviously Axe whom she trusts 100% in this. And while Axe talks about Gordie scraping his leg at a coral and Dean breaking his surfboard to explain their early return, Wendy knows HE IS BACK FOR HER. Well, loyalty rules Bobby Axelrod’s billions and he certainly knows how to reciprocate loyalty.
I have been fascinated by Axe’s background from day one and written a six-part series about Bobby Axelrod: The Boy Whose Dad Never Came Back. And I knew right away that it was about him not being able to step into his childhood house when Axe skipped dinner with Savion and his mom not once but twice. It is not about Yonkers, it is about the childhood trauma he had with an abusive father. And we find out about young Bobby’s heartbreaking life as Wendy comes to find him in his childhood room.
Think about it: A boy understanding the evening will turn bad from the way his dad’s car gets into the driveway and the keys jangling in the lock. A boy trying to distract his dad with a fight he had or a kid’s ass he kicked – probably the only things this kind of dad would see as an accomplishment – so he does not beat his mother… And knowing all along that it will eventually happen… A boy sitting in his room feeling totally powerless and promising himself he will grow up to be someone over whom nobody will have this kind of power. My heart goes out to this boy who was able to pull himself out of this deep shit and I completely understand that he does not want anyone to live in this toxic house where he used to go out just to breathe…
As Team Axe (Wags, Wendy, Bach, Taylor – why is Taylor there?) and Team Chuck (Chuck, DA Gramm, Kate, Karl) arrive at the heliport for the precious delivery. I believe that the anticipation of having Axe cuffed in front of Wendy is the ultimate wet dream for Chuck!
Literally LMAO that it turns out the only delivery they have today is a bag for Wags in which there is a document asking Wags to be the CEO of Axe Bank which has never been signed…
Oh, and the chopper…
So everything was a show – from Bach’s visit to Chuck to agree on the terms of the surrender to Axe calling out Chuck to come and arrest him publicly in front of the reporters, to Axe crashing Chuck’s meeting with Wags and Katyal to tell him that the jury will find him innocent – to make everyone involved believe that Bobby Axelrod would surrender as Bobby himself was finalizing his plans to flee the country on his third plane!
This is a very human move on Axe’s end, because why would he go to prison for a crime he really has not committed? Chuck and Prince made up the crime, dragged Axe into it and trapped him. And I believe that is why Mike Prince, who is as big a monster as Bobby Axelrod, did not want Axe to go to prison and chose to make business with him instead!
“Willkomme to Switzerland, Herr Axelrod. Everything is in order.”
Who is Muhammad Ali now, Mr. State AG Rhoades? 😀
So I wonder if Axe will show up in Season 6 or 7 in a brief storyline, a flashback, or in spirit – such as Wendy talking about a phone call with him, traveling to Switzerland for a ski trip, or Dollar Bill taking instructions from Axe for a particular trade so that we get updates about what Axe has been up to. Yes, I know he is a fictional character, but I already miss him.
In closing, I should talk about my utterly selfish reason to mourn Bobby Axelrod leaving the show. This blog has had a very close relationship with Billions. They started shooting the pilot only a week or two after I launched Fan Fun. And our long-time readers know that Damian found out about the blog while he was shooting the famous ‘Fuck you money’ scene.
I came to Billions for Damian but I stayed for the show. The brilliant people behind and in front of the camera have collectively given us the smartest show on TV. I am proud of the fact that I have written a review for every single episode of Billions. And I have been extremely lucky over the years to catch Damian on set, witnessed some of the lovely, fun and thrilling scenes in the show being filmed, as my favorite actor in the world made me feel like his guest on set. I do not think I will be able to have access to any of Damian’s future work like I had to Billions. So this is the end of an era for me.
Damian, you are one in a billion! Thank you for giving us one of the most iconic characters on TV. Thank you for being very kind to me and always generous with your time. I cannot think of another show that made me as happy as Billions. But I’m ready for your next project. Looking forward!