Hear Bobby Axelrod say it one last time: “Previously on Billions”
As we cannot wait for Billions Season 6 to arrive at 9m ET on Showtime on Sunday, I would like to share my recap from Season 5 Season Finale No Direction Home as a refresher about where we left our characters!
This insane episode, full of outwitting, outsmarting and outlasting, also drops clever, if subtle, clues along the way about what is coming as well as offers moments from Billions memory lane that I adore! We all know that Billions creators love references and they use Billions references, too, in this episode – as a tribute to Axe and Chuck, Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti, who storm every scene they are in together. No Direction Home is absolutely one of those episodes you should really see at least twice to collect all the clues as well as all the blast from the past!
Chuck arriving at Axe Capital is always a thrill. Yet, as I expect him and Axe get to yet another of their insane exchanges, we go back in time…
43 Hours Ago
Axe has his war room set up at his country house. He wants to know the worst case scenario.
We find out from Bach that Axe may be looking at 25 years of jail time. Yikes! And he also gives the answer to the question I asked at the end of the previous episode: As the chairman of the bank, it is Axe’s responsibility to know his customer, to do his due diligence, which he skipped to be able to take the FYC money right away. He essentially trusted the due diligence Prince did for the company – fatal mistake. UGH.
We know that Prince never intended to take the FYC money. He knew that CEO Winslow was running a criminal enterprise from the get go. All he wanted was to provoke Axe to go after FYC, take its money, and fall. And Axe swallowed it, exactly like Kate said, like sushi laced with polonium. It seems Chuck can now make the case that Axe knowingly ignored Winslow’s criminal activity and conspired with her company’s money laundering. Farmer in the Dell indeed. Without the fun. UGH.
We also find out that Axe is not the only one in deep shit. Even though he had all his focus on Chelsea and not on the bank, Wags, the CEO of Axe bank, will also go down along with Axe in the worst case scenario.
As the loyal right-hand man that he is, Wags tells the man whose altar he worships at the truth: He will do *anything* not to go to jail. Well, that means only one thing, doesn’t it? Axe has to make sure Wags is not going to jail because otherwise Axe himself certainly will.
Axe tells Bach to arrange the surrender and promises he will honor it this time – remember he did not honor it and instead went to see Wendy at the World Trade Center in Season 2 Episode 12 No Ball in Hand! Axe will fight this loudly and publicly especially since there are issues, he looks at Wendy, more important than business involved here…
…Well, I certainly understand this is not the beginning Axe dreamt for them. And I would also take board shorts over orange jumpsuits! Yet if they had talked about risky business decisions rather than their dream trip to Fiji in the previous episode, Fiji would not have been a dream right now. UGH.
While Axe is looking for a way out, Chuck, happy as a clam, is sitting in his office with his new friend Prince. While he cannot wait to surprise Axe with an arrest warrant, Prince looks tired and he admits to Chuck that he was not able to sleep last night because of his excitement about Axe’s arrest.
Chuck has Axe’s two planes being watched. Axe’s assets will be frozen in parallel with his arrest, and Chuck, while he has plenty of options, wants to do it in his office – in front of his employees, and of course Wendy! What a little, insecure man! And look at Prince’s face when Chuck talks about putting the cuffs on Axe at his office, in front of his people. I think Prince sees through Chuck and his sick obsession with Axe right now. This was Clue #1 for me that something was cooking.
And it turns out, Bobby Axelrod is outside ready to fight this publicly! Bach, who gets into Chuck’s office to tell him that they know he is planning to arrest Axe in 24 hours, also puts a lap top on Chuck’s desk: Axe is front of Chuck’s building talking to the reporters as he calls Chuck to come down and charge him. And every word he says to the reporters is spot on – especially this part:
“…and so you know, as I do, the whatever kind of supposed crime I committed is really just the crime of living and breathing in Chuck Rhoades’ general vicinity.”
And Axe proving to Chuck, who comes down to confront him, and the reporters why this campaign against him by Chuck’s own words from Season 1 Finale The Conversation and Season 2 Finale Ball in Hand is a delicious walk in the Billions memory lane:
Chuck: “The only enemy more dangerous than a man with unlimited resources is one with nothing to lose.”
Axe: “I might go down behind all of this, but one thing is for sure, you are gonna be right there next to me.”
Chuck: “Wow. Like I said before, Bob… Worth it.”
Axe now admits publicly that he will technically surrender the next day but he will keep fighting Chuck until his dying breath. Oh, and he also notices Prince leaving the building… Interesting eye contact there, huh? This was my Clue #2 that something was certainly cooking.
Chuck is now in the office with Kate and Allerd. He is keen on punishing the traitor, whoever that is, who leaked the arrest information to Axe. But at this very minute, they have to make sure this case does not go to trial. They have to make Axe admit what he did and take a plea. While it may not work, they have to try and grill Mike Wagner. They have to make sure there is no popularity contest (which Axe can win against Chuck!) or a chance for Axe to manipulate the jury (which he can!) Chuck also wants surveillance on Axe, too, so everything falls into its place on Chuck’s chessboard.
Oh, and, yes, Chuck, I also saw the Kubrick film Paths of Glory – a brilliant anti-war movie. And while I never thought I could approve firing squads, I think I could if Chuck is the one standing against the wall at this very moment. And the Axe Cap employees who are watching Axe and Chuck live on TV may be with me!
It falls on the head of HR at Axe Holding Company to calm the employees down. They need to stay calm and united. Yes there will be negative press in the near future, but they will ultimately win as they always have. I wonder if Wendy believes these words she says to them…
…but I know she believes the words she says to Taylor and Rian. Because the advise Taylor now gives Rian about turning hate into fuel is exactly what Axe told them in Season 2 Episode 3 Optimal Play to motivate them in their poker game against Krakow.
“Hate is nature’s most perfect energy source. It’s endlessly renewable.”
Whoa. The circle of life. Taylor has now become Bobby Axelrod. And even Axe is ready to admit that – Taylor’s Boyd move in particular proves they have learnt enough from their mentor whom they have just killed.
Axe is probably taking pleasure in telling Taylor what is in store for them. They will feel less and less sad about people they crash over time. But in case they do not, they are welcome to bring cookies to Wallkill Correctional for Axe. But he does not think it is going to go that way and that Taylor knows it – which makes Taylor go and tell Rian what Agatha the Precog told Anderton in Minority Report :”Run.” And I really think, deep down, Axe is proud of Taylor. Look at his face as Taylor takes their leave.
I receive my Clue #3 in the meeting Chuck and Kate have with Wags and his new lawyer Neal Katyal playing himself ( Mr. Katyal is a good friend of show creator and runner Brian Koppelman). Chuck’s plan is to sweat Wags to a point that he will tell them Axe knew about the FYC’s money laundering and forced his CEO to cooperate.
I mean – I admit they have got me there for a nanosecond when Wags says life is too short and he will do it. But when he starts with his Idaho bullshit and leaves the stage to his boss a minute later, I know that something is most definitely cooking! Wags has been open and honest with Axe that he will do anything to avoid a jail cell. And if he mocks with the State AG like that now he knows more than we do!
So we finally have Axe and Chuck in a room together and these are the most delightful scenes with two powerhouses storming it. And in this particular scene, Chuck gives us a moment from Billions memory lane as he makes his case to Axe about why he has been chasing him with words Axe used when they agreed to work together in Season 4 Episode 3 Chickentown.
Axe: “Last time you were a lawman, it wasn’t so good for me.”
Chuck: “This time it’ll be different.”
Axe: “You sure about that? I’ve seen a lot of Westerns. A man changes when he puts on that star.”
Chuck: “No sir. Not on the inside. I wear the badge, I’ll be able to do for you. Favors reap favors.”
Now – I do not believe a word Chuck is saying about being a lawman and the star he has put on. As Axe has correctly pointed out in front of the reporters, this is not judicial, this is personal. And while Chuck admits it is partially about Wendy, it is completely about her. It has always been about her. I mean he wants to arrest Axe at Axe Capital only because he wants Wendy to see him like that. What a little, insecure man!
And this little, insecure man now thinks he is Muhammad Ali? Bullshit. I admit I am very pumped up about this because I just watched Ken Burns’ brilliant new documentary “Muhammad Ali.” And yeah Axe and Chuck remind me of Ali and Frazier, respectively – especially with their verbal exchanges being as intense as the press conferences the two boxers had before their fights 🙂
As soon as Dawn Winslow spills the beans about how she did what she did, Chuck has the authority to make the arrest. It turns out they agreed to have Bobby at the heliport. And it is amazing that Chuck stops to share the news with his dad. What a little, insecure man, still looking for parental approval! Your parental approval, Chuck, is your 80 year old father telling his baby daughter about his great older brother. Congratulations!
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…
Who is Muhammad Ali now, Mr. State AG?
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.
As Chuck figures out that the “traitor” is the only missing Team Chuck member at the heliport, we go back to 40 hours ago – a few hours after Axe has got information about his worst-case scenario from Bach. And, hey, if Prince is “the traitor” what does this make Chuck? I suggest “the idiot.” This scene is up there with Chuck cry-laughing at the end of Season 2 Episode 11 Golden Frog Time. And I wonder what Chucky will tell his daddy now 🙂
40 hours ago
A late night alley meeting between Wags and Scooter is followed by Prince paying a visit to Axe’s country house in the wee hours. Yes that is why Prince looks like he was sleep deprived the next morning in Chuck’s office!
Prince presents the facts. Once he is indicted, Axe’s assets of $8B will be frozen. Axe probably has a few hundreds of millions here and a few more there. If Axe goes to trial, he is looking at 25 years of jail time. Given that billionaires are not very popular these days, his best bet is to and take a plea. Minimum 6 years with good behavior and all that.
Prince is happy to see Axe go away, but he does not think he needs to go away in cuffs. And I am happy to see that Prince has figured out Chuck’s sick obsession with Axe.
“While that may be part of Chuck’s Cheryl Tiegs fishnet fantasy, it’s not part of mine.”
Prince’s offer is straightforward. $2B for Axe Holding Company – including Taylor Mason Carbon. And they have to sign now because once Axe is indicted, the business transaction will be illegal.
Wow. Everything has its first time and Axe now knows what it is to lose. Prince is making Axe a take-it-or-leave-it offer and honestly Axe has no leverage whatsoever. He can take the offer and run or leave the offer and go to jail. Two very clear choices.
15 hours earlier
Next we see Axe standing in a hangar with Hall appreciating one purchase he used to think as waste of money but that comes handy in a rainy day.
His THIRD plane that nobody knows about. The plane is outfitted as a cargo jet. And there is a special container in which Axe can sit on a regular seat. Perfect.
1 hour earlier
Axe gets on his chopper so that his tail is satisfied to see him go. Then he gets off from the other side and gets into a waiting car to be taken to his third plane for his flight to his new home and new passport!
Back to present time: As Kate is keen on getting the FAA to recheck the no-flight lists and air traffic, Chuck speaks the truth for the first time in this episode.
“When someone leaves a burning sack of excrement on your doorstep and rings your door bell, it’s best not to stomp it out lest get you covered in shit.”
Listen to Chuck, Kate. He’s experienced and covered in shit!
Chuck cannot wait for another second to get nasty with Wendy about Axe leaving her behind. I do not know how many times I called him a little, insecure man in this post, but he really is. But Taylor does not miss what Chuck misses. While she pretends to be shocked at the heliport, Wendy knew that Axe was going away.
Bobby and Wendy meet at the country house at sunrise. As Wendy is ready to set their base there and fight the case, Bobby finally spills the beans. It seems Prince has convinced the King about his odds. Bobby knows that, even if he fights, he will lose. So he will flee the country and asks Wendy to go with him… Hmmm I wonder if he thinks Wendy would go with him at all. Even though she leaves everything behind, there is no way a mom can leave her kids behind. Besides, Prince has said he wanted and needed Wendy at the company. So I think while Bobby is sincere that he would like to have any version of her with him, he knows that Wendy will stay behind.
And as, in my imagination, many fans shout at their screens “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!”Bobby and Wendy do not start a thing that they cannot finish. Exactly as they should. Well, they will always have Fiji 🙂 And maybe they can ski on Swiss Alps during the holidays…
“Willkomme to Switzerland, Herr Axelrod. Everything is in order.”
Well, ladies and gentlemen, this is how you do a Season Finale and how you title it – with a brilliant Bob Dylan song that fits the bill perfectly!
How does it feel?
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
A complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?
And finally we find out that the “he” Chuck asks about when he arrives at Axe Capital at the beginning of the episode is not Axe. It is Prince – the new owner of Axe’s Company.
As the new boss arrives and welcomes everyone back to the workplace, it seems everybody is staying except for Dollar Bill and Mafee who are planning to partner up. We may see them as a rival company in the next season and, who knows, may be taking instructions from Axe. Remember that Axe told Dollar Bill in their last meeting that he will always be a good operator in the money business and his place is Axe Capital.
Taylor, when they met with Axe in his country house, tells him that his problem is that he sees Taylor’s work, company and them as his. And now that Axe sold Prince the shares he bought from Wendy, Taylor has a new boss who loves to say “it’s all mine” 🙂 Hey Taylor, how is it going for you?
Well, only a few minutes in his new office, and Mike Prince welcomes his former BFF and new foe. As Chuck declares Prince as his new problem and reminds him that he knows he got rid of the last guy who sat in that chair, Prince corrects him:
“No. I got rid of the guy in the chair. Know how we know this to be true? Cause I’m the one sitting in it.”
And he is. I have to add that it breaks my heart to see Wags pulling the chair for the new king (yep – Prince upgraded to King now!) along with Scooter.
We all know that Damian will not be a regular on Billions anymore. However, I wonder whether Axe will make a cameo this or next season 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 the boss has been up to. Yes I know he is a fictional character but I already miss him! And my fantasy ending to the series is Axe taking his seat back from Prince with a little help from his minions and… Chuck of all people! Wouldn’t that be very Billions-y? 🙂
Either way, Billions Season 5 Finale marks the end of an era for me. I came to this show for Damian Lewis six years ago but I stayed for Billions. The brilliant people behind and in front of the camera have collectively given us the smartest show on TV. And I am proud of the fact that I have written a review for every single episode of Billions – I actually pulled all-nighters in the first three seasons because they did not make the episodes available the night before! It goes without saying that I am deeply invested in the storylines as well as the characters. 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 and played with me 🙂
Damian, you are one in a billion, thank you for everything. And while I will miss catching up with you on set, I will keep watching.