While I am one of the biggest, if not the biggest, fans of Damian Lewis, I am not one of the “No Axelrod, No Billions” viewers. I still watch and enjoy the show – especially detect the differences as well as the similarities between the billionaire who left and the one who took his seat and renamed his company! And, if you are one of the people who stopped watching after Axe left, believe me, Axe may not be present physically in the show now but he is absolutely there in spirit. Axe is a ghost in Season 6.
Once Mike Prince has taken over as the boss, there is an inevitable transition from Axe Capital to Mike Prince Capital. And as Prince warms up to his CEO seat, he constantly reminds other characters in the show – varying from the State AG Chuck Rhoades to an employee at MPC – that he is different from the previous guy, and moreover, he is a better leader with a superior vision.
And it is not only Prince who mentions Axe and his times regularly in Season 6. As they get used to their new boss and the new culture at the workplace, the former Axe Cap employees cannot help remember their former boss and his ways, and compare him with the new one.
So it is my great pleasure to bring you Bobby Axelrod in Billions Season 6 today. Exactly like the former Axe Cap employees, I cannot help think about Axe and how he would respond to what is going on in Season 6. Thus, I add some spice in the form of a brief personal comment and a little fun “what would Axe say?” gif to each scene or episode 🙂
Please let me know if I miss any reference to Axe in Season 6 and I will add it to the post. Thanks, and ENJOY!
Episode 1: Cannonade
It is only natural that the new boss spends the entire first episode trying to convince his employees that he is not only different from Axe but also his approach is more productive. He wants his new team to trust him as a leader. However, the former Axe Capital employees are skeptical of the new boss and his ways… especially after they realize that Prince has been following their data from the health-monitoring rings he gave everyone in the office as a gift! I mean… Can you blame them?
So Prince starts his rounds with Taylor.
Prince: Just tell me what you need to succeed here.
Taylor: A boss that I can trust and work with.
Prince: I’m not Axe.
Taylor: You’re sitting in the same office. You own what was once his.
Prince: For different reasons. I need faster returns and greater liquidity than private equity provides. To that end, I want to make you CIO. How’s that for trust?
Taylor: Yeah, that means you trust me and want to use me to win over the investor’s trust. But I won’t take that position. Last time I was CIO all my moves were wiped off the board.
Prince: Like I said, I’m different. And I’m willing to put the time and effort in to prove that to you… to everyone here.
Taylor: You bought me up. You’re kind of forcing me to stay here. Doesn’t feel different.
Former Axe Capital employees discuss the way Axe expected them to do business with the new boss and then compare Axe’s ways with those of Prince.
Bonnie: What was encouraged was more of a “Stick your emotions where your conscience is, and then tie ’em off like a gangrenous leg until they wither and die. Then chop ’em off forever.”
Prince: What effect do you think that had?
Victor: Greased the way to profit. Take the friction out. For guys like me and Bonnie.
Ben Kim: And led to some pretty close calls with the SEC, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the…
Bonnie: Never convicted!
Ben Kim: We were… I mean, Axe was, sort of, in absentia.
Prince: We’re going on a different kind of exploration here. Because I believe it’ll lead you to be better, not worse, at your jobs.
Bonnie: We used to work for a killer, now we’ve got a guy who wants to know how we “feel.”
Tuk: Why is he asking for our guidance? Why doesn’t he know what to do?
Victor: Point me at a hill, tell me to take the hill. That’s what I want in a general.
Ben Kim: I must admit, Axe’s ruthlessness was almost… reassuring.
Prince’s only hope is to learn from the woman with the special sauce and the magic touch for her blessing 🙂
Yet, she is also reluctant.
Wendy: What do you want with me?
Prince: I wanted to see if you were that good. You are.
Wendy: That’s very much up for debate right now. Not with me. I look at my results, and I don’t see a lot of checkmarks in the win column. My guy lost this whole place.
Prince: Guy hits 700 home runs, but gets caught bringing a corked bat to plate, you can’t blame yourself without also taking credit for the 700 dingers.
Wendy: The one matters more than the other.
Prince: On that, we agree. You’ll find no pine tar, no cork, no dented garbage cans, no signs stolen here.
Wendy: Okay, Mr. October.
Prince: But I’m not settling either, for my current level of performance. And here’s one you probably didn’t guess. I’ve never been coached. Not since I was an athlete, I mean. No therapy, no executive coaching, no shrink, no life guru. But with you…
Wendy: Nah, there is no “with me.” If I can somehow still do what I used to, I can’t do it with someone unless I have, or can manufacture, objectivity.
Prince: You weren’t objective with Axe.
Wendy: Yeah, not so hype about his name coming out of your mouth. There’s no need for that. And how I felt about him has nothing to do with how I feel about you. I… well, I didn’t resent or hate him.
Prince: Hate? Ouch. Hate feels extreme.
And when Prince needs a full compliance report for the SECs, the exchange with Spyros is a true tribute to Axe Capital 🙂
Prince: You know we need a little red meat to throw the SEC, something so they know we’re committed to being a clean operation.
Spyros: Then this is your meat locker.
Prince: All that… is dirty?
Prince even tries to convince the State AG that he is different from Axe but Chuck is not impressed. For him, having billions is criminal in the first place! 🙂
Chuck: I imagine you feel there’s unfinished business with me.
Prince: But I’m unlike the man who came before me. I will never give you a legal opening because I do not break the law.
Chuck: Billionaires break the laws of decency, even while obeying the letter. By definition, having that much is criminal.
Prince: A point much open to debate. But I can be your ally. I know I owe you a debt. I’m aware of that. But you should be aware that I am good, very good, at settling scores.
Chuck: And what have you come to ask, in order to deepen that debt?
Prince: Melville Revere.
Chuck: Oof. Disagreeable sort. Entitled in a way I’ve long tolerated, but no longer can.
Prince: All the same, I’d appreciate it if you left him alone, spared him further harassment. He’s a Michael Prince Capital investor, and as such, I’d hate to see him in court on the other end of one of your actions. Wouldn’t look good for you or me.
Chuck: Why not good for me, Michael?
Prince: I mean, you’d be coming after a place that manages your father’s money. Good chunk of it, anyway. He left it in after Axelrod took off. But, sure, worse for me. Because when it comes to Michael Prince Capital, I need it to be… I need to be reputationally pristine.
And as Prince finally gets help from Wendy to gain his employees’ trust and respect, their conversation is all about Axe and Axe Capital without naming names 🙂
Prince: How do I keep ’em rolling with me when I can’t even spin to the group of people showing up here each day?
Wendy: What if you tack with the prevailing winds? And don’t try to stay big or get bigger. At first. Shrink capital under management?
Prince: Is that what you’re…
Wendy: You have a move that bold in your arsenal?
Prince: I don’t know. It’s not the house number in this racket.
Wendy: Sure isn’t. But what if we weren’t attached to the way it’s always been done? Or to the results. Or to the feeling we get from having the most. What if we detach from all that? And instead think about… the process, the holistic form of the place.
Prince: What would be the final goal of something like that?
Wendy: When things reach their ideal Platonic form, they tend to function well. And the endpoint reveals itself. If you don’t like the legacy, change out everything from that legacy.
The last stop for Prince is Wags. Prince wants to fire him but is not able to do so because Axe set a booby trap with his right-hand man’s deal: Prince needs to pay Wags $80M if he fires him – well, this is how Axe rewards loyalty! 🙂
Wags: Okay. We haven’t done the dance yet. I guess this is us about to do it. I’m your object lesson to them, huh? Shitcan my ass, they get scared and get ‘er done for you.
Prince: This was never gonna work. But I’m not going to pay you in full. Axe may have set a booby trap with your deal…
Wags: Oh, he did. He rigged a real Bouncing Betty. $80 million dollars after the sale upon my firing. So if you are here with a pink slip, I accept.
Prince: But nothing if you quit or get fired for cause.
Wags: Which is why I’m clocking in and out like I’m on the factory floor at GM. And I would even pass a piss test right now.
It is at the end of the first episode that Mike Prince, who listens to Wendy, decides to walk the walk, rather than talk the talk, about how MPC will operate differently than Axe Cap. What he highlights in his long monologue is about how keen he is on changing the culture Axe created and sustained at the workplace. And, guess what, even Bonnie and Victor find it “ballsy” and “badass” – adjectives they would typically use to describe their former boss!
Prince (to his investors): One of the things I brought to our organization is a moral barometer. I understand that these employees give many of you comfort. They’ve managed your money well. They’ve grown it. They’ve protected you against downside exposure. But things must develop and evolve and change, and I can no longer allow this place to be peopled with compromised individuals. Do I fire them all? Start clean? Even as I have made a promise to lift them up and train them in my way of doing things? Or is there another way to rebuild, retool? Another attachment to cast off?
And if I fired all of you, but kept the incentive structure the same, the next batch of analysts and portfolio managers would end up in the exact same place. It’s the root cause that has to shift.
Investor: Uh, in what way, Prince?
Prince: Let’s look at the prevailing winds.
The prevailing feeling in the country about wealth. I think it’s largely right. Too much is concentrated in the hands of too few. But let’s not blame those who manage that wealth for them. Let’s instead look to those who profit the most. As one of them, I understand the temptation more than almost anyone can. And it’s true. Many of the wealthiest have misused their resources. Many have cut corners. We will not. In fact, we won’t take their money. I’m not firing them, my employees. I’m firing you, my investors. Which is why I’ve called you all in. We have checks drawn and wire confirmations on hand for your redemptions. Thank you for your business, and should you reach our new standards for ethics in business, perhaps we’ll meet again.
As Prince makes a commitment that he will tnot work with anyone who does dirty business, the Prince List is born.
What would Axe say about the Prince List?
Episode 2: Lyin’ Eyes
Prince tells the MPC crowd to “short the snot out of” Rask, a well-known sportswear company that abuses the Uigur labor force to manufacture their products. He is seemingly looking for a “statement win.” By exposing Rask’s dirty business practices, they will convince the street that MPC is different from Axe Capital.
However, Prince’s new team is, as we have got to know them over the years, not used to doing business for a cause. When they push back, the new boss is confused and needs Wendy’s help.
Prince: Why were they pushing back?
Wendy: They’re concerned they’re being sent to charge a machine gun nest for moral reasons. And they don’t trust a leader asking them to do that. For profit, for greed, they’ll charge like it’s the beach at Normandy. But not for a cause.
Prince: Kobe was skeptical of the triangle at first.
Wendy: Show ’em they can win under you like Phil did, you’ll have ’em for life, but to do that, this…
Prince: Yeah. Has to work. Got it.
Axe’s management style comes into the picture again when Rian comes to Taylor with a proposal.
Rian: All sorts of egregious shit I’d spell out, except I hate spelling things out loud. Almost as much as I hate being right and not being able to prove it. That’s what the money is, proof. Let’s mukbang the whole sector.
Taylor: No. Hold off for now. This initiative would have worked under Axe, but Prince has different priorities. He seems to be after more than profits here.
Rian: So what, are you saying, “He’s a kind man, a wise man, he has plans, he has wisdom?” ‘Cause vom city at that.
Taylor: I don’t know yet, but I know he’s not Axe. We’re operating differently now. Mase Carb’s not going to be the siloed resistance anymore.
Rian: So we’re gonna trust this guy?
Taylor: We’re throwing in. For now. Until we have more information.
Why Rask? Taylor can see that Prince has some ulterior motives here but cannot put their finger on it. As they discuss it with Wendy, they remember Axe together!
Taylor: Rian ran the numbers. There are more profitable ways to make the same point in the same sector.
Wendy: You think Prince’s lack of experience in the public markets is showing?
Taylor: No, it’s not that. He has the brainpower and the right instincts for this place.
Wendy: Then why don’t you just talk to him, voice your reservations, show him your data?
Taylor: I’m considering that this might all be a test. Does he want us to confront him, or does he want us to show that we trust him?
Wendy: A test? That sounds like an Axe move, not something Prince would do. I say there’s no test.
Axe is also the topic of conversation when Taylor tells Wendy they decided to fire Rian because she disobeyed Taylor’s orders.
Well, Taylor learnt from Axe, didn’t they? 😀
Wendy: Firing Rian may be the best move for you as a boss, but it’s not the best move for you as a person, holistically.
Taylor: Since when do we do holistically in this place?
Wendy: New place, new thing. And it applies, since the whole reason you want to fire her is she hurt your feelings.
Taylor: If a colonel gives an order…
Wendy: This is not The Big Red One. This is about you wanting blind trust from your acolyte.
Taylor: It’s about culture fit. We’ve undergone a sea change here, and Rian’s still playing by the old rules. She’s proven herself unable or unwilling to adapt.
Wendy: And have you adjusted, Taylor? Really? Because firing Rian sounds like exactly what Axe would do if he were in your shoes.
Well, Taylor’s decision to fire Rian attests to the fact that they learnt from Axe. But Taylor is not the only one with an uncanny similarity to Axe in this episode.
On the surface, Prince wants a “statement win” to prove that MPC is an honorable business. But what he really wants to do is to bring the Olympics to New York, become the great man who rebuilds the city, and get back together with his estranged wife, too! This is straight from Axe’s playbook. And I can easily imagine a scenario in which Axe destroys some business to steal Lara’s heart again! 🙂
What would Axe say about Prince’s recent moves being from his playbook?
Episode 3: STD
Ben Kim shares with Wendy he regrets that he told Prince about Mafee and Dollar Bill partnering up with someone who also wants to bring the Olympics to New York. Wendy is straight with him: If Ben makes the mistake of warning Mafee and Dollar Bill about what is coming he would lose his job and not be able to find any job in the sector ever again.
Wendy: Tell me, Ben Kim, do you wish you’d left with them and stayed loyal to Axe?
Ben Kim: Do you?
Wendy: No. But I, too, admire what Mafee and DB did. Know that.
Ben Kim: Then do something.
The person who also has an Olympic bid under his sleeve turns out to be Todd Krakow and he likens Prince to Axe because Prince is trying to stop him.
Prince: I hope you’ve had some time to consider my original offer, though I’d say you’ve waived the chance to negotiate.
Krakow:I somehow thought you were different. But your approach reminds me a lot of the man whose office you took.
Prince: It’s possible you bring out a similar reaction in wildly disparate individuals.
Finally, Wendy delivering for Dollar Bill and Mafee (“Mortimer, we’re back!) is a tribute to Axe because Mafee and DB left MPC out of loyalty for her guy!
I have to say that this episode shows a sharp contrast between Axe and Prince. Prince doesn’t try to eliminate Krakow as a major player from the potential Olympics bid – I admit that is what Axe would do. Instead, Prince wants to partner up with him so they both win. In addition, when he finds out that he Mafee and Dollar Bill’s High Plains Management is a collateral damage in the process, Prince arranges Spartan-Ives to fund them. Bravo!
What would Axe say about Prince’s cooperative approach?
Episode 4: Burn Rate
When Wendy protests against luring Kate Sacker to come work for MPC, Prince looks for a way to convince her to do that. He needs to highlight once again that he is not Axe, and MPC is not Axe Capital.
Prince: There must be something that would induce you to do it for me, to make it worth it.
Wendy: I’m not that transactional. And it’s not just because of Chuck. Sacker’s special in all the ways I just mentioned, but in intangible ways too. The thought of bringing her in here? Even if I dealt with the Chuck-of-it-all…
Prince: In here is not the place it used to be. We’re different.
Wendy: I want to believe that that’s true.
Prince: Consider it.
When Wendy agrees to do it, this is the question she gets from Kate when they “run into” each other after Kimberle Crenshaw‘s talk on Intersectionality in the city.
Kate: How goes Axe Cap?
Wendy: It’s not Axe Cap anymore.
Kate: I mean, okay, but…
Wendy: Different name on the shingle. Different vibe.
Kate: So you say.
Wendy: No, no. It’s, uh, different. This guy gives a shit about more than money.
And the first thing Kate mentions as she sips her “Elida Geisha” coffee in the MPC offices is nothing but the good old days 🙂
Kate: Nice to be here without a warrant. Love what you’ve done with the place.
Prince: No basis for warrants in these parts anymore.
What would Axe say?
Episode 5: Rock of Eye
As Chuck and Wendy exchange words about Kate leaving the State AG office for MPC Capital, Wendy makes a case for Mike Prince.
Wendy: I don’t owe you an apology, if that’s what you’re…
Chuck: Oh, no, I hold Prince responsible for that, not you. You just lured her to his temple of greed.
Wendy: It’s not Axe Capital, Chuck.
Chuck: It’s worse. Because it pretends to be better. She’s very special. And special to me. Don’t ruin her, Wendy.
What would Axe say to Chuck who seems to be missing his old foe? 🙂
And as the grace period at MPC is coming to an end, Prince motivates his potentially all-star team referring to basketball and Axe one more time
“I know this can be an all-star team, but you can play way above the rim. But you’ll never get there with blisters on your feet. That’s why I keep hammering you on the fundamentals. Position sizing, focus, restraint.
And, for all your moves, for all your talent, it looks like Axe never taught you how to put on your socks and your shoes.”
What would Axe say?
Episode 6: Hostis Humani Generis
Remember Leah Calder – the comptroller at NYC Department of Financial Regulation who turned Axe’s charter down when Chuck delivered her a huge favor in Season 5?
And remember the favor? Calder’s son’s ex-fiancee did not return the engagement ring that had a family history. Chuck asked Jackie Connerty of all people to bring him that ring! And he did! 🙂
Ms. Calder welcomes Chuck to her office with a big smile and these words:
“Ah the man who keeps his promises and even dispatched Axelrod.”
What would Axe say?
Episode 9: Hindenburg
This episode demonstrates Taylor values what they learnt from their original mentor and they are the true Axe protege.
When Prince asks them about changing direction with Hyperstock, Taylor’s words refer to their original mentor!
“I was taught a good investor can change their mind in an instant, but a great one needs to be able to do a full 180.”
In one of the most awkwardly funny scenes this season, Taylor realizes that Ben and Tuk had lunch with Mafee when they see the duo on the elevator sucking on Blue Bottle (“it’s the shit Mafee drinks”). And when they share with Philip that Ben and Tuk may be leaving MPC for High Plains, their conversation turns to their own personal experiences:
Philip: Look, it can be difficult leaving something you love, even when you know you should.
Taylor: That sounds personal.
Philip: It is. I had a chance to study under Daphne Koller. MacArthur Fellow? Yeah, among other awards. Her work in the AI Lab at Stanford is mind-bending, which is why I stayed in engineering a year longer than I should have.
Taylor: I had a similar internal conflict with Bobby Axelrod. He built me up and broke me down. I tried to make an exit and ended up right back where I started.
Philip: And now that he’s gone, do you think you’ve stayed longer than you should have?
Taylor: I did at first, but I’ve come to realize I’m right where I need to be to get where I need to get, which is ten figures in personal assets.
The way Taylor refers to Ben and Tuk’s value for the company and that it would look bad on Philip if they left is truly the reason why Axe kept them even though they are extremely beta 😀
“They are fucking smart, good at their jobs, and not assholes.”
Finally, we see that Taylor is the one and only Axe protege when we see their performance in the meeting with Dollar Bill and Mafee who have tried to steal Ben and Tuk from MPC. Taylor’s monologue is not very different than that of Axe when he gave Carly, Channing and Hlasa, who fled Axe Capital to establish their own fund, a good fucking in Season 1 Episode 10 Quality of Life.
By the end of the meeting, Dollar Bill and Mafee find out about what they would face if they tried to steal from Taylor again while Ben and Tuk find out the consequences they would face should they leave the company.
Taylor: We’ve been friends, and I’ve gone to bat for you and bailed you out in the past, but this is the present. I know where your money’s at, I know what you want, and I know what you’re going after. I know where you’re weak. This includes specifics, as you can see on the last page, as well as the names of your investors. Those are the names I will target if you continue sniffing around our personnel, and especially if they decide to go over to you.
Ben: Look, um, no decisions have been made yet.
Taylor: That’s good, because if that should come to pass, I will raid, bleed and feed on High Plains’ business. I will sacrifice my own returns to hurt yours, to kill yours.
Dollar Bill: Hey, that kind of interference is illegal.
Mafee: Yeah, totally illegal.
Taylor: Say “illegal.” Go ahead and say “illegal” again, I dare you. I double dare you, m*therf*cker. Go on and say “illegal” one more goddamn time, because you know who I trained under. You saw me train under him. You saw him teach me, and you saw me learn. Now ask yourself if I give a shit about illegal, and whether I’ll be utterly successful blowing up your firm and sending you back to a trading desk as fucking order clerks. And Mafee, before you say this violates our friendship, just know this: Friends don’t steal from friends.
Mafee: Be my friend? I
Taylor (to Ben and Tuk): I get it. You reach an inflection point in your career where either you yearn for something different, or, in this case, you start to wonder. You fantasize about turning back the clock. Dollar Bill and Mafee want to recreate the old Axe Cap at High Plains, and maybe you want to be a part of that. To the time of company trips to Miami, the suites at Yankee Stadium, the poker tournaments, everyone pitching in to crush a sector. But ask yourself, how can they really do that without Bobby Axelrod? Or Bonnie. Or Wags. Or Victor. Or me. Our collective memory is Axe Capital. The rest is colored bubbles. It’s your call.
Oh, and Philip’s words at the end of the meeting are spot on. Taylor is nostalgic. They are missing the good old days exactly like I do 🙂 And they may even be remembering the exchange Axe and they had in Season 5 Season Finale No Direction Home.
Axe would be proud. What would he say?
And Taylor may not be the only one missing the good old days. I mean… After what Prince just did to Chuck, don’t you think the former NY State Attorney General should be missing Axe? Because whatever Axe might have done to beat Chuck in his own game, he never tried to remove his foe from public office. Prince plotting behind the scenes with Indiana A&M president to manipulate and distract Chuck and literally buying 2/3 of the NY State Senate to have Chuck removed from his State AG seat hints that Prince can be as ruthless, if not more, as Axe when he is keen on destroying an enemy.
What would Axe say about Chuck getting removed from his seat with a vote in NY State Senate and Prince telling him:
“Close your eyes Chuck. It’s over and done.”
Episode 10: Johnny Favourite
At their weekly dinner, Taylor asks Mafee about how he did with the $1M in strict crypto he got from Axe in Season 3 Episode 7 Not You, Mr. Dake in return for taking one for Wendy, ahem, the company! 🙂 That was some dirty business, wasn’t it?
Taylor: What about your million in crypto from Axe? You must have arbed it ten, fifteen X. Where’s it at?
Mafee: Don’t know.
Taylor:Don’t know how much?
Mafee: I don’t think about it.
Taylor: What the fuck does that mean? You didn’t think about how much you could have made with a million bucks of free electric lightning on a drive?
Mafee: I didn’t.
Taylor: Mafee, you could have turned that 15 times, 20.
Okay? It is very much not okay.
Mafee: It is with me, and it’s my money. So I left it alone.
Well, a stick can make Wags dance like a Cossack but not Mafee. I think even the “strictly platonic” kiss Wendy plants on her “hero” may not make Mafee believe that he is the rock great companies are built upon 🙂
While I love Mafee for it, what would Axe say to him?
And later in the episode, just like that, Hall is back with a NEW, clean shaven image and on Kate Sacker’s side. While she meets him for the first time, Kate immediately knows exactly who he is! 😀
Kate: So, you’re the one, aren’t you… that helped Axelrod beat us every single time?
Hall: All that matters is, I’m on your side now. I’m on your side now.
What would Axe say?
Oh and the first performance coach session ever between Prince and Wendy is a true reminder of the first performance coach session we saw between Axe and Wendy (they have not been doing that since Chuck took public office for obvious reasons!) in Season 1 Episode 11: Magical Thinking.
The two sessions are similar in the sense that they start in Wendy’s office, the guy in the session makes an attempt to sit on the couch but then is told by Wendy to come and sit across from her. In both cases, the session starts in Wendy’s office and continues outside.
And while Wendy tries to convince Axe that he is not a psychopath in their session, she tries to convince Prince that he is not who he pretends to be. SPOT ON! And, believe me, Wendy, I have been saying this from day one that Prince may be claiming he is the adorable cookie monster but he is in fact as big a monster as Axe is. The difference is that Axe admits who he is while Prince wants to make others believe that he is different.
Wendy: You’re a fucking liar.
Prince: What’s that?
Wendy: You’re a fucking liar. Worse, the person you tell the biggest lies to is yourself. You spend so much time twisting yourself up into knots trying to make yourself believe that your aim is true and noble and good. You almost make yourself believe it. You wanted a burning bush to tell you that what you did to get this hedge fund was good and right. All you have is your own conscience burning.
Prince: Please. The guy who was here before me—
Prince: Yes. We’re gonna talk about this. He wasn’t similarly called? You don’t think the voice of power whispered to him and said, “Do it all, have it all”?
Wendy: You want to know? Axe wanted freedom, total and complete. And the other guy, Chuck, he wants– he needs a righteous war, and you gave them both exactly what they asked for.
Prince: No, I didn’t give Axe his freedom. I paid for it. And you want to know why Axe is satisfied with freedom? Why Chuck is priapic for warfare? Why conquest and victory is enough for them? Because they are lesser Caesars.
Wendy: You want to be a greater Caesar? What are you going to do with all that power?
Prince: Pax Romana. I’m going to manifest it. And you’re going to help me.
Now that Prince has spilled the beans, I believe he has an even bigger God complex than Axe. Oh, yes, anyone who calls Axe and Chuck “lesser Ceasars” has a humongous ego. And we see that Prince’s ego has no limits as he and Wendy continue the conversation.
Prince: I do not lie.
Wendy: You do. And some of those lies you’ll probably keep telling. The lies of kindness, lies to maintain power, The lies of kindness, lies to maintain power, lies to keep things calm. Big lies, even. And maybe that’s fine. But inside, you can’t.
Prince: And why not?
Wendy: Because it’s getting in your way. You don’t want to be an emperor because it’s good for other people. You want power because you like power. Because it feels good in your hands. Because you can’t imagine anyone else deserves it more than you do. But if you lie to yourself about it, you’ll do real harm with whatever power you get.
Prince: Every generation there’s maybe three people like me. Why should I waste being one of them?
Wendy: Because out of those three, every 30 years, Because out of those three, every 30 years, nine every century, 90 every millennium, nine every century, 90 every millennium, maybe one fucking guy doesn’t fuck the world up the ass when he actually gets the reins.
Prince: Someone has to sit in that seat. So I ask myself, am I the one in a thousand years? And my answer And my answer is a full-throated yes.
I would say Prince’s ego makes Axe look like a normal person 🙂 Congratulations, Mike, I think you just made it into Wendy’s book manuscript! 🙂
I also need to add that Axe has always been professional enough not to hang out at a dance party with his employees or get into bed with them. Prince comes across as a needy boss and I agree with Chuck that he loves blood sports, too!
And, finally, the scar Ira talks about over the dinner table at the retreat they have taken Chuck, too, is a direct tribute to not only Bobby Axelrod but also the best TV hour I have ever seen in my life: Season 2 Episode 11 Golden Frog Time.
“Ricochet from a Waterford crystal tumbler I threw against the wall when I made and lost over 200 million in one day. Ice Juice.”
Well, it may be a memory in the past now but then Ira was at the brink of a nervous breakdown. Cannot stop giggling as I remember his “recession special” scene with Axe at Gray Papaya in Season 3 Episode 3: A Generation Too Late 😀 😀 😀
And while I really miss my occasional catch-ups with Damian on Billions set, I also know that nobody can take away from me the fact that I was there on set when they filmed the scene at Gray’s Papaya, I stood a few feet away from my favorite actor doing his thing and that he winked at me before he got into Gray’s Papaya to order “two recession specials and a couple of cokes.” 😀 😀 😀
Episode 11: Succession
Prince once again refers to Axe’s time as CEO as he explains how he is different from Axe.
Prince: “In the old regime, you’d receive your trading orders from inside a pine box before you saw a change of leadership. There’s a reason why they had to stab Caligula 30 times to haul him out of the palace. Axe Cap was run by diktat. MPC is run by deliberation. Axe Cap was built on shock and surprise. MPC is built on planning and anticipation. Investors shouldn’t have to guess what happens if my G650 goes down, or I slide off a steep rock face.”
What would Axe say?
And when Prince asks Wendy whether she should publish her book, she reminds him of the way she is used to doing business at Axe Capital.
Prince: “I’m not gonna put up road blocks. I’m not gonna punish you when and if you do publish. The question isn’t whether you can. The question is whether you should.”
Wendy: “Not a lot of “should” conversations in this office before you got here.”
What would Axe say?
Episode 12 (Season Finale): Cold Storage
Chuck, as he tries to stop Prince from running for the Presidency of the United States, tasks Karl to find out about a big purchase or a big initiative Prince has recently been involved in. And, guess, what, there is a lot of Axe talk there!
Karl reports back: “It’s business as usual at Michael Prince Capital. I got up into the carcass, but Prince’s last big transaction was a 2.5 billion payment to Axe. He kept the investment arm. It’s up on the year. He spun off the bank, but kept the armored car company. There are lots of other business details, but–”
And, just like that, Chuck is all over why Mike Prince has kept the armored car company. And thanks to an old case that Kate did not prosecute during her time with Chuck, Chuck can have Kate in his new office (that he inherited from Chuck senior – complete with a fax machine :)) when he feels like it and tasks her with finding out the answer to his questions:
Guy offloads anything with the stench of Bobby Axelrod on it, including the banks, but keeps the Axe Bank armored cars that shuttle things to the bank? And the drivers just standing by, hanging out, waiting for what, exactly? Is he heavily into bullion transport?
And while Kate gives in and delivers the armored company car manifest for him, Chuck also visits the place where the Axe Bank armored cars are stored and talks to the armored car driver on duty.
And I love the intimate conversation between Wags and Wendy where they honestly talk about how it was with Axe with how it is with Prince.
“Wags: With Axe, I know you shouldn’t compare, but I didn’t have to pretend I was making glittery cupcakes while shivving a mοthеrfuckеr who needed shivving. It was honest, in its way. This is something else.
Wendy: “Maybe Prince’s way is more powerful… with its veneer of goodness. It inspires.”
Wags: “Are you inspired?”
Well, we do not hear Wendy’s answer but I bet it is a no. She is the first person, after all, who has confronted Prince about him not wanting to be an emperor for the good of the people but for himself!
And that is exactly why I sat down and wrote about Bobby Axelrod when the character left the show at the end of Season 5.
Bobby Axelrod is a monster and he does not hesitate to reveal it. Mike Prince, on the other hand, pretends he is there to do good but he is as big a monster as Axe is. And, yeah, he even attempted to buy the White House with his billions in crypto! WTF?
What would Axe say?
Now, the writers’ room not shying away from having characters mention Axe regularly makes me feel they do not intend for us to forget the character and they may even want us to compare and contrast him with Prince. And Bobby Axelrod still having a presence, if in spirit, in the show, gives me hope that he may show up again at some point in the next season – maybe not as a regular character but at least as a recurring one.
I am thinking at least Wags and the duo at the High Plains Investment should be in contact with Axe. When Taylor asked them how they would re-create Axe Capital without Bobby Axelrod, I was thinking that Bill and Mafee may in fact have Axe on their side – they may even be serving as his eyes and ears in the sector! Axe and Wendy should be in touch, too, somehow, no?
Oh and I have my fantasy ending for the series: with a little help from his former bestie Chuck, Axe takes back his company and everything goes back to “normal” 😀 I mean, given what Prince did to him, don’t you think Chuck should be missing his former nemesis? 😀
Knowing that neither the show creators (“The goodbyes on Billions and the hellos on Billions are never permanent; nothing is etched in stone. But that said, Damian’s time as a regular on Billions has come to an end.”) nor Damian (“There’s an opportunity maybe for me to return. But for now, broadly speaking, Axe has been vanquished”) closed the door to the possibility, and I know it may be wishful thinking, but I will be patiently waiting for Axe’s happy return in Season 7. Pretty please!