Advance Warning: This is a long review. I wanted to touch upon everything that happened in the season premiere because it sets the tone for the season… And I also wanted to re-visit a thing or two from Season 6 as a reefresher. I just missed writing about this show so much ! So please bear with me – ENJOY!
One episode in and my mind is spinning. Season 7 may turn out to be the most Billions-y Billions we have ever seen!
My one word review for the season premiere: WHOA.
Longer version follows. ENJOY!
I have repeatedly said that Billions is going to end with a huge bang and guess what?!?! The final season opens with a huge bang, literally, with Mike Prince throwing a computer he grabs from an MPC employee’s desk at Wendy’s glass office walls shattering them all down.
“What is so fucking wrong about me that you’re sure that I shouldn’t be fucking president?”
Well… I am sure Wendy has a list… But for starters… how about your anger management problem?
Wendy’s face speaks volumes. She certainly did something to stop Prince’s presidential bid. But what is it? This is what we are going to see in the next couple of weeks!
So we go back to five months ago with a super cool Wendy arriving at the MPC offices with The Dollyrots’ “Because I’m Awesome” playing in the background…
“I’m a leader, I’m a winner, and I’m cleaner”
But she finds the MPC offices completely empty except for Prince looking at her from upstairs and saying this is Part II of just him and Wendy. It turns out Part I was when Wendy grilled him in Season 6 and now Prince needs to go deep with her and asks her to be Dave Grohl to his Kurt Cobain. NOW. Because he has decided to run in 2024 and wants Wendy to prime him for the job. But it seems he does not need to listen to a lot of people. According to Prince, politics went downhill when politicians thought they had to listen to people. Huh?
“Not smart people. Not educated people. Just people. The founders never wanted a true democracy but a constitutional republic. You know that.”
Prince is so full of himself that he is not even seeing Wendy’s face as she hears his words about himself being the buck! Moreover, he gives her a “That’s my girl. Uh, doctor.” (which reminds me of Danzig who called Wendy “Mrs. Mojo” which Wendy corrected as “Dr. Mojo.”) when Wendy pretends to agree to getting him there! And I happily add “sexist” to the adjectives I use for Mr. Prince.
It seems to Wendy that Prince has cleared the office for the day so he can take his time to convince her but it turns out this is not the case. Seeing Wendy surprised, Prince says he knew did not need to clear the office for the day because he knew it would not take long to convince Wendy… OMG! What an ass! This is too much self-confidence for the man who had a hard time standing up when he lost 3 billion dollars in crypto last time we saw him.
The thing Prince does not know about Wendy is that nobody can mess with her. As she smiles and agrees to work with him, she has already made her plans. Wendy is kicking off her “Operation Stop Prince” with Wags tonight over some old-school egg foo young.
Prince, convinced that Wendy is on his side because of the access to money and power she will have when he becomes the POTUS, is now sitting in State AG Dave Mahar’s office. The two of them watch a live broadcast on Mahar’s monitor from a courtroom where Chuck and his attorney Ira are making a request for Chuck to take off the GPS ankle monitor he has been wearing. The judge who we learn goes way back with Chuck and knows that “he’s an extraordinary character” denies the request…
…which is what Chuck and Dave probably want anyways. If you have not followed Season 6 closely, I highly recommend you to watch at least the season finale or to read a recap to understand the conditions under which Chuck signed an agreement to work undercover for Dave.
So the court scene is part of Chuck and Dave’s plan – they probably even made sure they had a judge who would not be sympathetic to Chuck’s request. As Dave lets Prince see the court scene live, she asks him for further information about Chuck. She needs the garlic, the crucifix and the stake through the heart as though she is fighting against a vampire! Dave asks Prince whom to talk to at MPC about Chuck. Prince mentions Taylor and Wendy, obviously, but surprisingly not Kate who used to work with Chuck for a long time. And when Dave mentions Kate, Prince says she may feel uncomfortable talking to the State AG about Chuck and it’s her job to make them talk.
I don’t know whether Wags and Scooter really believe they are giving “good news” to them but Taylor and Philip don’t. Prince is giving them complete control to run MPC in return for getting out of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) investing – essentially killing Taylor Mason Carbon! And when they make a request to see the boss, Taylor and Philip feel like they are wearing an invisibility cloak (Harry Potter, anyone?)
Chuck realizes that his family is embarrassed to be seen with an indicted man in public when he arrives at the early dinner at Primola. Even Wendy is there sitting at the last chair that is seeing the room to make sure that Chuck sits at the chair where he will not be visible to other patrons. Even then Chuck Sr. suggests they go to their place with Roxanne adding they can reheat the leftovers from Le Bernardin (one of the handful NYC restaurants with three Michelin stars!) and Eva supporting her.
As Chuck sits at the chair the family has chosen for him, Wendy leaves for her real dinner at Wo Hop, a Chinatown staple which we saw Kate and her colleagues having take out lunch from during her SDNY days. I wonder if she recommended the restaurant to Wendy 🙂
Wendy is straight with Wags. She has decided Prince is dangerous which I also clearly saw in the “grilling session” in Season 6 Prince referred to early in the episode. So I think it’s worth revisiting that session which I copy and paste from an earlier post I made. If you are not interested scroll down to return to episode recap.
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.
Back to Season 7 Episode 1 Recap.
Prince’s ego makes Axe look like a humble person I agree with Wendy that Axe may be the only person who could stop Prince’s rise and I am sure neither Wendy nor any of us viewers believe even for a second that Wags does not know where Axe is.
Wendy teases Wags by asking if he is missing Axe. And we find out Wags misses Axe like a caveman who is hiding from a dinosaur if he misses the sub. If he goes out to see the daylight, he can be eaten by a dinosaur! But as Wendy rightly points out, it is hard to live without sunlight. And I think Wags ultimately agrees, too. Because he is at Wendy’s car window before she leaves to ask her how sure she is about Prince.
Wendy: “There’s nothing more dangerous than a man who’s sure he’s never wrong. Add in the money. Add in the intellect.
Wags: Smarts is good.
Wendy: Not when those smarts are used to strengthen the idea that no one else’s opinion counts. And in add his ability to lie to himself about who he really is, and finally, fold in a textbook God complex.
These words, because they are coming from Wendy, an expert on the psychology of billionaires, are very strong. No wonder Wags tells her that he hopes she finds Axe, but we all know he will report to the boss right away!
Wendy’s third dinner tonight is at the legendary Joe’s Pizza with Orrin Bach. But even two slices of Joe’s Pizza does not make Bach agree to convey Wendy’s message to Bobby. He wants to stay away from anything Axelrod since Bobby fleeing the country cost him his good standing with the bar for 6 months.
Chuck has a late night meeting with Dave at the Rhoades Family Mausoleum of all places. Chuck introduces Dave to his great grandfather Elijah, his wife Tig, grandpa Crawford and uncle Cleveland (I wonder if he’s the one who took Chuck to the prostitutes for his first sexual experience) as well as the place earmarked for Chuck! And Chuck is ready to slide into his box since he is a dead man walking thanks to Dave. He is still wearing a GPS monitor ankle and in the dark about Dave’s plans. And Dave’s ambition to be “quiet and creeping, and then suddenly shocking and perfect” is not compelling for Chuck if he does not know thee plot!
It is obvious Dave does not know Chuck well. To use cinematic language like her, if left in the dark, Chuck can turn into Chuck-y and become Dave’s number one headache.
The person who makes time for Taylor and Philip the next day is Kate who claims she is part of Prince’s brain because he downloads the things what he wants her on top of. She also believes nobody owes Taylor and Philip an explanation and she is convinced that getting out of ESG will be good for Taylor and Philip because they will have authority to trade whatever they like within the parameters.
But, yes, Taylor’s computer driven, ESG focused, airborne troops need to sit down and long /short with the ground infantry at MPC. In fact, the Taylor Mason Carbon office walls are physically removed while Taylor and Philip are still in meeting with Kate! Given that she knows about Prince’s untaxed billions in crypto, it is hard to believe that Kate stays close to Prince. Is she really tempted by the power she would have should Prince become thee POTUS? Could Taylor and Philip be right that Kate has formed a bond with Prince along the likes of Gotti and Cutler or Von Bulow and Dershowitz (famous defendants and criminal defense lawyers that formed a bond) ? Knowing that she is typically the smartest person in the room, what is Kate’s game?
Seemingly a plea conference, Chuck and Ira are meeting with Dave to talk about who Dave can turn at MPC. However, the meeting is interrupted by Dave’s assistant because there is a reporter outside, who apparently followed Chuck to Dave’s office, that wants to see both of them. And if Dave does not see him, the reporter will file his article which will explode like Tex Cobb in Raising Arizona. Well, Dave knows her cinema and will not allow that!!!
Who remembers Lucien Porter from Season 4 Episode 3 Chickentown?As Porter, who has the reputation of killing Chuck’s SugarVape case enters Dave’s office, Chuck looks very uncomfortable but he is in for a pleasant surprise!
Porter is here to tell the State AG that Chuck Rhoades is a crusader. Huh? As Dave reminds the journalist Chuck Rhoades was twice removed from office, Porter responds that this is because the government was not willing to bring justice to the few who control it all and Chuck refused to back down to power (during Trump years to be precise!). And he was ultimately prosecuted for breaking the law not for his actions but for his intentions.
Wendy is determined to find Bobby and the guy whom she tasks with finding him delivers! Mafee, who has grown a beard, tells Taylor that he has recently noticed some trade action very much like that of Axe’s: Fast. Aggressive. Sure-footed.
“I know Axe’s trading style better than anyone. I studied it.”
Kudos to Maffee for finding “Big Red” but he is not a good liar that the second he tells Taylor that he he was not looking for Axe as though he was tasked with it, Taylor knows he was tasked to do it by Wendy! Their dialogue ends up being a four-way Facetime where Wags calls them “The Count Basie Orchestra” and admits he is in contact with the Count 🙂
According to Wags, Axe wanted to know how serious Wendy was about connecting with him. And now that Maffee has detected his signature trading style, he knows Wendy is serious. Taylor is also tempted by Axe willing to connect but they are sick and tired of palace coups they are hesitant.
Well, never underestimate the manipulative power of media and public opinion. Porter publishes his article “Chuck Rhoades: New York’s Unexpected Robin Hood” and Chuck becomes a folk hero overnight! All networks report about him, students are asking justice for him in front of the State AG offices, and moreover Chuck now has support from the likes of Warren, Sanders and AOC. Even the White House is paying attention!
It is actually enough to ask the question “who’s benefiting from all this?” to figure out this is a PR campaign initiated by Chuck himself! I suspect Chuck may have written the article, and I think Ira suspects that, too 🙂
Prince is already having a bad day when Dave rushes into his office with the news about Chuck. Mark Cuban has not only turned down Prince’s offer to be his VP but he has also questioned Prince’s motivation for the meeting.
“I really get the sense that you asked me up here just to find out if I was gonna run against you. You just wanted to confirm that the coast was clear for you to run as an independent.”
Brutal. And probably spot on, too! Thank God Cuban is not considering a presidential run. I am not a big fan of politics being the billionaires’ new favorite pastime!
And the day does not get any better. Chuck being the new Elliott Ness does not help Dave with prosecution. So she suggests Prince take a bold action, buy the newspaper like Bezos bought Washington Post and have them write negative articles about Chuck. Well, I am not sure if this is part of Chuck and Dave’s plan but Prince is too smart to do this. Yes Bezos bought the Post but he was not planning a presidential run.
Prince’s meeting with Dave is interrupted by Taylor and Philip who are desperate to talk to Prince about their position in the firm. And they are able to have a few of their demands met by the boss along with a quote from Hitler’s “Hammer or Anvil” speech from 1929! Kudos to Wendy for keeping her cool and successfully pretending to support Prince there. Now we all know that the giant Stacey Abrams portrait hanging on the MPC walls is just for show and Taylor is convinced to join Wendy’s Operation Stop Prince.
One of the concessions Taylor and Philip have got from Prince is hiring a few people that they think are experts in making gobs of money for MPC! And the first person they make a job offer steals the scene!
“The jig is up, the news is out
They’ve finally found me”
Seeing Dollar Bill in his bathrobe sitting in his garage listening to Styx’s “Renegade” is priceless to say the least! It turns out Dollar Bill, an old school trader, had “culture” problems at his new company with Maffee. He first lost the analysts, then the traders, then the outside money and finally even Maffee! But he is still adamant about being able to say “blowjob” at the workplace 🙂 He turns down the MPC job offer because he is told he can’t say that word in anybody’s presence at MPC, either… but then he is at MPC the next day taping his lucky dollar to his Bloomberg and calling his colleagues “Motherfuckers!” 🙂 And I am not uncertain that Bill will never let Scooter keep a tight leash on him!
Alliances shift at light speed in Billions that I am not sure if Chuck and Dave are friends or foes at the moment.
When Dave confronts Chuck in front of the Federal Hall on Wall Street, she seems genuinely pissed with Chuck’s PR campaign. She is getting calls from politicians and civic leaders all over the city for dropping the case against Chuck. And she wonders whether Chuck knows that he may be turning his only friend into his enemy… Well, Dave, that is what you get when you mess with Chuck. If, on the other hand, this entire confrontation is just for display, then their performances are Oscar-worthy!
Like a phoenix born from his ashes, Chuck is now eating with his kids at a very centrally located table at Sant Ambroeus when Wendy comes in to drop Eva’s bag and leave for a business meeting… which takes place in London!
As Wendy appreciates the Tower of London, a place where the Kings or Queens stayed the night before their coronation ceremony and a place where countless executions took place – inevitable to remember Damian as Henry VIII here – she hears a familiar voice.
“Stirring spot isn’t it?”
This is what I call the return of the king! BOBBY IS BACK! Honestly, I never thought I would miss him this much. Welcome back to my screen, Bobby!
Wendy is genuinely surprised that they are meeting at such a public place so Bobby explains. We find out that he is also on his way to become a folk hero!
In the early days of the Ukraine – Russia war, when Ukraine needed Javelin anti-tanks and some other stuff, the Western governments could not provide them immediately. Axe structured a deal and and arranged a guy, who should be Grigor Andolov, to find and deliver the actual arms. This bought Axe a lot of good will across the continent, EU and in the UK. Well, I said it before and I will say it again. Where everyone else sees a disaster, Bobby Axelrod sees opportunity to trade. And voila!
But, hey, come to think of where we left these two in Season 5 Episode 12 No Direction Home, Bobby is surprisingly harsh with Wendy calling Prince “her guy” and telling her to go away when she says she has come all the way to ask for his help. Is Bobby testing Wendy again or what?
But Wendy is determined to get what she wants. Exactly like she did in Season 1 Episode 6 Deal, she reminds Bobby the two of them built Axe Capital together and that they should protect what they made. If she leaves now, the company may still stay intact but not for a long time if the guy running it keeps doing what he has been doing. And she is not just worried about the company but also about the damage Prince can do outside.
Axe seems to realize Wendy is seriously worried. Then, he says, you can’t be alone… and he welcomes his team in Star Wars language.
“Well shit. Look what we have here.. Luke, Leah and Chewie. All that’s missing is Han and Millennium Falcon.I guess that’s where I come in.”
And the Count Basie orchestra follows the Count as The Clash’s “London Calling” plays very aptly in the background.
The first episode typically sets the tone for the season. Both Bobby and Chuck were at a vulnerable place when we last saw them. But now they seem to have been born from their ashes with their “man of the people” reputation restored. And if these two cannot beat Mike Prince together, who can? A Bobby – Chuck co-production may be in the cards!
In closing, this episode is dedicated to the memory of Charles Koppelman, a very successful music executive and Brian Koppelman’s father, who passed away in November 2022. Mr. Koppelman appeared in Season 3 Episode 1: Tie Goes to the Runner and Season 4 Episode 8: Fight Night. RIP.