Billions may have ended, but we have not stopped thinking about the stories and characters that we have lived with these past 7 season.
We challenged ourselves to pick our “7 of 7” – our top 7 episodes from 7 seasons of Billions. Did any of our top 7 make your list? What’s your favorite episodes and why?
OMG it was incredibly hard to narrow down my most favorite episodes to seven… but now that I have my seven, when I look at them, I get that I really like cerebral storylines, risky moves, long games, killer closing scenes, and Karyn Kusama who is the director of two episodes in my top 7 list. And if I am able to figure out a twist in the episode before it is revealed, then I love it even more 😀
Number 7: Season 4 Episode 4 Overton Window
For two reasons. First is Axe and Wags. They are one of the best TV duos ever! And the “old school” way they get out of the natural gas positions in this episode 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.”
They can make an episode only with Axe and Wags on the phone with the primes and I’m in!
Second is Chuck’s speech about practicing BDSM in his personal life is the single most remarkable scene in the history of Billions.
I know many see it as a betrayal to Wendy, but I see it as brave, honest, and necessary. You cannot hold a threat hanging over your head forever especially when what those people hold against you is some consensual, if unusual, sex life. I seriously hope this scene helps shift the Overton Window in real life. Paul Giamatti storms the scene giving a compelling performance and the characters’ immediate reactions to Chuck’s revelations are to die for!
Oh and Lady Trader and I attended a special screening of the episode in NYC and got to hang out with these two!
You can read my detailed recap of the episode here.
Number 6: Season 7 Episode 11 Axe Global
As much as I loved the action in the series finale, I will go with Episode 11 Axe Global, a deeply cerebral episode, as my favorite of the season.
I would call Axe Global “the calm before the storm” in which Axe, Chuck and Wendy finally set up the game to take down Prince. The key to the episode is the three of them discussing Prince’s strengths and weaknesses in Chuck’s SDNY office and Wendy does her thing:
“We’re facing an ambitious, competent, , confident, charismatic, socially conscious strategic thinker with high emotional intelligence and deep sources. But he’s morally complex, which means he likes to think he’s more ethical than those around him. And he’s not immune from engaging in questionable tactics to achieve his goals. That is a slippery slope and once place he can be hit. And he believes his own infallibility above all else.”
Prince is a very difficult target thanks to his strengths Wendy lists in her assessment of him. However, his intense belief in his own infallibility, which Axe himself had before his own fall, is his Achilles heel. Thanks to Wendy’s laser sharp diagnosis, Axe and Chuck collectively take very calculated actions to make Prince’s God Complex peak by the end of the episode so that he cannot see what is coming his way. Genius!
You can read my detailed recap of the episode here.
Number 5: Season 5 Episode 10 Liberty
Here is my tweet after watching the episode two times and I am still behind my words.
I came to Billions for Damian Lewis and stayed for the show itself. It is certainly the smartest show on TV. Episode 10 Liberty is all about how wild the game can get and that there is no room to drop your guard even when you are a deca-billionaire like Axe or a mind-reader like Wendy, when the stakes are high. The way Chuck stages the evening to manipulate Axe through Wendy is phenomenal on its own. GENIUS. ps. Brian Koppelman retweeted my tweet!
And why are Axe and Wendy distracted? They are at such a vulnerable place in their personal lives that they start to think about their feelings for each other…
“I’ve never allowed myself to really think, I feel the same things when I look at you.”
“I’ve waited so long to hear those words.”
I know some fans have been waiting to hear these words for the last five years. Not me. I have always been, and still am, in the tiny minority that does not want Axe and Wendy to get into a romantic relationship. This is Billions after all, not a show with an “and they lived happily every after” kind of story. Chuck is obviously determined to make Wendy the Trojan Horse at Axe Capital to destroy Axe. So my heart breaks as I hear my two most favorite characters saying beautiful words about love without using the L-word.
You can read my detailed recap of the episode here.
Number 4: Season 4 Episode 7 Infinite Game
I cannot be happier that a game theory term titles the episode 🙂
In finite games, like a tennis match, the players are known and the rules are fixed. The players obey the rules and play to win the game. There is a clear endpoint. In infinite games, on the other hand, such as politics or business, or life itself, players and rules may change. There is no definite endpoint. The goal for all players involved is to keep the game going. And this fantastic episode is a deep dive into life, an infinite game, where human beings try to find the balance between their rational and emotional selves and keep it going. And I deeply love it because it is that rare episode that brings out the best in Axe.
If you have been reading my Billions reviews for a while, you know that 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 masquerading as Bobby Axelrod’s favorite pizzeria.
Number 3. Season 1 Episode 10 Quality of Life
I love this episode with Donnie’s memorial at its heart because of the dilemma that it offers to the viewer. Axe is basically using a sick man, a man that has been loyal to him for years, to save his ass. You may call Axe a predator. But you may also call him a rational man. Offering his sick friend an option to leave the world in peace. Axe is not tricking Donnie. What he is doing is just to keep his own quality of life and provide an equally good quality of life for Donnie’s family when he is gone. You may call Donnie a victim. But you may also call Donnie a rational man. He knows he is dying and he is making a deal with his boss to have a “game changer” in his hands for his family… Remember how Walter White starts his “blue” business in Breaking Bad? People may do things that they are not proud of just to make sure their families are okay after they are gone. It is rational. And it is painfully human. Donnie wants his family to be taken care of. And Axe is giving him that. Win – Win. You may think I am an insensitive asshole. But I am just a game theorist who believes in rational choice.
I also love this episode because it has my all-time favorite TV moment, namely Axe and Dollar Bill’s fake argument, in it! Brian Koppelman tweeted that the idea belongs to Will Reale who has written this brilliant eepisode with too many moving parts and THAT alone deserves standing ovation!
Axe’s office is soundproof so outsiders see but do not hear the conversation inside. Axe tells Dollar to pretend they are having an argument. He needs Bill to help him give Carly, Channing and Hlasa, who left Axe Capital to start a new fund, a good fucking! Come bonus time he will show him enough love he could start a third family! Original. Hilarious. Genius.
See Damian Lewis and Kelly AuCoin discuss the “fake argument” scene below!
Number 2: Season 3 Episode 6 The Third Ortolan
I said it time and again that it is only Wendy’s short that could force Axe and Chuck to take a break from their pissing contest and get themselves and the woman they both care about deeply out of the huge mess called Ice Juice. And the first half of the season has seamlessly built to this climactic episode the last 3 minutes of which I saw again and again and again.
Thanks to Spyros going full le Carré, Bryan has Wendy’s short in his hands. And as both Axe and Chuck are considering to turn themselves in to save her, Wendy has a better idea thanks to the man with whom she has much in common: Black Jack Foley, who has found the most satisfaction and success on the sidelines, knows there is still a play when there is no play.
“If a situation is untenable, Mrs. Rhoades, you break that fucking stick.”
Wendy breaks that fucking stick. There is no other way for Axe and Chuck than putting the measuring tape aside and calmly discuss how to bounce back together. But before the two lost boys leave their weapons on the table, Chuck needs a bathroom break, not to pee but to plant the slide in Axe’s toiletry bag, yet another Godfather reference. And before we are able to lift our jaws off the floor, he is back at the table.
Axe: “Full transparency. I give you my word.”
Chuck: “You want transparency? How fucking clear is this?” ((shows the transparency)
Chuck’s smile after putting the slide on the table and Axe’s look as he sees the slide . I can’t have enough! PERFECTION.
You can read my detailed recap of the episode here.
Number 1. Season 2 Episode 11 Golden Frog Time
Its crazy pace, incredible twists and turns, and the killer closing scene makes Golden Frog Time my all-time favorite episode! Everyone needs to see it for a second time to see what REALLY happens! Sure, it has been done before (Sixth Sense is a great example) but Billions matches the brilliance under the direction of great Karyn Kusama, who also directed Quality of Life (number 3 in my list)!
We always get to watch the trailer as well as the short clips Billions releases a week before the new episode airs, and, as soon as I saw the stretcher in a FDNY truck, I knew! What is the best way to make a stock like Ice Juice go down at light speed? Have a few people get ill because he had Ice Juice and cover at zero! So I seriously have bragging rights! I CALLED this on Twitter a week before the episode aired as I was interacting with Gingersnap!
And as much as what Axe does is appalling beyond words, it is extremely funny and, yeah, I cannot stop giggling. Honestly, I did not know my brain had this much capacity to figure out dirty play.
Oh Billions, what have you done to me?
And, in one of the best scenes of the entire series in my opinion, Paul Giamatti takes a bow for his incredible laugh-cry at the end of the episode.
I know I am repeating myself but I really think everyone needs to watch the episode for a second time to see what Chuck does and why he does it. Why doesn’t he like Ira selling his shares to his partners in the law firm? Why is he checking the clock for market opening during the meeting with Spyros? Why does he tell Wendy he is in Ice Juice, too, because it is a winner? Why does he tell her later she is underestimating him? And why does he say “if this is what it gets…” when he authorizes his dad to use his blind trust to invest in Ice Juice? BRILLIANT.
You can read my detailed recap of the episode here.
Why not rank my top 7 Billions episodes over the course of 7 seasons and 84 episodes later! Doesn’t necessarily mean I picked 1 episode per season, though. Here’s my top 7 episodes of 7 seasons:
The Kingmaker – Season 2, Episode 8
The Kingmaker Black Jack Foley is throwing a shindig at his home called ‘Hawk’s Lair’ and Axe’s inside man texts a photo of Foley sharing a toast with Chuck Rhoades and his father Charles Senior. Axe had tried to secure endorsement from the The Kingmaker earlier that day, to no avail. Realizing they are behind the casino being pulled from Sandicot, an incensed Axe hops on his motorcycle (which I found sexy 😉 ) and races down to the members only Yale Club where the Rhoades’ are concluding the evening with cocktails, cigars and dress codes – oozing the epitome of an uber-patriarch, old money establishment for high society.
Axe barges in past coat check and security, yelling down the vacant halls as he prowls the corridors, hunting for Chuck. His hunched back, stomping gait, labored breathing and flared nostrils was Wolverine + The Hulk-esque. Chasing after him, Morgan the coat check boy exclaims, “We have a dress code!” To which Axe retorts, “Good for you.” Axe is not interested in a courtesy blazer! After some back and forth Axe slaughters with his words:
“Rhoades! You fucking weasel! Rhoades! Show your fucking weasel face! Chuck. I know what you and your two daddies did up in Sandicot. You thought moving that casino would, what, fuck me up? Get me to sell off one of my jets? Well, guess what I’m doing now? Drinking that town’s fucking milkshake. Everything that was once theirs will be mine, sold off, recycled, stuck on a pedestal in my office, doesn’t matter. In the end, I will not lose one single penny from Sandicot. In fact, I will be made whole, more than whole, but you will have spent all that political capital for nothing. You know, they say that a boy never really becomes a man until he’s buried his father. Now, mine’s 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. So it always warms my heart when I see a boy who still has his father’s shoulder to lean on, his father’s contacts to deploy, his father’s balls clanking around in place of his own, which haven’t quite dropped yet. Hold on to this man, Chuck, for one day soon he will be gone and then you will finally have to do something for yourself.”
Junior and Senior retreat to the Yale Club’s balcony arm-in-arm, smiling to a backdrop of the striking symbol of old New York, the Chrysler building. The associated wealth that comes from old money was a perfect antithesis to Bobby’s new money.
Damian’s acting in this episode was so damn good. All that mean-mugging…
The New Decas – Season 5, Episode 1
As mentioned above, I’m a sucker for Axe on a motorcycle. I’m also a sucker for Damian Lewis in a beard. This episode combined the two when Axe and Wags took a trip, literally, at a Ayahuasca spiritual retreat.
I picked this episode because of the overall stellar display of badassery. Nothing says ‘I am the coolest bad boy from high school Gingersnap had a crush on’ than the way Axe commanded that zipper on his leather cruiser jacket or the vigor with which he punted the motorbike’s kickstand with his adventure/touring boots.
As if it couldn’t get any better than that, add Bad Company’s song Bad Company to the scene as Axe steers his BMW R1250 through the winding roads along the Alaskan-Canadian Highway with his loyal lieutenant Wagsy by his side.
Can we just discuss for a moment how Wags and Axe mounted their BMW motorcycles in choreographed style, like two synchronized swimmers performing an artistic routine?
Then this clean shaven smoke show walked in to the Decas photoshoot – the man looks so fab in the color blue and he can wear a suit/suit jacket like a coat hanger.
Enemies List – Season 7, Episode 10
I chose this episode because it’s the first time Axe is back for good on US soil since the season 5 finale. Welcome home, Bobby! Axe crashes Prince’s campaign gala wearing his Slayer heavy metal t-shirt with Andy’s lover Derek as his plus+one, which is chef’s kiss and the only way to slay your opponent. Surprise, Axe isn’t hiding out in Switzerland or his London castle! Axe announces, “Any idea where I can scalp a pair of tickets to this thing?”
— BILLIONS (@SHO_Billions) October 17, 2023
Axe delivers Prince a cutthroat diatribe ending with a couple of doozy zingers:
“It’ll be the end for you. Forget about Andy’s embarrassment. The entire country will think of you as a man who couldn’t satisfy his own wife. They won’t care about arrangements or you getting yours. They’ll just know that she was bivouacking with the Mountain Man instead of shacking up with you. And you have to know there is nobody in this country who’s gonna vote for President Cuck. You see, this is the problem with squaring away your enemies list. You wake up all your enemies in the process. Smelling salts in all our fucking faces.”
And maybe the most reason this is an epic episode for me is because of Damian’s acting ability with one look. When Derek starts describing Andy’s freckle on her ass and the way she exhales when she orgasms, the side eye is brilliant. A real testament to Damian’s stage acting in theatre.
The Conversation – Season 1, Episode 12
This episode made my list because of Nagasaki and lions, two of my favorite lines in the Billions universe. Let me explain. Axe is paranoid Chuck has bugged his office so he rips the whole building to shreds. Empty handed and sitting on the floor, Bobby is exhausted. Chuck crosses into enemy territory as he swaggers in to Axe Capital just to taunt Bobby. Axe has a question for the vampire Chuck:
“I thought your kind could only come in when invited?”
There’s some chest poking as they exchange words in this blowout, growling their political beliefs and civic lessons at each other. Then Axe throws down the gauntlet and snarls:
“When I take a deal off the table, I leave Nagasaki behind!”
Chuck considers that and hits Axe back with:
“The only enemy more dangerous than a man with unlimited resources is one with nothing to lose. And that is what you’re looking at right here.”
Even more brilliant is that the episode title and ensued paranoia is a shoutout to the superb Gene Hackman surveillance thriller The Conversation.
Now let’s talk lions. At Bruno’s pizza joint Axe presents Bryan Connerty with a job offer to switch sides, leave Chuck and work on Axe’s team of lawyers at Orrin Bach’s firm. Bryan takes the moral high ground, but not before Axe gives him a lesson in zoology:
“Everyone wants to be a lion. Most people just never get the chance. I’m offering you one now.”
Chickentown – Season 4, Episode 3 – #ChickenBill
This episode is all about a poultry plot and Dollar Bill has all his eggs in a Chicken Man’s basket. The episode mascot is for sure chicken, whether it be chicken farms, chicken coops, chicken index, chicken man, chicken patsy, chicken business or chicken songs.
Let’s review. The Arkansas Chicken Index sets the price of chicken based on the number of chickens there are to sell. Chicken Man on a scooter doesn’t visit farms to count the chickens, he just calls to obtain the number count. The company gives low numbers and prices remain high. Dollar Bill knows that he can use this information for a huge gain but after Axe Capital has already confirmed its massive position, the chicken report is suddenly delayed and threatens to sink their investment. Dollar Bill travels to Arkansas to investigate and finds Chicken Man dead. Now there’s a whole flock of Chicken Men, seven in total, which complicates Dollar Bill’s ability to buy off the team. So instead Dollar Bill kidnaps a diseased chicken from quarantine, stuffs it in a bowling bag (the clucking from the bag was laugh out loud funny), and planned to infect all the other healthy chickens to keep the chicken count low. Axe and Wags get wind of the plan, to which Wags delivers one of the best lines, “Oh shit. It’s a chicken holocaust!” and they show up just in time to stop Dollar Bill.
Finally, the episode delivers the best pop cultural reference in the history of Billions by re-enacting the film Chinatown. Wags consoles Dollar Bill, “Forget it Bill, it’s Chickentown.”
The entire scene was spot on, from Bill’s longing last look down to the dramatic operatic music of Luciano Pavarotti’s La Fleur Que Tu M’avais Jetee playing over the chicken clucking. I was cry laughing! Then Axe, Wags and Dollar Bill enjoy eating Colonel’s original vs. extra crispy chicken with Michter’s Whiskey on the trip back. We also get one of the best songs for an episode, Chicken Bill by Daniel Romano.
Another reason this episode made my list was Chuck introducing me to his rubberband friend.
Chuck retreats to the men’s restroom at the casino, secludes himself in a stall and drops his trousers to reveal a tight rubberband around his thigh. He stretches the rubberband back, then SNAP, inflects pain. Hurt so good. Happy and refreshed, he leaves the bathroom whistling Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, another great song! Since Wendy retired from her dominatrix duties, Chuck had to become his own dominatrix.
Golden Frog Time – Season 2, Episode 11
I picked Golden Frog Time because of the way the whole episode’s pace unfolded like Ocean’s 11. Makes sense because Billions showrunners Brian Koppelman and David Levien wrote Ocean’s 13. Axe’s Ice Juice scheme is presented to us viewers like a puzzle, which built tension and simultaneously threw us off the big twist at the end. It was so cool to be swept up in the orchestration of it all. The jumps made the plan seem well-executed and slick.
The day Ice Juice goes public (IPO) the stock soars and Chuck doubles down, buying more and tying up all the funds in his blind trust. Axe lies in waiting, preparing to short the crap out of the stock by engineering mass hysteria among customers who are falling ill from Ice Juice consumption. Axe had a vial of “light” poison concocted and paid a bunch of “customers” to visit different Ice Juice locations, pour the poison in their juice, drink it, throw up like crazy and be taken to the hospital cursing the product. He totally Chipolte’d that stock and Chuck’s investment.
But that was the plan all along! The twist?
Chuck had a secret meeting with Lawrence Boyd and told him that he could make a deal and be back at home if he helped him out off the record. That’s why Boyd told Axe about the Ice Juice investment. Then Chuck brought in Interim U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Oliver Dake to help him because he has a bunch of FBI agents at his disposal. Dake plants FBI agents at all 18 Ice Juice locations, gathering evidence. In the end, only one person swallowed the poison voluntarily, Danny Margolis, who is a loyal soldier to Bobby and would never rat. Therefore, nothing traced back to Axe.
The episode ends with Chuck in his bedroom, his face cupped in his hands and seemingly crying from the devastating loss of all his money, but as the camera pans closer, that cry is actually cry-laughing…and laughing and laughing and laughing. 🙂
The kicker? Wendy got wind of the traders betting on when Ice Juice would take a dip so she shorted the stock so Chuck wouldn’t lose money, a move that made Axe suspicious of her later.
Finally, I loved the music in this episode. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song Even The Losers closes the episode. How fitting:
“Baby even the losers
Get lucky sometimes
Even the losers
Keep a little bit of pride
They get lucky sometimes”
Chucky Rhoades’s Greatest Game – Season 4, Episode 1
What’s not to love about this episode? Wags is flanked by women while snorting coke, gender non-binary Taylor Mason dresses in drag to be incognito at the Embassy of the Arab State of Qadir, and there’s a parking pass round robin circus going on. Paul Giamatti was brilliant in this episode.
Chuck has been fired as U.S. Attorney General and is now a power broker who does favors for New York’s elite, using his connections to get the job done for the rich. Chuck chases down one lead after another until he can bargain a deal, using several New York restaurants as his office. He traded favors and moved like a honey bee from one meeting place to another, robbing Peter to pay Paul (plus all The Beatles), trying to secure his nectar. From negotiating a conceal and carry permit to securing tickets to a synagogue choir and slope passes at the fancy Deer Valley ski resort, Chuck wheels and deals on the streets of New York, all the while as King of New York by Fun Lovin’ Criminals plays on the soundtrack. Such a good music choice for this scene! The running gag of the entire episode is that Chuck offers several of his clients a “park anywhere” pass that no one wants, which ends up paying off in spades by the end of the episode. And smitten he was to finally find a recipient! This truly was Chucky’s greatest game, as he dances on his desk to I Feel Good by Al Green.
And somebody we all know feels the same about Paul’s happy dance, claiming it is one of his top three Billions’ moments:
This makes me so happy.
Goes straight into Top 3 Billions Moments. Instant classic. pic.twitter.com/Q4aOVHBnHb
— Damian Lewis (@lewis_damian) March 18, 2019
Overton Window – Season 4, Episode 4
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this episode. Our dynamic duo Axe and Wags went old school by using old burner phones to trade. Even Dollar Bill offered up his rolodex. 🙂 Their seamless 80’s/90’s trading style didn’t miss a beat.
Quality of Life – Season 1, Episode 10
Obviously the fake fight scene between Bobby and Dollar Bill is a no-brainer.
This was a lot harder than I thought it would be! It was difficult to narrow down a top 7, so I decided to focus on the episodes that I really connected with. They may not be the best written, or had the best lines, but they meant something to me. It was fun to go back and re-read my old Trader’s Desk posts to refresh my memory. I intend to re-watch the series from the beginning and see if my thoughts and opinions have changed. I have linked the “From the Trader’s Desk” post for the episode listed for more a more in-depth review.
Boasts and Rails – Season 1, Episode 8
This was the episode that started “From the Trader’s Desk”. It was my first post contribution to the blog. We find out how Axe made his money after 9/11 in this episode. It was controversial for some viewers as people couldn’t imagine making money from such a tragedy. Since I saw it from the perspective of a trader and someone who was in downtown Manhattan on that day, I understood why Axe did what he did. So, I asked Damianista if I could write a little something in defense of Axe. And the rest, as they say, is history! “From the Trader’s Desk” became a weekly contribution to the blog starting in Season 2, and it has been one of the best experiences in my life.
New Year’s Day – Season 4, Episode 10
I could not think of a better opening sequence than the one we were privileged to get in this episode. The wintery scenes of my favorite places in downtown Manhattan, accompanied by the unique voice of Bono from one of my favorite bands, U2, was just simply genius.
This episode finally answered the questions I had why Axe needed and was so attached to Wendy. The one time in his life Axe couldn’t fight for himself, Wendy was there to fight for him. After 9/11, Axe told the world he would take care of all the survivors and the families of the victims of the attack. It was generous and almost financially impossible. Axe didn’t have a book, didn’t have any employees, and was getting margin calls left and right. Every financial adviser told him to close it all down.
At one of the funerals that he and Wendy attended, a group of families converged on Axe complaining they were not getting their money fast enough, called him a thief and questioned his integrity. Wendy stepped in between this mob and Axe and defended him telling them:
“Shut the fuck up. This man is the only hope you or any of you have of paying for the rest of your lives. I have begged him not to. Because I think it’ll destroy him next. He doesn’t need it. He can move on clean and in a couple of years he’ll have enough wealth for 20 lifetimes. But if he’s really too slow for you, if you really think that he’s stealing from you, say another word, and I’ll make him shut it down. Otherwise, shake his fucking hand, say thank you, and we can all mourn together.”
When they are alone, and Wendy tells Axe he “better deliver for those people!” That is a true and loyal friend – defend you to all outsiders to the death but call you to task in private. That loyalty proved to Axe he had a partner in his business and a friend for life.
Beg, Bribe, Bully– Season 5, Episode 3
This is the episode where Axe must save Gordie from getting thrown out of his elite private school and gives a speech in front of the student body. Is there anything better than Axe wearing a Rainbow shirt and telling these kids his rules of life? Axe goes a bit medieval in his speech, but that is not the point. It’s the essence of what he is saying that was great in my opinion. If we say we are greedy for money, people lose their minds. But the greed for knowledge, the greed for life, the greed for love has, as Gordon Gekko put it “marked the upward surge of mankind.” Axe drops the mic, “Long Live Rock n Roll” blares in the background and it was amazing!
Admirals Fund – Season 7, Episode 12
Even though I think we all kind of knew how the show would end, it was still satisfying. There has been many a series finale over the past few years that has had fans taking to social media and voicing their disappointment (think Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Lost) but Billions was one of those. This was a great ending and sendoff for a series and a cast of characters that had become near and dear to our hearts. I was so happy that the show got back to its roots and the demise of Prince was financial and trading in nature. It was so satisfying to see.
As Axe settles in back behind his desk, he knows this is “where he is meant to be” and I wholeheartedly agree. I think the writers did a great job of putting everyone exactly where they were meant to be: Axe and Wags back running Axe Global, Taylor running their foundation, Wendy standing on her own, CEO of Mental, Chuck and Kate back at SDNY, and the traders doing what they do best – making trades and making money.
Overton Window – Season 4, Episode 4
This was the episode where Axe Capital was hacked by Grigor and Axe and Wags must do all the trades old school. As precious moments tick by while the IT department tries to get the systems back online, millions of dollars are on the line. These are the scenes that made me love this show – the 100% relatable situations that only a fellow trader could truly appreciate.
The youngsters at Axe Cap look like deer in the headlights! They usually do trades by “chat” through their Bloomberg terminals. Axe and Wags work their magic with the “personal touch” by making calls and making deals. They are putting on a clinic for the children! The display that Axe and Wags put on in front of the troops makes you understand why the Axe Cappers are willing to follow them almost blindly: these are men, when their backs are to the wall, will get it done!
Risk Management – Season 2, Episode 1
“Trading is gambling, legalized gambling.”
Those are words I spoke to Damianista on our first meeting. I think she asked me how I got into the financial industry, and I told her I loved to gamble, and found a way to do it legally. How fitting then is it that we open Season 2 with Axe sitting at a racetrack! Now, I’ll admit, I didn’t know it was Yonkers Raceway. I thought it was Belmont Park, a place my grandfather would take me to as a kid. Axe tells Bach “This place made me”, and I totally understand. This episode is also our first introduction to Taylor who became my second favorite character of the series.
All the Wilburys – Season 3, Episode 8
Axe showing his metal side in this episode was very personal for me, since it had been something I had been dreaming of that finally came to fruition! Before the season began, I found out (thank you GingerSnap!) that Axe was going to finally be in a Sabbath shirt, and I was beyond excited! And to have the creator of the show, Brian Koppelman say he was waiting for me to see it, well, I just about cried!! The cherry on top of my Black Sabbath sundae? A chance to talk to (and thank) Brian Koppelman about our mutual love of Sabbath at the Super Fan screening of the S3 finale (while poor Damianista looked on having no clue as to what we were talking about!). I told him how listening to Sabbath during my chemo sessions really helped get me through the hours of sitting there in treatment, and that seeing that Sabbath shirt on Axe was emotional for me. He totally got it! It was so great to express my gratitude to him. Thank you again, Mr. Koppelman!
The Tail That Wags the Dog
7: Season 5, episode 11 “Victory Smoke”
I am guessing this won’t make anyone else’s top 7, but I had to put it in there because of the way it resolved one open end which I never saw coming – Wags revenge against Mick Nussfaur. If you recall, Mick got revenge on Wags when Wags took his primo burial plot (Season 3, Episode 4 – “Hell of a Ride”. Mick then turned the tables on Wags in Season 4, Episode 6 – “Maximum Recreational Depth” but getting him to dress in drag thinking he was joining an elite Wall Street insider’s club.
Wags’ threat at the end was a brilliant line, and since the Billions writers never let such a line go unresolved, you just had to wait – in this case, a whole season and a half, before Wags’ gets a killer revenge by courting (and holding onto) his daughter Chelz.
Now I for one don’t believe for a second that Chelz is truly attracted to Wags, but for the sake of this plot point, it was a whole lot of fun. Especially since they stayed together. And just how they held onto that loose thread for so long and resolved it in so clandestine a way is brilliant.
Oh, and for the sake of the overall story line, this episode ended in a moment of great depth as Bobby realizes he has been caught this time and cannot escape, leading to his departure at the end of the season and his missing the entire 6th season. So the heaviness of that final moment is countered nicely with the levity of this snarky bit.
6: Season 4, episode 3 “Chickentown”
As you will see, many of my favorite moments revolve around Dollar Bill, for even though I have actual ties to David Costabile, Kelly AuCoin’s ethically-challenged trader is by far my favorite character, and in seasons 3 and 4 his character was at the peak of his zaniness. Never more so than in the “Chickentown” episode, then he tries to fend off losing big on a deal that falls apart by trying to poison tens of thousands of chickens just to prevent losing big. Thankfully, Bobby and Wags get to him right before he is about to let the poisoned chicken out, and the scene in which they stop him, a riff on a classic scene from “Chinatown”, is a stroke of brilliance – most especially because I don’t know how Costabile can say his lines with a straight face.
This episode also gave us the 3-D chess match of Taylor against Bobby, who employs Hall to try and infiltrate Taylors’ new Taylor-Mason Capital. Another example of how their stories had layers upon layers.
This episode also ends with a foretelling line as Bobby and Chuck are lounging at Bobby’s place and Bobby agrees to help put Chuck in the New York AG position. Although he warns Chuck, “A man changes when he puts on that star”, a line we will see again in the last episode when they say their goodbyes after taking Prince down. Again, the writers never forget to connect with the past.
5: Season 4, episode 12 “Extreme Sandbox”
Oh the heaviness and the ramifications of this closing episode to season 4. Where to start? How about Bobby sabotaging Rebecca Cantu’s play at taking over Saler’s with the help of Richard Thomas, thereby running the one relationship of Bobby’s we all liked after Lara left. She and Bobby could have formed a formidable couple, and I thought they worked – but it was not meant to be. She is one character it would’ve been very interesting to see come back in season 7, but we didn’t get to enjoy that. Still, she went out in a blaze of glory “What’s between us now, is nothing.” A curious sidebar here, the tactic that Bobby used to set up Rebecca, working behind the scenes while she was inaccessible, is the same tactic used against Prince in season 7, sabotaging his company while he is at Camp David. These writers never forget a thing.
And if that wasn’t heavy enough, we then get to see Chuck enact his revenge on Jock Jeffcoat and Bryan Connerty in setting them up for their fall – another case of the writers showing how multi-dimensional their planning is in setting up these storylines.
The trailer says it all – no one escapes unscathed in this one. Rebecca is out, Taylor is ruined and forced to come back into Axe Cap’s fold.
Jeffcoat and Connerty – ruined and in jail.
Even our top two perpetrators get hurt – Bobby loses Rebecca and is now bathed in bitterness that will carry over into season 5. Wendy thinks Chuck has come to her rescue only to find out he had done nothing to help her because he was too focused on bringing down Bobby. And Chuck has now lost Wendy completely because he did nothing. Carnage all over the place. Love it.
4: Season 3, episode 5 “Flaw in the Death Star”
Another episode that is in there primarily for one great moment – actually two, both of them involving Dollar Bill and Spyros. The main one is when Dollar Bill exerts his frustration on Spyros by decimating Spyros’ fancy sports car with his minivan. Kelly Aucoin liked talking about this scene almost as much as another one that will come up in a bit. But Bill’s vengeance coupled with Spyros’ look of sheer terror and his constant yelling of ‘What the F***!!” is absolutely hilarious.
Of course, that whole scene is predicated on why Dollar Bill was so enraged in the first place, and that occurred earlier in the episode when Bobby made him apologize to Spyros for denigrating him in front of the troops – the forced apology from Bill and the totally awkward fist bump was pure comedic genius. It reminded me of that episode in Happy Days when the Fonz is forced to say ‘I was wrong’.
Again, the foreboding layers in this episode – more plotting with Dr Gilbert, another shared moment with Wendy and Wags over whisky (did they have more of those than I realized??) and to close, an awesome song in Echo and The Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon”
3: Season 7, episode 10 “Enemies List”
I’m sure this one is on most everyone’s list – if not this episode, then the 11th or 12th. The final three episodes really should count as one, kind of like how when people rank the Beatles songs, they put the entire end of the Abbey Road montage as one entry (from “You’ve Never Give Me Your Money” to “The End”).
As for the episode itself, it did what I love about television series that captures you – it left me in dire anticipation for the next episode. After Bobby’s confrontation with Prince outside Lincoln Center (oh, have I mentioned that I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE AN EXTRA IN THAT SCENE!!!!! – I think it speaks to my objectivity that even though I was cut from that scene, I still recognize its brilliance. I’m just thinking how much better it would have been had I been in it. ), you can’t wait to see how Bobby and Chuck and the team are going to bring him down. And they did a masterful job of letting it develop – Bobby couldn’t come out right away because of how Prince had Wendy tied to the tracks, so to speak – with a great reference to Silverado in there. ANd then how Prince brought back Prince’s wife’s flame Derek as the bargaining tool – how they used multiple story lines that you thought were over with. It makes you wonder how they wrote this back at the beginning of the season, laying out these rich, multi-layered story lines – it really is the pen stroke of genius, and a trait of shows that is far too uncommon – except here – where it is standard operating procedure.
2: Season 1, episode 10 “Quality of Life”
This is mostly here for one scene and one scene only. The incomparable “Fake Fight” scene between Bobby and Dollar Bill.
This is simply one of the greatest scenes in TV drama history. And Kelly AuCoin was sick that day and barely had a voice – you can hear how gravelly he sounds throughout. It is just so fabulously brilliant that it needs to be ranked toward the top.
Of course, as with all episodes, there is so much more that the episode offers (not that it needed it.) You have a budding affair between Sacker and Connerty – How come that never resurfaced later down the line???
You have the death of Donnie Caan – from what I can remember his is one of the few deaths of any character on Billions – is he the only one??
You get to see how ruthless both Bobby and Chuck can be – Bobby in sending Donnie to his death with Dr Gilbert (another key figure later in the series) and Chuck in taking down Judge Wilcox who got in the way of his getting at Bobby.
You have a frosty exchange between Lara and Wendy – again foreshadowing the departure of Lara – although you see how strong she was and how she was able to keep Bobby in check – once she was out of the picture Bobby became more out of control.
You even have a touching exchange between Wags and Wendy at Donnie’s funeral – the beginning of what would be a real bond between those two – although at the time it didn’t seem like much.
1: Season 2, episode 11 “Golden Frog Time”
This is the episode that got me hooked. At this point I was like – whoa, I never saw this coming – I need to go back and watch everything again to see how I missed this. It was so clever. I thought Chuck was done, a victim of his own conceit and arrogance. Up until then I was watching the show because of David Costabile and my connection to him. I focused on all of the Wags scenes and merely enjoyed the others. But from that episode on I was hooked on the show itself, and got engrossed in all things Billions.
The moment where you see Chuck with his back to the camera and it looks like he is crying, which would make total sense because he had just been ruined in the Ice Juice play, only to find out he was laughing because he knew he had caught Bobby – totally never saw that. Never saw how they had set this up beautifully, never saw how ruthless Chuck was in doing whatever it takes to take down Axelrod – sacrificing both his dad and his best friend. (But that’s ok, later he would sacrifice Wendy, Sacker, Connerty and a slew of others. Meanwhile Bobby does the same with Lara and the kids, Rebecca and just about anyone not named Wags. And Prince used both his wife and kids for good measure. It’s almost as if the writers don’t hold Billionaires in the highest regard.
And it also has the great ‘Rudy’ moment for Chris Carfizzi, one of my favorite people in the show.
So many great memories, both in watching the show and in interacting with the people involved – not to mention the great people on this site – Damianista, Gingersnap and the Lady Trader, along with Holliedazzle and guest appearances by Jane Boon. To quote Wags one last time, it’s been a hell of a ride.