Billions: First Takes, Fresh Takes

Now, dear readers, what kind of forensic fan would I be if I didn’t do a pixel by pixel analysis of the latest trailer for Billions? What latest trailer for Billions, you ask? Why this one, called First Takes, with some fun behind the scenes bits interspersed with more juicy bits of the story revealed. I’ll tell you one thing from the get-go: I see a different Bobby Axelrod in this preview than has been revealed in previous trailers.

Most signs point to Bobby being a ruthless hedge fund billionaire, probably up to lots of nefarious deeds, most of them probably legal but just barely so. At the New Yorker Festival interview with Lauren Collins, Damian Lewis described brilliantly some of the deeds of merciless investors and how they just barely squeak by the legality of it all.

“They believe they’re the underdog….they set themselves up against the house…the casino, is Wall Street. They are not part of Wall Street…they’re the snipers….picking off companies, shorting stock. I wanted an intellectual defense…[I asked them] give me your intellectual defense of being a hedge fund guy, of shorting companies, and the one thing they could never persuade me of was that playing to a moral code, [one] that we might all conventionally understand, it wasn’t possible to justify what they do, but if they just ever so slightly shifted the goal posts and created a new moral reality for themselves, which is essentially that, as long as I don’t break the law and as long as the game exists, I’m here to play the game…I can justify making billions for myself by the various charitable donations that I make, the taxes I pay, and so shorting companies is fine, because actually it brings to account…derelict boards, who might be lazy and playing golf courses on Long Island, rather than working for shareholders. That’s their justification.”

Is Bobby Axelrod torn by that shifty morality of what he has had to do to get out of the Bronx and into his sweet house on the beach, his fancy suits and fancy wife on his arm?

imageedit_35_7549755815I think a recurring question as we watch the series will be, is Bobby really a bad guy? Clearly U.S. Attorney Rhoades is going to be on Bobby’s tail, margin call by margin call. But, given the collection of what we know so far, there will be little to no doubt: the story is not going to be as simple as a good guy vs. bad guy.

So what is it about this latest trailer that’s giving us more insight? Well, up until now we’ve seen Bobby, the ruthless hedge fund billionaire, trying to get away with whatever he can to keep what he has. This trailer shows bits of Bobby sensitive (to what, we don’t know!) and wounded (by what, we don’t know!) and compromised.

The clip with him meeting someone in a dank industrial cellar and dropping a bag at his feet? Doesn’t quite look like a happy transaction in the hallowed halls of Wall Street does it? Is the bag full of money? Or a chopped head? We don’t know! All we know is that the guy receiving the bag looks like a mix between Dick Cheney and Lockhardt from Homeland, ie not a good guy. And we see Bobby dropping the bag, appearing somewhat weakened, afraid,  and none too happy.

We also see Bobby at a table with the camera panning around to reveal a look we know well from Damian, that look of a sort of moral exhaustion, a mind consumed by something. Forgive the comparison please, but it’s a look we saw quite clearly as the camera did a similar pan close to Brody’s face sitting at the Q & A table. A look of “what the hell have I done, how can I save myself from this, what now”…fatigue.  Sounds formulaic when I describe it, but it’s anything but. Really, can anyone besides Damian Lewis do that look of panic and emotional pain in such a perfect balance that you viscerally feel it no matter how often he does it or what the circumstances are of the character he’s playing? You feel it. Every. Single. Time. Okay, to the naysayer, it may be formula, but, I would dare the most staunch naysayer to argue the fact that Damian’s capacity to so consistently evoke a emotion so very unique to him is sheer brilliance.

Damian Lewis, Bobby Axelrod
source: Showtime

And what else do we see that’s different? Last time we saw Bobby being a bit of a player, lasciviously checking out Wendy Rhoades as she sits across the desk from him. But, was that scene of Damian across a desk from Maggie Siff just a case of clever editing? As Damianista reported, the scene had quite a different dynamic between trailers. And, then we see Bobby leaning casually against a wrought iron fence as his wife tiptoes up for a kiss. This time we see that scene from a different angle. We see the fence in the foreground and Bobby and Lara from the back as they look across the street to what looks like a grand opening of a museum with crowds of well-dressed people gliding in. Oh, and look there, that sweet bombshell Lara Axelrod has a tattoo. And it doesn’t look like the freshly inked-in-vivid-color tat of a hipster; it seems to be an older fuzzy-edged tat, perhaps of a girl from the hood?

Damian Lewis, Malin Akerman
source: Showtime

Last time we saw Bobby in a gorgeous house, posturing within it as master of all he surveyed.

Damian Lewis
source: Showtime

This time we see Bobby outside his house, walking alone on a frigid Long Island beach, and back inside, looking worried… about what, we don’t know!


Damian Lewis, Bobby Axelrod
source: Showtime


Indeed, doesn’t it seem from this trailer that the cool cat in this cat and mouse game, Chuck Rhoades, is the cut-throat ruthless “take no prisoners” character in the guise of state’s attorney. Yes, law enforcement is supposed to be the purview of the “good guy”, but darned if he doesn’t look like a bloodthirsty hunter circling his prey in these clips.

imageedit_76_6423081517In short, this newest trailer is showing us a a Bobby Axelrod who may not be as cock-sure of himself as we’ve believed him to be. He’s compromised somehow and vulnerable…to something. And, get this, Bobby apparently barely survived 9/11 by a fluke. Damianista alerted me to this fact in the Showtime description of the character and she proposed that maybe he missed a flight that day? Or, I can’t help but to think, maybe he missed a morning meeting in one of the towers? Or decided to not get off at the subway where he usually did under those towers? Whatever the case, could it be that Bobby will be riddled with some sort of survivor’s guilt? How will this layer added to his psyche function to drive the character? We don’t know!

A house of mirrors indeed!

Damian Lewis. Paul Giamatti
source:; Showtime


11 thoughts on “Billions: First Takes, Fresh Takes”

  1. I love you forensic fan! I just LOVE the way you see a completely different Bobby in the new clip — so TRUE! When I wrote about Bobby as a man of two worlds after the first trailer, more than a month ago, most of what I saw was a cocky guy with some “I made it” attitude. Even though I could feel he should have some insecurities, I could not put my fingers on it then. You now brilliantly capture Bobby’s human side and his possible insecurities in this post — I salute you! <3

  2. I just stareted watching Homeland and instantly became fan of Damian Lewis. His character portrayal of Sergeant Brody is impeccable. Finished 2 season in 2 days and now saving 3rd season until near start of the Billions so can continue watching him on TV. I am bummed about Brody getting killed in season 3 as I was so hooked into Brody-Carrie relationship and their personal ups and downs through out the show. I know its been a year or so since Brody no longer part of the show but somehow I just cant wrap around my head to that fact as i thought it was one of the best character of all time. sorry I am just ranting about Brody here but I am a huge fan of Homeland especially the story-line of carrie and Brody.

    I am psyched for Billlions cant wait ! It will be an awesome show

    1. Thanks for reading!
      Yes, Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody was the catalyst for my “obsession” for all things Damian. He blew us all away….Totally unexpectedly. And the lingering affects of the Nicholas Brody character can not be overstated. (for me it was most about the fact that he personified and made REAL for the first time the idea of War and what it does to everyone it touches) Just a magnificently realized performance all around. We here all have different things to cling to from Homeland but one thing we all have in common is that we’ll never be over Brody.
      I wrote a bit about Brody along the way too: Nicholas Brody was No Hero, Part 1:, Part 2: Would love to hear more thoughts!

    2. Hello, we connected over Twitter earlier and hope that you have not found out about Brody’s death just because of us. But it’s been more than a year and a half so that secret has been out for some time now 🙂 I’d say you could get to watch S3 since he is still in many episodes! I have never been obsessed about a character this much, and I told you on Twitter that my obsession got even bigger once he was killed in the show. First, I wrote a piece about how I am in mourning. Then I made the You Tube video you saw earlier today. Then I had to start blogging on Damian Lewis. So, haha, it’s really all about Brody 😀 I am now waiting for Bobby Axelrod to come along and ease the pain. Can’t wait for January 17! Thanks so much for visiting and reading! We write daily about Damian Lewis and his work and hope you enjoy our blog! Cheers!

  3. No it wasnt because of you guys ; I was so obsessed with Carrie and Brody (Homeland). I wanted to know more about them and that’s how i came across the fact that Brody was killed. For me Homeland stands for Carrie-Brody dynamic and as they killed one of them cant watch the other by itself. Nicholas Brody was the essential charchter of Homeland. What I read in the articles regarding the killing of Brody chachter was that the show was not about romance between the two characters but the thrill and the secret missions of CIA and because of Brody; the show was going in the “wrong” direction . If so cant they write a good part for Brody to keep him in the show? Now I hear they are bringing Carrie and Quinn together which just boggles my mind ..If they didnt want romance in the show then whats the desperation of getting them together? and if they can get them together then why it didnt work for Brody. Lets accept it Quinn is no Brody. As you must have known the ratings of Homeland has been down since Damian Lewis left the show, but critics liked the show post Brody so I believe Homeland writers just want to win awards but dont want to care about what audience likes. I am sorry but I just cant believe there wont be more Brody-Carrie. For me Homeland is over. I like Carrie but just cant watch the show without Sergeant Nicholas Brody. I am keeping my fingers crossed for Billions; hoping Damian Lewis makes a smashing return to Showtime and delight us with his amazing acting skills.

    1. Thank you for your reply! First, I think Damian will be amazing as Bobby Axelrod in Billions, and I believe with the very timely subject matter and the ultimate cat and mouse thriller! Well… about Homeland. Yes, critics played the drums for months to have Brody killed in the show. I think they sort of feel like God when a character they want to die really dies in a show. Season 4 was okay but it was missing Brody big time. It is a CIA show but after all everything that gets us interested is the relationships in shows… and Carrie and Brody was no exception and add the wonderful chemistry between Danes and Lewis it was PERFECT. I think it was hard for them to write the part for Brody and killing him (and since they had already told Lewis that he would live for 2 seasons in the show at the beginning and they delayed killing him for another season because of Brody’s popularity) was an exit. They reset the show completely for Season 4. But yet again they are not getting awards. I am not even sure if there will be a 6th season. I have not checked but I can see ratings should be down. Yesss, let’s keep fingers crossed for Billions, I really think it will be an instant hit! Thanks again for visiting and reading us!

    2. Actually, Brody was supposed to die with the vest explosion. The network kept the character purely to appease the audience who loved him. I loved him too, but I also see how the character had an expiration date. Keeping him alive would have defeated the entire metaphor of Brody epitomizing all the endless casualties of an endless war.
      The romance didn’t come out of the blue, it was part of the script and plan. The mind-blowing extent of the chemistry between the two actors did come as a surprise, I think, to many. But, true, the show isn’t meant to be a romance.
      In short, Carrie Mathison is the LEAD of the show. Despite how strong a character Brody was, he was never meant to survive long term. The only believable scenario to keeping him alive would have been, as Damianista originally alluded, to make him a Snowden sort of character: exiled, but alive. But, what then? Would we want to see Carrie making booty calls to Russia a couple of times every season? No, Homeland is not a happily ever after kind of story. THAT, to me, is its appeal.

      Fwiw, I see Brody alive in the show still, in Frannie, in Carrie’s transformation into a person who has known love and imagined a good life. She didn’t accept that possibility before Brody, and now she does. She’s a fascinating character that they can do a lot with still.

      So, yes, Brody is dead, but Damian Lewis is alive and well and creating great work! Something to celebrate!

      1. Hey Partner, I completely agree with you that Carrie is the lead and the show is not a romance. And I think the romance was not as planned until that “Don’t leave me alone in the rain” scene or that’s what the executive producers are telling us. So far so good. The main difference between you and me is that you genuinely care about Carrie as a character. I don’t. I LOVED Brody in the show, it was his story that took me in, so my interest disappeared once he’s gone. Because he was THE SHOW for me. And, of course, I was interested in Carrie & Brody together because of the chemistry those fantastic actors had together. Having said all that… I can also confidently say I would never have started blogging should Brody have not died. His death made me 100 times more obsessed with him than I was before. So maybe I should believe that all happens for a reason and move on to… Billions and Bobby Axelrod!!!

        1. I agree with you; for me Homeland stands for Brody-Carrie and without Brody ; its just not the same. I became fan of Damian Lewis; dont get me wrong I like Claire Danes too but I have never been this hooked to any character as Nicholas Brody. The way writers wrote his character was just never seen before. I feel better that we’ll get to see Damian in Billlions which looks like to be an awesome show with fabulous cast. Meanwhile I have recently started watching Life which is surprisingly a great show.

          1. Oh I like Claire Danes, too; she’s a great actress, and she is one of the few that can carry a show as a female lead — it rarely happens in America — but again I am with you that I had never seen any character like Brody before and I admit I got obsessed and then got obsessed even more when he died — so maybe it was okay that he died! I really think Billions will be GREAT but Life is, yes, especially, as a network show, an incredibly well written and acted show — Charlie is a completely different character than Brody showing how versatile an actor Damian Lewis is. You are in for a real treat! ENJOY Life!

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