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