The recent Billions tease “Nothing Speaks Louder than Power” is really something. I mean, it TEASES!
What do you see in this picture? I see two modern day gladiators going at each other big time as millions of viewers are watching them on Showtime and rooting for one or the other 😀 Yes, we are not living in Roman Times, so at least, one does not need to physically die for the other one to survive, but still one’s career probably needs to die for the other one to survive and thrive!
Well, we talked earlier about teams being more or less well-defined on Billions: On one side, we have Team Axelrod led by hedge-fund king Bobby “Axe” Axelrod along with his wife Lara Axelrod and his right-wing man Mike “Wags” Wagner; and on the other side, we have Team Rhoades led by US Attorney Chuck Rhoades along with his assistant attorney Brian Kennerty and assistant District Attorney Kate Sacher. The only character that we have had difficulty putting in either camp is… Wendy Rhoades.
Wendy is Chuck’s wife as well as Bobby’s in-house performance coach. She bridges these two men screaming at the top of their lungs above in a rather fantastic way.
In case you missed it, I earlier blogged about wonderful Maggie Siff, whom I first LOVED in Mad Men, and the potential conflict of interest her character Wendy Rhoades may bring to Billions‘ first season here. NEW information about Wendy’s career path now inspires me to write a little bit more about this intriguing character that I am so looking forward to meeting… yes, in short six weeks!
We know Bobby and Chuck are equally driven about getting what they want. One has money power and the other one has legal power. Wendy does have neither the legal power Chuck has nor the money power Bobby has. However, what she has can make her more powerful than both at times: Wendy understands human nature. In Maggie Siff’s words, “she has the ability to step outside and see why people are behaving the way they are.” She knows these two men very closely which puts her in a unique position of power over them! Maggie Siff explains her character: “As a female character, to be able to play someone who is equally powerful to these titans… You just don’t come across it that much. She knows what a lot of these men need… and it gives her kind of an edge.”
So well said! Even in this golden age of TV, we do not have a lot of strong women characters. One exception is Carrie Mathison in Homeland and another one is Claire Underwood in House of Cards. I am extremely happy Billions is giving us not one but two strong women characters in Wendy Rhoades and Lara Axelrod.
So… In a delicate conflict of interest situation in which loyalties seem to be severely tested, what team jersey would Wendy Rhoades wear? Well, you decide for yourself as we examine the hints we have got so far…
Let’s start with Wendy and Chuck. Maggie Siff, as she talks about her character, says: “Chuck and Wendy have a very fascinating relationship.”
Now… Is she talking about this?
Or this? 😀
As much as they look happy clinking glasses or having some fun, business is business for this married couple. It turns out Wendy has been working at at Axe Capital for much longer than Chuck has been occupying the US Attorney’s office. And, tensions seem to rise between them as Chuck tries to push his case to Wendy.
Chuck: “I work for the public good.”
Wendy: “No. You work for the good of Chuck Rhoades maybe sometimes they intersect.”
Wendy is not buying THAT. She’s direct and quite harsh with Chuck. And when he further pushes his case — to a point where he probably asks Wendy to quit her job, she is obviously pissed: “You quit your fucking job.”
An old man whose identity is not known to us tells Chuck to “find a way to bury this son of a bitch.” It seems Chuck will do whatever it takes to keep his precious insider trading cases record of 81 wins and no losses. What I’m dying to know is the extent to which Chuck can go to “put Bobby Axelrod in a cell.” Does Chuck have the balls to jeopardize his wife’s career as well as her reputation? Can’t wait to find out!
Let’s move on to Wendy and Bobby: Wendy has been working with Bobby since the early days of Axe Capital. She, in fact, helped Bobby to build the firm from scratch and is now the successful in-house performance coach. She genuinely LOVES her job. We see her telling someone: “This thing I do… I get so fucking turned on doing it…”
And, the two colleagues seem to be very comfortable in each other’s company… Maybe a bit too comfortable 😀
First we see Bobby talking to Wendy: “Being a billionaire is exactly like being a woman with eyes like yours… You know exactly what everyone wants.”
Hmmm… Now… Do you get to talk to your colleagues like that? It may, of course, be a conversation between real close colleagues who have become close friends over the years… Or… It may just be that Bobby is hitting on Wendy 😀
And then… THAT look Wendy gives Bobby as they sit next to each other… maybe in a plane? Or in a movie theater? Where are they? (UPDATE 12/15/2015 : It turns out they are sort of in a movie theater. Recently released Billions promo photos show Bobby and Wendy at a private screening. I put money on this relationship as the most interesting one in this series. And, I don’t necessarily think of a romantic relationship!
Anyhow… Again… Do you get to look at your colleagues like this? Again… It may, of course, be a conversation between real close colleagues who have become close friends over the years… Or… It may just be that Wendy is hitting on Bobby, too 😀
UPDATE 12/13/2015: Well… Well… Well… The latest Billions promo “It’s not About the Money” reveals that the woman we saw earlier taking her bathrobe off to get into the spa tub with a somewhat surprised Bobby is nobody other than Wendy!
How about that? Could it still be harmless workplace flirting that were talking earlier? Maybe… and maybe not 🙂
Having said all this… Business IS business for both of them.
Even though he ensures Wendy in the series trailer that her value to the firm is absolute, we then see Bobby with a shady figure who seems to be his “problem solver” who asks: “Trust her?” And Bobby, after giving him a bag of money, says: “I want to.” Does Bobby have this guy follow Wendy to make sure her loyalty to the firm is absolute? Who knows?
And we see Wendy advising Bobby open war is not affordable…
Wendy: “Open war is no good.”
Bobby: “For who?”
Wendy: “For anyone.”
Like Thomas Cromwell telling exactly THAT to Henry VIII in Wolf Hall Episode 1!
Henry: “You said, in Parliament, in a speech, some six years ago, that I could not afford a war.”
Cromwell: “Wars are not affordable things.”
So… can we say Wendy is sort of a Cromwell to Bobby? If she is Cromwell, then she is lucky we are not living in 16th century, so Bobby can not use the Axe in a literal sense 😀 It seems to me Wendy is more of an equal though at Axe Capital… We hear her saying at some point to Bobby: “Cut me out again… and I am gone.”
To be honest, we hear but don’t really see Wendy saying THIS to Bobby… Still, I put my money on Wendy saying this to Bobby. And what I am dying to know is, firstly, if Wendy is bluffing and, secondly, whether Bobby has the balls to let her go… Can’t wait to find out!
I have told you to decide on your own about what team Wendy will be on, but of course I also have my two cents on the matter 🙂 Knowing these two men closely, and loving them both in very different ways, I believe, Wendy will be in a unique position to hold power over both and she will refuse to wear a team jersey! Wendy, using her strong understanding of human nature, will play her own game and I suspect we will root for her!
In closing, if you want to get to know Maggie Siff a little bit better, I would highly recommend the recent podcast Brian Koppelman did with her. You can hear the entire conversation here. You will be impressed. My reaction was: “Oh My God! Maggie is absolutely my kind of person. We could have been friends in another life.”