Who’s got the POWER in Billions? Bobby? Chuck? Or Wendy?

The recent Billions tease “Nothing Speaks Louder than Power” is really something. I mean, it TEASES!

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

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.

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

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?

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

Or this? 😀

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

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.”

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

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 😀

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

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!

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

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… 

source: Showtime

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?

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

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!

source: BBC
source: BBC

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.”

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

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!

source: Showtime
source: Showtime

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.”

Author: Damianista

Academic, Traveler, Blogger, Runner, Theatre Lover, Wine Snob, Part-time New Yorker, and Walking Damian Lewis Encyclopedia :D Procrastinated about a fan's diary on Damian Lewis for a while and the rest is history!

8 thoughts on “Who’s got the POWER in Billions? Bobby? Chuck? Or Wendy?”

  1. I am loving the focus on Wendy. As for the looks they are giving each other, I suspect it is as you say that they are just really good friends who are comfortable with each other and indulging in some harmless work place flirting…but who knows how that may change. I really can’t wait to see Maggie and Damian on screen together…So we can gush about it a lot more!

    1. It seems we will think and talk about Wendy A LOT! She’s such a key character – I am so looking forward to meeting her! The looks she and Bobby give to each other… I dunno. They are old friends, that’s for sure, and it could well be harmless flirting that’s why I don’t want to push a romantic relationship. But, again, who knows? 🙂 Every teaser makes us ask more and more questions — LOVE it!

  2. Every teaser makes me more and more concerned
    that we will get a Superman or James Bond type fantasy flick instead of a true human drama of the rich and successful. In real life powerful men do not tolerate powerful women in their aegis. Look at what happened to Hillary after Bill’s election and why Michelle has been relegated to growing veggies in the White House garden. I greatly admire Maggie Siff and hope that her role will be ultimately rewarding
    with a lot of love and war and not to many painful compromises along the way.

    1. Hi Agnes, I agree with you about the Superman & James Bond analogy but I think what we will ultimately see is a true human drama – I think this Superman kind of stuff or the screaming faces which I liken to modern day gladiators are part of the marketing strategy by Showtime. They want to attract everyone, the people that look for a true drama like you and us, and many many Damian Fans; but they also want to attract people that would just want a juicy story. I think the teasers are there to TEASE everyone rather than just us 😀 So true about Hillary and Michelle, but hey Hillary could be our next President! I am pretty sure Maggie Siff’s role will be rewarding and Wendy will be such a KEY character in the show. As much as I am a HUGE Damian Lewis fan, I always root for smart and talented women, and Maggie Siff is absolutely one of them! Having said that… yeah there could be a few compromises along the way… like in real life (like examples you give about Hillary and Michelle)… I guess we women are more likely to compromise. Sad but true.

      By the way, we talked about PTSD in our team, and we will absolutely do our best to do a good blog on such a sensitive topic. Thanks so much for suggesting it, and thanks so much for visiting us! Much love!

  3. Wow, Wendy as Cromwell to Bobby? Love it!! What a fabulous analogy you make; It’s an interpretation of her character that I’m totally on board for!

    1. Very happy you like it! When Wendy says “open war is no good” and the Hedge-Fund King questions her “For who?” — I was totally like “OMG this is Cromwell and Henry!” And our hedge-fund’s king’s name being “Axe” gives another funny layer to the story 🙂 I’m totally on board with it, too!

  4. I can see why there might be a concern about powerful men not tolerating women. The trailers hint that there is a bit of an issue with Wendy and Chuck about this…and perhaps other characters will display such attitudes. As long as other characters on the show balance that out then I would have no difficulty with them showing us it. We know such attitudes do exist…and it will give me a character to dislike!

    Whatever of Bobby’s faults we may pick up on as we go, I don’t think fear/intolerance of a strong/powerful woman will be one of his.

    1. I agree strong women will be Bobby’s specialty (Damian once said it for himself which I love) and yes Chuck could be a bit uncomfortable with his wife’s strong position at Axe Capital and may turn it into a career “pee contest.” Oh yes such attitudes certainly exist and even I, who calls herself a feminist, sometimes do have an issue with a female character and then feel bad when I realize it’s because this female character does not have the conventional female attributes but she is just a headstrong and independent woman. It’s so interesting how wired the brains are.

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