Boy, Billions is giving its stellar coterie of actors a lot more to do this season! While the plot has always remained tight and unpredictable, this show has always been character-driven, never more so than right at this moment.
You don’t have to read the business papers to hear the real world buzz around Preet Bharara’s recent firing as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of NY. In the fictional world of Billions, this is the very position occupied by Chuck. In Tuesday’s NYT, Andrew Ross Sorkin’s regular article Dealbook , quoted the so-called “sheriff of Wall Street” Bharara saying in another interview:
I have never said that insider trading is the crime of the century. It has not been my personal focus. It’s the focus of the press because there are a lot of wealthy people that like the reporting of it.
Indeed, in the world of Wall Street, and Billions, there is ethics and then there is the appearance of ethics. Prosecution is not always (or ever?) about beating the bad guy and scoring a victory for justice. A lot of the time it’s about beating a case that’s beatable and tantalizing to the press and the public. Sure, the practice of law is about setting precedent on good and bad, right and wrong, but a lot of the time (most of the time?) it’s about managing public perception of these lofty ideals. And it’s in the managing of perception where all the play happens. This theme runs throughout Billions, and is in particular focus in Episode 4 “The Oath.”
Something else notable for this episode: the virtual encyclopedia of pop culture references! A cynical person could snark it’s a good thing all the people of this world seem to have read the same books, seen the same movies, and listened to the same music. Writing about it was one rabbit hole after another and I can only imagine the fun from the actual writing of it.
Bobby waves Mafee into his office, but Mafee stays where he is. Bobby is perplexed until Wags explains Mafee wishes to talk about BioLance so has sent Wags in to get permission because Bobby told him he would be fired if he brought that up. Mafee thinks that they are about to lose £400+ million and is basically saying Bobby has this one wrong. Since he is executing the trade, Mafee fears if he does not speak up now, he’ll be fired after they lose the $400+ Million. Bobby sees how this could be a sticky one.
Bobby loves Mafee though so permission is granted.
Mafee has been losing sleep over this BioLance trade and he sleeps like a bear. Axe does that thing he does and asks Mafee what type of bear he usually sleeps like.
There is a special announcement call about BioLance in 9 minutes and Mafee is uneasy. Bobby, however, is giving Mafee no leeway when it comes to the actual information as Bobby understands the risks and has done the homework. So, despite the fact that the other analysts agree with Mafee and him being so loveable, Mafee is the one standing in front of Bobby and Mafee is fired.
He is still there 9 minutes later when the announcement is made that BioLance has not gotten FDA approval. What does this mean? It means that Mafee would be perfectly entitled to jump up on the desk and scream “I told you so”. However, Mafee looks genuinely disappointed by the announcement. If he is fired, why does he care that Axe just lost $430 Million dollars for being an over confident and dismissive ass? Mafee might just be a team player.
The news has hit Bobby like a ton of bricks, but it is not really the fact that he just lost $430 million that is bothering him or that he really owes Mafee an apology. It is the realisation he has lost his mojo. He was wrong. Him! Bobby Axelrod.
A warning for those just starting to watch Billions in the UK, this blog will contain spoilers for all of season 1.
To know who Bobby Axelrod is means having an understanding of where he has been and how he has gotten to here. At the moment we just have ‘the here’ with a couple of anecdotes thrown in. Granted the 9/11 reveal was fairly big, but in the end just added more questions.
The simple view of Bobby Axelrod is a husband, a father and the owner of Axe Capital. Digging under the surface the clear picture starts to blur.
His wife loves him and is loyal to him yet it is clear there are things she does not know about him or about how he will react in certain circumstances. In Magical thinking Lara tells her sister Lu that she needs Bobby “to give her something” i.e. she needs him to share with her. It probably hurt her knowing he was off sharing his feelings with Wendy. In ‘the Conversation’ we see the first slither of doubts cross her mind even as the words she speaks say the opposite. I found it interesting that Bobby decided to leave all that money in the house rather than return it to the bank. Is this a test for his wife? At this stage I wouldn’t put it past him. Lara did not appreciate the inference of having to up and run soon by keeping the money in the house. Nor did she appreciate the affection with which Bobby spoke of Wendy in the same scene. It seems to me Mr & Mrs Axelrod may be about to hit choppy waters. I hope that boat came with life jackets.
His boys look up to him but then they are children who still think that dad knows best and are still at the stage where they prefer ‘cool’ dad far better than ‘realistic and responsible’ mum. The reality is that cool dad is not doing himself or his boys any favours. They are childish enough that they thank him for his undermining of whatever their mother says and does. They will grow out of that eventually. Continue reading “Value of Loyalty and Bobby Axelrod’s varying degrees”
We open with the FBI raiding Donnie’s house. Donnie tells his partner to go be with the kids and hides an awful lot of pills just as the FBI come charging through the door. Donnie has a lot of pills and we were discussing the possibility that Donnie is very ill and possibly dying.
Bryan instigated this raid as he isn’t happy and wanted Donnie to know how it would feel when they come to take him to prison because he thinks Donnie is stringing them along. Donnie explains about how he is giving them Axe using the data on Kemlot. Bryan shouts him down and tells him he has a week, by the end of which, either Axe is in Federal custody or Donnie is.
Chuck and Kevin arrive at the Big Apple Circus. Kevin spots his favourite baseball player and wants to go over and get an autograph. Chuck isn’t so keen when he sees Bobby talking to him and tries to steer Kevin away, but Bobby spots them and shouts Kevin over. Chuck is less than impressed but Bobby says “never women and the children”. Bobby can’t resist a dig though after Chuck says that Mark is Kevin’s favourite player “he obviously has his mother’s instinct for people”. Ouch! That is how you punch without getting a misdemeanor!
Wendy arrives clearly stunned to find her husband and Bobby standing next to one another. There is a quick exchange of words between them before Chuck ushers the family away.
We start off with Wendy in some spooky looking place with Hall who directs her inside where Axe is waiting. It turns out to be a spa and it is just the two of them…well there is the possibility Hall is lurking around. Bobby says “It has been a weird couple of days”. At which point we flash back 72 hours.
Wendy is not happy. Wendy is in fact very mad with her husband. She is afraid that her absence from the office when Bill was arrested will make it seem like she knew it was coming. Chuck proceeds to tell her what they think of her won’t matter because in the end, when he is done, there will be nothing left and she is beautiful and talented and will land on her feet. Her answer is “Fuck you”.
Axe is rallying the troops and sounding the battle cry. He is standing on high surrounded by his subjects. I admit to having difficulty keeping a straight face when he began by describing Chuck as “An unscrupulous adversary”.
The scene with Axe addressing his people is intercut with Bryan and Chuck interrogating Bill Stearn. I find it hilarious that Bill is even known in these circles as the stingy multi-millionaire. Chuck lays out the charges against Bill and what he is potentially looking at, 12 years, and a $9 million fine.
Bobby is geeing up the troops with this was “An attack on all of us”.