As much as last week’s episode of Billions was softer around the edges and showed some heart, this week’s episode, “Victory Lap”, displays the exact opposite. One hallmark of this complex show is that, since directing and writing hands are traded weekly, there’s a different feel, a sort of different emotional center, to every episode. The beauty is that, despite changing hands, the story maintains continuity and characters stay consistently true to form. In fact, there is more revealed every time we see these people, as well as more left unknown.
As we start the second half of Season 2, Axe and Chuck are at opposite ends in their personal and professional lives. Axe seems to have made up with Lara but is suffering from the Sandicot deal. Chuck, on the other hand, is doing his professional victory lap for taking down Boyd but has a fragile relationship with Wendy. And, in an interesting turn of events, Episode 7 Victory Lap makes both men converge to exactly the same point: Black Jack Foley. Man of the Hour. It seems we will get to see more of David Straithorn in the coming weeks.
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.
Just three episodes in and we have received terrific news that Showtime has renewed Billions for a third season! The news is not surprising given that Billions is the SMARTEST show on TV but still THIS WAS FAST! Congratulations to the entire cast and crew, we are over the moon for you and yeah, for us, too!
And who knew “Paulie Pennino” of Billions would come back to direct Axe in Season 2 Episode 4? It is a true delight Noah Emmerich is directing this episode! I love him as Agent Beeman in The Americans! And, hey, he is also directing Richard Thomas, who brings to life Beeman’s boss Agent Gaad in The Americans and whom I loved as John-Boy in The Waltons as a little girl, in this episode!
Axe is finally in the final three in his bid for the NFL team. Over lunch at Vaucluse, Mark Cuban tells Axe NFL does not like guys like them because they did come from nothing, earned their money calling bullshit openly and publicly and so they come across as people that can break the etiquette. According to Cuban, Axe needs to hang up the gloves and focus on changing the “hearts and minds” that will give him what he wants. Continue reading “Billions on Showtime, Season 2, Episode 4: The Oath”
Billions pulls a great trick from the big bag of tricks available to entertainment. It puts on an episode with a discrete arc — a beginning, middle, end… rising tension, climax, and denouement. And it does it in each episode while also exploring deeply profound themes fit for feature length film. This show is entertaining, no doubt. But there are ways in which it isn’t “just” entertainment. Allow me, please, to explore a few of the ways Billions pulled it out for S2Ep3 “Optimal Play”, would you?