Billions, the white-collar cops and robbers show is back for its third season. Not only is it as good as the first two series, it’s improving, which doesn’t always happen in a third year (we’re looking at you, House of Cards).
Now two episodes in, we are getting a good feel on how the shifting power dynamics are shaping up after a manically obsessed Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti), rocked everyone’s world at the end of season two. The after effects of mega-bad choices are being mitigated by some sensible solutions, even though it goes against the grain of some characters’ moral, or immoral, instincts.
He’s Having Seizures
Bobby Alexrod is under indictment and saw his assets seized. And the only way to get his company trading again, is to give up trading himself, anathema to his id. He agrees, believing that he can cheat the system and not get caught. Because, you know, it worked out so well the last time he manipulated the markets.
Axe believes he can take some cash and spread it around to other brokerages and anonymously pull the strings. This is giving us insight into his compulsive behavior like never before. While always driven to win at all costs, he’s been as smart as manipulative. But starting with trying to devastate Chuck last season, he’s been driven by revenge, which has put him where he is now. It’s gonna be fun to see how far he unravels.
In Taylor We Trust
But Bobby’s undoing is leading to the development Taylor, the gender non-binary who is brilliant and genuinely eager to learn from the best, Bobby Axelrod. Taylor is now in charge of investments. And while they have always learned to mine confidence from insecurity this is going to a whole new level. Taylor must lead a group of nervous and dubious traders while also being deemed worthy in Axe’s eyes. Episode two closed with a moment between the two. It felt a bit throw away, but if it advances the plot we will soon forgive and forget.
Trials & Errors
Bobby’s nemesis, U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades, is working through his own issues. After betraying his best friend and duping his dad, Chuck has no true friends or allies on the show. Yes, there are people behind him, but only because they can profit. Anyone who does his bidding is doing it to pay a debt. He is ‘collecting a debt of the soul.. and the debt is due.’ Once Chuck is of no value to someone there will be no reason to stand with him. So he is basically going it alone.
He’s trying to work things out with Wendy (more on that in a moment) but even that is touchy.
His obsession to put Axelrod in prison cost him not only personal relationships but a personal fortune. But, in a poignant scene in jail with Bobby he says ‘worth it.’ But his hands aren’t clean. At some point one of the people he used will have to turn on him, even if it means destroying themselves. But.. who will it be? A judge? An old friend? A dad? A… wife?!?!
Hits & Mrs.
The wives are the wildcards on both sides of the equation. Axe’s bride, Lara, has already laundered a million dollar suitcase, kicked him out of the mansion, and plotted an exit strategy.
Meanwhile, Chuck’s wife, Wendy, is going the other way. After spending season two separated from Chuck and not working for Bobby, she’s back in bed, literally, with Chuck, and metaphorically with Bobby. We’ve already seen her get out of bed in the middle of the night to take Axe’s call. And we’ve seen how she and Chuck are going to BDSM marital counseling.
Is she playing both sides? Does she believe she can? Is Chuck using her? She’s already been manipulated by Axe to get her back to work. Is he doing it again? Or will she manipulate him by getting close to Taylor. Their relationship is just starting out, and so far Taylor seems to make themselves unusually vulnerable to Wendy.
To answer these questions, many players will need to be used along the way, and there are plenty of pawns on the board to be sacrificed. From ‘Dollar’ Bill, Mafee, and the whole floor of traders at Axe Capital to the lawyers in Chuck’s office, everyone is set up to be.. set up. It’s impossible to know who is going to go next, or when or why.
The ‘realignment’ is expected to go on all season, and that’s what makes the show compelling. It’s good at letting go, not running any one story line or player into the ground. While we love our Sunday Fundays here at the Cocktail, we will be
sober coherent at 10pm for the next few weeks, as this is not a show to watch the next day, we need our Billions like we need our vodka: immediately!
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
A Dash of Betrayal. It has tequila, it’s bright red (the color of passion) but honey to make it sweet. All the ingredients you need to make Betrayal as delicious as it is on Billions!