by Sean T. Collins | New York Times | May 13, 2018
All the Wilburys
The dust has settled, but “Billions” has not. After last week’s tour de force put an end to two and a half seasons’ worth of warfare between Bobby Axelrod and Chuck Rhoades, you might expect the show to settle into what remains of its status quo: Chuck’s run for governor, for example, or Bobby’s relatively cautious relationship with his company. But by the time the closing credits roll on this week’s episode, all that has been torn to pieces too.
Written by two of the show’s creators, Brian Koppelman and David Levien, and directed with minimal flash by Mike Binder, this week’s installment tosses the seven-dimensional chessboard out the window in favor of a series of direct confrontations. Characters get together, face off, and verbally pound away at one another until only the strongest remain standing. No room for stealth mode here: It’s vulgar displays of power all the way down.
Continue reading Billions Season 3, Episode 8 Recap: New York Times – May 13, 2018
“Lewis, with his singular white-skinned, red-haired coloring and swimming-pool blue eyes, is always mesmerizing to watch”
by Eve MacSweeney | Vogue | May 9, 2018
One of the credibility stretching conceits of the Showtime drama Billions is that one of its lead characters, a high-ranking government lawyer played by Paul Giamatti, is a hard-core sexual masochist. We meet him in the pilot, bound, gagged, and hooded, cringing under the heel of a dominatrix. (That she turns out to be his wife is another of the rapid plot twists that keep the series’ heart pumping.)
With the accusations breaking this week of the physical abuse of four women by former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, that high-concept premise is starting to look less contrived. Schneiderman is the alleged perpetrator, not the recipient, of violence in news accounts, but the disconnect common to both characters—the real and the fictional—is unsettling. Giamatti’s Chuck Rhoades, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, is so possessed by the desire to nail his nemesis, hedge-funder Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) that he is willing to sacrifice friends, family, ethics, and his own financial interest in its pursuit. This punitive zeal makes an ironic contrast with his sexual preference. Schneiderman’s apparent hypocrisy lies in his support of #MeToo, taking action against Harvey Weinstein, and, as a legislator, introducing specific laws against verbal threats and physical choking, two of the crimes of which he now stands accused.
Continue reading The Schneiderman Allegations Make the TV Show Billions Look a Lot More Like Real Life – May 9, 2018
by Sean T. Collins | New York Times | May 6, 2018
Not You, Mr. Dake
Before we formally open tonight’s recap, here’s a tip, from my critic’s notebook to you. When you get deep into a season of a prestige drama and you see the names of the showrunners pop up under an episode’s “written by” credit? Buckle up. Written by two of the series’s creators, Brian Koppelman and David Levien, and directed with dot-connecting confidence by Michael Morris, this is “Billions” at its best. Ever, I’d say.
The surprises start immediately. (They often do; there’s not a wasted moment on this show anymore.) Last week’s installment ended with a sort of cliffhanger conciliation: Chuck Rhoades, Bobby Axelrod and their shared confidant, Wendy Rhoades, coming together to figure out a way to keep all of them out of prison. Chuck had opened that meeting by proffering an incriminating slide that connected Bobby to the sabotage of the Ice Juice I.P.O. rather than by planting it in the billionaire’s apartment. Nevertheless, this week’s episode begins as Chuck confers with Dr. Ari Gilbert, the man who gave him the slide, talking as if the plan to hide it at Axe’s place is still in full effect.
Continue reading Billions Season 3, Episode 7 Recap: New York Times – May 6, 2018
Eat or Be Eaten
by Sean T. Collins | New York Times | April 29, 2018
The Third Ortolan
If there’s one place where we can come together in these divided times, surely it’s to appreciate a show that gives us opening scenes like the one this week: Axe and Wags, sitting at a table with cloth napkins draped over their heads, faces obscured, “for two reasons,” as Wags puts it: “to keep the aromas from escaping, and to hide this shameful and depraved act from God.”
“Well, if there were a God, I think He’d know,” comes Axe’s reply — in a room lit with enough candles to fuel a decent-sized pagan sacrifice. There’s no immediate explanation, no follow-up whatsoever until the final 15 minutes of the episode, but the tone is set for one of the best episodes of “Billions” in recent memory. It’s the simple pleasures that bind us, you know?
Continue reading Billions Season 3, Episode 6 Recap: New York Times – April 29, 2018
The Superhero Show About Finance and the Tale of Two Warring Goliaths
by Rachel Syme | The New Republic | April 24, 2018
Billions reckons with the inflated egos and muddled ethics of Wall Street.
The first season of Billions premiered in January 2016— eight years after the collapse of the subprime mortgage market and eleven months before a self-proclaimed billionaire was elected president. This was the sweet spot, timing wise, for a bombastic prestige drama about the world of money. In 2011, the sharp and enraging documentary Inside Job, which charted the corruption that led to the financial crisis, won an Oscar. In the winter of 2016, The Big Short—a sermonizing, big-budget Hollywood comedy about reckless bankers—was nominated for Best Picture. The mea culpas had been issued, the bad actors identified, and although only one person officially went to jail, the coast looked clear for new stories of Wall Street and wealth.
Of course, in the wake of the crisis, a showrunner could not simply rehash the old Gordon Gekko formula for a modern audience. Slickness was no longer glamorous but gross; very few Americans had an appetite for captains of industry slurping down midday martinis at the Capital Grille. Instead, the three creators of Billions—the longtime writing team of Brian Koppelman and David Levien, along with The New York Times’ financial reporter, Andrew Ross Sorkin—took a populist genre and grafted it onto the honeyed, moneyed lives of the rich and infamous: They made a superhero show about finance.
Continue reading Billions: Super Antiheros – April 24, 2018