by Sean T. Collins | New York Times | May 27, 2018
“Billions” has always been an odd-couple show.
From its pilot episode to its Twitter hashtag emoji, it’s centered on the contrast between the lean, mean local boy made good Bobby Axelrod and the gruff, tough Yale-educated bulldog Chuck Rhoades. Played by Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti respectively, they’re the proverbial study in contrasts.
But in Attorney General Jock Jeffcoat, I think Chuck has met an even better (mis)match. The man presides over the Justice Department like a Confederate caudillo, reviving Giuliani/Reagan-era drug war polices on a whim because he didn’t like the look of the neighborhoods his car drove through on the way from the airport, using an obscene epithet favored by our current commander-in-chief to describe them. And as portrayed by Clancy Brown, a charming but physically imposing actor best known for genre work, he looks as if he could squash Chuck like a bug. When this guy invites himself over to Chuck’s place for dinner, Giamatti invests the garrulous fake courtesy of his reply (“Great! O.K.! Very good!”) with just a hint of panic.
Continue reading Billions Season 3, Episode 10 Recap: New York Times – May 27, 2018
by Sean T. Collins | New York Times | May 20, 2018
You can take the boys out of the blood feud, but you can’t take the blood feud out of the boys. Just two episodes after the successful conclusion of the truce that saw the main men of “Billions” call an end to hostilities and help each other out of potentially career-ending legal trouble, both Bobby Axelrod and Chuck Rhoades have launched dangerous new contests of the will. And this time around, it’s not the courtroom versus the boardroom: Each man has entered into a rivalry with a bigger fish in their own professional pond.
For Chuck, this means setting his sights on a new white whale: Attorney General Jock Jeffcoat, the Alamo authoritarian running the Justice Department. For Bobby, it entails entering an alliance of creepy convenience with Grigor Andolov, a cheerfully violent Russian oil baron, whose bottomless reserves of liquid cash are exceeded only by his well-earned reputation for criminality and cruelty. Together, writers Adam R. Perlman and Willie Reale and director Stacie Passon operate this week’s episode, titled “Icebreaker,” like a factory assembly line, cranking out perfect new foils for two characters who are never complete without conflict.
Continue reading Billions Season 3, Episode 9 Recap: New York Times – May 20, 2018
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