In ‘Billions,’ Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti are Alpha Males Doing Battle
“Billions” is very good television. How could it not be? Created by Brian Koppelman, David Levien (“Ocean’s Thirteen”) and Andrew Ross Sorkin (“Too Big to Fail”), it crackles with the self-confident repartee of those accustomed to high stakes and giddy heights delivered against backdrops that seem lifted from Esquire’s “Interiors We Love” issue. (If there were such a thing. Which there should be.)
More important, “Billions” pits Damian Lewis as Bobby Axelrod, a self-made billionaire, hedge-fund king and shark about town, against Paul Giamatti Chuck Rhoades, the equally ruthless if far less soignee attorney general who has sworn to have Axelrod’s scalp.To which “Axe” (why name a character Axelrod if he’s not going to go by “Axe”?) replies: I double-dog dare you, dude.
Lewis and Giamatti are two of the best actors working —No doubt they will soon be battling each other for an Emmy — and their presence together is great wealth of its own sort.Axe is one of Lewis’ more voluble roles, but the actor maintains his power over stillness by allowing his character to say much while giving little away.Giamatti may splutter and spit a bit more, but he is just as menacing, albeit much more human.They are surrounded by a fine supporting cast, including a Machiavellian David Costabile as “Wags,” Toby Leonard Moore as Rhoades’ right-hand man and so many other white men in suits that it’s often hard to keep track.