“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.
Billions was recommended to me by the same friend who got me hooked, some years back, on Breaking Bad, a series that stayed good to the last drop of its staggering five seasons. As I began binge-watching it from the first episode to now a few weeks ago, it was hard to see where the plot—the legit lawyer circling the insider trading bad boy—would go. Yet as the series progressed, that circle just grew tighter as the two men, Giamatti’s character now increasingly mired in corruption, faced off like a pair of T. rexes before a fight. It helped that Lewis, with his singular white-skinned, red-haired coloring and swimming-pool blue eyes, is always mesmerizing to watch.
Even better, the female characters are interesting. For one, the sublime Condola Rashad is cool and tenacious as an assistant D.A. in Chuck’s office. Though there are glimpses of model-pretty groupies naked in Jacuzzis at parties around the billionaire bankers, both Bobby and Chuck are married to powerful, no-nonsense women. Lara Axelrod, played by the gorgeous Swedish-Canadian actress Malin Akerman, is as ruthless as her husband, and as good at calling the shots. There’s no socialite she can’t crush with a sweet smile, a clear threat, and a well placed phone call, and no white lie she can’t catch her husband in. Maggie Rhoades (Wendy Siff), another beauty, is notable for her severe demeanor—she wears a permanent frown and rarely smiles—as well as her black outfits in various degrees of bondage chic. The in-house psychologist at Axelrod’s firm, Axe Capital, she is a woman in control with seemingly ironclad boundaries. Far better paid than her husband (as she doesn’t hesitate to point out), she is not about to compromise her integrity, even if it puts her marriage in jeopardy.
Read the rest of the original article at Vogue