From the Dialogue to the Plot Twists
by Philip Etemesi | Screen Rant | March 1, 2020
A case can be made for Don Cheadle’s new Wall Street comedy Black Monday but the two TV shows that currently bring out the best of the world of cutthroat business dealings and wealth are HBO’s Succession and Showtime’s Billions. The two TV shows share plenty of similar themes but a couple of things set them apart.
In Succession, family drama blends with corporate setbacks. Media tycoon Logan Roy’s health declines and his four children all try to win his favor in order to take over the empire when daddy is no longer around. In Billions, billionaire hedge fund manager Bobby “Axe” Axelrod is hunted down by US Attorney Chuck Rhoades for insider training before the two team up to fight common enemies. Here’s an argument for both shows as the better one.
Succession: Money Takes A Back Seat Sometimes
The major problem with Billions is that it places too much focus on finance and neglects all the other things like romance and family feuds. This makes it hard for people who aren’t deep into the world of business to relate. Succession, on the other hand, knows how to balance family life and the allure of wealth.
Succession’s daily challenges are evenly split between the infighting in the family and the outside threats to the family business. Though the show, we learn that money doesn’t necessarily bring the desired comfort to those who have it. Despite Logan having it all, his family is dysfunctional. And despite how much he tries to rectify this, he fails.
Billions: More Intriguing Lead Character
There has never been a more interesting fictional businessman on TV than billionaire hedge fund Bobby “Axe” Axelrod (Damian Lewis) in Billions. He managed to convert his greatest enemy into his friend and also messed up so bad that he turned his best employee into his biggest business rival.
Bobby easily towers above Succession’s key characters like Kendall and Logan in intelligence and the ability to play mind games. Perhaps this is also due to the brilliant acting of Damian Lewis as well as his star power. There is simply never a dull moment with him.
Succession: Real Estate Glamour
The real estate beauty in Succession is far more superior. Everything from the Roys Uptown apartments to the Waystar in Manhattan looks so good they make you want to visit. There are high ceilings like those of medieval Europe and costly silverware that keep on standing out. The Roy country estate is also big enough to keep any fights and sibling rivalry a secret.
For Billions, the focus is more on office blocks and high-rise penthouse apartments that are only characterized by computers, tables, chairs, and white walls. Yawn! With all that money, we need to see more of the glamorous interior design that doesn’t just consist of Apple computers.
Billions: Boardroom Wars
Succession has had some intense boardroom wars. Kendall even attempted a hostile takeover by voting his dad out of the company. The move failed miserably, resulting in a devastating moment for all those who were rooting for him. And who could forget Roman taking his shirt off during a meeting?
But all the boardroom drama of Succession doesn’t quite match up to that of Billions. Axe’s mind games with former star employee turned competitor Taylor Mason are packed with tension. The stakes are ever so high. Seeing Taylor steal some of Axe’s employees and even take on the murderous Russian oligarch Grigor as an investor leaves you in awe.
Succession: Cousin Gregg
Billions might have a string of good supporting characters but none come close to Succession’s Cousin Greg. The 6’7 man brings all the craziness to a show that is supposed to be taken seriously. His grandfather is the Logan Roy’s brother, so he’s brought into the family business early on in what can be classified as mild nepotism.
Gregg is constantly funny but sadly he is a drug addict who can’t keep off marijuana and cocaine. Given his curiosity, his eyes tend to witness things that they shouldn’t have. He saw Kendall’s soon-to-be-married sister Shiv getting caressed by another man. He also knew Stewy would betray Kendall.
Billions: Sharper Dialogue
Everyone in Billions tries to look and sound smart. And they often succeed. Probably because they really are smart. Bobby Axelrod’s COO and right-hand man Wags is the one responsible for the most “Oh My God” quotes. This is a man who once said: “That reminds me of a prayer I said every night as a kid: I pray the Lord, my soul, to keep, and if I die before I wake, I pray that all my toys should break. So my brother and sister can’t play with ’em.”
That’s a very mean player Wags. Taylor Mason who used to work at Axe Capital before starting his own company always seems to know everything about business too. Who else can say, “Legal trouble does not mean you can’t fulfill your teleological purpose.”
Succession: No One Is Nice
It’s important to be a good person in real life but on TV, nice can be boring. In Succession, everyone keeps doing horrible things. Kendall drove a car off a cliff and into the water but instead of helping his passenger, he left him to do. His father did even worse by using the incident to blackmail him.
Shiv demanded an open marriage on her wedding day because she didn’t want to be tied down to one man. Who does that? Well, Shiv does. Connor was even more absurd by trying to buy off an escort and forcing her to be his girlfriend. There is simply no shortage of evil in this show.
Billions: Plot Twists
Billions plot twists never end, and the biggest of them all was the peace treaty between the two main characters Given the intensity with which Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) hunted down Bobby “Axe” Axelrod (Damian Lewis) in the first two seasons, it was hard to imagine that the two would end up being friends. It seemed like they would be involved in cat and mouse games for as long as the series lasted.
However, they shocked us all by deciding to work together after realizing that they had more in common than they shared. With the help of Chuck’s wife Wendy, the two eventually teamed up to take common enemies. Bobby also agreed to help Chuck in his quest to be New York governor. There is a sense that they still don’t like each other but their interests align.
Succession: Better Numbers
Succession has averaged 1.1 million viewers per season. It’s not one of HBO’s rating juggernauts but it isn’t doing so bad. Billions averaged 800,000 viewers each season. And on Rotten Tomatoes, Succession has a score of 91% while Billions has a score of 89%.