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Billions Season 5 Episode 2 Recap: Forbes – May 10, 2020

Axe Finally Met His Match

by Dana Feldman | Forbes | May 10, 2020

Not one to back down from a challenge, Axe finally takes Mike Prince up on his offer for a fireside chat at his annual charity conference but things for Axe Cappers do not go well…at all.

In “The Chris Rock Test” Axe (Damian Lewis) debates Mike (Corey Stoll) on his turf and under the exterior smiles, this chat is anything but friendly. Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon) is confronted by Oscar Langstraat (Mike Birbiglia), who tells them he doesn’t want his money with Axe, nor does he want to be associated with him, and if Taylor is, he doesn’t want to be associated with them either.

And, things for Wags (David Costabile) might just be the toughest of all when he’s confronted by his worst fears as a father. He realizes he’s failed the Chris Rock test after running into his daughter at a strip club where she works; he didn’t keep his daughter off the pole. Did we ever know he had children?

When Axe first agreed to attend Mike Prince’s (Corey Stoll) conference, it was to make a play. His experience with ayahuasca gave him the idea of making psilocybin mainstream. Not only does Mike beat him at his own game but the debate itself doesn’t go well for Axe.

The two men’s world views couldn’t be more out of alignment. Axe’s vision of success is more focused on being picked and singled out. Mike responds that he now sees that for Axe, it’s all about the bottom line. This, he adds, is not what it’s about for him.

Mike points out that it’s incumbent upon those that have been successful, who have won by any metric, to acknowledge they didn’t get there alone. His altruism and kindness isn’t to be confused with even a shred of weakness. He makes it clear that when he competes, he’s there to win. “I choose my playing field carefully now and always against opponents the same size as me.”

Axe accuses Mike of putting on this entire show to allay his own guilt. He suggests that Mike’s past success in basketball wasn’t his own achievement and that he stood on the shoulders of others, which ultimately lifted him to success.

Mike concurs but spins it in his favor explaining that he was grateful for the support he received on his way up. Axe takes full credit for his numerous successes in life. Though each came from nothing, Mike discredits Axe’s focus on that, pointing out that he was in the wealthiest state in the wealthiest country in the world with access to the best healthcare, schools and infrastructure. In addition, he was born white and male at a time that was a huge advantage in the greatest capital market in the history of mankind. “The roads were paved for you, Bobby, which is why you were able to move so quickly across them.”

But Axe has a quick response. “Sure, the roads were paved, but I didn’t even have a car. I don’t pretend I’m an ordinary guy who got lucky. I am a monster, a carnivorous monster. It was success or oblivion for me just as it was for you, whether you want to admit it in here or not.”

Axe insists Mike is also a monster. “You have to be one or you could never have gotten here in the first place.” Just when he thought he had the last word, Mike challenges Axe to join him the following day to volunteer for earthquake victims in Honduras.

“We’re not just writing checks here,” Mike says, adding that giving back with his own two hands might change Axe’s thoughts on things. Axe soon learns Mike beat him at his psychoceuticals play and decides on a new course of action: He will turn Axe Cap into a bank thus strengthening his position during inevitable economic downturns.

Back in the city, Taylor is confronted by Chuck (Paul Giamatti), who knows he was sold out to Axe. But, he warns, there will be a time Taylor will be forced to line up against Axe as he’s not capable of a true alliance, only destruction.

Through a combination of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) psychotherapy, as well as reading the novel “Darkly Dreaming Dexter,” Chuck gains a new sense of clarity. He, too, acknowledges he’s a monster but, as he points out to Taylor, he’s in control of his while Axe is not.

Dexter Morgan had a way of controlling his dark passenger via a code taught to him by his father, Harry. Dexter’s monster could only be sated by the brutal act of taking life but he developed a code to only kill for the right reasons. Chuck will learn to do the same and as Harry kept Dexter in line, Chuck urges Kate Sacker (Condola Rashad) to help him.

In a meeting with his longtime friend Judge DeGiulio (Rob Morrow), Chuck is asked to help him get confirmed as a circuit court judge. However, this is a big ask; the judge’s past includes drafting a torture memo in which he condoned waterboarding. Always one to figure out a way to also help himself while helping others, Chuck figures out a way to nudge DeGiulio into the role of solicitor general.

Remember that dark passenger? Chuck will use his monster for good not evil. Well, perhaps Wendy (Maggie Siff) would disagree. He did freeze her assets preventing her from getting her dream apartment.

With Axe out of town, Wendy is tasked with calming down an angry investor…

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