Game Theory Optimal
by Kyle Fowle | Entertainment Weekly | October 8, 2023
Now this is what we’ve been waiting for. Billions hasn’t quite had its same mojo for awhile now, as it’s really been a few seasons since it last operated at a thrilling pace. This final season in particular has been rather sluggish and meandering, failing to create any real tension. But now that the end is in sight, things are ramping up. Finally, there seems to be real stakes here, and the twists and power plays are getting started.
This week’s episode begins with Chuck (Paul Giamatti) having dinner with the former police commissioner Richie Sansome. He’s picking his brain about the idea of fudging evidence and getting someone (Prince) locked up for the greater good, even if they don’t have all the solid evidence they need. Sansome says it happened a lot during his days as commissioner, but that he advises against it, that the “rails of justice” are there as guides for a reason, and that no charge really sticks unless you do the work and find the actual evidence.
A little drunk and full of musings, Chuck heads to Wendy’s (Maggie Siff) house in the early hours of the morning to ask her to team up with him against Prince (Corey Stoll), to get him inside knowledge that will help him bring Prince down. Wendy really wants to trust Chuck and bring him in on her plan with Wags (David Costabile) and Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon), but she knows that if it came down to it, Chuck would throw everyone but Wendy under the bus to nail Prince. Morally, she can’t allow that to happen.
Back at Michael Prince Capital, Kate (Condola Rashad) is on to something. She’s been thinking about how Wags suggested she leave MPC and begin her campaign for office, and how that influence may have some shady implications. She takes her concerns to Scooter (Daniel Breaker), and he reveals that they record pretty much every conversation in the office. He says it’s like the Patriot Act, where they don’t exactly review every conversation at the end of the day, but that it’s all there for moments like these, when they need to go looking. They find a meeting between Wendy, Wags, and Taylor where they mention that Kate is too powerful and that they need her out of the way to get to Prince.
Scooter goes looking for more evidence and he finds it. Earlier in the season, when Taylor called him from their trip abroad and said they were in a hotel lobby, Scooter took a screenshot of their call because he was suspicious. He’s hired an expert in architecture to analyze the “hotel lobby” and sure enough, he’s discovered that a specific design on the walls can only be tracked back to one gigantic castle whose current resident is Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis). Scooter and Kate bring all of this to Prince to formulate a plan.
While all of this is happening, Chuck concocts a big gambit to win over the trust of Taylor and Wags. He recruits Ira (Ben Shenkman) and Chuck Sr. (Jeffrey DeMunn), who are initially hesitant, to help him film a video where he admits to and runs down every time in his career that he’s used illegal means to get a result in a case. The video, should it ever see the light of day, would ruin his career forever. Chuck brings the file to Wags, Taylor, and Wendy as an offering of trust, showing that he’s fully in this to take down Prince and that they can work together.
The four of them form an alliance, but it isn’t long before Prince is calling Wags, Taylor, and Wendy to his home. He, Scooter, Kate, and Philip (Toney Goins), lay out everything they know about what he calls an “attempted assassination” and goes about punishing all of them, stripping them of their power but keeping them under his watchful eye. This is the moment the season has been sluggishly building towards, where character motivations are out in the open and the real fireworks can begin.
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