by Breanne L. Heldman | People Magazine | October 27, 2023
“You learn a lot facing a man, battling against him. But when you throw them together…”
After seven seasons, Showtime’s hit drama Billions made its final bow Friday on Paramount+ with Showtime. (The series finale will air on Showtime on Sunday evening, so if you are waiting to watch it then, stop reading now!)
At the conclusion of the penultimate episode, Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis), Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti), Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff) and Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillon) were left seemingly scrambling, trying to figure out how to defeat Mike Prince (Corey Stoll) and his campaign for President. But any longtime fan of the show should’ve guessed that there was a plan in place — this writer didn’t buy Nancy Dunlop (Melina Kanakaredes) declaring loyalty to Prince even after she agreed to be named his V.P. — and Prince was going down.
Indeed, the opening scene saw Axe, Chuck, Wendy, Taylor and Wags (David Costabile) munching on a cardamom bun by Chef Ryan (yes, Axe’s personal chef from way back in season 1) as Kate Sacker (Dola Rashad) entered the meeting. Turns out, she’d joined the fray just after that fateful elevator ride with Wags eight weeks earlier. (You know, the one that tipped her off to Wags, Wendy and Taylor being up to something).
Moments later Philip (Toney Goins) takes the last seat. Given that he’s the nephew of Prince’s righthand man, Scooter (Daniel Breaker), that was a bit more of a surprise. His turncoat moment happened four weeks earlier, when he’d left the office and Wendy found him at Corner Bistro.
The group sits quietly until Axe gets word that Prince is just a few minutes from the gates of Camp David, where he will be meeting with the sitting President. It’s also where he and his team will have to give up their phones for 90 minutes to two hours.
“Time to open up the side door,” Taylor says as the group disperses to put their mysterious plan into action.
Chuck returns to his office and announces to his team that he will be prioritizing a matter relating to the energy sector, but if any of what he’s working on leaks, he’ll be investigating it with “stealth and rigor.” But sure enough, the news of his investigation starts hitting the internet.
Meanwhile, Taylor has just made the algo they created to help make trade decisions “zig when it used to zag.” Back at Prince Capital, their energy investments start to tank, but Philip reminds everyone, “We’ve got the infant car seat of algos protecting us.” Still, they’re bleeding cash.
Sacker pays Chuck a visit in his office to talk about her future, and she agrees to return to the office of the Southern District and rebuild her career there on important cases — “crusader-type stuff” — in order to set her up for running for office one day. Bryan Connerty (Toby Leonard Moore), who once worked for Chuck but lost his law license earlier in the series, joins them, and they surprise him with a new license. He won’t have to continue his career as a hibachi chef any longer! (Well, a little longer: He cooks for Chuck, Wendy and their kids during the show’s denouement.)
Finally, Prince is out of his meeting with POTUS. He’s grinning from ear to ear and saying how it was “pretty G.D. cool,” as his phone is handed back to him. It rings almost immediately. It’s Axe: “I’m glad you got your audience, ’cause that’s the closest you’ll get to that office,” he says. “Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life.” Prince starts to argue, but Scooter shows him what’s happened with all his stocks. And Prince is not too happy.
Wendy and Taylor appear to be heading somewhere for something that’s “gonna be f—in’ nuts” when Wendy pauses a moment for what might be one of the best goodbye scenes of the episode (there were many). “This is a weird thing to say to a peer but I’m proud of you,” she says to them. They proceed to talk vaguely about the pull of returning to Axe’s orbit and what they might do when the dust of their plan settles. Taylor concludes with gratitude: “Thanks for being [my co-pilot], even when I thought I wanted to fly solo.” Wendy responds, “Same, Taylor. Right back at you.”
Prince has made his way back to his office and he is fit to be tied. So fit, in fact, that he throws an entire file box into the clouded glass wall of Wendy’s office and demands to know why she’s so sure he’s not fit to be President. “Let’s start with how you act when you don’t get your way,” she says.
Prince grimaces at her for an extended time and finally turns around to see Axe standing in the middle of the office. Dunlop gets off the elevator. She’d made a deal with Axe at that dinner at Rao’s weeks ago. (I knew it!) She’ll no longer be on his ticket, but she’s still running for President and she’ll be taking her supporters and campaign apparatus. Moments later, she takes on Prince’s campaign manager Bradford Luke (Babak Tafti), too.
On the TVs in the office, we see Chuck giving a press conference revealing that the accusations that leaked against the energy companies didn’t check out and that they all are fine. Their stocks all spring back and then some… but, of course, Prince Cap has already sold them all off.
“This is midnight at the costume ball, all masks off,” Prince says, beginning to recognize he’s truly been defeated. (Don’t forget: all his money is gone too! Well, almost all. He still has $100,000,000, but he’s pretty salty about it.)
And then, each set of characters is given a moment to pay their respects to one another (along with a few final surprises, of course).
Prince assumed Scooter would remain loyal to him, and help him pull himself up by the bootstraps, but that bootstrap gig really only works as a solo mission, and Scooter doesn’t want to be along for the ride. In fact, he called his old pal “hubris and self-aggrandizement run amok.” He added, “I failed to help you steer and this is where we landed: broke and broken.”
Scooter later shared nice goodbye moments with Philip where his nephew reminded him that family is always family. And he and Wags — one of the more unexpected and entertaining pairings of the final seasons — bid each other adieu, exchanging words about how they’d changed each other for the better.
Chuck heads home to see his dad (Jeffrey DeMunn), who was the news leak. Their complicated relationship was often a catalyst for Chuck’s weaker decisions, especially in the earlier seasons. “You’ve orchestrated this thing like Phil Specter did ‘River Deep… a real toe-tapper,” Chuck Sr. said. “You did great. You marshaled all resources. You partnered with a man you’d tangled with for over a decade…that’s the kind of thing that gives me comfort for after I’m gone. The point is, I now know that you’ll be fine. You’ve learned all the lessons that I had to teach and then some.”
They hug — and Chuck Sr. goes right back to his nitpicking, this time about his son’s posture. “You’re still a Rhoades!”
Finally, Prince is leaving the office, and Axe asks to take over the lease on the space. As the failed presidential candidate steps into the elevator, his parting words are, “This country’s built on second acts. And when you see mine, you’d better duck and f—in’ cover.” Given that Showtime has announced several spinoffs in the works for Billions, it’s possible we haven’t seen the last of Mike Prince (so consider us ducking and covering someday down the road).
Once he’s gone, Axe is disappointed when all of his old traders aren’t cheering and singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” but they’re all still in shock. Prince wasn’t the only one to lose all his money; they were too… or were they?
Three days beforehand, Axe set in motion a plan for all of their money to go into a separate fund that would buy the tanked stocks and then watch them bounce right back and then some. “It’s not enough to just break [Prince],” he said. “We’ve got to get everyone else rich in the process. Really rich. Wealthy even.” And the Admiral’s Fund, as it was called (and thus what the episode itself was called), would pay out all those employees three times more than they’d initially had.
Chuck, who’d arrived at the former Prince Cap offices, raised an eyebrow all of this — it couldn’t possibly be legal — but Wendy stopped him from saying much. “Bloodhound can’t help blood-hounding, but he’s all bark now,” he said.
That was certainly true as Chuck and Axe shared a final moment together. “I’m not the same guy I was when we first met,” Axe says, acknowledging the rivalry that kicked off the series. “You’re not the same guy either. Didn’t like that version. But the fella standing in front of me…” Chuck adds: “Something about going through the wars with someone.”
Ultimately, they agree that their partnership was a one-and-done, but respect remains, as evidenced when Axe hands Chuck the dirty secrets-filled thumb drive he gave Wags as collateral to trust him earlier in the season. “Thanks, for all of it,” they say.
As Taylor approaches Axe, it’s clear they’re not staying. But Axe always has a plan, and offers Taylor the previously rented Axe Global offices in order to run a charity. Later, when they enter the space, a Taylor Mason Foundation sign is already on the wall.
Wendy was waiting in Axe’s office to tell him her plans: She’s not staying either. Instead, she’s going to go back to the telehealth company she’d agreed to run earlier in the season and recommends Dr. Mayer (Holland Taylor) to fill her shoes. “I really didn’t want to say goodbye to you again,” Axe says. But Wendy reminds him that he doesn’t have to, that they’ve remained connected through everything — from “the shadow of 9/11” to arrests and beyond — and they’ll always stay connected.
As Wendy leaves the building, Chuck is waiting downstairs and invites her to join him and their children for dinner.
Earlier in the episode, Wags tells Prince, “Hey man, endings are tough. Someone always ends up unsatisfied.” This one, however, wasn’t tough; this viewer is satisfied.
Read the rest of the original article at People Magazine