by Sarene Leeds | Vulture | May 31, 2020
The “fathers and sons” theme is strong in this season of Billions, with “Contract” getting to the heart of why Axe bailed on dinner at his Yonkers childhood home last week — and Chuck being tasked with saving his father’s life. In both cases, the audience is asked to once again look at the humanity beneath the monster, and search for empathy. Billions revisits the watershed moment that set Axe on his path to wealth and power: His father’s abuse and subsequent abandonment when Axe was 12. As for Charles Senior, his brush with mortality — and the news that his wealth and status can’t override age and decades of hard drinking — has transformed him into a “scared shitless” child, begging his son to help him get a kidney transplant.
The long-term damage that Axe’s unnamed father caused is indisputable — we need no further proof than Damian Lewis’s voice cracking on a single line of dialogue when confronting his mother, Laurel (Patti D’Arbanville), over Papa Axelrod’s Yonkers reappearance. But while that explains much of Axe’s heartless actions through the years, does it excuse it? A similar question goes for Senior: Will Jeffrey DeMunn’s sublime hospital-bed acting be enough to win both Chuck and the audience over after Senior’s lifetime of abhorrent behavior? (I gotta say, those adorable pre-collapse scenes of DeMunn with baby Willow sure help — damn you, Billions!)