Billions: Integrating Mental Health, Finance, Silicon Valley Industries and Law and Order, with a Little Yonkers-Secret-Recipe-Pizza
by Anna Kornbluh | Los Angeles Review of Books | August 24, 2018
Ten years ago, the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the global financial crisis of 2008. Democrats were eight years in power, and their failure to prosecute the corporate criminals behind the crisis surely ranks as their biggest legacy. That failure was the condition of possibility for the anti-elite narrative that inspired the white working class and the white upper class to support a genuinely fascist insurgency before and beyond November 2016. It was also the condition of possibility for Billions.
Across its three seasons on Showtime, Billions explores the aftermath of Lehman’s and Obama’s 2008 peaks, tracking the waning and waxing faculty of elite professionals to steer their careers and helm the most powerful country in the world. The show is built around an extended parallel between outer-borough upstart Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis), principal of the wildly fruitful hedge fund Axe Capital, and Manhattan WASP Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti), US Attorney for the New York Southern District and hero of a counterfactual recent past in which 81 bankers and traders were successfully prosecuted for their outlaw engineering of toxic asset slides. Rhoades fancies himself a just warrior, fighting against “[these] Teflon corporations that defraud the American people on a grand scale.” As the series opens he levels his gaze at Axe, the Moby-Dick of parkour finance.
Continue reading Fifty Billion Shades of Gray – Aug 24, 2018
Billions: A Show With Great Scripts and a Fine Cast
by Megan McArdle | Washington Post | June 15, 2018
The temptation of writing about culture is always to find something to pan. Critical reviews flow easily from the fingertips, while applause involves the hard labor of finding 16 synonyms for “good.” But I ate my Wheaties this morning, and I’m looking for a challenge. So let’s talk about good shows — great shows, even. Shows that more people should be watching. People like you.
Another show with great scripts and a fine cast. (You may be sensing a theme here). This is high-finance as revenge-drama. The first three seasons portray a long-running cat-and-mouse game between hedge-fund titan Bobby Axelrod, played by Damian Lewis, and U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades, played by Paul Giamatti. But the showrunners haven’t given into the temptation to make Axelrod the bad guy and Rhoades the hero. Instead, we have twin protagonists — both badly flawed, but also deeply appealing.
The cast is terrific, the writing reminiscent of a less-manic Aaron Sorkin, and thanks to a different Sorkin (Andrew Ross, longtime finance reporter for the New York Times, and no relation to the creator of “The West Wing”), “Billions” is even a reasonably realistic portrayal of both finance and securities law. I suspect it isn’t getting the audience it deserves because people think finance is dull, but trust me, in the hands of this team, it never is.
Read the rest of the original article at Washington Post
The Showtime Drama is Built for Speed – and All the Better For It
by Alan Speinwall | RollingStone | June 14, 2018
The midpoint of Billions Season 3 featured a huge moment for the series to date: the Showtime drama’s arch-rivals, U.S. attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) and hedge fund mogul Bobby “Axe” Axelrod (Damian Lewis), facing each other across a dining room table and, with the help of Chuck’s wife/Axe’s therapist Wendy (Maggie Siff), acknowledging that they needed to join forces against a common enemy.
In today’s ultra-serialized drama landscape, it’s the kind of scene that almost any other show would have saved for the very end of its season finale, or the penultimate episode at the latest. Billions actually repeated this dynamic in its own finale, which we’ll get back to, but that it happened as early as Episode 6 was striking. Too many other shows that consider each season “a 13-hour movie” would have built the whole thing around that meeting, throwing complication after complication at Chuck, Wendy and Axe so that it would happen as close to the end of the year as possible, and that sense of wheel-spinning would have been palpable.
Continue reading What the Rest of TV Can Learn from Billions – July 14, 2018
Improbably, a series seemingly about rich white guys measuring their dicks is an essential show of our era. (Okay, maybe not that improbable)
by Todd VanDerWerff | Vox |June 12, 2018
If you’ve been following the world of TV Twitter this spring, you probably know that a certain subset of this nation’s great, professionally paid TV viewers has gone a little goofy for Showtime’s Billions. Observe!
Continue reading How Showtime’s Billions Went From Dull to Dazzling – June 12, 2018
“As a Saga of Glittering Financial Warfare, Billions is Seemingly Lab-Engineered to Appeal to the Very People it Claims to be About”
by Helen Rosner | The New Yorker | June 11, 2018
For nearly three seasons, the Showtime drama “Billions” has been structured as a classic cat-and-mouse tale, a story of attack and defense between the impossibly powerful U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) and his nemesis, the impossibly powerful hedge-fund billionaire Bobby “Axe” Axelrod (Damian Lewis). Chuck pursues an exhaustive federal case against Axelrod and his fund, Axe Capital, driven less by any direct evidence of wrongdoing than by a dogged jealousy—Chuck’s wife, Wendy (played, with beautifully deadpan intelligence, by Maggie Siff), is an employee of Axe Capital and one of Axelrod’s most intimate confidantes. There is, of course, plenty of wrongdoing for Chuck to uncover (“Billions” takes as axiomatic Honoré de Balzac’s observation that behind every great fortune is a great crime), and Axelrod uses his considerable financial resources twisting the world in knots to avoid being grazed by the sword of the righteous. On Chuck’s side, the game involves shady evidence-gathering tactics, flagrant witness manipulation, and copious back-room dealmaking. On Axe’s side, bottomless pockets are used to reward friends, eliminate problems, and settle old scores. Flying private to hang out with Metallica? You got it. Planting a camera in a government employee’s bedroom in order to blackmail her with a sex tape so that she’ll hand over inside information on Chuck’s case? Consider it done. (Spoilers abound from here on in. If you haven’t started watching the show yet but plan to start: yes, the first scene of the first episode is off-puttingly corny. It gets a whole lot better from there.)
Continue reading How Billions Became One of TV’s Sharpest Critiques of Power – June 11, 2018