Categories Billions Magazine Review

The Schneiderman Allegations Make the TV Show Billions Look a Lot More Like Real Life – May 9, 2018

“Lewis, with his singular white-skinned, red-haired coloring and swimming-pool blue eyes, is always mesmerizing to watch”

by Eve MacSweeney | Vogue | May 9, 2018

One of the credibility stretching conceits of the Showtime drama Billions is that one of its lead characters, a high-ranking government lawyer played by Paul Giamatti, is a hard-core sexual masochist. We meet him in the pilot, bound, gagged, and hooded, cringing under the heel of a dominatrix. (That she turns out to be his wife is another of the rapid plot twists that keep the series’ heart pumping.)

With the accusations breaking this week of the physical abuse of four women by former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, that high-concept premise is starting to look less contrived. Schneiderman is the alleged perpetrator, not the recipient, of violence in news accounts, but the disconnect common to both characters—the real and the fictional—is unsettling. Giamatti’s Chuck Rhoades, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, is so possessed by the desire to nail his nemesis, hedge-funder Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) that he is willing to sacrifice friends, family, ethics, and his own financial interest in its pursuit. This punitive zeal makes an ironic contrast with his sexual preference. Schneiderman’s apparent hypocrisy lies in his support of #MeToo, taking action against Harvey Weinstein, and, as a legislator, introducing specific laws against verbal threats and physical choking, two of the crimes of which he now stands accused.

Continue reading The Schneiderman Allegations Make the TV Show Billions Look a Lot More Like Real Life – May 9, 2018

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Billions Season 3, Episode 7 Recap: New York Times – May 6, 2018

Street Punks

by Sean T. Collins | New York Times | May 6, 2018

Source: Showtime

Not You, Mr. Dake

Before we formally open tonight’s recap, here’s a tip, from my critic’s notebook to you. When you get deep into a season of a prestige drama and you see the names of the showrunners pop up under an episode’s “written by” credit? Buckle up. Written by two of the series’s creators, Brian Koppelman and David Levien, and directed with dot-connecting confidence by Michael Morris, this is “Billions” at its best. Ever, I’d say.

The surprises start immediately. (They often do; there’s not a wasted moment on this show anymore.) Last week’s installment ended with a sort of cliffhanger conciliation: Chuck Rhoades, Bobby Axelrod and their shared confidant, Wendy Rhoades, coming together to figure out a way to keep all of them out of prison. Chuck had opened that meeting by proffering an incriminating slide that connected Bobby to the sabotage of the Ice Juice I.P.O. rather than by planting it in the billionaire’s apartment. Nevertheless, this week’s episode begins as Chuck confers with Dr. Ari Gilbert, the man who gave him the slide, talking as if the plan to hide it at Axe’s place is still in full effect.

Continue reading Billions Season 3, Episode 7 Recap: New York Times – May 6, 2018

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Billions Season 3, Episode 6 Recap: New York Times – April 29, 2018

Eat or Be Eaten

by Sean T. Collins | New York Times | April 29, 2018

Source: Showtime

The Third Ortolan

If there’s one place where we can come together in these divided times, surely it’s to appreciate a show that gives us opening scenes like the one this week: Axe and Wags, sitting at a table with cloth napkins draped over their heads, faces obscured, “for two reasons,” as Wags puts it: “to keep the aromas from escaping, and to hide this shameful and depraved act from God.”

“Well, if there were a God, I think He’d know,” comes Axe’s reply — in a room lit with enough candles to fuel a decent-sized pagan sacrifice. There’s no immediate explanation, no follow-up whatsoever until the final 15 minutes of the episode, but the tone is set for one of the best episodes of “Billions” in recent memory. It’s the simple pleasures that bind us, you know?

Continue reading Billions Season 3, Episode 6 Recap: New York Times – April 29, 2018

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Billions: Super Antiheros – April 24, 2018

The Superhero Show About Finance and the Tale of Two Warring Goliaths

by Rachel Syme | The New Republic | April 24, 2018

Billions reckons with the inflated egos and muddled ethics of Wall Street.

The first season of Billions premiered in January 2016— eight years after the collapse of the subprime mortgage market and eleven months before a self-proclaimed billionaire was elected president. This was the sweet spot, timing wise, for a bombastic prestige drama about the world of money. In 2011, the sharp and enraging documentary Inside Job, which charted the corruption that led to the financial crisis, won an Oscar. In the winter of 2016, The Big Short—a sermonizing, big-budget Hollywood comedy about reckless bankers—was nominated for Best Picture. The mea culpas had been issued, the bad actors identified, and although only one person officially went to jail, the coast looked clear for new stories of Wall Street and wealth.

Of course, in the wake of the crisis, a showrunner could not simply rehash the old Gordon Gekko formula for a modern audience. Slickness was no longer glamorous but gross; very few Americans had an appetite for captains of industry slurping down midday martinis at the Capital Grille. Instead, the three creators of Billions—the longtime writing team of Brian Koppelman and David Levien, along with The New York Times’ financial reporter, Andrew Ross Sorkin—took a populist genre and grafted it onto the honeyed, moneyed lives of the rich and infamous: They made a superhero show about finance.

Continue reading Billions: Super Antiheros – April 24, 2018

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Billions Season 3, Episode 5 Recap: New York Times – April 22, 2018

The Family We Choose

by Sean T. Collins | New York Times | April 22, 2018

Source: Showtime

Flaw in the Death Star

This week on “Billions,” romance is in the air. Who’da thunk it, right? Sex, sexuality, the rewards and compromises of long-term relationships, even the eroticized thrill of spectacular professional success — these themes are never in short supply on this show. But the pangs of infatuation that make your eyes widen, your heart quicken, and (with any luck) your clothes melt away to the tune of Echo and the Bunnymen? That’s … unexpected.

Even more unexpected? The young lovers involved. The casting of comedian Mike Birbiglia added an uncharacteristically mellow presence to this high-strung, hard-charging show. If you predicted that this addition was a prelude to an affair between Birbiglia’s Silicon Valley “venture philanthropist” character, Oscar Langstraat, and Bobby Axelrod’s handpicked successor, the tightly wound gender-nonbinary genius Taylor Mason, congratulations: Your powers of prognostication outstrip even those of Axe himself. Yet from the moment these two very different visionaries make a nerd-love connection in defense of a supposed “Star Wars” plot hole, it makes sense, retrospectively, that they would hook up. It just feels right. (Granted, I’m slightly biased in that I agree with their reasoning — “What material could withstand the heat expended from that mammoth sphere?” “Plus, it was fortified with gun turrets!” — but only slightly.)

Continue reading Billions Season 3, Episode 5 Recap: New York Times – April 22, 2018

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Billions Has Become TV’s Sharpest Critique Of Toxic Masculinity – April 16, 2018

Billions is the Best Show About the Worst Kind of Masculinity

by Alison Willmore | BuzzFeed News | April 16, 2018

Source: Showtime

In its third season, Showtime’s Billions has snapped into focus from being a blurry series about power to an infinitely sharper one about gender. Spoilers through last night’s episode, “Hell of a Ride,” below.

Dick is a multipurpose metaphor in Billions. Most of the characters in Showtime’s hedge fund drama talk about their work, their success or lack thereof, and their stature as an extension of their virility. They aren’t all men, but they do all circle a luxe locker room of an industry that’s been overwhelmingly defined by men. Any observation you might feel inclined to make about Wall Street being dominated by bros vying to prove who has the biggest balls, Billions makes for you. In its very first episode, without the hint of a wink, a trader describes his issues at work to performance coach Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff) by using the language of erectile dysfunction: “I hear it happens to guys my age.”

Exactly a season later, Wendy shakes a bottle of Viagra at an audience of hedge fund types, telling them that while some of them rely on it, none would admit that: “The thought that someone might know you need help is worse than not getting the help you need. Still, when the time comes, when you need to pull the trigger on the buy or sell order, you better be hard as a rock and ready to go” — no Freudian subtext necessary. More recently, to really underscore the erection connection and the fragility that accompanies it, a character insists he would part with a fraction of his — “an inch off my dick” — if it meant he and his failing fund could get back in the game.

Continue reading Billions Has Become TV’s Sharpest Critique Of Toxic Masculinity – April 16, 2018

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Billions Season 3, Episode 4 Recap: Sealed with a Kiss – April 15, 2018

“It’s Oedipus all the way down, folks.”

by Sean T. Collins | New York Times | April 15, 2018

Source: Showtime

Hell of a Ride

Chuck Rhoades Jr. and Charles Rhoades Sr. are at war. They have been since the last season of “Billions,” when son betrayed father as part of a plot by Chuck to ruin his nemesis, Bobby Axelrod. But the most powerful weapon wielded in the conflict so far hasn’t been a legal threat or a stock swindle. It’s the kiss that Charles plants square on Chuck’s mouth, hands locked on his son’s head to prevent him from pulling away.

That kiss is the climax of “Hell of a Ride,” this week’s aptly titled episode from the writer Randall Green and the director John Dahl. In a series that has made a study of the physicality of the rich and powerful, the scene is a graduate-level course.

On one level, and like so many of these characters’ other words and actions, it is very likely a reference to a work of macho pop culture: the kiss of betrayal that Michael Corleone plants on his disloyal brother Fredo in “The Godfather Part II.” (Bobby quoted the first “Godfather” film earlier in the episode when he instructed his philanthropy guru, Sean Ayles (Jack Gilpin), to “use all your powers and all your skills” in support of his latest stealthy venture.) But like the best such moments on “Billions,” the context transforms the reference into something new and unique, and in this case uniquely disturbing.

Continue reading Billions Season 3, Episode 4 Recap: Sealed with a Kiss – April 15, 2018

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Billions on Showtime, Season 3 Episode 3: A Generation Too Late – April 9, 2018

Truffles to Hot Dogs to Burgers: There is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

by Damianista | Fan Fun with Damian Lewis | April 9, 2018

Source: Showtime

Talk about twists and turns — Billions is on fire!

As Ira and his fiancee are having dinner at Craft, the new Halls are sitting at the next table recording their conversation. We do not know if it is her ordering of $14 a gram white truffles, 20 grams of them, on her Tagliatelle with Guffanti Butter from Emilia Romagna — the region of Italy which I believe has made the most sacred contributions to human kind: prosciutto, parmigiano-reggiano, and balsamic vinegar —  but Ira hesitates to propose because of the financial mess he is in. Since he has lost all his savings, he cannot give his fiancee the wedding she deserves, cannot take her to the honeymoon they discussed and cannot even afford the engagement ring he has picked for her. He can barely give her truffles! Ira is in love and probably expecting his girlfriend to say she would marry him no matter what, but guess what, she wants to wait.

Continue reading Billions on Showtime, Season 3 Episode 3: A Generation Too Late – April 9, 2018

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Billions Season 3, Episode 3 Recap: Boss Moves – April 8, 2018

“Funny and fast-paced though it is, Billions likes it quite dark indeed.”

by Sean T. Collins | New York Times | April 8, 2018

Source: Showtime – photo by Jeff Neumann

A Generation Too Late

“Is that what being a boss does to you?” When the stand-up guy Bryan Connerty asks this of his superior, Oliver Dake, contempt drips from every word. Dake, previously a stand-up guy himself (albeit a bit of a stiff), has just shut down an interview with Ira Schirmer, a lead witness in their case against Bobby Axelrod … because Schirmer is now offering testimony against his former friend, and their colleague, Chuck Rhoades, instead.

Ira’s cooperation has been bought and paid for by Axe, who sensed the man’s financial and emotional desperation the way a shark smells blood. Dake is refusing to listen because of the back-room deal he made with Rhoades to get this job in the first place. Bryan has no way of knowing any of this. He sees the situation for what it is: His boss is putting a personal agenda over the pursuit of justice — perhaps even conflating that agenda with justice.

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Billions Recap: Black Swan – April 2, 2018

“Axe realizes that he’s Taylor’s hedge”

by Nicole Cliffe | Vulture | April 1, 2018

Source: Showtime – Photo by: Jeff Neumann

Nothing makes an episode of Billions pop like a scheme: the high-wire tension of the initial Ice Juice play, followed by its equally-thrilling unravelling, or watching Axe squeeze a short until someone’s eyes pop out. After a (very good) week of catching up on what our buddies did over summer vacation, it’s extremely welcome to be right back in the swing of things, racing around at a hundred miles an hour.

Billions is especially good at showing the queasier side of what Chuck and his cronies do to make their cases: I’m thinking of the farmer with the sick kid who they needed in order to nail Dollar Bill, the flight attendant they tried to scam for dirt on Boyd, and so on. This week, they’re holding legal residency status above the head of housekeeper Maria Gonzalez. It’s harder to see who gets ground underfoot by Axe; most of the people he brings low or humiliates are fellow billionaires and ex-employees who’ve dared to go solo. So I appreciate that the situation Maria finds herself in is solidly on Axe’s side of the ledger: Finally, someone we can actually feel sorry for is getting screwed over by the money men. Obviously, the show knows we can do the math on Wow, if Axe has all this money, probably some of it is taken from people who need it more, but it’s easy enough to forget when we’re watching him puncture a stuffed-shirt at a charity poker tournament. He’s actually willing to deport an innocent woman!

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Billions Season 3, Episode 2: ‘The Wrong Maria Gonzalez’ – April 2, 2018

What are the Chances Axe Can Actually Keep His Hand Out of the Cookie Jar?

by Sean T. Collins | New York Times | April 1, 2018

Source: Showtime

Live like a king. It’s a phrase that connotes wealth, luxury, excess, a life of unlimited possibility and security. How easy it is to let the sparkle of the crown jewels blind us to the dead enemies and discarded undesirables through which they were purchased. This week’s episode of “Billions” reminds us, as bluntly as the show ever has, that the games played by Bobby Axelrod and his billionaire boys club in order to remain comfortable on their thrones can have as steep a cost to bystanders as to any player in the game.

Take a close look at the title, “The Wrong Maria Gonzalez.” The right Maria Gonzalez is a maid in the home of Victor, a former analyst at Axe’s firm who led her to poisoning herself in order to tank the initial public offering of Ice Juice last season and thus get back in the good graces of his ex-employer. But to hear Maria tell it, she lived like a serf, bowing to the whims of her feudal lord and lady even before this act of industrial espionage landed her on an F.B.I. witness list. If she broke a glass, Victor’s wife broke her taillight, putting her at risk of getting pulled over and, eventually, deported.

Continue reading Billions Season 3, Episode 2: ‘The Wrong Maria Gonzalez’ – April 2, 2018

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Billions Recap: ‘The Wrong Maria Gonzalez’ – April 2, 2018

“Welcome back, Billions”

by Kyle Fowle | Entertainment Weekly | April 1, 2018

Source: Showtime

When, near the end of last week’s season premiere of Billions, Axe agreed to give up his ability to trade in order to move the case along and maybe save Axe Capital in the process, everybody watching at home, and everybody in the office of Axe Capital, knew that it wasn’t going to be easy for him to step away. He’s made Axe Capital what it is. He’s sacrificed everything along the way, including, most recently, his marriage. It remains to be seen whether Axe Capital needs Bobby Axelrod, but there’s no doubt that Bobby Axelrod needs Axe Capital.

As “The Wrong Maria Gonzalez” kicks off, Axe stares out at the city at night. He’s lost, unsure of what to do. He calls Wendy, his lighthouse in the storm and also the wife of his enemy. Super awkward. He tells her that he can’t walk away, that he made an impulsive decision and he wants to walk it back. She tells him he needs to accept a loss for once, and that he’ll come out stronger for it in the end. He hangs up, and it isn’t long before we get to see whether he heeds Wendy’s advice or not.

Continue reading Billions Recap: ‘The Wrong Maria Gonzalez’ – April 2, 2018