“Exceptionally well-plotted, well-acted, and gloriously, hilariously unbridled”
by Winston Cook-Wilson | Spin | March 26, 2018
The opening aerial shot of Manhattan, the throbbing electronic soundtrack that eerily fades in–suddenly, my troubles disappear like a dirty million wired to an offshore bank account. It is time for a new episode of Billions, the most enjoyable show on television if you enjoy things like it. The Showtime series–a bro-finance melodrama in the rich tradition of Wall Street, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Boiler Room–isn’t exemplary because of its innovativeness or depth of artistic vision, but it perfects the basic elements. It’s exceptionally well-plotted, well-acted, and gloriously, hilariously unbridled. It takes the thematic trappings of prestige TV as loving source material without deifying them too much. The result is a kind of platonic ideal of the average premium-cable hour-long drama in an age where there are far, far too many of them.
The key to Billions’ appeal is that it is both complicated in its particulars and, on an overarching level, deadly simple. The show feels dense in the moment, given the fact that the majority of the dialogue steeped in trader jargon, legalese, and outlandish extended metaphors. It provides the same uphill battle to figure out what the fuck anyone is talking about that makes the first few episodes of The Wire or Deadwood a hard sell for some. But the conflict is compellingly meat-and-potatoes at its core: The plot revolves around a long face-off between two impetuous and powerful men.