The Intersection of Philanthropy, Politics, Finance and Family, and How They Can Poison and Enrich Each Other at the Same Time
by Brian Tallerico | Roger Ebert.com | March 22, 2018
There’s a flow to “Billions” that’s not quite like anything else on television. The quick pace of the dialogue is often reminiscent of prime David Mamet—as is the examination of male power roles—but it’s also a refreshingly modern show (you might want to bone up on what cryptocurrency is before the new season). The first two seasons built to the kind of wonderful climax that justified any plot holes or narrative speed bumps in the nearly two dozen episodes that came before it. They gave fans the feeling that the writers of the show had been working to that moment from the very beginning, and that “Billions” had just moved to another level in the pyramid of quality TV. I’m happy to report that the third season maintains that high quality level. The breakneck pacing of the end of season two can’t be maintained (and we wouldn’t want it to be), but the characters have arguably grown even richer and more complex as the team behind this show explores how its two power players respond when that power is stripped away by the systems around them.
That pair is U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) and financial genius Bobby “Axe” Axelrod (Damian Lewis), mortal enemies in every possible way. For two seasons, the two played three-dimensional chess, moving pieces around as Axe attempted to avoid prosecution by Chuck, who sacrificed everything to get his man. The unfolding drama introduced us to a number of key players in the world of Rhoades and Axelrod, including their wives, Wendy (Maggie Siff) and Lara (Malin Akerman). Wendy happened to work for Axe, pulling her between the two power players. And we also met key soldiers on both sides of the war, including Bryan (Toby Leonard Moore), Wags (David Costabile), Sacker (Condola Rashad), Chuck’s father (Jeffrey DeMunn), and Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon). I’m being intentionally vague about how all of these characters intertwine because the joy of “Billions” is in how the show’s creators define the complex relationships within the construct of their show, and you really should catch up if you get a chance.