Subjugate and Conquer
by Sean T. Collins | New York Times | May 17, 2020
Season 5, Episode 3: ‘Beg, Bribe, Bully’
“Billions” is a show that seems to appreciate pro wrestling, as seen in the fandom of its dudebro character Mafee and the recent cameo by Becky Lynch. So I hope it’s not too indulgent to quote one of the great heel wrestlers, Ted DiBiase, better known as the Million Dollar Man, as a kind of epigraph for this episode: “Everybody’s got a price.”
I know, I know: That’s kind of the point of the whole show, right? It’s a drama about the corrupting influence of money and power. But it felt more poignant in this week’s episode than it has in quite some time, perhaps because the institutions being assailed by the show’s money-talks characters — family, art, education, the environment — feel sacrosanct.
Not in Bobby Axelrod’s world, though, that’s for sure. Axe spends the episode questing after three things. First, he wants to become a bank. He’s informed by the government officials Todd Krakow and Hard Bob (played by the actors Danny Strong and Chelcie Ross in deliciously sleazy cameos) that there is no way for him to get past the regulatory agencies that want to keep men with criminal histories like his away from banking; his mistake was committing his misdeeds before becoming a bank, while the megabanks that caused the 2008 crash and got away largely scot-free did it the other way around.