“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.