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“No, it’s torture!”
by Miles Surrey | The Ringer | May 11, 2020
Ever since HBO’s Succession came into our lives, it’s seemed to exist in a symbiotic relationship with Showtime’s Billions. I can’t recommend one without the other. Both series aim to derive a lot of drama, comedy, and pathos from the misery inherent to succeeding the world of finance, power brokers, and the justice system. Billions might glamorize the 1-percent lifestyle a bit more than its HBO counterpart, but they both underscore that being rich is a soul-draining enterprise. And sometimes these shows do the same things on screen—like watching characters indulge in some ortolan.
In the second episode of Billions’ fifth season, we have another sort-of shared event. Just as Succession Season 2 did a riff on real-life conferences/pseudo-retreats for the wealthy, like Davos, “The Chris Rock Test” provided its own equivalent, an event hosted by Bobby Axelrod’s newest foe, the performatively woke billionaire Mike Prince. (The conference appears to be named after Mike, because humility is overrated.) Somehow, that wasn’t the most absurd thing that happened in the episode—you’ll find out why soon enough. Let’s not waste another minute and dive into this week’s Billions superlatives.
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Season 5, Episode 3: “Beg, Bribe, Bully”
by Gingersnap | damian-lewis.com | May 10, 2020
Chuck returns to his alma mater to pursue an opportunity. Axe’s big venture is sidelined by a family crisis. Taylor asserts independence with a risky play. Chuck puts Wendy in an awkward position. Episode airs on Sunday, May 17, 2020 on Showtime.
To view more sneak peek photos, please visit our Gallery here
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A Behind-the-Scenes Look at “The Chris Rock Test”
by Brian Koppelman and David Levien | The Ringer | May 10, 2020
Before diving into S5E2, “The Chris Rock Test,” ‘Billions’ cocreators Brian Koppelman and David Levien discuss some parallels between ‘Billions’ and real-life billionaire behavior as well as how the location manager and prop master truly shined in Season 5’s second episode (0:30). Then they talk to Corey Stoll, who plays Michael Prince, about his character, joining an already established show, learning from his castmates, filming at Mohonk Mountain House, and more (36:40).
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Step Up To The Mike
by Sean T. Collins | New York Times | May 10, 2020
Season 5, Episode 2: ‘The Chris Rock Test’
Welcome to the Mike Conference, named with characteristic humility by its founder, decabillionaire Mike Prince. It’s a place for fireside chats that double as vicious duels, for charitable acts that serve to ameliorate an exponentially larger number of uncharitable ones, and for the occasional late-night excursion to a strip club that doubles as a Wagner family reunion.
Yes, Wags discovers the hard way that his daughter (Wags has adult children?!) is a stripper, thus failing “The Chris Rock Test”that gives the episode its name. He gets over it, more or less. He wouldn’t be Wags if he didn’t.
But just as the Mike Conference was really about making deals, so too was Wags and Bobby Axelrod’s ayahuasca excursion from the season premiere a business trip (emphasis on trip). Bobby is aiming to move into the “psychoceuticals” sector, so he and Wags spend their off hours at the conference buttering up Simon Shenk (played by the “Ozark” and “Affair” veteran Darren Goldstein), who looks poised to become the next head of the F.D.A. Impressed with Bobby and Wags’s acquaintance with the shaman Bram Longriver (Henri Binje), he seems poised to greenlight the practice and thus line their pockets.
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Chess and Ayahuasca
by Paul Vigna | Wall Street Journal | May 11, 2020
There is a scene in Sunday’s episode of “Billions” in which guests at an exclusive conference are playing chess against a grandmaster (a cameo from real-world grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura). Tables are set up with boards, each person maneuvering and machinating while Nakamura takes them all on at the same time. Pawn threatens knight! King takes rook! Knight threatens king! Checkmate!
This is how “Billions” wants you to see every one of its characters: locked in a chess match, the best against the best, all at the same time. They don’t always win, though, and in “The Chris Rock Test” (written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, directed by Lee Tamahori) one of the best loses.
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Axe Finally Met His Match
by Dana Feldman | Forbes | May 10, 2020
Not one to back down from a challenge, Axe finally takes Mike Prince up on his offer for a fireside chat at his annual charity conference but things for Axe Cappers do not go well…at all.
In “The Chris Rock Test” Axe (Damian Lewis) debates Mike (Corey Stoll) on his turf and under the exterior smiles, this chat is anything but friendly. Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon) is confronted by Oscar Langstraat (Mike Birbiglia), who tells them he doesn’t want his money with Axe, nor does he want to be associated with him, and if Taylor is, he doesn’t want to be associated with them either.
And, things for Wags (David Costabile) might just be the toughest of all when he’s confronted by his worst fears as a father. He realizes he’s failed the Chris Rock test after running into his daughter at a strip club where she works; he didn’t keep his daughter off the pole. Did we ever know he had children?
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Axe’s New Foe Beats Him At His Own Game
by Kyle Fowle | Entertainment Weekly | May 10, 2020
In the season premiere of Billions, Axe meets the man he believes to be his latest adversary. I say “believes to be” because for Axe, everyone is his enemy. He’ll never be happy nor satisfied with the life he’s built. He’s always going to be judging himself against others, or judging the choices of others and seeking to punish them for not living the way he assumes they should be. There’s no better evidence of that than the spiritual journey he undertook with Wags. Rather than finding enlightenment, Axe has found a shaman to attach to his hopeful push into the industry of psychoceuticals, the use of hallucinogenic drugs to combat things like PTSD, anxiety, and depression. (Side note: Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind is an excellent book on that topic.)
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by Sarene Leeds | Vulture | May 10, 2020
Who is more abhorrent? The guy who imperiously proclaims to be a “monster,” the guy who hides his monstrous qualities behind a façade of bogus humility, or the guy claiming to keep his monster at bay with a code? This is a question that pops up on Billions regularly, making an episode like “The Chris Rock Test” a whole lot of fun — because the answer is, as always, they’re all equally repugnant.
In one corner, we have Chuck Rhoades, holding firm to his pledge to change himself for the better. On the surface, he’s following through on his promise, starting off the episode in therapy. (The brutal reality of COVID-19 once again weaseling its way into our TV escape; Chuck’s therapist is played by the late Mark Blum.) During the session, Chuck is asked to name a wisdom avatar, and his choice speaks volumes. He’s been reading Dexter Morgan novels lately, so Chuck selects Harry Morgan, father and conscience of the literary serial killer, as his source of guidance. (A Showtime drama referencing the basis for another Showtime drama? Who would’ve thunk it?)
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Monsters and Serial Killers
by Damianista | Fan Fun with Damian Lewis | May 10, 2020
It does not matter if it is a carnivorous or a cuddly one. Or one that lives with a code. Billions Season 5 Episode 2 The Chris Rock Test demonstrates that a monster is a monster no matter what.
Oh My God – how come I forgot Billions does never waste a word?!?! As I thought he was just being kind, Axe was very serious when he said his goodbye to the Shaman in Season 5 Premiere The New Decas:
“…until we see each other and move your knowledge into the world, be well.”
As someone who never misses a business opportunity, exactly where he and Wags saw “the creator of souls” Axe also saw a market! And now he, along with Wags and Taylor, is attending the “The Mike” held at the Mohonk Mountain House – actually waiting for The Mike to descend from the sky in his seaplane and welcome them to the conference.
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Taylor Back at Axe Capital
by DJ Sixsmith | CBS Local Denver | May 8, 2020
(CBS Local) – “Billions” is back on Showtime for season five and things are about to get interesting as Taylor Mason is back at Axe Capital.
Asia Kate Dillon has been a trailblazer in their portrayal of the non-binary character Mason and Dillon is excited for fans to check out season five of the series.
“We got through shooting seven episodes and we were shooting episode eight when we shut down production,” said Dillon in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “The first seven episodes are going to come out and we still have to film the back half of the season. I went into this season like I do every season with excitement and curiosity. I know very little about what’s going to happen ahead of time. Certain things the producers will let me know, but for the most part I like to be surprised. This season, I was particularly interested in how Taylor and Axe were going to get along, now that Taylor is back at Axe Capital. Also, I was really interested in how the relationship between Taylor and Wendy Rhoades was going to develop.”
Welcome back to “From the Trader’s Desk” for Season 5 of Billions!
Before I get into my recap/analysis, let me just say, boy, did I miss these characters from my screen! With everything that is going on in the world right now, having Axe, Wags, Taylor, Wendy, and yes, even Chuck, back and up to their usual shenanigans was like slipping into a comfortable pair of jeans!
Since there was not a lot of fin-speak this week, let’s see where the characters I call the Big Four (Axe, Chuck, Wendy and Taylor) are when we start the new season.
Before I start, I’d like to talk about the school-yard battle between the Axe Cappers and the TMCer’s. There is bad blood between these two camps. One reason is because the ACs see the TMCs as interlopers (and in the case of Taylor and Mafee, traitors). No one likes anyone coming into their “house” infringing on their territory.
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Billions MVP Awards for Season 5, Episode 1, “The New Decas”
by Gingersnap | Fan Fun with Damian Lewis | May 6, 2020
Dominance. Corruption. Influence. Vicious rivalries. New enemies. New alliances. Shifting loyalties. Formidable feuds. Predator vs. prey. Take-downs. The struggle for power and the struggle for survival. All of this can only mean one thing: BILLIONS IS BACK BABY!
This season we will review each episode and award our Most Valuable Players (MVPs) for the utmost brazen, uber shameless, ultra scheming, unmatched bad asses to date – from sports references, music and tasty food, to pop culture remarks, shocking twists and ultimate paybacks. This will serve as our prize ‘Billions MVP Fanbook’ commemorating all those in honor of such achievement.
Here are the Billions MVP awards for Season 5, Episode 1, “The New Decas.”