Roughly halfway through this season, Billions has quickly wrapped up several of the major story arcs. Chuck is no longer being investigated by the Department of Justice, and the lawsuits against him are in the process of being dropped. Wendy has ended her flirtation with launching a career outside Axe Capital and returned to the fold, albeit with certain conditions. Boyd has caved under the pressure and copped a plea. The reset to the status quo remains incomplete, however, as the restoration of the Rhoades marriage, which appeared to be in reach, fails to materialize.
Let’s start with the ending. Earlier in “Indian Four,” reconciliation looked like a distinct possibility. When Wendy drops by the house to let Chuck know she appreciates him taking responsibility for their separation, the rapport between them is hesitant, but gentle. When she stays for dinner, it’s clear that the kids are alert to the possibility that both parents will be back under the same roof at the same time sooner than later. When Wendy later gets wind of the Axelrod civil suits from Ira (not doing a great job of maintaining lawyer/client confidentiality), she sees a way to get them dismissed: return to her old job at Axe.
This is something she might have done anyway, although from what we’ve seen, she hasn’t had any problem getting clients on her own. She does have several conditions in addition to Axe agreeing to drop the suits, most notable of which is that he will have no access to her services even after she returns. (We’ll see about that, however.) Once Chuck hears the suits are being dropped, it doesn’t take him long to figure out that Axe isn’t doing this out of the kindness of his heart. His reaction is to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory: he can’t abide the thought that his marriage could be repaired through any doing of Axe’s. If Wendy is back in the enemy camp under any circumstances, “for us, I’m afraid it’s a deal breaker.” It’s likely that, just as Wendy did, Chuck has sussed out that the suits were filed (at least in part) to achieve this very outcome: Wendy back on the job and back in the Rhoades fold, all thanks to the magnanimousness of Bobby Axelrod. Chuck would rather kill his marriage than swallow that.
The Axelrod marriage has been on less than sure footing of late as well, and it takes another hit this week when date night goes awry. Axe insists he needs Lara as a partner, but when he suggests he’s thinking of bring Wendy back, Lara quickly figures out that he’s already done so without asking her. (Everyone is seeing through Axe these days, but assuming he’s lying every time he opens his mouth has proven to be a pretty safe bet.) Later he smooths things over by apologizing and telling Lara he’ll agree not to see Wendy, but of course, this is also something he’s already decided without running it by her.
On the business front, Axe is all in on the town of Sandicot being granted a gaming license. The one holdout on selling his land drives a hard bargain, talking Axe up to $5 million and throwing in his classic Indian Four motorcycle to finalize the deal. It may well be that the bike is all Axe will get for his $5 million: the elder Rhoades has sniffed out the deal and pulled strings with a country club buddy to get the gaming license shifted out of Sandicot. Neither Axe nor Chuck is aware of Chuck Sr.’s involvement at this time, but it still highlights the absurdity of Axe’s desire for Wendy’s continued presence in his world. He really should want nothing to do with any Rhoades at all.
Even as Axe’s troubles mount, everything’s coming up Chuck. (Phrasing, I know.) Boyd looks like he’s slipped the noose when Chuck’s second cooperating witness (who can corroborate the recording of Boyd’s admitted misdeeds) has a change of heart thanks to a cash infusion. Chuck’s insistence on going to trial rather than cutting a deal feels like either a bluff or a misstep, and Brian sees it the same way until Chuck urges him to put the outsider chip on his shoulder to good use. He does so during jury selection, forcing Boyd’s attorneys to use all of their challenges as he stirs up resentment for the one percent among the potential jurors. Boyd sees that it doesn’t matter whether the ”jury of his peers” understands the ins and outs of Treasury bonds; they all hate him and everything he represents. Chuck agrees to deal once the Attorney General assures him he’ll be left alone to run his shop the way he sees fit. (That Lonnie is about to crack at that very moment is a contrivance too far, but that’s classic Billions.) All of this should be cause for a Rhoades victory lap, but Axe is too far inside Chuck’s head to allow the possibility. If it’s any consolation, the reverse is also true.
- Good riddance to Dake, a character who never transcended his two-dimensional conception or surprised in any way whatsoever. I sure hope his threats to pursue Chuck as his white whale were just empty bluster and not a sign of things to come.
- On the other hand, if this is the end of Eric Bogosian’s time on the show, it’s a shame. Boyd could easily have been just as two-dimensional as Dake, but Bogosian invested him with a capacity for remorse and self-awareness absent from most of his peers.