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Chuck and Axe clean house on a transitional Billions

David Costabile, Damian Lewis
Photo: Jeff Neumann (Showtime)
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A week ago, Chuck and Axe were working together. Now they’ve all but forgotten about each other. “All The Wilburys” ties up some loose ends and introduces a few new grievances, but it feels like the two lead characters are sharing a time slot, not a television show. With only Wendy to link their storylines, Chuck and Axe are too busy cleaning their own houses to bother with any unfinished business between them.


Thematically there’s a bit more linking these largely separate stories, as both men are emboldened by their recent narrow escape. Chuck in particular appears never to have heard the old adage about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer as he goes on an epic bridge-burning spree. The most flammable of these is Connerty, returned to the Southern District and dumped in an office to play solitaire while waiting for Chuck to grace him with his presence. “I bet you don’t even cheat at that,” Chuck cracks, and Connerty confirms that he doesn’t see the point in doing so. Connerty expresses concern that Chuck will exile him to the basement, and...that’s the right move, no? Instead, Chuck tears him a new one in front of the entire staff and fires him, spittle flying. So now Connerty and Dake are both unemployed and both have reason to want to take Chuck down. It looks like a bad chess move all around, but if Billions has taught us anything by now, it’s that there’s no bridge so badly burnt it can’t be rebuilt.

Chuck’s focus turns to his gubernatorial run, a ship he comes to understand he isn’t steering at all when Senior and Foley crash a session at the sex dungeon. Candidates for New York governor can’t be caught getting candle wax dripped onto their nipples, so Chuck and Wendy are ordered to keep that stuff at home where it belongs. Bristling at the presumptuousness of his handlers, Chuck is determined to get the upper hand on them, which he does by setting up a sting operation and catching Foley bribing an inspector to approve low-grade steel for building projects. On some level, this is the sort of move Foley can’t help but admire even if it is at his expense. It turns out not to matter, however, as Wendy help Chuck to see that his pursuit of the governor’s mansion is the dream of other people, not his own.

Paul Giamatti, Maggie Siff
Photo: Jeff Neumann (Showtime)

Why break the news to Senior and Foley gently when he can publicly humiliate them? That Chuck does so by throwing his support to “Buffalo Bob” Sweeney is actually a hilarious demonstration of the fluidity of Billions relationships. Early in the episode, Sweeney is reintroduced as the politician Chuck screwed over by threatening to expose the fact that he sent his son to a pray-the-gay-away camp. By the end, he’s back in the fold after supplying Chuck with the information that led to the Foley sting. In doing so, Chuck burns another two bridges, including the just-rebuilt one with Senior. No wonder he’s so cavalier about tossing allies aside; he justifiably feels like he can always win them back if he needs them.


Axe isn’t quite so heavy with the...er, axe, although he and Wags take a lot of pleasure from firing Spyros in the scene that gives the episode its title. (It’s hard to disagree: Spyros is no Wilbury.) True to form, as soon as Spyros proves he can make them money, he’s back aboard. (That it’s Dollar Bill who ends up throwing him the lifeline is perfect; no personal distaste for the man is going to get between Bill and his next dollar.) Axe’s triumphant return to the office interrupts Taylor’s presentation about the gains in the main fund, and it doesn’t get any better for the interim head of Axe Capital from there. Axe is so jazzed to be back he wants to tear it all down and take all new positions, as well as put an end to “the quant experiment.”

Taylor doesn’t get fired, but the casual disregard Axe displays for all their achievements in his absence is almost as bad. Taylor asks for a cool billion to manage on their own, and ends up getting a quarter of that, subject to Axe’s oversight. Keeping your enemies close is one thing, but going out of your way to antagonize your allies while they’re still under the same roof can’t be a good idea. Axe’s ego is so fragile that he can’t even leave work before Taylor does, missing out on dinner with his kids in the process. That may be the only relationship on Billions that can’t be repaired with a little more money.


Stray observations

  • Tune in next week when Senior and Foley decide on Cynthia Nixon as their replacement candidate for New York Governor.
  • At this point, Lara basically shows up for two minutes per episode to tear someone a new one. This week’s lucky contestant is Wendy, who makes the mistake of trying to help young Gordon cope with his parents splitting up.

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About the author

Scott Von Doviak

My debut novel Charlesgate Confidential is now available from Hard Case Crime.