Clancy Brown
Photo: Jeff Neumann (Showtime)

The president’s name has yet to mentioned, but there’s no question that Billions has entered the Trump era. It might otherwise be harder to swallow a cartoon character like Attorney General Waylon “Jock” Jeffcoat, but given the rogues gallery that’s been populating Washington, DC of late, he feels like a fitting proxy for the real thing. Chuck is certainly aware that he’s entered a new reality, and the challenge presented by Jock is enough to make him take his eye off the prize, at least for one episode.

“A Generation Too Late” feels more like a standalone than most episodes, as both Chuck and Axe are preoccupied with matters other than destroying each other. The difference is that Axe never loses sight of Chuck, even as he’s finding a way to get his next trading fix. Chuck, meanwhile, is learning that while he might not like the phrase “new regime,” that doesn’t change the fact that there is one. At first he was simply told what cases he couldn’t pursue; now Jock has summoned him to Washington to receive marching orders on a prosecution Chuck has no inclination to undertake.

White collar crime has been Chuck’s bread and butter, so it’s more than a little jarring to both him and us when Jock pushes a murder case on him. Since the alleged crime took place in a federal prison, Jock wants it pursued by the Southern District’s office, but his true motivation is clear: a prison guard is dead and there’s a minority to blame. This is red meat for the base, as the Breitbart-reading AG well knows, and if it happens to tweak the sensibilities of a New York elitist at the same time, well, that certainly doesn’t bother him. Jock is such a caricature, he even cleans his gun while barking at Chuck on the phone, as if he can’t stand to speak to him unless he’s doing something manly at the same time.

Chuck is an alpha too, in his own New York elitist way, and he bristles at following orders from someone he clearly regards as beneath him. He basically blackmails the prison warden into giving an anonymous quote to a reporter attesting that the inmate Jose Lugo was tortured at length and retaliated in self-defense. The resulting article is sympathetic to the inmate and should make the case impossible to prosecute, but Jock doesn’t see it that way—he doesn’t read those papers. He doesn’t know Chuck very well, either, as he clearly underestimates his underling’s capacity for vindictive retribution. Chuck has Sacker set up a secret room in which to work one of Jock’s forbidden cases. The Resistance!

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Asia Kate Dillon, David Costabile, Rasik Ohal
Photo: Jeff Neumann (Showtime)

While Chuck is focused on a new enemy, Axe is looking to get back in the game any way he can. His elaborate scheme to get his police pension fund buddy Raul to turn his assets over to Axe’s proxy—or, as proves to be the case, his puppet—doesn’t detract from his mission to clear his name while simultaneously fucking Chuck over. Ira is ripe for the plucking, having lost everything while still trying to hang onto a gold-digging young girlfriend. (Billions is always rife with caricatures, but this one is particularly distasteful, as she exists only as a plot device.) He plays hard to get, but once Axe offers him $30 million for his useless IceJuice shares, he’s easy pickings. He offers to give up both Chuck and his father in a meeting with Dake and Connerty—a meeting Dake brings to an abrupt halt. Connerty is pissed because he’s still all about right and wrong, while Dake sees loyalty as the overriding factor. If Connerty is coming after both Chuck and Axe, I’m guessing a dark fate awaits him by season’s end.

With Axe searching out alternate venues for his talents, it’s up to Taylor to keep Axe Capital on the cutting edge, and they plan to do so by hiring a “quant,” which is apparently an insufferable young person with a fancy algorithm. The traders, most notably Mefee and Ben Kim, are fearing for their careers, and Wags comes in with the inevitable baseball analogy, noting that Billy Beane never won a World Series. “But Theo Epstein did,” Taylor notes, by using some of the same sabermetrics. Wags tries to stack the deck, but Taylor easily sniffs out the ruse. In the end, they decide not to go the Moneyball route. Taylor may come off as robotic, but in the world of Billions, they may be the only one truly willing and able to change.

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Stray observations

  • Ira watching in horror as the waiter shaves off a record number of truffle grams was not unsatisfying.
  • Another satisfying moment: Connerty punching out one of the sleazy Burke brothers.
  • Tony Soprano references are expected. Tommyknockers references are not. How is every person on this show so steeped in pop culture when they’re at work all the time?
  • Wendy actually gets something to do this week besides act as a sounding board for other people, telling Charles Sr. where he can stick his box of Chuck’s trophies.
  • Those burgers did look pretty good.

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