Risk, reward and return, Wall Street trader Bobby ‘Axe’ Axelrod (Damian Lewis) buys his company’s in-house therapist Wendy (Maggie Siff) in the final episode of Season 1 of BILLIONS a present.
It’s a car, but not just any car a Maserati with a motto; ‘fortune follows the brave’, which will turn out in Wendy’s case to be true.
But I am getting ahead of the story.
BILLIONS is a frank, sexy, smartly paced provocative television drama series from Showtime on STAN in Australia, with an all-star award-winning cast, which must be providing a return on investment for its producers.
It is intelligent, ambitious and the second half of Season 1 built momentum to the finale.
Written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, and directed by Michael Cuesta the finale had the acting stakes bar raised to its highest level to date.
Taking it slowly, allowing the story to evolve, viewers cannot fail to become involved in the lives of its protagonists.
Wall Street trader Axe is a master at paying attention and getting the details right while playing the long game, even when he’s in high dudgeon.
Lewis delivers his witty, clever lines like a true evangelist.
Axe is a business genius from a poor background who climbs the ladder of success.
“What I care about is making decisions to benefit a greater number of people”….he says, “I cannot live with losing any one else’s money”.
But what he has to do to ensure that his wishes are carried out is the problem.
Chuck Rhodes (Paul Giamatti) US Attorney, who was born with a platinum spoon in his mouth, is out to destroy Axe whom he views as a rival for his wife’s affections.
Wendy is the company in-house professional shrink for Axe making a ménage a trois like no other. Chuck like a petulant school child rails against it telling her ‘you’ve been with him longer than me’.
Although Axe is really just a substitute for Chuck’s all-controlling father, with whom he would like to get even.
Chuck is arrogant, boastful, and as brutally belligerant as ever.
Despite his best efforts to date; he has not been able to turn up enough concrete evidence to bring his rival down.
His lessons in bondage have not abated, it’s his Achilles heel. Just wait until Axe finds out his secret.
Chuck is jealous of everyone really, including his handsome former right hand man Brian Connerty (Aussie actor Toby Leonard Moore), who used to head the hunt for evidence against Axe until he was shut down.
Now having exiled, burned and finally returned another former staff member and friend Lonnie Watley (Malachi Weir) Chuck hands over a new file for him to investigate, criminal behaviour by Axelrod based on new evidence.
In the finale Chuck driven by his seething jealousy and righteous rage takes advantage of knowing Wendy’s password. Accessing her computer he reads her case notes about her psychotherapy sessions with Axe, who opens up to her about his worries over ‘illegal activities’.
Chuck immediately starts an action to bring Axe down based on his own ‘insider’ knowledge. The irony is palatable.
Lara Axelrod (Malin Akerman) is charged by her husband with getting their affairs in order and to arrange a covert operation that will enable she, Axe and their children to leave the US if they have to. As ever she is compliant.
Everyone wants to be a lion, but not everyone gets the chance… I am offering you one now… says Axe as he endeavours to have Brian Connerty change sides and come and work for him.
He leaves, but doesn’t say no.
All has been fine right up until the point Axe is tipped off that the US Attorney has information only Wendy could have provided.
She’s a psychologist after all, and knows how to play both the men in her life to her advantage
Axe threatens Wendy with exposing intimate details of her unusual life, which he has on file just in case he believed she had betrayed his trust.
Silly boy. He should have known it was something she would never do because above all she was the ultimate professional. Or was she?
Very careless leaving that computer on her and Chuck’s bed while she took a shower!
Finally threatened by her husband, Wendy faces off against them both with Axe giving her a five million dollar pay off by direct transfer into her account.
There is no power like that of a woman scorned. But what is power worth?
At the end the bragging boys face off against each other up front and personal in Axe’s office – no man’s land for Chuck.
Axe has just had it torn apart to ensure there are no listening devices hidden from view.
As they rail against each other hurling insults of the smartest kind, they don’t know it yet but they have both being outsmarted by the lady in the middle. We last see Wendy driving off in her new Maserati with a smile on her dial and a fistful of cash to either start a new life without either of them or, to find a place to hole up and plot her revenge.
Whatever, in the meantime with Wendy’s help, unwittingly or otherwise, Axe and Chuck in the closing scenes finally both turn they’re continually running Battle into all out War.
Season 2 of Showtime’s BILLIONS should prove very interesting indeed.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016
Watch the Trailer for Season 2