This week on Billions our men grapple with the patriarchy’s false promise of “having it all.” Sure, when they grew up they thought the world would open up to them: they could have billions of dollars, a lovely wife, a fun mistress, and a side gig rigging treasury bids. But they’re slowly learning life doesn’t always deal you a fair hand. Or in this case: sometimes life is fair and you don’t get to do illegal things without consequences.
This was maybe my favorite episode of this season, which is saying a lot because it has been a really stellar run. One of the big themes of this week is how passionately these people purse their careers and how that pursuit can tear apart a relationship.
Chuck and Wendy seem to be getting better and better, as Wendy agrees to stay for dinner on Chuck’s night at home with the kids. It’s a nice, calm domestic scene, even as Chuck gets interrupting calls from Ira. You get a sense that everything could be fine between these two if their careers weren’t these huge, unruly things, if their passion for each other were stronger than their drive to succeed, if they weren’t so defined by their jobs. But without their passions, maybe they wouldn’t have fallen in love with each other to begin with. As Wendy says her kids got the best of them both, it all seems so perfect. But obviously, their relationship doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
In the real world, outside that very expensive house, Chuck is hemorrhaging money because of these lawsuits against him. Ira suggests that Chuck should sell the house, but Chuck is worried one big shift could mean the dissolution of his marriage.
Ira tells Wendy that Chuck is drowning and that he probably needs her more than ever. So she sets up a meeting with Axe. She wants her job back, a raise, a stake in the company (which they negotiate), and she wants him to drop the suits. This scene is a good reminder that when it comes to Axe, Wendy is entirely in charge. Even when she realizes that he partially filed these lawsuits in order to get her back, she still gets the win, telling him she refuses to treat him, only the other employees.
They don’t really hit this “selling the house” idea over the head, but I do think it’s fitting that in this episode when Wendy makes her deal with Axe, she’s saving the house financially, but ruining it (maybe) symbolically. Because, of course Chuck finds out, and of course, he is not happy. I chose to believe these crazy kids are really in love, but this episode also suggests that they are doomed. Wendy, try as she might, can’t stay away from Axe Capital and the world her husband hates. And Chuck, maybe not trying as hard as he might, can’t forgive her for it. They both just love their jobs too dang much. This last scene of Chuck telling Wendy that her working for Axe is a deal breaker broke my heart.
Speaking of marriages on the brink, Lara is still mad at Axe about how he berated her business last week. I thought she might take it in stride, because she’s so calculating you’d think that she’d like the fearless feedback. But nope, she’s also fragile, and this speaks to a bigger issue of Axe not really including her in their partnership. At dinner, Axe tells her some more bad news: Wendy’s coming back to Axe Capital. A furious Lara leaves him in the helicopter (it’s funny that the pilot was just chill with leaving without Axe… I guess he liked Lara’s dramatic flair).
Lara thinks Wendy is a liability and Axe offers a compromise: he’ll not work with Wendy, only his employees will, that way she won’t get any dirt on him. Well, first things first, obviously Wendy could get dirt on Axe based on his employees. Also, obviously, we viewers know that this was Wendy’s deal anyway. Axe isn’t giving up anything. It may seem like a smooth move, and Lara says she can try to accept it. But if we look at the long game of the season, it really seems to me (and, you know, I might just be hopeful, I always want the women characters to outsmart the men), like they’re setting up a Lara turn. I mean, Axe has been slowly boxing her out of big decisions, he’s shown her that most people are expendable to him, and they definitely don’t seem like as much of a team this season. There’s such a great and intriguing relationship between Axe and Wendy, I really really want to see one between Lara and Chuck.
For now, Chuck’s marriage might be over and Axe’s is mending. But on the business side, it’s the reverse. Axe is struggling and Chuck is back on top.
Let’s talk casino stuff first, because I promised we’d get to it eventually. Axe (in a room full of meat LOL) learns that a man name Hank is still holding out on selling his property which they’re going to need if the casino project is to proceed. Axe offers to head upstate to talk it out with Hank, so they can speed up the deal. The best part of these upstate scenes is that Axe and Hank are wearing basically the same shirt.
Hank figured out why they want his land, and how much money Axe stands to make, and he thinks that 1.5 million doesn’t really cut it to sell. He’ll be happy with seven. Axe says no one leaves a negotiation happy and so he’ll give Hank 5 million and he wants his cool motorcycle. I’d just like the give a shout out to my man Hank: a little bit of research and ingenuity makes him one of the biggest winners of this episode. He masterfully picked the perfect time to sell and he doesn’t even work in hedge funds. By the end of this episode, he got 5 million for a piece of land that’s worth a fraction of that.
That’s because: Chuck’s dad did something right for once. Every time I see him I just think “ugh, how’s this guy gonna fuck things up for everyone unintentionally?” But this week he came through big. With a few little meetings he got the casino moved and screwed over Axe royally. When Axe gets the call about the casino, he steps off the bike he’d been pretending to ride (well kinda, but… parallels) and puts his toys away. Your job is not always fun. Even if you’re Axe.
Back in the city, they really tied up a lot of the things that have been weighing on Chuck this season this episode. It makes me wonder what is going to happen next. I assume and hope a reignited war against Axe is coming.
Like I said Wendy got the lawsuits to go away. On to Boyd, he’s always been so squirmy to me and he always seems spooked, so of course he made for some pretty great cannon fodder this week. Axe tells Boyd to go relax in his sauna after he makes bail. And oh look, there’s Axe’s creepy henchman Hall telling Boyd his nefarious plans for keeping Boyd out of jail. Basically, in order to get one of his men not to flip on him, Boyd has to agree to give his wife recurring quarterly payments of 2.5 million dollars while that guy’s in jail. He’ll obviously need an offshore account for this. And also Hall has a picture of this guy’s kids and says he will always know where those kids are while the fall guy’s in jail.
This scene was a great splash of cold water to anyone who watches this show drooling over the obscene wealth of these people. It’s -- in some cases -- not the only thing that’s obscene. And this unsavory feeling in this scene should stick with viewers, I think, a reminder that these men can’t really “have it all.” Boyd brazenly broke the law, assured by his wealth and position that he’d never have to answer for it. Then he instantly turned to this cruelty when the going got tough. And Chuck and Bryan and Kate still took him down.
Bryan gets worried this case could end his career, Boyd’s such a big fish and the jury isn’t going to understand what he did that was illegal. But Chuck tells him to use his rage to get results. Bryan wasn’t born with a place at the table, he had to earn it. I just want to say that even though Kate was born rich her end goal is to be the first black woman president (something this effing nation embarrassingly still hasn’t accomplished) so she also wasn’t born with a place at the table. But… I’ll drop that for now (don’t worry, we’ve got a lot of episodes left) because the speech works and Bryan and Kate kill it in court.
Bryan makes Boyd squirm, showing the jury that Bryan’s one of them, but that Boyd is so ridiculously rich that of course he’s a creep. It works, Boyd wants to settle and admit guilt.
Chuck says no. Now, this scene could’ve been another annoying play by Chuck except, it freakin’ works. The Attorney General herself calls and while they try to do some sidestepping around what’s about to happen, she basically lets it be known that if Chuck settles and doesn’t go to court, his job is safe. So Chuck’s in the clear!
While this is going on Lonnie, our show’s moral center I believe, is being interviewed by Dake. He’s tried to avoid it, but his number is up. And Lonnie, great guy that he is, won’t lie. He’s about to confess everything he knows about Chuck not really being recused. But then Dake gets the call from the Attorney General to shut it down. I’d almost have been sad at Dake’s crushed look if it wasn’t immediately followed by Lonnie, so happy he didn’t have to tell on his boss.
Now, in some sense, we should be on Dake’s side. Chuck is putting himself over the good of the people and they did take an oath. But, well, Chuck did stop a bad guy in this episode, right? Boyd was all-powerful and he was brazenly breaking the law. So… greater good? I mean, that’s up to you to decide. Also, as much as Dake claims to take the moral high ground, he also seems too wrapped up in his job to think big picture. Does he actually want to make sure the world is more just or does he simply get off on punishing people when they step out of line? He basically ends his scene by promising we haven’t seen the last of him. You better believe I’ll use that “surprise, bitch” GIF when he returns.
So, there we have it, a real turning point in this season. Chuck’s no longer on the ropes, Axe continues to spiral. But, Wendy’s back at Axe Capital and so, again, maybe a major power shift hasn’t quite happened. We’ll see next week!
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