Here’s a conundrum: Do we feel sorry for Ira (Ben Shenkman), Chuck’s (Paul Giamatti) friend turned foe, because he’s dating a woman who won’t marry him unless he proposes with a six-figure ring? Or do we despise Ira for knowing this, and proposing to her anyway?
The third episode of the season opens with Ira and his nameless blonde girlfriend dining at a fancy restaurant. We know it’s fancy because it takes two waiters to serve basic plates of pasta. As the waiters offer truffles, Ira clearly remembers Chuck’s little speech about the magic mushrooms from season 2, back when they were buddies. Nameless blonde indulges in 20 grams of the stuff, which Chuck would certainly disapprove of. And then Ira starts his speech. He loves nameless blonde’s smooth skin. He was going to ask her to marry him tonight, but he can’t give her “the wedding you deserve, the honeymoon we discussed, the life we planned.” He can’t tell her to quit her job. All this because of the Ice Juice disaster. “If knowing all this, you wanna go ahead…”
For a second, we wonder if maybe nameless blonde really does love Ira. Maybe she wasn’t dating him for his money. Maybe she doesn’t need a million dollar wedding. How silly of us.
“No, you’re right,” she says. “We should wait.”
Later in the episode, after Axe (Damian Lewis) has bribed Ira with $30 million in instant cash and his choice of a Buccellati engagement ring, nameless blonde giddily agrees to marry Ira. We genuinely wonder: Does Ira feel good about himself? Did money buy him happiness? The look on his face suggests not, but still, he’s marrying this woman. This must, in some way, be what he wants.
Speaking of very wealthy people who consider themselves broke, Lara (Malin Akerman) and Bobby are signing a separation agreement, which includes the division of assets. Lara coldly reads the defined reason for the split: “The marriage was broken down irretrievably.” Just as cold is Axe’s response: “It happens.” We seriously feel like we missed the series of episodes where these two fell out of love with each other. Yes, we know, Axe lied about Wendy (Maggie Siff), but jumping to divorce because of one lie? What kind of wealth bubble are these two living in where they think rich people don't lie to their spouses? Or, rather, all people?
Oh, well the kind of wealth bubble where having only a few million in the bank isn’t enough. When Bobby says that the Ice Juice bust could lead to the government seizing over $300 million from the Axelrods’ personal assets, Lara is pained. Axe says he’s working on getting more money “they can’t see.” His methodology? Essentially turning into a used-car salesman who pitches his old NYPD Fund buddy Raul (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) with, “What if I could put you into a fund…”
Axe spends the rest of the episode finessing a pitch for desperate, disgraced hedge fund manager Mike, so that Axe can direct Mike’s trades on behalf of Raoul’s fund. For a guy under a government microscope, Axe is lining up new potential turncoats in almost every scene.
Of course, his icing on the corruption cake is to convince Ira to withdraw his civil suit against Axe Cap in exchange for the aforementioned golddigger bait and $30 mill. When Ira breaks the news to Dake (Christopher Denham) and Bryan (Toby Leonard Moore), he also lets the suits know the truth about Chuck and Charles’ (Jeffredy DeMunn) involvement in setting Axe up for the Ice Juice fraud. Bryan, for some reason, is in disbelief and does something decidedly un-Bryan: he gets wasted, shows up at Lara’s cousins’ bar, and throws a punch. When the cousins inevitably punch back, Bryan has local cops show up and arrest them. Bryan, our last shining hope for Good Guy status, is starting to show shades of Chuck’s unethical tactics.
On the subject of Chuck’s unethical tactics bleeding into the general goodness of his underlings, now Sacker (Condola Rashad) is bearing the brunt of the DA’s ego. Our new Attorney General, wearing expensive Lucchese cowboy boots, instructs Chuck to prosecute a man named Jose Lugo, who has been charged with killing a federal prison guard while his back was turned. The AG makes reference to “New York words” and “New York judges,” in addition to the word “regime.” We, and Chuck, are not fans of this whole Trumpian agenda.
Connerty lets Chuck and Sacker know that they can’t charge Lugo with murder. He couldn’t make bail, they stuck him at MCC, and the guard did disgusting things to Lugo, all of which is backed up by 25 prisoner statements. “Jose Lugo is the kind of person we are here to protect,” Connerty says. Chuck attempts to do the good thing by threatening the warden with 400 inmate cases unless she feeds all of the above unfairness to a reporter, but the AG winds up spotting this trick and forcing Chuck to prosecute anyway. We get our first real season-setting scene when Chuck tells Sacker, okay fine, we’ll ostensibly work on the Lugo case, but here’s a secret war room where we also work on the Axe-like finance bros.
Hopefully these future Sacker victims include Mike, who brags to Axe and the NYPD’s Raoul about kicking a female board member “in the cock.” Maybe Mike should consider getting together with Lara, because he’s convinced that, with just $40 million in the bank, he’s “broke.”
Meanwhile, Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon) is interviewing “quants,” or quantitative analysts, who use mathematical models to forecast which trades to make. Everyone at Axe basically thinks they’ll be replaced by robots. Taylor asks applicants to put together a piece of cardboard into a box before doing a real interview. Some are cocky. Some are sincere. Most are smart. One dares to “Yasss queen” Wags (David Costabile), which leads to Wags calling him a “Patrick Bateman, Bud Fox hybrid wannabe.” He also refers to Taylor as “she,” which leads to his instant dismissal. Ultimately they don’t hire a quant because Taylor realizes what we already knew: they’re smarter than any robot, and they’ll build their own.
Wendy doesn’t get nearly enough plot this episode, but she does take their kids to see Grandpa Charles. Charles is still being stubborn, refusing to make nice with Chuck (will he be Axe’s ace up the sleeve?), and Wendy reminds him: Whatever greatness and darkness lies within Chuck, he got it from his dad.
Stray thoughts: Bryan from the Bronx is surely not going to let his new knowledge about Chuck framing Axe go. With Dake firmly in denial, is this where they’ll involve that new ADA brought in during the premiere episode? Leonard Cohen’s “You Want It Darker” plays out the episode with the following lyrics: “If you are the dealer, I want out of the game.” We’re thinking Bryan wants out of the game.