Billions Season 2 Finale Recap: "Ball In Hand"

Photo: Jeff Neumann/SHOWTIME.
The Billions writers room is hard at work on the next season as we speak. And I can only hope that some day, one of the writers, timid at first, then resolved, steps up to that big dry-erase board covered in ideas and writes “Axe and Chuck: literal fist fight.” But I only mention this writers room fan fiction now because I am so, so sad this incredible season is over and so, so happy it went out with such a bang. Let’s dive in!
In the season 2 premiere Axe declared to all his employees, “I am a survivor and I will do whatever it takes to avoid my fate.” Throughout the show, he’s feared getting taken away in handcuffs as the FBI raids his office, but like fate, it’s always felt inevitable. As Lawrence Boyd, newly freed and looking dapper, knocks on Axe’s door to give him a heads up that he’ll be arrested that day, we know that the clock is ticking. Lara immediately tells him she won’t run (and neither will the kids), but Bobby isn’t planning on running. It’s too bad that this is happening at the worst possible time in their relationship. Any other moment, Lara would be on his team, but the gap between them keeps widening.
Axe calls Hall, his line is disconnected, this is for real. He goes to Axe capital and has Deb burn his files, while Wags comes up with a plan to shred and destroy everything. He slyly asks Taylor to figure out how they can ride out the arrest with the least damage to the company. Then he gives Wags a burner phone and gets out of there.
Dake plans to arrest Axe in his office at closing bell and confidently tells Chuck he doesn’t need him and Chuck can’t work on the case. LOL forever at Dake thinking for a second he’s in control of Axe.
Now we have to deal with the Ice Juice fallout and oh man is it dirty. First, George Minchak (Mary-Louise Parker) confronts Chuck at his house, steamed that he made this play against Axe without consulting her. I know people always praise Parker for her subtleness, but Jesus Christ is she good in this role, especially juxtaposed against all these pontificators. No one could casually drop a line about pegging a guy in an office as expertly as her. Chuck convinces her that he will not be linked to Ice Juice in any way and that if anything comes out he’s sure his dad will lie and say that he acted without consulting Chuck about the blind trust. Minchak needs an affidavit, but is satiated, for this season at least.
One of the more painful scenes in the finale is Chuck telling Ira and his dad that he took advantage of them to catch his white whale. It doesn’t really help matters that Chuck acts like such a dick about the whole thing, not really apologizing, just laying it out there. Ira can sue Axe for his money back… eventually. Chuck Sr. can’t, it can’t trace back to Chuck at all. Ira’s rightfully furious, but Chuck tells him to play it out, it’s in his best interest that Chuck become governor. “You should act out of rationality, not emotion,” he says, to which Ira responds, like literally everyone in the audience already responded to their TV, “Why? You didn’t.”
On the home front, Chuck offers Wendy a deal. He’s done with marriage counseling, but, if after she sees how the day’s events play out and still wants to be with him, he’ll be home, waiting for her.
On the work front, Wendy has no idea what’s going on until Wags comes to her office to tell her. He’s feeling panicked and she assures him she’s ready and that she’s there to help, at least for the day.
Team Chuck is also feeling antsy, with no real answers as to what their boss has up his sleeves. Lonnie discovered that Boyd’s free, which makes Sacker furious. She goes to Chuck and tells him she’s taking a new job. If you are looking to negotiate for a raise or promotion anytime soon, I recommend watching this scene (and the one pretty soon after it), multiple times. When Chuck tells Kate he’s not ready to lose her, she says he didn’t make that clear enough to her. “I came here for two reasons to be close to the best prosecutor this office has even known, learn from him, and to actually put the bad guys in the goddamn hoosegow.” If that’s not laying it all on the table for a promotion, I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS, LADIES!!!! He tells her to wait a day, he’ll have something for her.
Then Taylor, who’s already risen so far this season, gives an equally impassioned speech, emphasizing their worth to the company. Taylor meets Axe at the docks and tells him they figured out that Axe is getting arrested and that they know exactly how to protect Axe Capital’s portfolio. Taylor lays out their plan, then says that if Axe is arrested he will ask them to be CIO to make sure the plan is executed correctly, and they’ll accept. This is such a baller move! Show how you’re invaluable, then accept a job you haven’t quite been offered! Let us all learn from Taylor. Then Taylor appeals once more to Axe’s logic and then to his emotion. “I have too much to learn from you to lose you now.” So, Taylor gets the job.
On the home front for Team Axe, Lara’s cleaning out the vault and thinking of her interest. She goes to Orrin to ask for some advice, but he makes it very clear his loyalty is to Axe. Bach says they’ll freeze the money at first, so she’ll have to get through that, but once they prove not all of it was gotten illegally, she’ll still get half (there’s no prenup). To be prepared, Lara just hands over a suitcase of her money to her cousin and says it’ll be in her cousin’s name, for her business.
Axe is not really thinking about Lara though, he’s got a lot on his mind. He feels his doom coming and he wants to be prepared. First, denial, now anger and bargaining: he tries to have Bach negotiate a peaceful surrender (where he can say goodbye to his kids, hug his wife), that’s immediately off the table for Dake. Honestly, I don’t know why the FBI doesn’t then instantly go to Axe Capital once they know that Axe knows… but, whatever. The best part of this scene is that Axe is listening in on Bach’s phone and when Dake says no deal he yells good luck finding him, blowing Bach’s cover.
Besides the business fears of being arrested, Axe worries about what to tell his boys. This day has Axe evaluating his whole life and the kind of man he is. When he sees his sons he tells them that he did do something wrong, but they’ll have to decide if it makes him a bad person, and they’ll have to keep deciding (on different things) their whole life. He says a lot of kids learn later that their dads are flawed men, but they’re learning now. It’s so honest and vulnerable and kinda perfect. It makes me furious with this show for making me care about someone I’m so against.
Speaking of “feeling bad for a character you dislike” Chuck Sr. also had a rough week. He has every right to be upset, but let’s remember, it was dumb as shit for him to invest ALL of Chuck’s blind trust in one place like that, even if it seemed like a sure thing. But… still… Chuck did play him. So even though he signs the affidavit, he tells Chuck they’re through. He says he loved him unconditionally and if Chuck doesn’t see that he really has failed. Again, Chuck Sr. is right to be mad, but he’s also a crazy manipulator who taught Chuck everything he knows so… idk, we can’t feel too bad. Then he also twists the knife on his son (is THIS unconditional love?) by showing him pictures of Wendy with Heidecker, leaving a hotel.
Now’s a good time to remember that Damian Lewis has already had an all-time great arrest scene on Homeland (I stopped watching after that, no spoilers on what happened). So of course Billions has gotta try to top it.
It all begins with a decoy. Bobby calls Lara and tells her he’ll come to hug her goodbye. Except, he knew the FBI might be listening, so he sent Ben Kim in his car, and isn’t there. Lara answers the phone, smoking, fake chill, as the FBI agents search the home. They open the vault only to discovery a little tchotchke, no money. Then Dake has the FBI raid Axe Capital, the other houses, everywhere he could be. They don’t find him.
Dake comes crawling to Chuck, now in desperate need of his help so he doesn’t look like a fool on his first operation. Everyone folds eventually. Dake tells Chuck Ice Juice won’t trace back to him, but now Chuck wants more, the clock is ticking, after all. Chuck asks for complete transparency in the case and to help with personnel decisions. Chuck’s grand idea to catch Axe? Ping the wife’s phone. His wife. Wow, this is rough.
Now it’s finally time for the big arrest. At the … 9/11 memorial. Chuck can finally tell Connerty what’s going down, Axe is being arrested and Dake gets the case. But his workaround is that Connerty gets to be lead prosecution on it. It pays to be team Chuck. And he tells Bryan to tell Kate that the chief of the criminal division position is hers if she wants it. MY HEART! Now, I know this episode was jam-packed but so help me Chuck better take Kate out for her fucking promotion dinner. Connerty leaves, Chuck stays to watch.
Wendy and Axe meeting at the 9/11 memorial is perfect symbolism, but terrible PR. I mean, he knows he’s gonna get arrested here, right? Axe wants to apologize to Wendy for everything (lol but don’t be fooled, Orrin was offering to reopen Dake’s immunity deal earlier this episode). “What if I told you that pretty much every decision I’ve made since we worked down here together has been the wrong one? Would you help me find my way back?” Earlier this episode Wendy told Taylor that Taylor was going to bring Axe Capital back to what it was supposed to be, before all the missteps. In this scene with Axe and Wendy, you really feel the tragedy of looking back on your life and being unsure about the person you’ve become. You could read their hug as romantic, but this show isn’t about romance. It’s about business and loyalty and that kind of intimacy is so profound too. Dake arrests Axe, with Chuck looking on.
You know what that means, time for the big Axe vs. Chuck showdown. Like two boxers, I imagine that these two actors pump themselves up all day, coming into these scenes wearing robes, flanked by their posse, punching and jabbing, ready to go a few rounds (That’s just a little more fan fiction and also one more plea for a literal first fight next season). Chucks visits Axe in jail. Axe, of course, figured out Chuck’s whole scheme and knows that Chuck lost 27 million dollars. Honestly, what a maniac. That’s so much money! And Chuck just sneers that it was WORTH IT! Axe says Chuck entrapped him, Chuck says it was just a trap. Axe says he’ll spend ten times as much not to stay in jail. It’s not about money, after all. It’s never been about money. Then Chuck drops that they have tapes of the people putting poison into the Ice Juice, they know he manipulated the market. So Axe has to come bigger and her promises that he’ll pull at whatever string Chuck left that links him to this until Chuck goes down too. (I mean, I bet we could all think of a million loose strings right now. Ira! Any guard who overheard this conversation and could be bought! Guess away in the comments!).
I think maybe the logical way to look at this scene is “Boy, these two idiots are gonna keep punching each other until they both are left with nothing, and then they’ll just kill each other.” Because I have been recapping this show and have therefore become the maniac I write about, I began to wonder: do you think it would be better to be unconditionally loved or to have an enemy you hated as much as these guys hate each other? What would drive you more? What would help you get up in the morning more? I mean… duh, the love, but… Axe did really drive Chuck to think outside the box and Chuck’s now caused Axe to rethink his entire life. Maybe this show ends with them thanking each other. LOL JKJKJKJKJK, this show definitely ends with them playing a game of chicken Rebel Without a Cause style and both not giving up and driving into the sea, screaming “WORTH IT” in unison. Duh.
The season ends with Axe being released, for now, knowing more is coming. At Axe Capital, Taylor’s in charge and even though Dollar Bill pitched himself for this position, he understands Taylor’s value and immediately asks what he can do to help. Lara’s hurt and uncertain, she wondered if she should ask for a divorce earlier to stay safe, but Orrin shut her down, so… we know this’ll be a thing next season. And Lonnie watches Bryan and Kate celebrate their wins, left out of #TeamChuck when the favors came in. UGHHHH! I assume this means he’s gone next season, but I hope that maybe he’ll get his in the end. He can be Chuck’s lieutenant governor.
After the day they both had Wendy and Chuck still decide to go home and be with each other. Sure, they’re still on different sides, she doesn’t know the extent of what he did, he knows she slept with someone else. But maybe, just maybe, they’re starting over. Marriage is 90% about just sticking to it, right? Aw, I love these two. And I’m just really hoping that they form a throuple with George Minchak next season.
Goodbye, fellow Billions-fans. It has been so, so fun.
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