So that’s two episodes in a row where the final scene of Billions left us deeply uncomfortable. Last week, we were uncomfortably thrilled, nervous for what our newly allied leading men would do as a team. This week? We’re uncomfortably haunted by that look on Axe’s (Damian Lewis) face as he sunk deeper and deeper into the hedonistic life every young finance bro is supposed to want. Instead of celebrating his victory in court by diving head-first into the orgy gifted to him by Wags (David Costabile), Axe looked like he was either a) missing Lara (Malin Akerman) and the genuine happiness he used to get from good old-fashioned family life, or b) having a stroke.
Let’s back up. That wonderful trio of Chuck (Paul Giamatti), Wendy (Maggie Siff), and Axe was promising at the end of the last episode. And we have to say, we were secretly hoping for a standalone episode that lasted in that penthouse all hour long. The analysis Wendy could have gotten done by having both of her men, all to herself, all together, for 60 minutes? They would have all been so much better off. Sadly, we only get a few more minutes of this threesome as they decide that someone will have to take the fall for Ice Juice — and it won’t be one of them.
Over in the suburbs, Chuck meets with the honorable(ish) Dr. Gilbert. We learn that Chuck was a bookish kid. Shocker. They’re both wearing very stylish black gloves. Chuck is telling Gilbert that the dirty slide is being planted at Axe’s, and he appears very proud of his plan. Of course, we know this line of plotting doesn’t make sense, since it’s daylight. Later on, we find out that this meeting was just a distraction so Chuck’s men could plant the slide in Gilbert’s kitchen. “I almost feel bad,” Chuck says to Gilbert, ostensibly about Axe.
That night, we see Gilbert with his perfect family eating perfect ice cream out of perfectly identical bowls at home. The FBI enters with a search warrant, led by Sacker (Condola Rashad). In the interrogation room, Chuck plays it cool. Offers him the chance to plead guilty. “Facts don’t matter when true guilt is on the line.”
Ah. So we learn that Chuck hasn’t gone full sociopath. In fact, Chuck’s heart seems to be getting bigger with every episode. Turns out, Chuck is fine framing the doctor for the Ice Juice fiasco because he genuinely despises what Gilbert did to Donnie back in season 1 (Gilbert delayed treatment for Donnie’s cancer — on Axe’s orders and in exchange for money — so he would die before testifying against Axe Cap.) This is actual justice, in Chuck’s world. Plus, what Gilbert did is worse than that: he let Axe get away.
Oh yes, and Bryan (Toby Leonard Moore) failed spectacularly in court. Long story short: Bryan had evidence that Wendy and Chuck had colluded together in the Ice Juice short that she profited from. Axe had to find a way to scrub that evidence from Wendy’s phone and the new Halls were NOT up to the task. They literally had one job: to be good at tech stuff. But Axe wound up having to get on a plane to Nova Scotia to find the real Hall, who used some good old-fashioned sexual blackmail to get those phone records scrubbed. Bryan finds out at the last minute and has to dismiss the case. We would spend more time on it but this episode was really just filler to get rid of the whole Ice Juice thing so we wouldn’t have to keep saying “Ice Juice” or remember that so much of Billions has focused on something called Ice Juice.
Of interest: Sacker vs. Bryan. If this whole show has been tracking the moral compass of these two, it seems that Sacker is willing to go the Chuck route (very dirty tactics leading to altruistic, Robin Hood results). But this is still television, and the good guy always winds up winning in the end… right?
“I used to admire your political fluidity,” Bryan tells Sacker. “I thought it was sophistication. Now I realize you’re just completely morally bankrupt.” Kate is being cheered by colleagues in a bar. Bryan is angry. He’s certainly not winning now.
Speaking of morally bankrupt, Wendy seduces poor Mafee so he’ll take responsibility for her short. Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon) is pissed. Mafee winds up paying a fine, and Axe gives him $1 million in crypto currency. He’s nonplussed. Chuck and Wendy don’t have enough energy to play 50 Shades, so they hold hands in bed instead.
Axe, on the other hand, is eager to celebrate with Wags. They ascend an elevator. There’s rap music. Shots. Wags pops a pill. They are the only two men at a party entirely populated by women. Axe takes his shirt off as three naked women beckon him from a hot tub. At first he’s happy. Then unsure. Then, his eyes go dead and he makes a face more terrifying than any expression Nick Brody ever made as a POW in Homeland.