If ever there were a sexy episode of Billions, it would be this one. In addition to the usual finance wheelings and dealings, we take a tour through Chuck, Wendy, and Bobby's bedrooms. After Chuck and Wendy's sexual predilections were exposed last season, their usually regular sex life is dulled. If anything, Wendy is longing for a more vanilla lifestyle.
But let’s plunge in to what is clearly the most exciting progression of Billions Season 2: Axe has got himself a girlfriend (and business partner)! Rebecca Cantu (Nina Arianda) is a woman who, like Axe, has waged battles to get to her lofty position. Like Ae, she has startling blue eyes, a lack of regard for social niceties, and hella skill. Isn’t it obvious they’re going to be together? I’m loathe to say that Axe and Rebecca are a meeting of mental “equals,” because he and Lara, with their shared backgrounds, were well-suited for each other. But he and Rebecca can operate within the same sphere, at the top of their game — and I love it.
Axe meets his match.
This episode, we learn the specifics of Bobby’s strategy to asphyxiate Taylor Mason Capital. Axe is going to invest with banks (even on their bad ventures, like that weird robot), in exchange for their not investing with Taylor. He’s spending money to burn Taylor. But is this a smart strategy? “The streets going to wonder if you care more about revenge than making money,” Wags warns. But Bobby remains adamant that his motivations are pure: Axe Cap is mixing in private equity ideas “for real,” not just to screw over competition, he says. That it will also screw over competition is a nice perk.
For a private equity idea, Axe looks towards Rebecca’s investments — and not just because he admires her so much. This scheme is particularly Machiavellian. Rebecca owns a custodial cleaning company. The market is currently dominated by Eureka Building Solutions — which one of Axe’s analysts happens to have dirt on. Eureka is paying undocumented workers less than minimum wage and then threatening any dissenters with ICE. Axe wants to shut down Eureka, then have Rebecca’s company own the market.
But how will Axe benefit from doing so? By investing with Rebecca first, obviously. He takes her out to dinner for a part-seduction, part-investment. He invests in half of her half of the custodial company. Then, when Eureka goes under, they both make a lot of money. But Rebecca’s angry that Axe took profits that should have been hers alone. “I would’ve beaten the competition through proper business practices,’ she said. Still, they settle their differences and go on a date that evening. Go forth, you crazy kids!
Chuck begins his quest for Attorney General.
Another episode, another series of tasks Chuck must fulfill so that he can reach his ultimate goal: High office. Remember Alvin Epstein (Brian Stokes Mitchell), the guy who screwed over Chuck in those final moments of season 3? He’s left his Attorney General position, allowing for a race. Another guy currently fills the role, but Chuck is gunning for it, naturally.
Chuck has allied himself with the police commissioner from last episode, who hands him the handgun permit (what would Connerty, sitting only a few feet away, say?). In exchange, the Chief wants Chuck to look into Raul Gomez (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) who runs the police pension fund. Raul’s change in behavior is sending an alarm: Why is he suddenly flying private jets and living luxuriously? Is he embezzling?
Step one: Summon Michael Panay (Hari Dhillon), the formerly disgraced investor who is managing money for Axe, including the police pension fund. Panay’s keeping his involvement with Axe a secret, and is very touchy around the subject. Though Michael is adamant about something: Raul Gomez is clean. Knowing what we know about Raul, this checks out.
Ding ding ding — Chuck ultimately realizes that Axe is managing the police commissioner fund, not Panay. But is Raul actually stealing the money? In a private meeting on his rooftop, Axe also confirms Raul is clean. In fact, he thinks the police commissioner is jealous and is framing him. Together, he and Chuck can take Panay down. For the first time, Axe and Chuck have a very mutually beneficial relationship.
Chuck recommends to the commissioner that they fire Panay and invest with Axe, with whom they can broker an “understanding.” This brings us to the very important concept of “understandings,” which will be explored throughout the season. Chuck leans into the idea of New York running on unspoken “understandings,” a system of connections outside of laws but relient on a certain code of ethics (see: last week’s favor run). Chuck positions himself as someone who understands how this town “really works.” And that’s why the police commissioner endorses him at the Festival of San Gennaro, essentially a debutante ball for New York politicians.
At his moment of strategic victory, Bryan’s there to threaten Chuck. Because how the city “really works” is not how it should work, according to the law. It’s a clash of two mindsets. If Chuck runs, Bryan will let all the dirt on Chuck out. Could that mean his S&M secret?
Taylor Mason plays dirty.
This industry requires 3D chess — especially when your chief investor is a literal murderer.Taylor gets a surprise visit from Grigor (the guy never calls first, does he?). Grigor has a solution to their lack of investment from banks: The Kozlovs, two Russian brothers. That’s a dangerous idea! The Kozlovs are murderers, and their investment would give Grigor way too much power.
Taylor figures out the only solution: Say yes, but get the Kozlovs to say no. Taylor calls a bank and mentions they have a private investor and don’t need any more funds; after hearing the news, Axe has the banks cut off the Koslovs so they can’t invest in Taylor. Taylor’s briefly scared that Grigor will figure out their involvement and literally kill them. But things go well. So well, in fact, that Taylor feels empowered to talk back to Grigor and have him step away from owning so much of the business.
“I need independent leverage. You’ll use your influence to open the banks back up to me,” Taylor orders. Grigor assents. Truly, I do not understand this relationship.
Wendy looks between the sheets.
Wendy’s not the only woman at Axe Capital anymore. Bonnie (Sarah Stiles) is outspoken, crass, and unlike Wendy, lets it all hang out. They clash, a bit, on the topic of sex during a party. “Sometimes a girl just needs to get railed,” Bonnie says. But Wendy never gets railed, really. She does the railing (and the whipping). What if she doesn’t want to be a dominatrix all the time? What if she just wants vanilla sex? Chuck seems to be only in that mode. Their former dominatrix assures her that he won’t change — even if his dad and all his political allies know about his predilection.
When will Wendy to be the center of her own life? The episode ends with Wendy running along the highway, perhaps until she doesn’t want anything anymore, like Bonnie says she does.