If the title “Fight Night” didn’t give it away, the theme of this Billions episode, dear children, is confrontation.
All the many characters who had been carefully plotting against each other in pristine offices finally confront their rivals in the flesh. The meetings were laced with pain and vitriol; they were clanking around with heavy baggage. In fact, if it weren’t for the brief appearance of the characteristically unhinged Papa Rhoades (Jeffrey DeMunn) and his new baby girl (?!), I might’ve been bereft.
When it comes to in-person combat, some of our competitors prove to be more strategic than others. Consider Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon). Last week, Axe Cap’s ministrations forced Taylor into betraying their father (Kevin Pollack) in order to keep their company afloat. This episode, Taylor’s fighting back with uncharacteristic ferocity. Taylor’s different, and it shows. Mafee (Dan Soder) remarks that he’s never seen Taylor be so “cold and openly vindictive” (aka, acting like their former boss). Taylor feels they’ve been pushed to this position; now, they must wield the “broadsword.” Lowkey, the characters in Billions think they’re in Game of Thrones.
So Taylor stages one long con this episode. First, they declare, on live TV, their intention to divest from fracking. This environmentally savvy move also fits with Taylor’s brand as a progressive, conscientious Wall Street disruptor. To further disrupt the status quo, they bash Axe Capital's strategy on TV.
Bobby falls right into Taylor’s trap, one again proving how different — how emotional — he is compared to Taylor. He reacts to personal offenses impulsively, a habit that often gets him into trouble. Remember when he punched the guy who drove his kids home while drunk in the Hamptons? Being a “manly man” causes problems!
So Bobby goes on the same show the following day to respond to Taylor's accusations, but ends up spewing vitriol like he’s the living embodiment of Heat Miser. With that, Bobby and Taylor’s quiet, behind-the-scenes fight becomes public drama and meme-fodder. It’s easy to imagine this clip of an inflamed Bobby going viral. All in all, not a good look for Bobby, especially if he wants to maintain control.
What else isn’t a good look? The person Wendy sees when she looks in the mirror. Technically, she’s the head of HR and a licensed psychiatrist. But by helping with Bobby’s revenge schemes, she’s undermined any adherence to doctor-patient confidentiality. Taylor filed a complaint under the medical board. Now, Wendy’s license is under review, her former clients won’t see her, and her entire sense of self is crumbling. Are those under-eye circles we’re seeing?
Wendy’s emotional arc has been so compelling this season — tough to watch, but incredibly honest. Her core relationships have crumbled. Chuck (Paul Giamatti) is acting like a Stepford Wife to get back in her good graces, and failing. Taylor’s expertly taking down her career. Bobby takes his head out of his ass long enough to reassure her she’s good at her job, which might not even matter at this point.
At least she has Bonnie (Sarah Stiles), who listens and rescues Wendy from a depleting social interaction with Taylor. Bonnie is something Wendy never had, but maybe needed desperately all along: A friend. Someone who asks, “How are you getting out of bed?” out of genuine concern for Wendy, not because Wendy’s lethargy means she can’t do more for Bonnie. This sprinkling of personal support is enough for Wendy to reconsider her decision to sell the Brooklyn brownstone.
All in all, Wendy’s tired. She’s not the only one.
The emotional toll of the whole arduous Bobby v. Taylor show-down is demonstrated perfectly in the episode’s charity boxing match, which pits Mafee (Dan Soder) and Dollar Bill (Kelly AuCoin) against one another. At last, all the strains of testosterone fueling the Axe Cap-Taylor Mason Cap rivalry rip, roar, and physically manifest. A lot is riding on this match – money and reputation. Despite all the days of training, Mafee and Bill bow out with exhaustion. They both lose, depleted.
Robert Frost once weighed whether the world would end by ice (Taylor, of the unbending posture) or fire (Bobby, of the snarl). This episode ends in a victory for ice. Taylor gets Bobby to pull political strings so the governor of NY declares fracking stays legal, then reveals that they had bought up all the region’s water utility, so they’d make even more money. Ding ding ding. Bobby gets ready for another round.
Either way, they’re headed for mutual self destruction. Or at least, mutual exhaustion, like the fight. Think about it: At this point, most of what Bobby and Taylor’s days are spent scheming. When do they actually get work done?
At least they have time for love lives. Taylor has managed to fit in some flirtatious glances with their new employee (that’s definitely what that look was, right?). And Bobby is holding hands with Rebecca (Nina Ariadna) in public, as well as helping her with her investments. Somehow, she doesn’t interpret his single-minded revenge as a massive red flag. She finds it kissable!
Ah, right. I’m forgetting something. Chuck and Connerty (Toby Leonard Moore). I’d be lying if I said these sections didn’t drag a bit. The big takeaways? Connerty is compromising his political values to get even with Chuck, at all costs. Chuck is promoting a blockchain voting pilot program that would allow disenfranchised people to vote on their iPhones; while Connerty agrees in theory, he’s too aligned with Jock (Waylon Jennings) to agree. Jock and Connerty manipulate the police commissioner into closing Chuck Sr.’s building site for further notice. Connerty stares Chuck down at the building site with unbridled hatred.
This week, both Connerty and Taylor bested their former mentors. The proteges win, but is this winning? Essentially, the fight goes on — even as it eats away.