Could this be the most structurally ambitious episode of Billions ever? Over the course of an hour, Bobby (Damian Lewis) and Chuck (Paul Giamatti)’s independent and equally intricate schemes both head toward their natural climaxes. The key comes in the schemes’ connective tissue. What holds Bobby and Chuck’s storylines together, so that it doesn’t feel like two separate shows crammed into one hour?
It’s Wendy (Maggie Siff), of course. It’s always been Wendy. But Wendy’s officially taken herself out of the game. In a stunning (but completely understandable) twist, Wendy immediately confesses her wrongdoings to the medical board and gets her license suspended for three years. She’ll take momentary glumness in exchange for the long-term relief of not feeling like a criminal. Wendy rises to the very high bar that Taylor had set for her. She does the right thing.
So, Wendy the Moral is officially no longer involved in the Taylor Revenge Plan — and that means Wendy’s no longer useful to Bobby. By the end of this episode, Bobby has snipped away all auxiliary relationships, all pesky people and their pesky advice. He’s crowned himself dictator of Axe Cap (and of his own life), and he’ll steer it toward destruction — so long as he can win along the way.
Let’s break down the winners and losers of this incredibly dramatic episode. As the season winds to an end, Chuck and Bobby’s storylines will collide further.
Safe-Cracking: The Chuck vs. Jock Story
At last! Chuck and Jock’s (Waylong Jennings) arduous back-and-forth finally gets some momentum. The action kicks off after Chuck Senior (Jeffrey DeMunn) learns his house is being bugged by the F.B.I. in the most Chuck Senior way possible: On the floor after having raucous sex with his baby mama, Roxane.
After that wire-tap revelation, Jock and Chuck race to expose the others’ wrong-doings first — and there’s ample wrong-doing. Jock has proof that Chuck and his father carried out a corrupt deal with Secretary of the Treasury Krakow (Danny Strong). But through his three cronies’ digging, Chuck discovers Jock has been carrying out widespread voter fraud with the help of a tech company CEO. So he really is that bad!
To accomplish their goals, both men need the same thing: The hard copy of the deal between the Rhoades and Krakow stored in Senior’s safe. Chuck enlists Bobby’s fixer, Hall (Terry Kinney), to break into the safe — but Hall arrives too late. By then, Bryan and his criminal brother have already Danny Ocean’d the office. Jock has the Rhoades nabbed.
And that’s how Chuck Senior ends up in F.B.I. custody, where he’ll stay until Jock can find material evidence of a crime. Jock and Connerty plan to track down the guy who had secretly brokered Senior’s land deal.
But they don’t have that individual yet. They’re stalling. This gives Chuck some time to count votes and establish proof that Jock is rigging elections. Unfortunately, Sacker (Condola Rashad), his once loyal compatriot and the one person who can get him the raw data from the election machines, is firmly Jock’s side. How’s Chuck going to nab Jock now?
Finally: Also, Ira Schermer (Ben Shenkman) had a baby this episode with Taiga (Comfort Clinton), his runaway bride now come home to roost. How does Billions, a show with birth control, feature more babies than Game of Thrones, a show without birth control?
Love Triangle: The Bobby and Rebecca vs. Taylor Story
Bobby Axelrod doesn’t function like a normal person, but you didn’t need us to tell you that. He doesn’t subsist on food. He subsists on fighting — fighting for his inner circle of friends, and against his outer circle of enemies.
So, the Saler’s deal is a feast, an opportunity for him to indulge in his worst impulses. Even Taylor doesn’t bargain for how far Bobby will go to save Saler’s. Rebecca astutely observes that he wouldn’t go this far for “either” of them, but for “both.” It’s the combination of working for the inner circle and against the outer circle in tandem that brings Bobby to the bring of self destruction.
The conflict ratcheted up last episode, when Taylor bought up Saylor’s biggest appliance manufacturer, where Saler’s gets most of its income. Bobby and Rebecca tried to remedy the situation by buying up another appliance company; then, Taylor exposes that company for using child labor. Clearly, buying that company is a no go.
The only option left is for Bobby to invest billions of his own money in Saler’s, a potentially risky venture. Despite the firm advice of all his most trusted advisors, Bobby chooses to bypass company bylaws and liquidate positions. Bobby’s starting to speak as if he were a god, miles above listening to the advice of plebeians. “I am the sun that warms you and the air that you fucking breathe,” he tells the Axe Cap A-Team gathered in his office for an intervention. For the first time maybe ever, even Wendy can’t get through to Bobby.
Rebecca is grateful by Bobby’s grand gesture, but not altogether comfortable with it. Keep in mind what Wendy had told Bobby earlier this episode: “You and I run on different fuel.” As ruthless as Rebecca is, she also runs on a different fuel than Bobby — she’s motivated by efficiency and intelligence, not by revenge.
So, given her character, it makes perfect sense that Rebecca would want to get this settled with Taylor efficiently and intelligently. Her way, not Bobby’s way. After all, Saylor’s is primarily hers. Rebecca meets with Taylor behind Bobby’s back and solves the conundrum brilliantly — no need for Bobby to liquidate billions of assets. Rebecca buys the appliance company, but has Taylor keep their shares in Saylor’s. That way, Taylor has skin in the game and won’t continue to screw the company over.
Problem solved, right? Yes — for the rational people. Wendy, Taylor, and Rebecca all embody an alternative to Chuck and Bobby’s stubborn ways. This episode, all three lower their weapons and behave rationally. Taylor wants to end the war.
Bobby will end his own freakin’ life to keep the war going. At the end of the episode, Victor (Louis Cancelmi) reveals that Saler’s has “toxic debt.” Clearly, Bobby will leverage this new information to continue the fight, even if it means sacrificing his relationship with Rebecca. “The kind of destruction you’re considering, the collateral damage, the relationships that will be ruined — you’re ready for that, just to see the blood seeping out of Taylor’s armor onto the battlefield?” Wags (David Costabile) asks.
He’s ready, indeed. There is only one conclusion: Bobby, like Daenerys Targaryen, is a villain disguised as a hero. In the finale of Billions, we foresee Bobby climbing aboard his dragon and wreaking destruction.