You might need a few moments to slow your breath and get your heart rate back down. That, my friends, was one exhilarating Billions finale and a fitting ending to an outstanding season. In it, every stray plot point slot into place, kind of like the lock on that safe Connerty (Toby Leonard Moore) is so intent on opening.
Structurally, the finale unfurls like a heist movie. Bobby (Damian Lewis) and Chuck (Paul Giamatti) unveil the seriously shocking climaxes in their campaigns against their enemies — then, the episode winds back and shows us how they executed each move. So that’s what Chuck was up to; so that’s what Bobby was thinking. Billions asks us to re-read the fourth season through the lens of our new knowledge.
Consequently, the finale also reframes the efforts of our “heroes.”. What’s the point, when their efforts also cause them to blow up their personal lives? Because, woof — as this finale shows, these dudes are not good at maintaining human relationships!
It starts with the Saler's boardroom sabotage, which I will be replaying in my head for a long time. Et tu, Bobby? Rebecca (Nina Arianda) walks in, bright and shiny, for the first day of work as the CEO of Saler's. By the few sentences she gets to say, it’s obvious Rebecca would make for a great leader. But, she never gets the chance to carry out her dream of revamping an old-school department store for the 21st century.
Bobby suddenly stands up, unveils the new plan, and shuts her down with devastating coldness. Here’s what we learn: While Rebecca was off on a girls trip with a still-depleted Wendy (Maggie Siff), Bobby and Sanford Bensinger (Richard Thomas), their business partner, convinced the board of a very lucrative plan to Liquidate Saler's, offload the debt onto the appliance company (which Taylor now owns), and make a ton of money in the process. I cringed watching two white dudes stand up only to knock a woman down. Sanford has the audacity to call her “young lady” in the process. If only Zeus struck people down for condescension.
The writers of Billions want to establish this equation as fact: Bobby Axelrod = Villain. Or, as Rebecca puts it succinctly, Bobby Axelrod = “snake motherfucker.”
But why would Bobby so gravely sabotage Rebecca? Why would he blow up his life? For the first time in Billions history, Bobby gives a first-person tour of his inner landscape and it’s a cold, inhospitable place.
During his secret meeting with Sanford, Bobby claimed he was making a smart business decision. Of course, that’s not actually why he does it (he never cared about Saler's as a business venture, it was always personal). He does it for revenge.
That is what happens when you use “eye for an eye” math to govern your life. Rebecca betrayed him by meeting with Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon), so in retaliation, he betrays Rebecca now, instead of waiting to destroy her down the road, after they’d gotten married and had kids.
Seriously! Follow his deranged logic: “Might as well get my revenge and rip this scab off the thing between us at the same time. Then we’d be even too. Each fucked over. Each aware of who the other really is. And then — then we could find out what’s still between us,” Bobby tells Rebecca.
After hearing Bobby openly admit his insanity, Rebecca does the only thing there is to do: Dump the madman. You go girl! Get out! Go sip Chardonnay with Lara in California and commiserate! The most disturbing part of Bobby’s speech is that he actually considered anything might be left between them. That Rebecca might govern her personal life like he does.
After Rebecca exits stage left, the Great Saler's Plan keeps unfolding. The end goal? Force Taylor Mason to return to Axe Cap. I’m put off by the way Bobby talks about Taylor — as if he owns them, as he if he’s responsible or somehow entitled to their brilliance. It’s creepy, and once again shows his lack of respect for boundaries and allowing people to live independent lives.
To pull this off, Bobby needs a little help from Attorney General Chuck Rhoades. Bobby comes ominously a-knocking on Chuck’s Brooklyn brownstone like some Wall Street grim reaper, finally cashing in on their pledge for mutual revenge. Bobby’s going to trap Taylor into doing something illegal to get emergency funds; Chuck’s going to arrest them.
Here’s the thing. By this point, Chuck’s already gotten his revenge on Connerty and Jock (Clancy Brown) — and he didn’t need Bobby’s help. In fact, Chuck’s takedown of Connerty and Jock’s takedown was truly epic. As it turns out, the “Chucks” (Sr. and Jr.) had been four steps ahead all along. They’d been using Bryan and Jock’s blind hatred to bait them into doing illegal things, like listening to that tape protected under attorney-client privilege. Ultimately, they caught Connerty and Jock red-handed. Both are probably going to jail.
According to Bobby’s metric, this constitutes success. But according to Chuck, it doesn’t. Wendy has officially walked out on him after learning that Bobby, not Chuck, was the one who pulled strings to keep her medical license. Chuck’s life is in shambles. And he blames Bobby.
While listening to Bobby’s abrasive demands, Chuck remembers a really important thing about himself: He hates Bobby Axelrod! Chuck thinks his rivalry with Bobby stripped him “every good quality he ever had,” and made him more like Bobby (Actually, I don’t believe Chuck here. I think Chuck’s just as dogged and evil as Bobby, but self-delusion is an intoxicating force).
So, instead of following through with Bobby’s plan to arrest Taylor, Chuck teams up with Taylor. After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, right? In Billions world, it sure is.
Now, we know something big that Bobby doesn’t — and it’s a joy. All that smugness? All that self-satisfaction? It’s going to blindside him, big-time. By forcing Taylor Mason Capital back into Axe Cap, he’s letting the enemy in. He could’ve had a nice life with Rebecca!
Though Billions had been setting Bobby on this road for a while, ever since he was astounded by his friend’s decision to retire to Florida instead of making money. He doesn’t understand the concept of a “nice life.” But Rebecca does: “There’s no rule that says the greater you want to be the more you have to suffer.”
Maybe Rebecca was never the one for him. If Chuck and Taylor are a natural pair, then the end of this episode also brings the MOST NATURAL PAIR together. Wendy runs away from Brooklyn to stay the night in Bobby’s apartment. After making the bed, they hold eye contact for a few seconds too long for the interaction to be purely platonic. Come on, my dudes! Kiss!
Looks like Wendy has reverted back to her favorite position: shuttling between Bobby and Chuck. But it also looks like her ultimate loyalty, which was always to Chuck, may be shifting. In conclusion, Bobby, Chuck, and Wendy are a ravioli.
Aside from the inevitable Wendy-Bobby love affair plotline, there are some other things to look forward to in season 4. Taylor letting Bobby and Chuck annihilate each other and slipping away like a bobcat. Mafee (Dan Soder) hopefully being a bit less sanctimonious now that he’s with his Axe Cap buddies. And more Wags (David Costabile). It was a perfect finale, save one tiny complaint: Not enough Wags!
Chuck Sr. is officially the new Wags. He’s my new favorite Billions wildcard. While he’s definitely a selfish hedonist who probably belongs on Succession, he also maintains this weird humanity. He sticks by his “sonny,” and seriously cares for Roxane and their daughter, Willow. Chuck Sr. is doing a better job at maintaining domestic happiness than Bobby and Chuck. Who would’ve guessed!!
As for that epic Italian monologue: I asked my Italian friend to translate what Chuck says; he said it was in some impenetrable Roman dialect, but there is one highlight. “Moracci tua” means “fuck your dead relatives for bringing into this world.” If only Billions could take place entirely in Italian — that’s clearly the language evolved exactly to suit Billions' verbal vitriol.