Mission Control over at Showtime launched Season 2 of Billions back on the 10th of February with an Online and On Demand preview ahead of last night’s, the 19th, broadcast. The episode commences late at night at the deserted Yonkers Raceway, which was originally opened more than 100 years ago as the Empire City Casino. Bobby ‘Axe’ Axelrod is meeting with his attorney Orrin Bach (played by Glenn Fleshler) .
Basically this meeting is a way for Axe to describe how he became successful (he watched the parimutuel board and found that the biggest and best players bet late and bet heavy), a strategy that Axe used in the markets. We also got a clear indication of how he wants Bach to go after Rhoades with an armful of lawsuits. Then after but a few minutes we cut to a scene set three days earlier. Cue the music which begins and ends this episode (called Risk Management) , with Harry Nilsson’s Jump into the Fire.
If you are of a certain age, you may remember that song which was released by RCA Records all the way back in November 1971. From the lyrics –
You can climb a mountain, you can swim the sea
You can jump into the fire but you’ll never be free
You can shake me up or I can break you down…
Now imagine two cavemen (I’d have preferred to use ‘Neanderthals’ but the New York Times already has done so) garbed in bearskins, and armed with clubs going after each other. Alas, all we can do is imagine because back in those days, no one walked about with cell phones with built in cameras or had the ability to tweet about what they just watched. There was no media – which meant there wasn’t any fake media either. Now update that idea and replace the original ‘cavemen’ with a more modern pair –
U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) and Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis), the Hedge Fund King, have become the warriors in our new visual image. They’re struggling for dominance as the supremo of a new kind of man cave – aka the financial world that serves as a virtual Ground Zero in the TV series Billions.
Aside from the differences in clothing of the two sets of combatants, what you will come away with is the thought that the two sets of images are conceptually the same picture. Or said in as few words as possible – same, same.
Last season, Rhoades was willing to go to any lengths to see Axe behind bars. And Axe with his billions of dollars was able withstand Rhoades and his billions of words that were gathered in the volumes of the Federal Law Codes or his blizzard of legal briefs. As you may recall,
Axe virtually tore down his office building up in Greenwich, or was it Stamford, searching for listening devices which proved to be a fruitless effort. So Axe never found the bugs, Rhoades never proved his case – and his suits against Axe were dropped. But not before –
at the Rhoades domicile, Chuck had committed the unpardonable sin of searching his wife’s computer looking for dirt on Axe.
After all, she was the corporate shrink to Axe Capital’s Bobby Axe and his minions. Net result – one man ruined the interior of his office building, and the other man ruined his home and marriage. And at the end of the day or Season One – both were still standing.
These events now serve as the preamble for this second edition of Billions aka Clash of the Titans. Bobby Axe has restored his offices sans his talented and high-powered office shrink – Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff). And Chuck Rhoades is facing an investigation led by the formidable Oliver Dake who promises to look under or into every stone (file cabinets), leaf (wastepaper baskets), or all the manila folders until he finds what he needs to take down Rhoades.
By the way, this Dake (Christopher Denham has the role) is no mere State watchdog. He’s been dispatched from The Office of Professional Responsibility in Washington DC and he’s what we might call the entire investigative force and power of the Feds rolled into one man. Though his appearance is that of a bean counter or forensic accountant, beneath his raincoat and dull clothing, a dragon dwells.
Despite the fact that Dake walked in unannounced (his visit was supposed to be a surprise) Rhoades had already been given some info after pressuring Judge DeGuilio (Rob Morrow) who was someone Rhoades had helped last season). In fact Rhoades had already prepared an office (name plate on the door) for Dake.
Over at Axe Capital, Bobby’s right hand man, Chief Operating Officer Mike ‘Wags’ Wagner (David Costabile) was seen early on crushing his pharmas into a snortable powder (okay if that method works for you) … but then later on Wags was again seen snorting some substance in the co-ed bathroom – only this time we were not given any indication that it was his prescribed meds.
This may be something to be concerned about in future episodes.
Wendy Rhoades gave a motivational speech about real and actual Viagra as well as the figurative Viagra at Krakow Capital (she was paid $75K for the speech) then offered a job. Which she turned down.
Lara Axelrod (Malin Akerman) seemed to want her own person in place as the school nurse at her kid’s school. Her buddy Mo seemed appreciative but did not jump out of her shoes to take on the job full-time.
Chuck Rhoades main guy, Bryan Connerty (Toby Leonard Moore) was interviewed by Dake who seemed to have all the facts about last season’s late night and secret meeting at a Yonkers pizzeria between Connerty and Bobby Axe. Axe offered Connerty a job but was turned down.
We will meet a new character called Taylor (played by Asia Kate Dillon). This Taylor is interning at Axe Capital but knows a helluva lot more than one might expect from a collegiate youngster. The thing about this Taylor is that one cannot be sure if Taylor is a man or a woman. What they call a non-binary gender.
Taylor wows one of Axe’s main traders by suggesting that rather than sell 5 million shares of a specific stock through 5 separate brokers (none of whom would know of the others) and incurring a high cost to do so – that he employ an option strategy called ‘a collar’ – meaning to buy protective puts while simultaneously selling calls against the underlying stock.
This both protects against downside risk of the underlying, and cuts the cost of locking in the price. But there’s a question – how was it that this professional trader hadn’t already known or thought of this?
As Kurt Vonnegut once wrote – and so it goes. Season 2 of Billions looks to be more than just a Clash of the Titans. Wendy Rhoades is at the nexus of what’s between Chuck Rhoades and Bobby Axe. And to make that point – Oliver Dake has found the ‘smoking gun’ which just so happens to be Wendy’s bonus from Axe Capital in the amount of 5 Million from last season. That check went into an account that Chuck Rhoades happened to have access to. On the same day that Chuck dropped his suit against Axe Capital last year.
And finally – what is Axe going to do now that he has access to Raya? In case you didn’t know what Raya is (admittedly – I didn’t know either) – it is a member-only dating app for celebs. I thought he was happy with Lara.
Until next time – that’s a wrap. Check out the Season 2 trailer –