Showtime’s Billions – Season Two Episode One – Recap & Review

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.

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Billions – New Series on Showtime

This is a review of the pilot episode of the new Showtime series Billions. SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW.

US Attorney Chuck Rhoades is giving some advice to Brian Connerty his Assistant US Attorney. They’ve just had a visit from Ari Spyros from the SEC. Spyros is suggesting (a code word for urging) that Rhoades should be looking into going after a major player in the hedge fund business.

Rhoades: A good matador doesn’t try to kill a fresh bull. You wait until he’s been stuck a few times.

The bull? That would be Bobby ‘Axe’ Axelrod the hedge fund king. His firm Axe Capital, does well, very well. Bobby Axelrod had the good fortune to be out of the office on 9-11-01. Like a Phoenix, he’s risen from the fallen concrete and twisted steel and escaped the rolling dust cloud. He’s a Trump-like figure, only without the mouth, and without the politics.

Every thing he is and everything he does is about business, and his business is being the smartest guy in the room. And that’s any room, any time, and  any where.

Chuck Rhoades is talking to Skip Wolkowska, a businessman who’s been caught up (a code word for busted) in the gears and meshes of insider trading. Rhoades’s case rolled over Wolkowska like an 18 wheeler with a VW bug in front of him. Wolkowska, already convicted, his lawyer, and Rhoades’s father have arrived at the US Attorney’s office to ask for leniency in sentencing.

Chuck Rhoades: So now your cronies better see that they can’t trade on inside information, or abuse their position. Or they’ll end up like you. Broke, humiliated, and incarcerated.

So while Rhoades waits for the right moment, Axelrod decides to buy a house on the beach in the Hamptons. The price – a staggering 82 million. He already lives in a huge house on Long Island Sound in Connecticut. He doesn’t need to buy this house. But he doesn’t much care to have the US Attorney tell him what he can and cannot buy.

Bobby Axelrod: What’s the point of having ‘fuck you’ money if you never say fuck you…?

So it seems that the US Attorney’s office has a connection at Axe Capital. More than one in fact with the main one being Mrs. Rhoades – she’s the corporate shrink employed at Axe. Capital. And she’s good, very good.

It her job to keep all of Axe traders in the best shape they can be in. There’s a lot of money at stake, and Bobby Axelrod needs all his men to be at their best – all the time, and at any time.

So through a third-party, Rhoades sends a message to Axelrod suggesting that he not buy the house. It is a bit too much, and is the type of deal that can only put Bobby Axe on the front page of the NY Post for both arrogance and the ostentatiously colossal waste of money.

But Axelrod is smart enough to know that this is good advice. He’s also smart enough to be able read the tea leaves. He will hear through his back channels, that no case is being prepared but there’s a strong likelihood that there will be. He will get a visit from Mrs. Rhoades who hints that’s she’s thinking of leaving Axe Capital. That catches Axelrod’s interest as no matter what she says – Axelrod hears – conflict of interest.

Finally, a guy that used to work for Axelrod but left for another firm, wants to sit down withe Axelrod and discuss a possible return. Again Axelrod is ahead of the game – he susses out that this guy – one Danny Margolis might be working as a mole for the FBI.

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