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.