A Love Letter To ‘Billions,’ The Most ‘Billions’ Show On Television

Editor-at-Large
03.23.17 8 Comments

There was this scene in a recent episode of Billions. It went something like this. Bobby “Axe” Axelrod (Damian Lewis), bad boy hedge fund manager and head of Axe Capital, had a problem. Actually, he had a few problems. One of his problems was his ongoing blood feud with cutthroat U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti), which was now beginning to spill over the sides of their contained battle and cause collateral damage. But Axe always has that problem. Kind of the point of the show.

Anyway, his specific problem in this scene was that he was running into resistance in his effort to buy an NFL team, in large part because he’s a bad boy hedge fund manager who has ongoing blood feuds with U.S. Attorneys. So he seeks out the advice of someone who knows a little something about renegade sports ownership, Mark Cuban, who is appearing on the show as himself. And Cuban listens to Axe’s concerns, makes a very stern face, looks Axe in the eyes, then says “You need to stop f*cking with the U.S. Attorney.”

To which Axe replies, Axe-ily, “I’m not gonna do that.”

It is an extremely Billions scene. Possibly the most Billions scene. Which shouldn’t be much of a surprise, because it happened on Billions, television’s most Billions show.

We should pause here. I feel like I need to elaborate. Because you’re probably thinking “Well, yeah. Of course Billions is the most Billions show on television.” That’s fair. On it’s face, it’s a little like saying “a banana is the most banana-like fruit.” But you have to trust me on this. You have to watch Billions. You’ll understand. I promise you will. Billions is like a more serious, more prestige-y Entourage, but in a good way. Everyone is always the most, all the time, often while wearing fleece.

I feel like I’m not selling this well. I swear I’m not trying to put the show down. I really do enjoy it. It’s the rare prestige drama in 2017 that isn’t about some bleak murder mystery or wide-ranging conspiracy that you need to do four hours of mid-week homework to understand. It’s exactly the kind of show we need right now, just a bunch of powerful high-achievers with self-destructive streaks trying to screw each other over constantly, peppered with dialogue like in the example above, like a macho hedge fund version of Scandal or Desperate Housewives. Extremely Billions. I love it.

(This last thing brings us to this next thing: Billions is incredibly addictive. I have a working theory that you can binge the entire first season in less time than it actually runs for, even without skipping ahead, even if you’re not enjoying it all that much. I don’t even know what’s going on, really, because I don’t know stock things. A breathless character will rush in and be like “Axe, the flash traders are shorting Vexon Global through a shell company!” and I’ll be all “Oh snap,” despite the fact that those words mean almost nothing to me. It’s like a magic trick. Television sorcery.)

You know what else is pretty dang Billions about Billions? Look at all these pictures of Paul Giamatti’s character, who, I feel like I should mention, if only to be comprehensive, was depicted in the opening moments of episode one getting urinated on by a dominatrix.

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