The Billions Stock Watch is a weekly accounting of the action on the Showtime drama. Decisions will be made based on speculation and occasional misinformation and mysterious whims that are never fully explained to the general public. Kind of like the real stock market.
STOCK DOWN — Axe
The important thing to remember here is that Axe is fine. He’s fine. Everything is great. He’s just sipping scotch at night in a multimillion-dollar glass compound while discussing plans to destroy his enemies and considering plans — brought to him by an underling named “Victor,” which is also fine and not a name an evil henchmen would have — to also destroy someone he cares about if it will further his goals even a little. That’s all. It’s not like he’s pretty clearly becoming a supervillain. It’s not like he might one day poison Manhattan’s entire water supply to cash-in on a short term stock play, regardless of how many people it kills. He wouldn’t do something like that. Unless the return was really good. Or even pretty good. He’s fine.
Here’s my big question in all of this: Who was he talking about destroying at the very end of the episode with all that talk about Saler’s toxic debt? Was it Rebecca, his new girlfriend who made a smart business play that also could have saved their relationship if Bobby wasn’t a psychopath who is so hellbent on destroying Taylor that even the tiniest bit of compromise registers as outright treason in his mangled brain? Was it Wendy, his trusted advisor who has been to hell and back this season after being outed as a dominatrix by her power-mad husband and just lost her medical license because of actions taken during the feud with Taylor? Was it… someone else? Is there anyone else Axe cares about even a little? Who knows?! Not me!
Between this and his big “I am the sun that warms you” speech to the foot soldiers who tried to stage an intervention earlier in the episode, I think it’s safe to say this is the most unhinged we’ve ever seen him. He’s too out there for Dollar Bill. When you’ve lost Dollar Bill, I mean, that’s bad. It’s not great. It’s not fine.
STOCK DOWN — Lies
Wendy came clean in her hearing and was promptly stripped of her medical license, much to the chagrin of Orrin (Axe Cap’s counsel and a top-three character on the show), who gave her this terrific advice before the hearing: “I can’t tell you to lie. I can only tell you that they’ll never be able to prove it, and it’s the perfect solution to all your problems.” His face when she told the truth was great. He was so disappointed. I would watch an entire episode about one full day in his life.
Wendy seemed to feel good about it, though. She looks unburdened. The truth is, as far as her job prospects are concerned, losing the license makes not a whiff of a difference because she’ll be doing the exact same thing under the title of Performance Coach or whatever. She called out Spyros right away and stepped up for the Axe chat when called upon, even if it didn’t work. Her pride is dinged, for sure, and there’s still a pile of rubble all around her home and work life, but she seems to be in a better place. That’s good to see. I root for Wendy even when she’s doing gross things to further the interests of gross people.
STOCK UP — Having multiple phones
I can’t stop watching this. I’ve been watching it for 15 minutes now. I’m supposed to be writing a section about Chuck and Senior and their calamitous week, with plots against the Attorney General and FBI stings of upstate hotel rooms and “the idiot” who helped secure the land deal at the center of it all, and yet, here I am, watching Giamatti juggle phones like an NBA general manager at the trade deadline. Look at him. Look at the little bounce he does in the middle. What an absolute icon. I can’t be expected to focus on anything else while this is happening. I’m not that strong.
Ugh. Okay, fine. I’ll say this about the Rhoades family saga, too: I am coming around on Senior. He’s a monster and a creep and morally bankrupt goon but a) he is so much fun now that the show leaned into his eyebrow-arching evil nature, and b) it’s fun to see him turn all that dismissive energy toward an even more unlivable character, like Jock. That’s it. That’s all I’ll say. Back to watching Chuck doing his cell phone lambada. Leave me alone.
STOCK UP — Jackie Connerty
I very much enjoy how half the characters on Billions have shady brothers with ties to the underworld. Lara has her brothers who helped Axe with his various Ice Juice shenanigans and now Connerty has an older brother who is a safecracker. A safecracker! And he’s played by Michael Raymond-James, who is more or less playing the same character he did on my beloved Terriers. And he was guilted into cracking the safe with a speech about their deceased mother. And he stole cuff links because he refuses to crack a safe without stealing something.
What a perfect television show.
STOCK DOWN — Rebecca
Man, what did Rebecca ever do to anybody, you know? She’s just trying to run a dang department store and continue building a successful empire, but she keeps running into roadblocks and every one of them can be traced back directly to her new lunatic boyfriend. Then, to try to settle it, with the “it” in question referring to both her business and her relationship, she concocted a plan that could end the war with Taylor and prevent Bobby from cutting a multibillion-dollar check that causes a mutiny, and Axe reacts like she just spit on his ortolan. She can’t win.
Axe is a little like Walter White in this way. Everyone in his life eventually gets burned by him and his refusal to compromise. He can’t turn it off. He can dull it for a bit but never for long. The only person who is immune is Wags, simply because Wags is an unkillable hedonist, a cockroach doing the breaststroke in a glass of Johnny Walker Blue, taking gulps on every dive. If Axe ever really turns on him, I’ll be despondent. Leave Wags alone, too.
STOCK UP — Knowing a guy who would kill a horse for you
It’s not that you’d have him do it. You wouldn’t. You wouldn’t feel good about having someone kill a horse for you, for whatever reason. You’re a better person than that. But it’s good to know that someone would do it for you if you asked. That’s loyalty, man. Maybe test some of your friends with it this week. See who’s really there for you. Or… don’t. Either way.
STOCK UP — Sacker
If Orrin is a top-three character on the show, Sacker is right there with him. She’s the best. You can never tell with her, and anytime you think you have her figured out… whammo. She’ll do that thing she does where she takes one long and painfully slow blink and then raises her eyelids to reveal her eyes zeroed in on your soul like some sort of soul-seeking laser. What do we think she’s up to here? My bet is the double cross is actually a triple cross and ratting Chuck out to Jock is all part of the plan. I hope so. Just let her be the Attorney General. Or the President. No foreign leader could deal with that stare.
STOCK DOWN — Spyros
Legitimately laughed out loud at this. The pure indignation Wags felt about being compared to Spyros. It says so much about both characters. And Spyros wasn’t even there. Wags was just mad about the idea of any of it. I bet he’s still mad. I hope he is.
STOCK UP — Secret meetings in a kitchen
Billions is easily the most Secret Meetings in Strange Locations show on television, from Chuck and his meetings at the docks to Axe and his meetings at pizzerias or empty warehouses or dark alleys, but I think my favorite is the kitchen meetings. It’s happened a few times. There was the one with Krakow the Treasury Secretary last season and now there’s this one with Chuck and Axe. I’ve got to start having secret meetings in restaurant kitchens. It seems like everyone is having them but me. It also seems like your average Manhattan line cook might know enough to bury every trader on Wall Street just from things he or she overheard on the job. Maybe Connerty should have gone to them instead of cracking the safe. Not as fun, obviously, but almost definitely more practical.