The ‘Billions’ Stock Watch: Betrayal On The High Seas



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 — Mentors

Bobby Axelrod has done a lot of messed up stuff on Billions. He’s done it often, repeatedly, and often for reasons that don’t seem to require the level of action he brings to the situation. It’s kind of his whole deal. But still, even with that long history, in a life littered with examples, this thing he did to sweet Johnny was… it was really messed up.

Quick recap: John is the son of Axe’s former mentor. When John’s dad passed away, Axe vowed to be there for the kid, which he was, in the form of paying for business school and investing heavily in John’s new fund. Now, John wants to cash him out, for reasons ranging from 1) because he wants his firm to remain small, to 2) he wants to make something of himself without Axe, to 3) he always thought Axe was a jerk.

Axe didn’t know that last one, at least not before he took John out on a boat to go fishing. What looked like it could be a charming moment of emotional growth for Axe (lol) turned out to be an elaborate ruse to absolutely destroy young John by leaking harmful stories about him and stealing away over half of his clients while he was sans cell phone and cell phone service. All for the crime of… giving Axe his money back with a healthy return on his investment. Yeah. Axe is not a healthy dude.

Here’s the thing that really stuck out for me, though. Axe didn’t get the real reason John cut him out — the one filled with vitriol and resentment — until he faked the engine failure and left them momentarily stranded at sea while he and (who we later discover was) Spyros did their Coast Guard flimflam over the radio. But the plan was already in motion by then. It was a done deal. John never really stood a chance, regardless of what action he took out on that boat. It makes it all… even more messed up.

Think about it this way: What if, instead of shouting at Axe and playing the “well my daddy never liked you anyway” card, John had agreed he made a mistake and decided to keep Axe’s money in the firm? Axe still would have ruined him. John never had a way out. His “options” at that point, whether he realized it or not, were:

  • Snap and tell the truth and have his life ruined, which Axe would justify as crushing a potential enemy
  • Say he was wrong and take Axe’s money back and still have his life ruined, which Axe would justify as a mercy killing because he was too soft for the business or something, whatever, I don’t know, poor John

The lesson here, as it usually is, is to never get on a boat with a psychopath. Nothing good can come of it. I’ve seen enough movies and television shows. In fact, I’ve seen so many movies and television shows that a tiny part of me expected Axe to, like, stab him and heave him overboard, which would have been really dark and somehow still not as messed up as the lengths he went to — a full day, with all of his senior staff working on it, and hours of face-to-face subterfuge to set it all up — to disgrace the guy publicly. Axe is a weird dude, man. And not a good one, either.

You know what? Let’s just amend that to “never get on a boat,” full stop. Can’t be too careful.

STOCK UP — Continuing to destroy your enemies after their death, from the pulpit, at their funeral


On a big night for television, with the final season of Game of Thrones premiering in the same 9 p.m. time slot Billions has occupied for the last few weeks, Chuck held his own version of the Red Wedding. Kind of. It was at a funeral instead of a wedding. And instead of people getting murdered all willy nilly, it was corrupt Albany politicians getting arrested. In church. At Jack Foley’s funeral. During a eulogy that Chuck was very much not asked to give. It was pretty great, to be honest, with Chuck going full Giamatti in the pulpit, starting with talk of Julius Caesar and quickly leading to mass arrests. Again, in a church. At a funeral.

The whys of it all are barely important. Jock convinced the new governor to kneecap Chuck’s authority through executive action so Chuck ran around blackmailing the Assembly to drum up support, then used that support to get the executive action reversed, then followed through on his threats against the Assembly anyway — and I know I’m really stuck on this next part but I don’t see how I can be expected to just get over it — during a man’s funeral.

Imagine being, like, Jack Foley’s nephew. You have no idea what Uncle Jack really did for a living. You just knew he was powerful and nice to you and hooked you up with your first car a few months ago. Now you’re at his funeral and everyone is giving you condolences and waaaaiiit a second, who’s that guy and hollllld on is that the guy who just told the world he and his wife love bondage and heeeeyyyyy why is he hollering about Rome and waaaaiiiit a second is that the FBI? Raiding Uncle Jack’s funeral? Holy crap.

On second thought, I bet that fictional kid had a blast telling that story in school on Monday. It worked out pretty well for Chuck, all things considered, but that kid was the real winner in all of this. Congrats to him.

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