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The ‘Billions’ Stock Watch: A Song Of Dogs And Pancakes


Showtime

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 — The family bond

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Oof. Tough go of it for the family bond this week. It was a two-front war, too, which we know from the firefighter guy’s speech to Taylor is not ideal. On one side, there’s Taylor and their dad’s relationship, which had been coming along in a nice way until Billions happened and mucked it all up. Not all of the blame is on Axe and Company, though. They were the lever, sure. They applied the force. It was very much Not Cool on just the biggest level you can imagine. But Taylor’s dad did have that chance at the end, and so did Taylor. A lot of times a crisis can bring out your true self. Taylor is always going to make the rational call. Taylor’s dad is apparently more prideful, to the detriment of the relationship with his child. It’s toxic and bad and you have to wonder — a little bit — if Axe did them a favor by forcing it all out now instead of waiting for it to bubble up many years and many smaller squabbles down the line. That’s probably what Axe thinks. Which is a pretty good sign it’s evil and wrong.

On the other front, there’s Wendy and Chuck. This is also toxic and bad, but that is to be expected when one spouse goes on national television and opens up their unconventional love life to the world without consulting the other spouse. Wendy is mad. Wendy is so mad. As she should be. Chuck can spin it any way he likes and excavate his own family issues in all their pancake-ruining horror, but he done goofed on this one by putting his runaway ambition ahead of his wife’s potential public humiliation. If he wasn’t sure how mad she was before this week’s episode, he definitely knows now. On a scale of 1-10, I’ve gotta think “deciding to sell the family home without agreement or even discussion” has to come in around a smooth 8

STOCK UP — The tiniest signs of personal growth

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It says a lot about Billions that this was a heartwarming moment. This counts as growth. Yes, Axe originally tanked Bruno’s original retirement plan by bullying him into shutting down the $1 million offer and convincing him to stay on to train a successor for five full years. (Five years!) And yes, Axe is so hopelessly blind to people’s feelings and emotions — at least the ones he can’t exploit to ruin them — that he actually thought he was doing Bruno a big favor. But eventually, with the help of Rebecca, perhaps the only person right now who he considers an intellectual/spiritual equal, he did see that Bruno just wanted to retire and fish and meet some nice Florida widow, and he turned around and made that happen.

Perhaps you read all that and thought, “So wait. We’re giving this guy credit for fixing something he wrecked in the first place? Isn’t that like the lowest possible bar to clear for being an okay person?” It is. But on this show, someone clearing that low bar is like you or me going to the moon. It’s a big deal. We should recognize and reinforce the good behavior on the rare occasions we see it.

STOCK DOWN — Wendy

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Wendy is spiraling. Her relationship with her husband is crumbling, she’s been trying to manipulate Taylor into personal ruin as an outlet for her own anger, and now she’s jogging and crying at night by the river. All of it could be going better for Wendy Rhoades.

And yet.

And yet!

I still came thisclose to marking her as STOCK UP. It was the crying at the end, and it was also the face she made when Mafee was yelling at her. It’s like everything finally started sinking in. The stuff with Taylor was cruel, full stop. It’s one thing to dance in the gray area to topple an adversary’s business interests. It’s a completely different thing to use personal information that was given in strict doctor-patient confidence to tear someone’s family apart. And for what? Because Taylor did to Axe what Axe does to every person he meets? It was gross. You hate to see it.

But it looks like Wendy might be realizing that. Finally. The question now is what she does about it.

STOCK UP — Mafee

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Ayyyyy shoutout to Mafee. It feels good to put him on the STOCK UP list. Turns out all he had to do was:

  • Finally realize how easily Wendy had been playing him
  • Get mad
  • Drive to Axe Capital
  • Charge in and start screaming
  • Threaten to fight Dollar Bill in the dang Octagon

He probably shouldn’t have called Wendy “a garbage person,” though. I have no problem with his intention. Wendy deserved that, given the context and the things we just discussed. My issue is that “garbage person,” as an insult, could imply that the person is made of garbage (what he meant) or that the person is someone who works in sanitation (not what he meant, probably). There is nothing shameful about good hard physical labor.

Be clear with your insults, people. It’s why “You’re a piece of shit” is such a classic. No confusing anything there.

STOCK UP — Dogs

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My heart goes out to Shelby. He was treated mostly as an obstacle to be hurdled, a tool to be used for Chuck to acquire a favor to be named later from the drunken doofus he provided with a gun permit earlier in the season. He never stood a chance, either. He was steamrolled the second Chuck gave in and decided to play Michael Clayton.

But look at it this way: His boozed-up neighbor shot his beloved dog and the entire power apparatus of the New York State government leaped into action to help the boozed-up neighbor. The guy killed his dog! The guy got drunk and fired a shot into the darkness and it killed a dog! And when Shelby tried to make everyone else feel a little pain, when he pulled out pictures and demanded more money because he was hurt and he wanted the people responsible to hurt too, he went and almost got himself charged with extortion. Poor Shelby.

He did walk away with $100,000 and a new puppy, though. That’s a decent consolation prize. Like, for anything. I’d rather have $100k and a puppy than a bronze medal. Something to consider for the next Olympics.

STOCK DOWN — Food, somehow

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Food-related things that happened on Billions this week:

  • Chuck interrupted Sansome’s eggs and gravy and got his request denied in the process
  • Chuck and Axe cornered Krakow over a large Sicilian pizza
  • Chuck told that absolutely horrifying and heartbreaking pancake story, which finally answered the question “Hey Brian, what kind of story would someone have to tell to ruin pancakes for you, for at least a few weeks if not forever?”
  • Chuck came home to a delicious pie that he could see and smell but could not eat, satisfaction both at his fingertips and just out of reach, and if that’s not a metaphor for the whole damn show in one image, I don’t know what is

I surprised Mafee didn’t storm in with a bag of cheeseburgers and just start winging them at Axe Cap employees.

STOCK UP — Connerty and Sacker

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Not a lot of screentime for Gotham’s dynamic duo this week, but what they got was used efficiently. Chuck is on tape greasing the wheels for his dad’s development using an assist from Krakow, Chuck’s dad is on tape saying “I love you” to his son (a sign of personal weakness that Senior will probably consider more harmful to his image than any corruption charges), and Connerty and Sacker are yucking it up about it all. These two, man. They bicker and needle each other and then they make these intense eyes at each other and then they bicker some more and if one of them doesn’t wipe the desk clean with a swipe of the arm so they can tumble onto it in a heap of pressurized lust, I’ll spit right on this floor.

STOCK DOWN — Being a gracious winner

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Does anyone at Axe Cap actually do any investing? I swear, it feels like 75-80 percent of Axe’s days have been spent doing one of three things: 1) Plotting to ruin Taylor, 2) having secret meetings with people who can help him ruin Taylor, and 3) celebrating/mourning after a plan against Taylor succeeds/fails.

It would be hilarious if this season ends with Spyros walking into Axe’s office and saying “Welp, we lost $9 billion this quarter because we forgot to actually process any of the trades with all this Taylor stuff going on. My bad.”

STOCK UP — Having a ridiculous stable of minor characters

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Billions is absolutely loaded with fun minor characters. Jock has grown on me, somehow, and continued to grow on me with that scene at the urinals this week where he sidled up right next to Krakow. Krakow is played by Danny Strong and no one plays a smarmy dipshit like Danny Strong. (No one!) The show had David Strathairn and John Malkovich and it killed one off and sent the other back to Russia and there’s so many other things and people to juggle that I’ve barely missed them. Jerry O’Connell shows up every now and then. Bob Benson from Mad Men played a fake Elon Musk. It’s wild.

And then this week, the show just trotted out Chelcie Ross as a big tough government hardass who can apparently be bought off with cash and woman. Chelcie Ross! Who you may recognize from many roles over the years but to me will always be cranky old pitcher from Major League who threw spitballs and hated Jobu! Boom, on the show. And then the show ended by trotting out Stan from The Americans! I had totally forgotten Stan from The Americans was on Billions! He is, though. He was in season one. And now he’s at a table with Dollar Bill, who also played Pastor Tim on The Americans. (Americans reunion!)

I swear to God, someday Jere Burns — Wynn Duffy himself — is going to show up as a crooked politician and I’m going to whoop so loud my neighbors get worried.

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