TV

The ‘Billions’ Season Finale Stock Watch: A Great Day For Usurping


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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 UP – Usurping

Season three ended with a whole bunch of usurping, and not necessarily the usurping we expected. We saw Taylor’s big play coming because we saw Taylor Mason Capital grow from four quants in a dimly lit room to, uh, one quant in a dimly lit room and Mafee all alone at a trading desk. There is money, though. Lots of money. Billions of dollars, all of it spirited away from Axe after the cap raise that Taylor so desperately wanted to be a part of, which we now see was a ruse that involved preying on Wendy.

There are two ways to feel about this. One is to say “Good for Taylor,” because Axe was always going to be Axe and there’s no real room to grow when the guy whose name is on the door keeps you under his thumb and considers it to be a show of trust and vulnerability. The other way is “Screw Taylor,” because it hurts to watch what you thought was one of the show’s few redeemable people morph into a damn capitalist supervillain. I’ve been pinging back and forth between those two positions so fast that watching me do it must be like watching a very annoying tennis match.

The bigger usurping, though, and admittedly I’m just using that word as many times as I can because I like it and I don’t know when I’ll have a good opportunity to use it again, involved Epstein and Connerty and Dake and Sacker teaming up to sell Chuck out to Jock. This one was also tipped off a little bit, way back when Sacker told Chuck that one day the things he taught her might be used against him, but it was still a surprise. Who really saw Jock making it out of this season unscathed? Not this recapper, that’s for sure.

I do feel a little bad for Sacker, though. Connerty got the top banana gig (which the New York media would have a field day with, considering he just got fired like two weeks ago), Dake got the pleasure of seeing Chuck crumble in person, and Sacker got… what, exactly? I don’t know what was in it for her. Maybe she just loves usurping.

STOCK UP – Unholy alliances

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The result of all this usurping was this sit-down between Axe, Chuck, and Wendy, technically their second of the season, with the first coming back during the Ice Juice Fiasco, when they were discussing patsies and flim-flams and railroading mostly innocent oncologists. This is not that, though. That was opposing sides working together out of necessity. This is a meeting of the minds. An alliance. Kind of like if the Joker and Batman started working together. I’m not sure which one is Batman in this analogy. I think it’s Chuck because he’s the one circumventing the law in the pursuit of something between justice and vengeance. But Axe is the billionaire playboy. And then who is Wendy?

This is too confusing. I’m excited about it, though. There’s a legit chance a bitter Chuck and a betrayed Axe poison the city’s water supply for kicks. I’d watch that show.

STOCK DOWN – Ambushing potential hires

Taylor tried to poach three Axe employees. Mafee was wooed during the Hold Steady concert and agreed to leave because Mafee is a spineless lump of tapioca pudding with a face attached to the front of it with masking tape. (I love him.) Ben and Wendy turned their offers down, though, after getting approached outside of a subway terminal and in a parking lot, respectively. That was so weird and creepy. I like to imagine Taylor just loafing around in each location for like 45 minutes, waiting impatiently to pop up and make the pitch.


STOCK DOWN – Pest control

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John Malkovich as Grigor the Russian Oligarch remains a marvelous development because few things are more enjoyable than John Malkovich with a whole spread of scenery in front of him to gnaw on. I’m not entirely opposed to a Grigor spinoff. I don’t even know if it would be good. He might just be better in small doses. I still say we give it a shot. Let Malkovich eat.

All the talk of murder — I’m sorry, “pest control” — was a little disquieting, though. Billions is fun and good when awful people are trying to ruin each other. I don’t know how I feel about them killing each other, or even thinking really hard about it. That’s where House of Cards started to lose me, too. Do not go House of Cards on me, Billions. I’m begging you.

STOCK UP – Flinging all your stuff off your desk in a fit of rage

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This happened in a dream-type sequence, but still. It must be so liberating to do that, even just once. A pain in the neck to clean up, sure, and a doubling of your problems because now you’re angry and all your stuff is on the floor, but worth it in the moment.

STOCK UP – Comeuppance

All this of usurping and backstabbing brings up a good point: It was deserved, for the most part. Chuck and Axe have been burying people left and right for the entire run of the show. They were both beyond due for an uprising from within their ranks. Connerty and Dake got royally hosed by Chuck on a number of occasions. Taylor was humiliated in at least two or three ways, with the most glaring being the Birbiglia debacle in which Axe wrecked a burgeoning romance to swoop in and undercut an investment. And then he’s the one rambling on and on about betrayal. Come on, my man. This was some much-deserved petard-hoisting, even if the petard hoisters got their own hands dirty in the process, and even if they will probably end up getting impaled with the petards at some point next season. To whatever degree that is impossible. It’s dawning on me now that I don’t actually know what a petard is.

Seriously, though, can you imagine how good Connerty felt throwing the “get the eff outta here” back at Chuck? I bet it was like pure heroin rushing through his veins.

STOCK DOWN – Getting slapped in front of your boss

Bless you, Malkovich. Bless you forever and ever, Amen.

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