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 Capital
Not a particularly great or strong week for Axe or his company or anyone who works there, really. Taylor’s new fund is the driving force behind this discontent, as Axe has found a new target to zero-in on to a degree that any mental health professional other than Wendy would probably describe as unhealthy at best and destructive at worst. And now it is time to talk about Wags.
How many times do you think Wags has been drugged and/or kidnapped, like he was in this episode while attempting to strongarm the sheikh on investment terms? You don’t live that kind of hedonistic lifestyle at night after spending all day ruining people without that being an occupational hazard. You develop enemies, is my point, both through your actions and your status and your words, especially if your words are, say, dismissive of one’s culture and religion and delivered while lounging comfortably on a couch inside their embassy, where diplomatic immunity provides cover. I’m gonna put the number no lower than four times.
You can see the setup here. Axe has settled — temporarily, at least — his war with Chuck and the law, and he has replaced it with a war with Taylor. Axe is like a shark. If he’s not constantly swimming, constantly looking for a new target to destroy, he might just sink to the bottom of the ocean. Is that what happens to sharks when they stop swimming? I gotta be honest, I started this paragraph very confident about this analogy and now it’s falling apart. It did feel right to say Axe is like a shark, though. I’m going to stand by that part.
Anyway, Axe is cornered right now due to the existence of Grigor and his wealth and his willingness to do things not even Wags would condone. So he’s also at war with a dangerous Russian oligarch, too. It’s fine. It’s probably fine.
STOCK UP — Honeybees
Let’s track Chuck’s honeybee routine from this week, which he kicked off after a terrifying pep talk from his father and a substantially more helpful one from his wife. He got the ski pass from Birch in exchange for a Wendy-negotiated B/B+ counseling session with Wendy. He traded the ski pass for tickets to a Hanukkah show. He used those tickets to broker a meet with the ambassador. He then used his connections with Axe — not okay with them being friends, not yet — to get a blank Dominican birth certificate by promising to move a charter school construction project in a way that will not inconvenience the ambassador’s son, and then he used that blank birth certificate to trade for the concealed carry permit he’d been hunting all along.
It was a fun way to show Chuck using his skills outside of his comfort zone. He got his swagger back after a speed bump or two, and he even found a taker for that sad Park Anywhere Pass, which was a running joke throughout the episode until it became the key to the whole thing. I whooped a little when I saw it developing in front of me, right as the ambassador’s handler started talking about tickets. Real underdog story for that pass.
It’s nice to see Chuck wheeling and dealing. He won’t be satisfied with any of this for long, though. I mean, as cool as it was to see Paul Giamatti operate, what did Chuck really do this week? He gave some rich bozo permission to carry a hidden handgun all over Manhattan, he moved an entire school because it was cramping the style of a powerful registered sex offender, and he greased the wheels so a flamethrowing teen could dominate his Little League almost half a year after passing the age cutoff. That’s not going to be fulfilling for Chuck. He’s gonna go after Connerty and Jock soon enough. He is also like a shark, although I’m not taking the analogy any further than that this time. Lesson learned.
STOCK DOWN — Steely Principles
Big goings on at Taylor Mason Capital. We’ve got a crooked headhunter (name of my band, name of a craft beer, etc.), and a new COO who is engaging in what appears to be work-related pillow talk with the boss, and interviews with candidates going south because Taylor can be a little terrifying.
The biggest thing, though, is that Taylor is now “suiting up” by donning a wig and adopting a more straightforward feminine disposition — no, I did not recognize them at all at first — in their attempts to woo the sheikh and his less progressive cohorts. It’s a little sad, really, seeing Taylor make this decision to get the business started. I’m sure it’s conflicting as hell. I imagine it will come up again at some point. Not the kind of thing you open the season with and then brush aside.
I am very much here for Axe v. Taylor/Grigor. I don’t know how Chuck plays into it now that he an Axe and buddies. I’m excited to find out. I hope they all settle their differences over a cutthroat poker game in Monaco.
STOCK UP — Giving a long speech that eventually ties into your point
This was my favorite part of the episode, no contest. I love any time a menacing figure gives a long and meandering speech about a seemingly unrelated topic only to tie it into the situation at hand, as we saw here with The Ballad of the Falcon. I always wonder if they practice the speeches. They have to, right? Show me that sometime. Some guy standing in front of the mirror mumbling “Falcons mate for life” into a mirror while shaving. Did he even have the falcon first or did he buy it strictly for this speech? How many times do you think he’s given this exact speech? Where does one even get a falcon? I could go on. I won’t, though, for your sake.
Just once I want to see someone start what appears to be a speech like this only to reveal they just learned a fact on Wikipedia and wanted to share.
“They say anteaters can eat up to 40,000 ants every day.”
“What does that have to do with our situation?”
“Oh, nothing. It’s just so many freaking ants. Can’t stop thinking about it. Anyway…”
STOCK UP — John Malkovich
The king remains the king. It pleases me to no end — I suspect it always will — that John Malkovich is out here on Billions doing the Teddy KGB accent and chewing up some scenery with talk about the Fonz. The man was born for this, to menace and threaten in a back room of another country’s embassy, to use access acquired through shady manipulation of the global economy to try to crush a hard-charging former colleague. It could be its own show. I would watch.
Question: Do you think they tried the falcon thing with him at some point in their relationship? I picture them starting the big speech about falcons mating for life and then Malkovich snapping the bird’s neck with his bare hands and saying “But life… [snap]… is fragile.”
STOCK DOWN — Rudy the Traitor
Poor Rudy. He had to know it was coming, though. I wonder if he actually wanted to get fired. You can’t fraternize with the enemy on Axe’s watch, even if the enemy is a sweet lanky lax bro former coworker with an adorable goofy smile. Rudy knows that. This might have been his subconscious finding the rest of his body a way out. Or he’s just a big empty-headed puppy like Mafee. Either way is possible, I suppose.
STOCK UP — Commissioner Sansome’s Little League team
Commissioner Sansome, easily the most Sopranos character on Billions, which makes sense because he’s played by the same actor who played Jackie Aprile on the HBO series, really gave out a concealed carry permit so a rocket-armed 13-year-old could dominate Little League one more year. I would very much enjoy a scandal like this if it were uncovered in real life. I would click on everything about it, a lot, to a degree it would interfere with my work. It’s easily my second favorite youth baseball moment in the three-plus season run of Billions, scooting in just behind the time Axe had his kids flown to their game in his private helicopter, which landed in centerfield to drop them off.
My point here is that adults are insane when it comes to youth sports. I bet Lara Axelrod has belittled a volunteer umpire in a parking lot after a game. I bet she does it a lot. I bet the umpires start crying. That woman is intense.
STOCK DOWN — Mafee’s negotiating prowess
I love you, you over-excited, borderline incompetent, leverage-ruining, earnest, sweet goofus. Never change.
STOCK UP — Bathhouse pianists
Shoutout to Charles, Sr. for constantly being the weirdest and most disturbing character on the show, which is really saying something, considering, uh… [gestures toward every other character on the show, with a pause and extended focus on Dollar Bill and his two families]
If there is ever a Billions prequel, and it can’t be about teenage Wags in high school, please let it be about the rise of Charles Rhoades, Sr. Let’s see what kind of “childish enthusiasms” he was up to back in his day.
STOCK DOWN — Breakfast
The angriest I got this entire episode — an episode that featured the powerful greasing the skids for each other and a foreign government kidnapped my beloved heathen Wags — was at the very beginning when Bobby blows off Chef Ryan’s delicious-looking breakfast. What are you… why… is he just going to throw it away now? For the love of God. No. Noooooo. Breakfast is too good to be treated that way, too pure. I will not stand for it.
It’s admittedly wild that this is the bridge I won’t cross with Axe, a man who as recently as last season went to great lengths to ruin a number of people to escape jail time for the Ice Juice Ruse, which he was extremely guilty of. I don’t know, man. Maybe that’s a bit much on my part. Maybe my priorities are way out of whack.
I really like breakfast, though.