TV

The ‘Billions’ Stock Watch: Happy Holidays, Everything Is Falling Apart


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 UP — Axe

Axe had two big problems this week:

  • Wendy Rhoades, his most trusted advisor and indispensable on-site performance coach and/or staff psychiatrist (depending which title will cause her the least liability in the moment), is facing a hearing that might end with her losing her medical license, and her best chance at surviving involves blowing up a long history of implied doctor-patient confidentiality at the firm, which would leave Axe Capital vulnerable to scores of lawsuits that she could be deposed in to detail various law-breaking/law-bending tactics the firm has used over the years
  • He bought like a quarter-billion dollars worth of paintings and might have to pay taxes on them?

It says a lot about Axe that he addresses both of these issues with the same amount of intensity. It’s also worth pointing out that neither of these are sympathetic endeavors. The art thing is obvious because, boo hoo, some billionaire sociopath finance dude dropped nine figures on classic works of art, on a whim, and now he wants to skip out on the tax bill, and he’s willing to call in favors and commission replicas and pay off delivery guys to do so, even though he could write the $75 million check that afternoon and not feel it. I might heave my laptop out the window if I think about it too much. I hate everyone on this show very much. It is also my favorite show. I’m fine with this.

The other thing, the Wendy thing, is trickier because we like Wendy, generally, even as she slipped into villain mode for a few weeks. But she is definitely in the wrong on this one. She is so very in the wrong. She used patient notes to tear apart a competitor and that competitor’s family. She should lose her medical license. She should probably go to jail, to be honest. It’s important to remember that as she plans and prepares for the big hearing she might lie at. Everyone on this show should go to jail.

And yet, stock up. Axe solved one problem and, while he didn’t solve the Wendy thing yet, he did give a heck of a pep talk that was almost sweet and a little vulnerable. Did you see the thing where the two of them touched, softly, tenderly even? There’s always been sexual tension between Axe and Wendy but after this week you’d need a chainsaw to cut through it. This is worth keeping an eye on. Especially if you are Rebecca Cantu.

STOCK DOWN — Having a nice relaxing holiday

Showtime

The funniest part of this episode was the thing at the end, after Axe had called everyone in on New Year’s Day, after he had cut short his kids’ vacation to Fiji, after he had yelled at people and berated them and gotten privately furious that no one else was as empty and needy inside as he must be to expect them all to show up to the office on a national holiday, when he was like “GREAT JOB EVERYBODY, GO HOME AND ENJOY YOUR DAY OFF.” I laughed. I laughed out loud. He expected to be praised for it. What a lunatic. The only way I could have enjoyed it more is if the camera panned to the right to reveal a clock that read “4:54 p.m.”

The same goes for everyone else who was working like a crazy person on New Year’s Day. Connerty and Sacker and all of them. Good Lord. Sleep in one day, people.

STOCK DOWN — Chuck

Chuck got played like an absolute chump all episode long. He got played like a chump by Connerty, who got the in-home surveillance approved and is now privy to all of the shady chit-chat that goes on between Chuck and his dad. He got played like a chump by Krakow, who used the shady Middle Eastern funding for Senior’s dock project to squeeze a finder’s fee out of everyone. Danny Strong is so great at playing smarmy weasels, an underrated and very useful skill.

But most importantly, he got played by Axe. Axe didn’t do it on purpose and Chuck doesn’t even know it happened. Not yet, at least. It did, though. Twice. First, when Chuck pushed Wendy to make a deal and take a six-month suspension. It’s not that it was a bad move on paper. It was the right move, the smart one. It’s what Chuck does. He makes deals, he trades favors, he looks for the win first and then moves to the least painful loss. It’s all very rational and lawyerly and might have persuaded Wendy had Axe not given her a “I’ll kill for you, I need you here, screw everyone else, eff ‘em if they hate it” speech an hour later That’s what Axe does. No compromises, no deals. Accept only victory or burn the paintings in the lobby. It’s reckless and often immoral but it made Chuck look like a coward.

There was more. Axe also, in the same speech, told Wendy about the exact moment he knew he needed her, down to the specifics, dialogue recited from memory. It was very intense and intimate and made even moreso by Chuck doing the “ehhhhh I dunno” when Wendy asked him when he knew he wanted to marry her. Chuck. Chuuuuuck. That was not the answer, my guy. Just say something there. Say anything. If your wife walks in the door after she’s been furious with you for weeks and asks a question like that, your antenna better perk up. That is a loaded question and it requires a very good answer.

The fact that he didn’t realize this and spin together something — anything! — in the moment makes me question his qualifications to be attorney general as much as any of the other immoral hooey he’s always wading in.

STOCK UP — Judge Funt

Showtime

Love this guy. I love any judge who is cranky all the time and gives the lawyers everything they want but only “reluctantly.” He must be awesome in court. I bet he answers every objection with “I’ll allow it… but watch yourself.” He’s basically a character from Law & Order. I hope the next time Connerty goes to see him in chambers, Sam Waterston is just finishing up with him and is furious about something. They don’t have to identify him as Jack McCoy. They don’t even need to give him a line. Just have him storm out and march down the hall. Do it for me. I’m begging you.

STOCK DOWN — Getting your watch stolen on a sad bender in Miami

Poor Wags. Poor, depressed Wags. He’s having a rough go of it this season. He doesn’t have as much to do now that Axe is hellbent on ruining Taylor, he got owned spectacularly — in a dress! — by the lawyer he hosed out of a burial plot, and he got drugged and kidnapped by a foreign government, which happened like two months ago and has barely been mentioned or addressed since. (I love you, Billions.) Now, not even a classic Wags New Year’s Eve — private jet to Miami, casual hookup with a woman young enough to be someone his hypothetical daughter babysitter, which is profoundly depressing in other ways but not worth digging into here — went well for him, as it ended with a stolen watch and a broken heart. The man was inconsolable. Tan and bearing stone crabs, sure, but inconsolable.

The key word there is “was.” Because…

STOCK UP — Cuddling

Showtime

I wonder what the going rate is for emergency high-end cuddling on a holiday.

STOCK UP — Knowing a safecracker

Connerty is a disaster right now. He’s so blinded by his revenge mission against Chuck that he can’t see he’s becoming Chuck. He’s pushing too hard and annoying Sacker and preparing to break the law to bury his mark instead of just, like, waiting a couple minutes to see if things work out naturally. Classic Chuck maneuvers. And he’s working with the Kamikaze Doc — the disturbingly intense performance coach Axe briefly brought in to replace Wendy — and breaking boards and getting bullied. It’s a lot. It’s too much. The guy runs around acquiring hard-charging maniacs as mentors and then gets played like a bozo every time. He’s like Charlie Brown but better at ping pong. I adore him.

So if there’s all that, why Stock Up? Simple. Because his older brother is a safecracker and all he had to do to find him is put his ear to the ground and listen for the closest bar fight. Now the Connerty brothers are going to team up to steal the Krakow-Rhoades paperwork from Senior’s safe. We got a paperwork heist on the horizon, people. It is such a bad plan. It will certainly fail. Or perhaps it will succeed but ruin Bryan in the process. If that happens, well, then that makes all that board-breaking CHEKHOV’S KAMIKAZE LESSON.

I can’t wait.

STOCK DOWN — Mafee

Showtime

There are four main employees at Taylor’s firm — Taylor, Sara, Lauren, and Mafee — and Mafee is the only one who doesn’t know Taylor and Lauren are hooking up. My sweet boy. My sweet, dense, hopeless boy. Between this and the Wendy situation, his heart is like a missile that shoots itself straight into a toilet. That metaphor doesn’t work if you think about it for more than two seconds. So…don’t. Just let it go. I’m working on a holiday, too. Give me a break.

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