The ‘Billions’ Stock Watch: Welcome To The Dark Side


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 — The Dark Side

There are no good guys on Billions. Sometimes someone will do a good thing or two and it might trick you a little, but just wait. They’ll come around soon enough. They can’t help it. They’re all rotten at their cores and they’ll gladly throw away any goodwill they’ve earned to engage in petty squabbles and feuds. It is probably my favorite thing about the show.

Take Wendy, for example. When the show started, she appeared to be the closest thing it had to a moral center. She looked anguished at times when Axe or Chuck did something especially gross. As the series chugged along, though, she’s revealed herself to be as much of a monster as everyone else. She was perfectly happy to ruin an ethically conflicted oncologist in the Ice Juice fiasco and she has twirled poor Mafee around her finger multiples times to get her way.

This week was a new low, though. In the wake of Chuck’s public revelation and her own subsequent blinding rage about it, Wendy has officially crossed over into the dark side. Look at this:

  • She manipulated Taylor by using her own vulnerability against them
  • She used Mafee’s puppy dog crush again to get the identity of the firm who invested in Papa Mason’s science thing
  • She used her own patient notes on Taylor to pinpoint the most tender and hurtful spots (the tricky relationship with their father) and now plans to use it to destroy someone who shared the information in good faith

That is cold. When the men on this show try to ruin someone, they usually charge straight at them. Even when there’s subterfuge, it’s a very aggressive and macho endeavor. Wendy’s attacks are… personal. Her plan won’t just ruin Taylor professionally, it will also rip apart the newly-healing parent-child relationship. It’s ruthless. And it, coupled with her glugging that whiskey from the bottle with the boys at the end, cemented her status as a worthy villain on a show full of villains. Cheers.

Also, between her ongoing Walter White-style tumble into darkness and Taylor’s dad’s superlab-looking science building, I got some strong Breaking Bad vibes this week. Enough to make me worried for Wags/Gale. If Aaron Paul shows up next week I’m putting Wags in a panic room.

STOCK DOWN — Axe’s time management skills


Axe doesn’t have to be on that roof. He shouldn’t be up on that roof. That’s why you hire a guy like Hall, to insulate you from all that. But he’s so deep into his feud with Taylor — beyond the recreational depth, to use Rebecca’s analogy — that he can’t see anything beyond six inches in front of his face. It’s not healthy! Like, not healthy… for Axe! That’s really saying something, given his history.

The Taylor feud is really sucking up so much of his energy. It’s what all of his meetings are about and what he’s using all of his favors for. He’s barely doing any investing. His day planner is probably just pictures of Taylor with the eyes gouged out. He should find a hobby. One that doesn’t involve sneaking onto a roof to spy on his nemesis. Maybe tennis. Although he’d probably just join an exclusive tennis club and ruin all his adversaries in there, too. He’d rig the club championship and take home the trophy and be satisfied for maybe five seconds and then he’d get the itch again. He’d rig the election for club president. He’d poison a ball boy. He’s not a well man, is my point.

I would watch that tennis show, by the way. I would watch it and I would recap it and I would get way too into it. I’m not perfect either.

STOCK UP — Vengeance, generally


Wags hasn’t had much to do this season, which is a bummer because a Wags with a purpose is a blast. This week provided some hope, though. The fraudulent invitation to a prestigious New York fraternity, engineered by the man whose burial plot he stole by leaking an affair to the tabloids, gives him his own cause and his own enemy. Wags has a mission. And a very expensive dress. But mostly a mission.

The thing is… Wags kind of deserved it? It took me a minute to come to terms with that because Wags is a charming hedonist and I adore him, but look at the thing I typed in that paragraph: he stole a man’s burial plot out from under him by ruining the man’s life in the tabloids, all because he woke up one day and decided he wanted it. Vengeance goes two ways. The lawyer, who has a name but is always just going to be “Levy from The Wire but on Billions now” to me, did not do this unprovoked. But Wags was standing there aghast anyway, like he was shocked that anyone would do that to him. It’s a little hilarious, to be honest.

Anyway, he’s out for blood now. I’m all hyped about it.

STOCK DOWN — Chuck’s left nipple


I was all prepared to dig into Chuck’s actions this week. I was going to get way in there. His judicial flimflam with Judge Adam, the Krakow ruse to try to tear Connerty and Jock apart, his refusal to abandon personal activities that could ruin his career and marriage, all of it. I had full paragraphs lined up about Chuck getting a little too cute and it all backfiring on him. It was going to be a whole thing.

But then, as I was skimming through the episode to make the screencaps you see in this post, I saw something that derailed my entire plan. Do you see it? Here, let me help. Enhance!


Dear Lord. Did you ever, in your wildest cough medicine dreams, think you would see Paul Giamatti with a safety pin jammed through his nipple? I did not. Obviously. It almost took me out of the entire episode. That’s on me, though. It was there to show how badly he needs to release that energy and how quickly he can spiral without that release. It had a purpose. But… like…

I’m just going to need a few minutes. I’ll get there, I promise. Maybe a little more than a few minutes. By next week. Probably.

STOCK DOWN — Judge Adam


Judge Adam is in deep muck. The video Connerty has and the quid pro quos with Chuck could ruin a once-promising judicial career, which will be a huge bummer for him because Judge Adam really likes being a judge.

Look at him up there. The man loves putting on a whole show. He’s Johnny Carson of the bench. He has jokes and asides and he is just completely in his element. Even when the courtroom is mostly empty, even when it’s just the lawyers. The Judge Adam Show must go on. This is going to kill him. I almost feel bad for the guy, which is wild because he’s a crooked judge who trades favors and buries legitimate cases. I should hate him. And yet!

Billions, baby.

STOCK UP — Putting your feet up on someone else’s desk


Speaking of people I should hate, heyyyy Jock. I disagree with everything the man stands for. He’s trying to destroy Chuck. He’s just not a super great guy. But when I saw him in the classic Jock pose, I let out an audible “yessss.”

It’s the feet on the desk thing. He does it to everyone. He pops up in their office and put his heels right onto whatever stacks of paper are there and just makes himself right at home. It’s such a dick move. But there’s something mischievous about it that cracks me up. It’s a blatantly transparent power play and he loves it so much and I kind of love him for it. I hope he does it to the President when he’s in the Oval Office, too.

STOCK UP — Karl, the Lord of the Shadows


Well, it’s settled, Karl is my favorite character on the show now. I’m sorry. I can’t help it. It’s developed slowly but here we are. I know why, too. It’s because of the way he always just, like, appears when Chuck shouts his name. He enters the room so quickly that it’s almost like he was conjured from thin air, like if we looked around the corner we’d see a puff of smoke dissipating into the air from where he just came. It was even better this week because he slunk into Chuck’s darkened office and slumped into a chair in the shadows. He’s basically a Harry Potter character. If anything bad happens to him I will be inconsolable.

I lied earlier. I’m not sorry. I love him.

STOCK DOWN — Mafee’s big yapper


Have there ever, in the entire recorded history of mankind, been beans Mafee would not spill? I don’t think so. The man leaks like a cheap humidifier. It’s not even Wendy all the time, even though this time was. The other week he dropped that “We’re desperate!” during an interview and nuked Taylor’s potential leverage. He can’t help himself. He’s too nice for this life. He just doesn’t want anyone to be mad at him. It’s sweet.

It’s also why he’ll probably end up in jail someday. He’s the goldfish in the piranha tank. One day someone will get really hungry and that’ll be in for poor Mafee. I’ll be so sad. Part of me hopes he cashes out and starts teaching 11th-grade math or something. He’d get fired from that job for buying the kids beer, probably. They’d guilt him into it. It would almost be peer pressure because Mafee is a 17-year-old boy at heart. But he’d be happy until he got busted.

STOCK UP — Putting some liquor in your ice cream


You deserve it. Especially after seeing that safety pin.