This month, Showtime’s great TV show Billions wrapped its fourth season, making me very sad and wanting for more. Wait, what? You don’t know what this show is about? I discovered the first season at the end of 2016 and it still ranks pretty high on my list of best-written TV shows of all time. If you’re looking for other series to fill the whole left by the end of Game of Thrones, I would say that Billions would be a very good start!
So, without further notice, let me present you the world of Bobby Axelrod, one full of financial strategies, justice, huge egos, sex, dark humour and money….lots and lots of money! Another reason to start watching? Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti are the leads at the center of this masterpiece; two great and talented actors. A lot happened after four seasons, so I won’t go into spoilers to ruin the experience. I’ll explore the big themes and the introduction of the show. Overall, the narrative is split into two different but very interesting corporate fields: the finances of Wall Street and the office of the District Attorney of the South of New York. In other words, investment banking meets the Law. Think Olivier Stone’s Wall Street meets Sydney Pollack’s The Firm.
First, we have Robert ‘Axe’ Axelrod (Damian Lewis, truly brilliant and without pity), a billionaire at the head of his own investment fund: Axe Capital. Along with his team of young sharks, his manœuvres fluctuate the market as he raises or decreases the profit of companies and sectors. Basically, Axe’s fortune is about as big as Mark Cuban’s or even Michael Bloomberg. I wouldn’t say Axe is evil, but let’s just say that his lust for power, control, revenge and profit opportunities make him extremely insensible to others. He’s pretty intelligent and extremely gifted in reading the market, he perceives things before they happen. Like most rich and powerful men, he has a family with his wife Lara (Malin Akerman) and comes to work in casual, almost boring fashion-something that’s said to be accurate of most hedge fund billionaires. He’s also a huge metal head and the show lets his wardrobe reflect his rebellious nature (my favourite remains his Metallica t-shirt).
On the surface, he seems like a big shot who play by the rules, but it’s another thing entirely when you look backstage. As the Security and Exchange Commission is closing down on him for the tempering of stocks, that is when the big law offices of the city start to look. Finally, our other friend comes in…
Now, on the other side of the ring, we have my personal favourite of the duo: District Attorney Charles ‘Chuck’ Roades Junior (Paul Giamatti, absolutely brilliant role for him). Chuck is another kind of gladiator, as he works hard and sometimes cuts a few corners, but only to do good. If Axe is a sophisticated and a calculated Ferrari on the race track, Chuck is a tank. Tough, merciless and solid, that’s what he is. In season one, do not let his look, fitness and food choices tell you differently, he’s an excellent and focused lawyer. Sure, an almost perfect professional…who also happens to practice sadomasochism in the comfort of his home with his consenting wife, something that could damage both of their careers should it become public.
As Chuck’s wife, Wendy (Maggie Siff), works for Axe as a professional coach and in-house therapist, Chuck makes things personal when he learns of his illegal financial endeavours and will risk everything to bring him to Court. Let’s just say it will be a lethal and thrilling manhunt! Of course, many things will happen during four seasons, but the ultimate pillar for this series will always remain that awesome bullfight between Axe and Chuck. What is interesting is that each one seems as intelligent and as tough as the other, making it impossible to know who can surpass the other.
I’m leaving a short clip from season one right here, just to prove you how much these two actors work so well together, thus making every single one of their encounters pure magic. Don’t worry, no spoilers here, I made sure to choose a scene that doesn’t reveal too much but if you do want to check this show out, maybe skip this one if you’re 100% committed.
As I said, Billions works for many reasons. The well-written script, the macho-egocentric themes as well as the sophistication of it all are truly amazing. If House of Cards was about money (not just power), Billions would a worthy adversary. Some of us love complicated scripts that discuss finance tactics, corporate chatter and regulations, some don’t. If you fit in the first category like me, this is for you. As the well-loved scripts written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network and The Newsroom) or movies directed by Adam Mckay (The Big Short and VICE), Billions hits all the right cords for me. For fans of these cinematic worlds, please give it a try! You’ll love it after only a few episodes…and should fill in the void left behind by Game of Thrones.
Before you set out to earn your own billions, why not check out our review of The Dead Don’t Die and a look at the justice system in America with the help of Netflix’s new mini-series, When They See Us.