Billions Episode 2 Season 2

In this Oct. 14, 2015, photo provided by Showtime, actors Paul Giamatti, left, as Chuck Rhodes, and Damian Lewis as Bobby “Axe” Axelrod talk on the set of “Billion” in the Brooklyn borough of New York. At right is New York Yankees first baesman Mark Texiera. Teixeira doesn’t mind if someone accuses him of acting. For the second time in five years, the Yankees first baseman made a cameo appearance on a cable television show. Teixeira played himself on an episode of “Billions” that first aired March 13. (Jeff Neumann/Showtime via AP) Jeff Neumann AP

Are you a hard ass, bad ass, jackass, or no ass? – Gus

Billions might not be television’s best, deepest drama, in fact it’s absolutely not, but it’s damn sure an entertaining hour. Sunday’s episode moved most of the main characters along, but did so in a uniform manner. Everyone was on the search for something new, looking for an answer or a saving grace below the surface. By the end of the hour, the ones that mattered all found a promising new path, and thus the episode as a whole jibed beautifully.

Bobby Axe is near the top of as cutthroat a business as exists outside of politics, and is now dealing with a new player in Todd Krakow, who has reached out to try and snag Wendy Rhoades. Todd also foolishly decided to try and go toe to toe with the great redheaded hope in Lawrence Boyd’s leadership forum. That scene was Damian Lewis at his best in this show, as he cuts someone to ribbons, but does it with eloquence and precision, rather than the way many dramas might attempt to approach similar moments. Lewis is so glib and dismissive as Bobby Axe, while simultaneously hearing every word anyone says in its presence. It’s a perfect demeanor for an eccentric, but highly analytical and competitive hedge fund manager.

Chuck Rhoades is trying to save his job, and seems increasingly interested in saving his marriage. Wendy, most noticeably in the conversation surrounding Oliver Dake, reveals through her eyes and tone that she still feels love for her husband. She doesn’t want to see him go to jail for the rest of his life. She doesn’t want to see the end of his career. She doesn’t want him to watch his children grow up behind glass.

I feel confident in saying these two are going to reconcile, more because it’s right for the show. Billions is filled with unlikable characters, and the plot can use the aura and emotions generated through the connection of a marriage working out, rather than fizzling out. Surprisingly enough, Chuck’s dad managed to pull them closer together, even if his motives were originally selfish and legacy-based. The expensive ring and the son’s reaction to it, especially after receiving word that his first attempt to protect his freedom and his position had failed, was heavy, but it was equally effective.

Oliver Dake is by far the least believable character on television, but in week two, I realized something…

He’s supposed to be.

This week, not only did we get Dake, who is such a robotic characterization of an internal affairs villain that I keep looking for a Ray Liotta poster in the background. If you got that reference, you’re welcome, and I’m a terrible person. In the same episode, however, we also met Gus, the man tasked with replacing Wendy Rhoades as performance coach for Axe Capital. This fucking guy, folks. This cat is Matthew McConaughey from The Wolf on Wall Street, but with a severe Creatine and far worse cocaine addiction, and yes, it’s glorious.

In the case of both Dake and Gus, they’re so outlandish and over the top that it relieves or resets the tension inside Billions. I can’t take Oliver seriously, but I can certainly root against him. After watching Wendy’s mind-bending style of therapy, Gus going straight up sweat lodge is pretty funny, and it plays well within the constructs of the testosterone-laden office. Generally, that’s what I’m coming to believe about the series as a whole. It’s a little ridiculous and almost cartoonish at times, but provided that’s the idea, and it is, it becomes a subjective decision as a viewer. It’s not at all misguided. You either dig it or you don’t.

On that same scale is Taylor, whose pronouns are they, their, and them. Axe doesn’t care about any of it, but he sees serious value in this individual, hereafter referred to as “it” on Outkick the Coverage. She spots Krakow’s strategy, leads Bobby to a smart short position, and eventually really puts a crack in ole’ Todd, who pledges to “get him back” for it down the road. Taylor, Oliver Dake, and Gus are three characters that just don’t exist anywhere else, and I love Billions for having the sack to risk the snob for the entertainment value.

I like the mix we’re getting of serious topics and absolute lunacy like Wags and Gus in the sushi restaurant. “Apologies for the disrespect” showed Mike’s true power, but he’s also running very warm right now. He may have found Axe a diversification idea with the NFL franchise, but he’s also lying on the floor with free weights across his face. And, you know, all the dope in the men’s room might also have him a bit scatterbrained. That said, more Wags and Gus please. That’s just pure entertainment.

The “180 Chuck” finish was also a clever way to keep Chuck in control, but on a tenuous foundation. Placing the investigation on his head, plus the Attorney General at his throat, adds so much drama to that character, and it makes sense that the humility that MIGHT be caused through it all could inevitably lead to Wendy back in the bedroom every night.

Finally there’s Bryan Connerty, who is on his own search for answers. Who is he? What is he capable of as an attorney and a man? Is he ready to admit what he wants? Is he willing to throw someone under the bus to get there? Or, is he ready to join Orrin Bach? They’re all good questions, and they’re also ones that can play out in slow motion throughout the season. It’s very possible he doesn’t find a conclusion until the season finale. In fact, that’s exactly how I’d write it, if it were me in the room.

“Spartan Ives is a finishing school for treasury secretaries,” but it’s also a third player in the Rhoades crossfire. It’s more a ruse to stay in charge, which shows once again that on Billions, every entity is filled with the same style of manipulation, corruption, and struggle. Enemies can arrive from convenience as much as any other factor. Eric Bogdosian (Law and Order: Criminal Intent) seems to be a good fit for Boyd. He’s a bit more buttoned up than Axe, but as we find out when he enlists Bobby to help him defeat Chuck, he’s just as ruthless and just as unscrupulous.

The additions of Krakow Capital and Spartan Ives are both welcome, as it gives Billions a chance to avoid running Rhoades vs. Axe into the ground. Eventually, all roads (no pun intended) lead to one battle, but as the show is evolving, it’s clear Season 2 isn’t likely to be the last. Therefore, we need side feuds and compelling content to keep everything moving, without blowing through the A story, or going down the well too consistently.

A good start to the season continues, and Billions, since really turning the corner with the ninth and tenth episode of the first year, has been really fun stuff. And, it’s also a lot of fun to cover.

MVP OF THE WEEK: Has to be Taylor, with honorable mention to Wags and Gus “I have an elephant dick of a memory” whatever his last name is. It’s almost better that he’s just Doctor Gus.

I’m @JMartOutkick. I love a good barbaric yawp. 

Written by Jason Martin