I like nightmares. When I wake up, they leave me deeply valuing my reality. – Taylor Mason
You’d better start telling me the things you whisper. – George Minchak
Who knew Chuck Rhoades had that kind of game? Yes, it was his wife, but he outkicked his coverage from day one, and he was still able to get HER to call HIM to come to HER place for sex. Put some respeck on that man’s name, at least for one week, because he’s still an ass. But for one episode, Chuck did nearly everything right, while his nemesis at the hedge fund building watched his marriage begin to crumble.
Last week, Wendy dropped enough information to Lara to tell her Bobby lied to her about why he isn’t involved in coaching sessions, and if doubt existed as to how big a deal this actually was, it was erased when she took the kids and bolted from the Hamptons. Throughout the episode, Axe left various messages that reflected his emotional volatility at that precise moment. Some were funny, because Bobby Axelrod usually avoids the screaming fits and instead executes in a more surgical fashion.
But, we’ve talked before in these reviews about what Billions is about. Last week I told you this show is about bullshit. And it is. But it’s also about the one thing that can bring a powerful man to his knees.
A powerful woman.
Think about the events of “With or Without You” and you’ll see the theme recur several times. Axe nearly fell apart over a 24 hour span, Chuck went back to “the best date ever so you’ll bang and love me again” in order to woo his Wendy, and how about Chuck with George Minchak (Mary Louise Parker)? Her accent melted me, and I’m pretty sure it melted Chuck Rhoades Sr, and maybe even his son, though that wasn’t ever hinted at during the episode. Chuck had a reason to be honest with her, but she eventually drew a fairly innocuous bullying story out of him (I guess nothing’s innocuous after Romney’s bullying story somehow became big news), a baseball backswing assault tale, along with everything else he says under his breath. He didn’t cross her, he didn’t question her, he did exactly what she wanted. What an amazing concept it is that this show, about these two alpha males, is more about the alpha FEMALES that encircle their lives.
Finally, and I hesitate here because Billions is proud to have the first openly binary character on television, Taylor Mason owned Bryan Connerty, took a leadership role at Axe Cap, and then signed on the dotted line to take the white collar step and live in Maffee’s obscenely expensive building. Taylor doesn’t declare a sex, but I’ve always believed her to be more female than male. I have no idea if that’s okay for me to say. In this day and age, people probably shouldn’t even speak if they’re worried about offending someone. But Asia Kate Dillon plays the role, and I always think woman when I see the character.
Plus, it backs up my thesis here, so I’m sticking with it. Send all hate mail to email@example.com.
The Klaxon short, in response to the Belgian car company’s mass recall, is where some people will get lost in the weeds, but in reality, it’s immaterial to the larger point, which is Taylor seeing and understanding things other analysts and traders in the building didn’t. It also leads to his-her meeting with Axe, where he-she tells him to his face he no longer understands how his people work, what they do, or how they think. Humans evolve and grow, both personally and professionally. Taylor suggests he avoid any automotive play associated with sales, and instead put his focus on delinquencies and credit issues, predicting aggressive lending practices will end in “musical chairs” for various companies.
Wendy’s door frame conversation with Lara Axelrod was awkward early and effective late, and even with Bobby being out of the loop, it’s what got him his wife back. “I know there’s something broken in him that only you can fix.” Lara places the blame for the marital distance on Wendy, also suggesting she could heal him without Rhoades, and then comes the 20 million dollar offer. Lara doesn’t realize Billions can’t exist without Maggie Siff, or for that matter Malin Akerman. So after Wendy tells her it isn’t about money, she then moves to try and help the situation. Part of the attraction to Bobby, she mentions, has to be about being with a man who does “whatever the fuck he wants, because he has no reason not to, except you.”
These two women are not the same people, or not entirely, which is in contrast to their husbands, who are identical in almost every way. Neither Wendy, nor Lara are driven by money first, but Lara’s self-worth is determined by how people view her, whereas I’ve never felt that way about Mrs. Rhoades. When Lara couldn’t make inroads on the hydration therapy business without Bobby’s contacts, it hurt her severely. When Axe made decisions and didn’t include her, it bothered her. When he lied to her, it wasn’t so much the deceit, but what it said about the partnership. It told her Bobby saw her as another mark. She’s protective of her family, vindictive and blunt when necessary, but her struggle has always been in the desire to be important in other people’s minds and lives.
Ice Juice was going to be a problem, and we knew it from the second Chuck allowed his father to invest, but with silent help from his son. Chuck got laid, so next week is not likely to be kind to him. It’s the penultimate episode, and ever since Oliver Dake bounced out of his world, he’s been riding high. Albany is within reach, he’s got Jack Foley on his side, his relationship with his father is strong, and he’s now awfully close to a full reconciliation with Wendy. What could go wrong?
Ice Juice could go wrong, and it’s going to go wrong. Lawrence Boyd gives Axe the tip, and now Bobby is going for the throat. It may be spiteful, but so was tracking down those first edition Churchill volumes. Boyd wants Chuck’s head on a pike as well, and suggests Axelrod “lob a turd in the punch bowl” by taking a significant stake, throw things in reverse, and force a negative result. Caught in the middle is Ira, who had a good idea, but is just more cannon fodder for Axe. What it will mean in the event of a failure is unclear, but we can’t forget the fact Chuck Sr. has most of his money tied up in other things, and Chuck has had financial problems all season long. Thus, this could hit them both right in the gut. When they look down, they might realize it was a knife, not just a bare fist.
At least he hired someone to steal his dominatrix friend’s laptop, knowing it could be his downfall. Minchak will make sure anything remotely troubling is expunged, and his political career will remain intact. Another example of Chuck and Axe being the same person surrounded the heist. Within the last 15 minutes of the episode, Chuck brought a laptop to George to scrub it of content that could create leverage against him. As “With or Without You” came to a close, Bobby pulled out Lara’s phone and erased the cavalcade of voice mails that would have made him look bad. Once again, both virtually did the same thing, although by different means and through different processes.
Lara’s home, but she’s pissed, as she blew off the Thunderbolt chatter with an f-bomb and stormed into the house. The last time we saw Wendy, she was in her BDSM outfit, placing a choke collar around Chuck Rhoades’ neck. Meanwhile, Hall was outside, creeping like he always does.
Billions has successfully created so many vibrant, eccentric personalities this season. In addition to Taylor, there’s been Oliver Dake, an unstable Mike Wagner (who attempted to console Axe this week by offering a drink, leftover pharmaceutical grade narcotics, and a hand job), Dr. Gus, Black Jack Foley, and now, there’s George Minchak. May she never leave this show. I love her. “Now you’re gettin’ it.”
Last week’s episode was fairly mediocre, but I enjoyed this one quite a bit, because as with the best installments of this show, there was a transparent duality to its events, and the story itself was tighter and more straightforward. Plus we met Minchak.
LINE OF THE WEEK: The reason Ed Harris can get tough with Tom Cruise is he knows Cruise has seen the bodies. – Taylor Mason
I’m @JMartOutkick and reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org. I truly am a black swan.