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The ‘Billions’ Stock Watch: A New Season Starts With Psychedelics And Subterfuge

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 DOWN — Double crosses


Welcome back, you beautiful, duplicitous television program. Only one episode into the season and we’ve already moved from double-crosses to triple crosses. And Chuck Rhoades is marching into a dimly lit bar, flopping into a booth, and just straight-up saying “It’s a triple cross” before he even says hello. I’m so happy I might explode.

Let’s backtrack a little, though, just so we’re all on the same page. At the end of last season, Chuck and Axe worked together to trap Taylor in a murky situation that resulted in Taylor’s personal fund folding into Axe’s. But, unbeknownst to Axe, Taylor agreed to work with Chuck to ruin Axe from the inside, largely because Chuck was deeply jealous of and angry at Axe for being Wendy’s savior in her fight to save her medical license, and also because that’s just what Chuck does. And unbeknownst to both Chuck and Axe, Taylor had a plan to play matador and let the two bulls charge wildly gore each other in the ring. It was a lot. Billions rules.

And now it’s even more, somehow. Taylor gave Chuck info about a Bitcoin farm Axe is helping to bankroll, Chuck busted the farm and pressed Taylor for even more info, Taylor spilled the beans to Axe, Axe attempted to play nice with Chuck by returning the first-edition Churchill works that Chuck sold last season, Chuck immediately saw through this and diagnosed the aforementioned triple cross, and here we are.

On another show, a lesser one, this could be enough plot for most of a season. On Billions, it took up about 25 minutes, total, leaving plenty of time for hallucinogenic hijinks and cameos by WWE superstars and a full-on wedding. Billions moves very fast, always, heaving people and debris out of its way as it speeds by, kind of like a runaway locomotive barreling through Mardi Gras. To be clear, this is the highest compliment I know how to give.

Also, to continue being clear, just once in my entire stupid life I’d like to storm into a dimly lit bar, belly up to a table where my co-conspirator is waiting, and announce “It’s a triple cross.” The rush you must feel as the words leave your lips… my God. More powerful than any drug you can buy.

STOCK UP — Bizarro Axe


Well, hello there, Mike Prince, as portrayed by television’s Corey Stoll. Pleasure to meet you. I feel like I’m going to like you. I’m almost sure of it. Yes, there’s the thing where you’re like the flipside of the Axelrod coin, a conscientious investor who claims to be attempting to do good as he’s doing well, a money man who is human first, someone who cares about the means and the ends. All of that.

But mostly I think I’m going to like you because you seem like a worthy adversary who gets under Axe’s skin. We haven’t seen many of those lately, at least on the money side of the show. It’s not that you’re even a threat, really, except to Axe’s pride, as we saw when you snaked him at the Vanity Fair cover shoot for the new crew of Decas (people with a net worth of over $10 billion) (and seriously, read the room here, fictional Vanity Fair), which Axe claimed not to care about and then promptly began plotting to ruin you over. Also, I think you’re probably full of hooey and I can’t wait for that reveal in a few weeks.

STOCK DOWN — Ayahuasca, generally


If there are two things in this world that are very much not for me, they would be, one, the great outdoors, and two, vomiting my brains out, so ayahuasca is not something that has ever really intrigued me, alleged universal clarity be damned. But good for Axe and Wags, though. Kind of. It is a little funny that the whole office is tearing itself apart in the wake of a hastily constructed revenge merger and Axe and Wags just decided to hop on motorcycles to screw off and do psychedelics to celebrate Axe’s net worth hitting 10 figures, but whatever. Again, I am not intrigued by the allure of puke-inducing braindrugs and I have barely half as many figures to my name as Axe, so maybe I just don’t get it.

Axe did not appear to be having fun, though. Wags was all Mother Earth and hooting owls and Axe was going on maniacal rants about kings and power, and I’m pretty sure he was stalking around the fire on all fours like a prowling jungle cat, if anyone needed another “Bobby Axelrod is an apex predator” metaphor. Axe does not seem like a dude who is wired at all for a mind-enhancing superdrug. I think he’d benefit more from, like, a weed brownie and some herbal tea. Man needs to wind down, is what I’m saying.

STOCK UP — Beards, though


All that said, big fan of the self-discovery beard. And the wild mane of hair. Axe looks like a straight-up Game of Thrones character here, like Damian Lewis is still annoyed that he’s the one working British actor in the world who wasn’t brought in for an audition on that show, like he’s cosplaying as Biker Tormund to exorcise those demons. I love it. Or rather, I loved it, past tense. I was devastated to see him clean-shaven and tightened-up at that Vanity Fair shoot. I was hoping he’d come back to the office holding a sword and the detached head of one of his many mortal enemies. Set the tone. Show everyone who’s boss. Make Brian happy.

That’s what I’m really getting at here. My enjoyment. Grow the beard back. Come on.

STOCK DOWN — Chuck Rhoades, personally if not professionally


In addition to being on the receiving end of this absolutely crushing exchange, one that made me physically wince and realize how much I never want to get into a heated argument with a trained psychologist, this was Chuck’s week:

  • Had to give a speech at his father’s wedding to a woman half his age, possibly less
  • Got roasted by his friends
  • Had such a bad night at the wedding, generally and also in his specific conversation with his soon-to-be ex-wife, that he ran off for an emergency midnight session with his dominatrix, which required him to turn off his phone, which resulted in him missing many texts and calls from Wendy about their son having a medical emergency resulting from chugging whiskey at the wedding like Wild West outlaw, which is what led to the painful exchange above
  • Read about his divorce in the New York gossip rags, in a statement Wendy crafted with Lauren, Taylor’s PR whiz, and zero input from him
  • And Wendy is living in the spare, masterpiece-covered penthouse apartment owned by the hated adversary he has been hellbent on ruining for something like half of his adult life

But at least he has those books, I guess.

STOCK UP — Bonnie, God bless her


This is where I should probably discuss the cameo by WWE superstar Becky Lynch, who is apparently friends with Wendy, in what is possibly the wildest cameo this show has seen since Axe greased the wheels of a deal by having Kevin Durant record a Bar Mitzvah greeting on a cell phone. I’m not going to do that, though. Instead, I’m going to highlight the fact that Bonnie responded to a very reasonable HR-related complaint by lifting both of her palms to her face and ripping off an extended fake fart that someone in the captions department had to — got to? — transcribe. I’m so happy for everyone involved here.

STOCK DOWN — Kate Sacker


Kate Sacker is the best. She’s the most competent and confident person in the room in most of the rooms she’s in, she gets stuff done and takes zero of Chuck’s crap, and she has everything lined up for a nice springboard into Congress. From there, presumably the Senate and/or the Oval Office. She’s an impressive lady who I would never cross in a million years and when she stares at people it looks like she is trying to turn them into dust right there on the floor. One day she’ll probably succeed.

But this is not good. We’re a single episode into this season and she’s already at least two strikes into Billions Characters Headed For Personal And/Or Professional Ruin situation. The first was articulating her plans for the future, the thing about Congress. No one on Billions ever gets to see their dreams through. Every dreamer gets crushed and swept up and tossed into a trash can. Remember Rebecca Cantu and her short-lived plan to run a department store? Remember Lara Axelrod’s hangover recovery business? Remember Ice Juice? Saying your dreams out loud on Billions is like having two weeks until retirement in a buddy cop movie. Things are about to go sideways for you. Quickly.

Which brings us to strike two: Working with Chuck to go after Axe. If there’s one thing we’ve learned for certain about Billions over its four-plus seasons, it’s that Axe and Chuck are two cockroaches who will still be left standing after the apocalypse — which they probably caused — while everyone else around them gets vaporized. Sacker is about to get Connerty’d. I feel it coming and I hate it.

STOCK UP — Calling in the brain trust


I loved everything about the scene where Axe’s diabolical henchmen — Wags, Dollar Bill, and Victor — gave him an update on the Bitcoin prosecution. I love that all three of them came to deliver a brief message any one of them could have easily delivered solo. I love that they came in strutting in a wide line like a teenage street gang from West Side Story. I love that Axe, who presumably knew they were coming, was waiting for them while sitting in a chair facing the opposite direction and staring out his penthouse window at the city skyline around him like a total supervillain.

I missed you so much, Billions. Never leave me again.