Billions (S02E01) “Premiere”

So here’s what happened with our principal characters:

It’s three weeks later since the close of Season 1.

Axe reopened the office, with several new staff additions, and decided to go after Rhoades by aggregating all the grievance cases ever levied against Rhoades into one, big fat lawsuit against Rhoades.

Axe is missing Wendy’s presence desperately, so much so he issued a series of stalkery directives to his staff to watch her every move. He even tried the direct approach and visited her to win her back but she turned him down.

Wendy opened an independent Performance Coaching Consulting firm, and her first gig was to conduct a pep talk at Krakow Capital for Todd Krakow, a new character, played by Danny Strong who also happens to be exceptionally curious about Axe and grilled Wendy as to how Axe makes business decisions.

Spyros met with Rhoades and warned him that Washington, DC has sent an investigator by the name of Oliver Dake, played by Christopher Denham (who looks like Simon Pegg’s younger, evil-looking brother) “who is both dangerous and capable” to investigate Rhoades’ conduct. What Spyros failed to add that Dake is a Doberman with a Bassett Hound’s nose capable of sniffing out every move by everyone. Rhoades became concerned and called DeGiulio, no longer a Deputy Attorney General due to some unspecified issue, and now a Judge, and asked him to find out who sent Dake so he can be “good and gone.”

After Dake arrives he catches something in Rhoades tax statements and it turns out to be what I like to call a “passing transaction” Wendy conducted on the same day Rhoades suspended his investigation against Axe which inadvertently made Rhoades’ suspension action look shady.

After Rhoades is served 127 lawsuits, coupled with his wife’s $5 million dollar balloon payment from Axe to Wendy, Rhoades received a call from the Attorney General to meet with her in Washington where he expects to be fired.

Wags, being Wags, is snorting his medications now and has joined an ultra-exclusive online dating service called Raja because he wants “the connections.” Uh huh. Go Wags! By the way: I am smitten with Axe’s new Chief of Staff, Stephanie Reed played by Shaunette Renée Wilson. After she decided to sponsor Wags’s membership into the exclusive dating service in order to stop him from misappropriating staff resources to break him into the site without sponsorship she warns: “All I ask is the Chatham House rule on it. And when you see me on there, don’t fucking tap the heart.”

After witnessing an inept response by a Nurse when a child goes into anaphalactic shock Lara whipped out her medical license, had the onsite Nurse fired, then called her sister Mo to take over the rest of the Nurse’s shift and then later in the episode tried to convince her sister into taking on full-time nursing duties at the school to no avail.

The episode ended with Dake approaching Brian and informing him that he figured out it was Brian who tipped the Attorney General’s office to start the investigation against Rhoades.

————–

Summary Thoughts:

As usual, the premiere episode did not disappoint in delivering the classic preachy moments from both Axe and Rhoades to their respective staffs. Clearly, they are gearing up for the mother of fights to take one another down with Wendy at the epicenter.

Axe seems to be not only driven by taking down Rhoades but he is also facing a new threat on Wall Street: The growing popularity of quant funds over hedge funds which is the core competency of Axe’s operation. Quant funds are a real thing on Wall Street today as computers conduct the market calculations rather than the traders themselves, and thus financial portfolios are more precise to the needs of the customer. I will be curious to see if this plays out, especially now that Axe Capital has a veritable human calculator in the form of Taylor, played by Asia Kate Dillon, and whether Axe will leverage her skillset against this latest trading fad.

There wasn’t much of Lara presented in this episode as to where her motivations will drive her next. The initial premiere seemed to hint that she may take on a greater role at her children’s school.

There are a lot of political machinations forming in Rhoade’s office in terms of who will rise next in the pecking order. We all know that Rhoades really painted himself into a corner in his vendetta against Axe in Season One, and because of which his staff are making moves to undermine his leadership, and even his very job.

Because Axe is Axe, we can only suspect Wags’s interest in joining the exclusive dating service Raja is not solely for lascivious purposes. If Season One is anything to go by anything and everything Wags does has intent. I would be curious to see if he ignores Stephanie’s rule and over the course of the season leverages her connections to further the interests of Axe Capital.

It’s Wendy whose evident confliction was the most fascinating of the premiere episode. It is quite clear she misses being at Axe Capital more than she misses her marriage with Rhoades. I like how the show teases the viewer with the notion of a “what if” relationship between Wendy and Axe, but the reality is they really do work well together as partners in business. Wendy has the ability to keep Axe sharp because her trusts her. The same could be true of her and Rhoades if he kept the office out of the bedroom, or more specifically his fingers off her computer. Don’t get me wrong, Wendy loves Rhoades, that is clear, but he broke a fundamental level of trust between them that I would be curious to see if and how she forgives him for that and if she could ever trust him again.

The best thematic quote of the episode and probably for all of Season 2 was delivered by Axe’s lawyer Orrin Bach, played by Glenn Fleshler: “Bobby, détente can be good.” However, that wouldn’t be Billions would it?

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