Billions Risk Management Review
Showtime‘s Billions: Season 2, Episode 1: Risk Management furthered the antagonism between the TV series’ two main characters, introduced new characters, and expanded upon previously established personalities on the TV show.
Head of Axe Capital Bobby ‘Axe’ Axelrod (Damian Lewis) wanted U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Charles “Chuck” Rhoades Jr. (Paul Giamatti) gone from his job and out of his life. During Risk Management, Axe developed a clever, litigious attack strategy against Chuck. Chuck strategizing his way out of the hole of a internal investigation is one thing. I have no doubt Chuck will think of something. Regarding Axe’s litigious attack, I don’t see how Chuck maneuvers his way through a group attack of that nature with any expediency (thus the brilliance of the attack). Axe’s move was meant to kick Chuck while he was down and distract Rhoades from his business actions (those above and below the table). On one of those two points, Axe was successful.
Oliver Dake (Christopher Denham)’s introduction as the head of the U.S. Attorney internal investigation into Rhoades was like the debut of a lead character in a film (back of the head shots, the character silently moving through various environments, serious music playing, etc.). Dake screamed incorruptibility (no one would dream of trying to bribe this individual) and no nonsense. Unlike many of the other characters on Billions, Dake was not motivated by self-interest or self-aggrandizement. He was a blood-hound who was assigned the scent of U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades.
The best lines of dialogue in Risk Management, maybe in the entire run of TV series up till that point, were delivered by Mike ‘Wags’ Wagner (David Costabile): “And you better come back with one Traci Lords of an idea. And if you need that f*cking defined, here it is: a barely legal, market-dominating, brilliant, c*ck-sucker of an idea.” It wasn’t just the lines written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien that were so auditorily entertaining. It was their delivery by Costabile that made them a smile-inducing, clap-worthy moment. The only other character on Billions that matched Wags’ lewd verboseness was former Axe Capital Portfolio Manager Saldana from Season 1 of the series.
The first episode of Season 2 of the series annunciated Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon) as an interesting possible addition to Axe Capital. Not the typical looking intern (think Lisbeth Salander except on the conformity end of the spectrum), her uniqueness made her engaging, both visually and through her knowledgeable dialogue (reminiscent of Bobby Axelrod). Like Axelrod, Taylor seemed as though she would be one of the smartest people in the room in virtually any situation.
M.D., psychiatrist, and former Axe Capital in-house performance coach Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff)’s segments during Risk Management were about expanding upon the name that she had made for herself in the hedge fund industry. Those scenes were also used to establish Wendy’s independence from Axe Capital. Like Taylor, Wendy was one of the most knowledgeable people in the situations she was presented in. Unlike Taylor, Wendy showed a killer instinct honed from years of coddling and prepping egos far in excess of her own.
Wendy’s continued loyalty to Axe and his confidentiality was no surprise. Nor was Axe trying to court Wendy back to Axe Capital. Unfortunately for Axe, spying on your dear friend’s Internet activities and then using that as leverage killed all of the trust that Axe and Wendy had built up over the years.
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