Billions Kompenso Review
Showtime‘s Billions: Season 3, Episode 11: Kompenso is the beginning of a new chapter for one of Billions‘ lead protagonists, a brilliant narrative blindside perpetrated as another character repeats a mistake from their past, and the villain of the season has a self-executing noose fashioned for them by a litigious cabal.
Axe Capital Chief Investment Officer Taylor Amber Mason (Asia Kate Dillon) is a character moving in only one direction. When an obstruction or impediment gets in ‘their’ way, ‘they’ push through, around, under, and over it to maintain ‘their’ singular trajectory.
When Head of Axe Capital Robert “Bobby” Axelrod (Damian Lewis) returned to Axe Capital and: 1.) eliminated all the positions currently held by Axe Capital (that Taylor had shepherded), 2.) eliminated the quantitative program (that Taylor pioneered and believed in), 3.) only gave Taylor a tenth of the cash that ‘they’ asked to manage, these events soured Taylor to Axe and Axe Capital.
Axe commits with Taylor in Kompenso the exact same error in judgement that Bill McGann (Corbin Bernsen) orchestrated against Axe years ago – not paying ‘them’ what they are worth. The worst part – Axe doesn’t realize what he is doing, that history is repeating itself.
Like George Santayana said “Those Who Cannot Learn From History Are Doomed to Repeat it.” Axe will rue the day he shorted Taylor the compensation ‘they’ sought in the same fashion McGann regrets shorting Axe his due.
Axe Capital In-house Performance Coach Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff) and Lara Axelrod (Malin Akerman) try to avert this disaster, and all parties believe they have, except Taylor. Taylor is already gone (‘their’ poker face is impenetrable), playing the wounded, wronged employee (which ‘they’ conveniently are) until everything is lined up perfectly.
Taylor has been coming into ‘their’ own for this entire season of Billions, right down to the clothing that Taylor wears – high-end threads, corporate, with an edge to them yet they are comfortable. This evolution comes full circle when the name of a particular organization is revealed in Kompenso. Fans of Taylor will feel elation and the word “Yes” will spring to the mind when the name of the organization is shown on-screen. I thought something like this was within the realm of possibilities and I am looking forward to how a particular character responds to this organization’s emergence.
The Attorney General Waylon ‘Jock’ Jeffcoat (Clancy Brown)-take-down-plan, hatched in Kompenso, is ingenious but it does call into question Attorney General Jeffcoat’s intelligence. Is he smart enough to see around the corner before he gets there, to think three steps ahead, to play three-dimensional chess in all matters, at all times? The real life Jock, possibly, the TV version, no. The presence of the noose was divulged in Billions episodes back. That noose’s configuration is made clear in Kompenso and it is clever.
I wish the writers had made Jock smart like Taylor, able to perceive how much Chuck doesn’t like him, his policies, or his agenda. Instead, all we have is a seasonal villain in Season 3 of Billions instead of one that metastasizes and grows with the series, infecting others, the innocent and morally corrupt alike, like The Governor in The Walking Dead.
A dumped-down, temporary enemy is not the type of nemesis that U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Charles “Chuck” Rhoades Jr. (Paul Giamatti) needs. Chuck Rhoades requires someone like Bobby Axelrod. Chuck and Bobby’s Shepherdson / Grangerford-like feud, however, is currently in abeyance.
Though there were dramatic and thrilling moments in Kompenso, there were also moments of notable levity.
The funniest lines in Kompenso belong to Charles Rhoades Sr. (Jeffrey DeMunn). He delivers them to Taiga (Comfort Clinton) as if they are Marcus Aureillus‘ Fourteen Virtues i.e. solemnly held beliefs that are ideals to strive for, words to live by, experiences that Charles has come to know as true. Most of Chuck’s advice bears the hallmarks of the marriage vow “till death do us part” and the sentiment “lets make the best of it.” The last part (i.e. lemon juice and The Clap) has to be a direct personal reference from Charles Rhoades’ past.
Watching a fifty year old man seeking refuge in the palms of his hands from the embarrassment of their parent, camera pulling back to showcase the scene in full, was the perfect way to end Charles Rhoades Sr.’s martial stability monologue.
The Comp Day interviews produced smiles, their partial purpose, but the effect of the day on Bobby Axelrod was what made it unique. The viewer may never see a person that loves and hates something so equally like Axe loves and hates Comp Day.
Like former Axe Capital Analyst Victor Mateo, Axe is vengeful and never forgets when he has been wronged or perceives that he has been wronged (e.g. when Axe is fired from a golf course in his teens, getting his revenge thirty years later in Season 1 of Billions). That past has infected Axe’s present. It does with Axe’s comp discussion with Orrin Bach (Glenn Fleshler) in Kompenso and also with Taylor. Axe’s past is his strength, it drives him, and makes him who he is, but it is also his weakness. That weakness reared its sneaky, malformed head multiple times in Kompenso but its most monumental appearance and consequence was Taylor.
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