Billions Hell of a Ride Review
Showtime‘s Billions: Season 3, Episode 4: Hell of a Ride is an episode of moves against others. Some successful moves, some not successful, and some outright disasters. The biggest move and fail, not only in Hell of a Ride, but in all of Season 3’s episodes up until this point, is the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Eastern District of New York’s lackadaisical approach to getting the testimony and affidavits of participants in the sabotage of Ice Juice’s IPO.
Why didn’t Eastern immediately get the testimonies / affidavits the day after Head of Axe Capital Robert “Bobby” Axelrod (Damian Lewis) was arrested?
Why did Eastern wait for what seems like weeks until they tried to secure the essential corroborating witnesses that they needed?
This is the most glaring, idiotic plot hole of the season thus far. It’s just as big as the one in Westworld‘s first season with the hidden data in Peter Abernathy not being sent out of Westworld before Ford’s new narrative was introduced but its even more seismic in Billions. Westworld is science fiction fantasy TV series. Billions is supposed to be a mirror image of the real world. In what real life U.S. Attorney’s Office would the prosecution team, after painstakingly surveilling and videotaping pawns in a criminal’s scheme (and bagging the evidence on-site) wait around, not quickly conduct interviews, collect verbal evidence, and make their case rock solid? This is the biggest, continuous story-line disappointment of this season of Billions. I know that Axe is never going to go to prison, that he will outsmart and worm his way out of that scenario. I never imagined for a moment that Bobby Axelrod would escape prison through the intentional incompetence of the people writing the series.
If you don’t want your main character to go to prison, smartly write him out of it. Don’t conveniently turn your key protagonists into inept schmucks so that your anti-hero can run free. That’s what they did with Dexter and the Spaceballs-like, buffoon cops in his Miami-dade police station. It should not be happening in Billions and I am disappointed that it is. Billions‘ writers are smarter than this. I hope this Ice Juice IPO / co-conspirator chicanery in Billions ends soon. As it stands now, its extremely sad to witness.
What is more than satisfying to witness in Billions and Hell of a Ride is the depth of acting ability on display.
The best acting moments in Hell of a Ride come from Axe Capital In-house Performance Coach Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff), Axe Capital Chief Investment Officer Taylor Amber Mason (Asia Kate Dillon), and Charles Rhoades Sr. (Jeffrey DeMunn). When Wendy becomes afraid and says “Save me…us” the viewer, for the first time, sees how the legal danger that Wendy is in is affecting her. If Wendy’s stock trade comes into the light of day, Wendy knows that she is in extreme legal peril. How will she explain the correlation between her trade and what her husband did? No one will believe that their actions that day were mutually exclusive, even though they were. Like the lawyer in The Firm says (to paraphrase), “it doesn’t matter what the truth is. It matters what can be proven.” Wendy can’t prove that her husband and she weren’t colluding that day (especially with her traveling directly from Axe Capital to the District Attorney’s office before her trade was executed). The authorities can prove that through their civil union, they both profited from each others’ actions that day.
When the rocket explodes in Hell of a Ride, Taylor delivers her most noteworthy, non-verbal acting-to-date on Billions. The viewers sees anger in Taylor’s eyes suppressing the joy of a highly successful short position. ‘They’ are devastated yet can’t show it because almost everyone around ‘them’ is elated about Axe Capital’s success.
When Wendy Rhoades finds out about the rocket’s explosion, the death of her one-time lover, and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Charles “Chuck” Rhoades Jr. (Paul Giamatti) lets her know that he knows about the affair, Wendy’s facial reaction becomes that of a forest animal caught in headlights. Wendy’s visage quickly diffuses (aided by Chuck’s well-chosen words) with the understanding that Chuck has known of the affair for a while, still loves her, and has made peace with her infidelity. At a key emotional moment, Billions delivers a precise fusion of acting and dialogue.
The same can be said about most of Charles Rhoades Sr.’s scenes in Hell of a Ride. During various scenes in the episode, whether sitting quietly crying at his award ceremony, telling his son about his greatest sexual conquests (the “one in the can” remembrance spurring a humorous back and forth between father and son), using Victorian slang (“physical moron”) before disrobing, or shaming U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Bryan Connerty (Toby Leonard Moore) about his lack of fortitude, DeMunn shines as an actor in Hell of a Ride. He steals scenes in this episode and ends the episode with the kiss of acknowledgement – Chuck has earned his father’s respect. Chuck keeps coming, torpedoes and all, severely damaging his father, and still moving forward toward his goal. By the end of Hell of a Ride, the inflicted wounds are okay with Charles Rhoades Sr. (though not fully forgiven). Chuck’s “eastern” manipulation of his father shows Charles that Chuck is a force that will not allow itself to be stopped. Charles has created that force thus he kisses it, like a ship-owner breaking a bottle of champagne against the hull of a ship on its maiden voyage. Chuck is on a maiden voyage as well, Charles belatedly realizes, toward the governorship.
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