Billions All The Wilburys Review
Showtime‘s Billions: Season 3, Episode 8: All The Wilburys is an episode of fireworks, both subtle and explosive, in the work place and private lives of characters who have become intertwined with each other.
The viewer may never have thought of former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Bryan Connerty (Toby Leonard Moore) as being a fool but after All The Wilburys, that assessment is unavoidable. Why did Connerty walk back into Southern? Why didn’t Connerty ask to be permanently assigned to the Eastern District of New York’s U.S. Attorney’s office? Why did Connerty want to work for someone in the Southern District that is corrupt? Is Connerty a revealed “physical moron” in All The Wilburys? What Connerty receives in All The Wilburys for his “slow” mind and righteousness is a comeuppance from a boss that had been made to feel betrayed, afraid for himself, his wife, his family, friendless when he needed one the most, and helpless.
All of those feelings and the power that he wields burst out of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Charles “Chuck” Rhoades Jr. (Paul Giamatti) in front of a live and captive audience (Chuck’s humiliating and lesson-burning intention), a juxtaposition to the familial and intimate kitchen table meeting that had previously occurred between Connerty, Chuck, and Chuck’s wife. As a television fan, I love it when an actor gets into his role or the emotion of the moment within a scene. Giamatti displays all of that immersion during this key, memorable scene in All The Wilburys.
When Head of Axe Capital Robert “Bobby” Axelrod (Damian Lewis) returns to Axe Capital able to trade, his full reinstatement is lauded by everyone at the hedge fund save one. As Axe Capital In-house Performance Coach Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff) had predicted, Axe Capital Chief Investment Officer Taylor Amber Mason (Asia Kate Dillon) is not happy to see Bobby return. Bobby’s return is the end of ‘them’ making the top managerial decisions at Axe Capital. Taylor has thrived in the C.I.O. position, never letting the power that has been thrust upon ‘them’ go to ‘their’ head. In All The Wilburys, Taylor sees that power and authority ripped from ‘their’ able fingers to the clap of applause.
Taylor became a victim of ‘their’ success and ‘their’ ability to lead in All The Wilburys. Taylor had taken on the convert, harmful guise of a potential rival, a threat to Bobby Axelrod and his rule over Axe Capital. That is the only explanation for what Bobby did with Axe Capital’s positions after his return, Taylor’s billion dollar request, and Axe’s behavior at the end of the episode.
Taylor is a proven, known quantity now in the financial world. Bobby Axelrod and Chief Operating Officer of Axe Capital Mike “Wags” Wagner (David Costabile) know that Taylor is more than capable of running ‘their’ own hedge fund. That is why Taylor is a person that needs to be monitored. Throttling her back while throwing her bones may be the only way to keep her at Axe Capital. The problem for Bobby is that Taylor is smart enough to see that play and why it is being executed.
Someone else able to read Bobby Axelrod and his plays is Lara Axelrod (Malin Åkerman). What Bobby did to Lara in All The Wilburys didn’t make much sense when one considers all that they had been through together and all that they had meant to each other. Why not give Lara the terms that she wants and preserve the somewhat friendly relationship that they now? Business is business but Bobby already gave Lara half of his fortune through their divorce. What is the point of nickle and diming her? Bobby Axelrod is not thinking about the future. Lara is one of a hand full of people in the world that Bobby can fully trust. Through Bobby’s minor power-play in All The Wilburys, he is making that small circle even smaller.
The three major power-plays in All The Wilburys (i.e. the dominatrix reveal, the steel buying hotel room bust, and the courtesan scuttling) are surprising in their orchestration, though the first major power-play is the most effective. One can also deem the first major power-play as devastating as well since Chuck and Wendy Rhoades are betrayed by someone they implicitly trust. It is a delicious moment for Charles Rhoades Sr. (Jeffrey DeMunn), who not only gets more payback against his son, he also gets some against Wendy, who previously threw the truth of Chuck’s upbringing and creation in Charles’ face. Though Wendy turns the tables on Charles later in the episode, exposing his secret, instilling fear and a new found respect for her in him, Wendy’s secret is far more incendiary.
Charles Rhoades Sr.’s secret becoming public won’t effect the way people look at and think about him. It would be seen as normal in the world of high society. Wendy Rhoades’ secret life becoming public would be reality and perception altering for everyone that heard about it.
Since the beginning, Billions defied and excelled past my expectations. Up until All The Wilburys, Billions‘ plot had been a series of curve balls coming out of stealth vectors. With that in mind, I actually thought Chuck Rhoades would leave the prosecutor’s office and run for governor. That is how good the writing for Billions had been up to this episode. I had suspended disbelief to such a degree that I was unaware that I was doing it. There was no pattern or set path in Billions to be recognized, which is one of the reasons Billions has been such a joy to watch. It was unpredictable. The viewer never knew what would happen next.
To a major degree, that ended with All The Wilburys, at least with the Chuck Rhoades’ storyline of Billions.
The viewer has been creatively hoodwinked to believe that Chuck Rhoades would progress out of his prosecutor job to become governor, making Billions a far more dynamic and nimble TV series, one that has evolved beyond its original roots (e.g. Chuck having to fight off old and unique new enemies as he ascended to the governorship). Cleverly hidden behind Wendy’s assessment and Chuck’s realization, becoming governor was never going to happen. It was never meant to. When a TV show’s self-imposed limitations present themselves, it is always a bad moment for the viewer. Once revealed, like in Ray Donovan, Power, Dexter, and Shameless (the U.S. version), the viewer knows that the storylines and characters will always bounce against that invisible barrier and be redirected back towards the central premise (plot) of the series.
With Billions, it seems, there will be no deviation from that narrative strategy.
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