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Monday, February 15, 2016

Billions on Showtime: Winning Me Over

I thought I'd check in here with a few words about Billions, which just posted its fifth episode on Showtime last night.

The series, tailor-made for Bernie Sanders' campaign, started a bit slowly for me. The rapacious Wall Street billionaire has been well trodden on television and in the movies - in fact, there was a pretty-good two-night special about Bernie Madoff on network television just a few weeks ago.   I didn't see that much different in Billions at first.   But--

Well, the series is growing on me.  Last night's episode 1.5 was the best so far.   Bobby Axelrod is moving to leave it all, and take his family on a long boat ride to the Galapagos Islands, of Charles Darwin and survival of the fittest fame.  Aside from this cool history-of-science resonance, the storyline has a nice wrap-up: Axe instructs his people to sell off, including a bundle that crashes, and when Axe decides not to go, at last minute, he looks like a genius to his second-in-command, who comes to realize that likely Axe was serious about sailing off, after all.

The mortal antagonism of Axe and U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades, hell-bent on putting Axe away, is also developing well,   Interestingly, Axe likes good old-fashioned sex with his hot wife, and resists the temptation to cheat on her when he's away in Canada.   Chuck is also loyal to his wife, but their cup of tea - or at least, his, which she accedes to - is sadomasochism, stilettos, cigarette burns, and all. And though Axe is no angel to his staff, Chuck is often even worse, all adding to a complex and appealing dynamic of no one is really totally the good guy here.

Chuck's wife working for Axe as his sort of company psychologist is somewhat implausible.   On the other hand, as my late science fiction editor David Hartwell always told me, your audience can allow one unbelievable jump, if you stick to a plausible narrative in the rest of your story.

I'm certainly going to stick with Billions, and will be back here with reviews as the season progresses.

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