When I recapped the season premiere of Billions earlier this year, I conceded that I originally bailed on the series in 2016 before bingeing all three seasons ahead of the 2019 premiere. When it debuted in January 2016, I just didn’t have the stomach for the kind of toxic masculinity the series traffics in: The show is basically a far superior version of Suits, and nearly every episode is about Axe and Chuck measuring their dicks against each other until one of them drops a set of testicles on the head of the other.
When I jumped back into the series, however, I began to see it from a different angle: Not as hero vs. villain, but as two hubristic villains hellbent on obliterating each other. I began to take pleasure in watching these two men commit to mutual self-destruction. They have each, in turn, brought the other to their knees, only to join forces in season four in a sort of loose alliance against common enemies.
We all knew it wouldn’t last, and thank God for that. As the season closes, they are once again right back where they should be, as the bitterest of enemies, intent upon using Taylor Mason against each other. What neither realizes, however, is that Taylor Mason intends to direct both Axe and Chuck’s pistols at them, only to duck out once their guns are fired, ensuring that the bullets explode in each other’s face. I cannot wait, because if there is a good person in the wreckage of these characters, it is Taylor Mason, who deserves more than any to be the last person standing. How fantastic is it that Asia Kate Dillon has risen as the one true hero of Billions?
But before the episode’s final delicious moments, let’s back up and take some joy in Chuck finally destroying Jock and Connerty. I’ve always had something of a soft spot for Bryan Connerty, who tried so very hard as a prosecutor to remain pure, only to eventually give in to the impulses of the job. He went hard after Chuck this season, crossing lines and committing crimes to get his man, all the while taking his boss, Jock Jeffcoat, down with him. I don’t know whether to call it brilliant, a narrative cheat, or both, but showrunners Brian Koppelman and David Levien hid from the audience the fact that Connerty’s pursuit of Chuck had been part of Chuck’s diabolical plan the entire season long. He set up a financial booby trap for Connerty, and Connerty not only walked right into it, but he remained six steps behind Chuck the entire time. Chuck tricked Connerty and Jeffcoat, but I can’t help but feel like Koppelman and Levien tricked the audience, as well. Would it have been any less satisfying if we had been in on the scheme the whole time? I’m not sure, and I suppose it goes to the spoiler debate: Is it better to have a twist ending sprung upon the viewer, or is it better to be able to watch and appreciate how the twist ending is engineered? And was this Koppelman and Levien’s plan all along, or did they retrofit a satisfying conclusion over the track they had already laid? I’m not sure, but I’m pleased enough to have seen the tables turned on the racist AG Jeffcoat that I’m not going to complain.
Koppelman and Levien pulled a similar trick with Axe’s storyline, although it was a shorter con. The specifics of the transactions do not matter, they never do (I think the writers just string together a bunch of words they read in a mergers and acquisitions textbook). A few episodes ago, Axe’s girlfriend, Rebecca, sought a compromise with Taylor Mason as a way to prevent Axe from burning down his own house. At the time, we were led to believe that Axe was OK with Rebecca’s company-saving agreement. As we learned in the season finale, however, he was not. He raged privately and designed a scheme to sacrifice his girlfriend to destroy Taylor Mason Capital, because — like our current President — Axe values loyalty above all else.
The plan worked … about 90 percent of the way. He burned Rebecca; she ended their relationship; he torched Taylor Mason in such a way as to drive them to desperate, criminal measures, for which Axe would use Chuck to have them arrested. Axe would then use the threat of criminal charges to convince Taylor to come back to work for him, because he’s such an egotistical ass that he can’t stomach the thought of someone better than him working independently outside of his control.
But see: Axe also managed to arrange — through a $25 million donation — to have Wendy’s medical license reinstated, and Chuck didn’t do shit to help his own wife. That didn’t sit well with Wendy, on top of the fact that earlier this season, Chuck burned and humiliated his own wife for political gain. So, Wendy left Chuck and decided to go stay at Axe’s house, where … nothing happened. Yet (for better or worse, it definitely will happen in season five).
But Chuck was furious about it enough that he only pretended to arrest Taylor — who didn’t actually commit any crimes — and decided to use them as a pawn in his own little game against Axe. Meanwhile, Axe also decided to use Taylor as a pawn in his own little game against Chuck. But Taylor is only pretending to be a pawn for both of them when in reality, they are a (non-binary) Queen, and I am actually hoping that Showtime decides to end the series next season with a double checkmate against both Axe and Chuck. I love Billions, but that’s the only endgame, and I don’t see any reason for the series to drag it out for more than a season. I need to see Taylor Mason oust Chuck from political office and take over Axe Capital, and if they Daenerys Taylor Mason in an effort to redeem Chuck and Axe, I will burn the show to the ground.
Header Image Source: HBO