The Machiavellian approach to the notion of self is approximated in the ideas of what family is and what it is created to be. The 3rd episode of the 5th season of “Billions”: “Beg, Bribe & Bully” is an undeniable truth within that. The indelible aspect about this episode as compared to all the others so far this season has is that it has to do with personal worth and perspective. “Billions” sometimes has problems being subtle but that is just the nature of what the alphas of the series are. The ideal is about winning sure but it is about impact. Both Axelrod (played by Damian Lewis) and Chuck (played by Paul Giamatti) are seeing these ideas from different perspectives which sometimes need time to ferment. Axelrod’s has to do with his son who has the ambition of his father but perhaps not the exact ingredients to be like his dad. Yet he will try.
The question which is pointedly shown by of all people: Chuck’s ex-wife, whois 2nd in command for Axelrod, to Axelrod in confidence is telling. There are paths that these people take, however subtle…and every move creates a different divestment within the portfolio, both in financial and in human tallies, either to build it or break it down until there is nothing left. Some can be rebuilt. Some cannot. In Chuck’s case, it is reflected in his father who has a new family with severe backlash on his part. Granted with both of these guys, it comes out to personal representation and a case of self worth. But even in the case of Asia Kate Dillon’s fixer, there are some cases of doors which she cannot control or necessarily walk through. She makes a decision in logic for the greater good at one point, but what necessarily is interesting and ambitious is that she herself cannot see everything no matter how intrinsically made for the world of numbers as she is.
The kicker is also the double take in the case of Wags who knows how to play the game but sometimes knows he can’t do it exactly like Axelrod. He is outflanked by his nemesis on many points. And yet when you see Axelrod on stage at one point addressing a university body after vapid negotiations got him into play, shadows of Gordon Gecko reach out for a different space. It is not so much a reflection of his own worth but what his son in many ways sees inside him. Beyond that an aspect of dinner and even Axelrod’s simple integration with an artist that is done for the principle as well as the glory creates an interesting diametric of what worth is. Is the metaphor about building or to destroy just to build again.
By Tim Wassberg
The aspect of reflexivity especially in animation is an interesting portrayal of the Id. With “The Shivering Truth”, the episodes take this and shape it into abstract textures to relay an idea. Granted some of those stories portray almost a fascination with isolation and internal strife. In truth, most people most of these episodes after midnight but the ideas are sound in almost their Freudian mentality. In this episode, “Carrion My Son” our lead character simply wants to get something for himself but in doing so an establishment which he frequents in giving him what he wants in fact gives him the one thing he does not want. The reflection on this lad’s relationships seems to wither away as it becomes a sort of reverse Gulliver’s Travels with claws. Yet, in another tenet of Freud, the father’s sins beget the son’s in a certain way and yet there is no escape. Eventually the bastion of progression can be acceptance or simply an understanding. There essence of creation and destruction again plays readily here as if one and the same exists both in the character’s mind almost in his resistance to existence.
By Tim Wassberg
“Billions” as an idiom is again possessed by the thought of one-upsmanship. The question becomes within that structure is what happens when pieces are slowly pulled out of the puzzle by fate. Human failure is mostly based on numbers but the variable which is the emotional contingent is the one that allows sometimes for true breakthroughs or failure. Axelrod (as played by Damian Lewis) thinks simply making chess moves can ultimately stack him on the board as winning. But that is not the only thing that keeps a person on top. Unfortunately and equivocally, it is possessed of a give and take mentality. Episode 2 entitled “The Chris Rock Test” invariably relates to the champagne room but not in a way one would expect of high rollers. In attending a symposium by his enemy billionaire (played by Corey Stoll), Axelrod plays right into those hands.
Having been at many of these kinds of power symposiums myself it is as much about perception as it is perspective. Most people on the level can see through the aspect of power plays but the question is making it subtle or overt enough that it either feels too melodramatic or idiosyncratic to be true. Elon Musk is a good example of this and yet the Dragon craft will hit its crewed landmark shot and still capture a certain perception of the public. Add the recent Tom Cruise spectacle as part of an action movie shot in space and there becomes another. “Billions” works on that same concept but there is the human dimension.
Both of Axelrod’s right hand people who are sharks suffer a set back both because of unnecessarily comforting emotion of losing to an adversary they either didn’t expect or didn’t think would rear its ugly head. The question to be learned is coming to terms with that perspective. Chuck (play by Paul Giamatti) understands the balance. His interaction with a therapist allows him greater range even though his wife who heads up Axelrod’s firm is defragmenting part of his consciousness. This is why a sly interrelation with a would-be judge (played with slicing texture by Rob Morrow ) is undeniable. The possibility of Fleischmann from “Northern Exposure” is always a reminder just underneath. The balance that ultimately plays though in this episode is the aspect between redeemer and monster when both can be primarily the same thing.
By Tim Wassberg