Everybody wants something on Billions, but when they get it, they usually find they want something else even more. For all the talk about the bottom line, money is only desirable insofar as it can make the real victories possible. Companies come and go, but the emotional satisfaction of crushing your enemies is permanent...or so the characters on Billions believe. Those of us watching from the outside know those victories rarely last.
Having unwittingly delivered Axe his bank, Chuck now wishes to destroy it. He and Sackler visit the Delaware Attorney General in hopes of doing some favor trading that will result in Axe’s charter being pulled. They’re unsuccessful, but the seed has been planted. When Chuck later refuses Prince’s help with taking down Axe, he waters that seed and watches it blossom when Prince pays his own visit to Delaware and threatens to pull his billions out of the state. The AG agrees to place an unwanted trustee on Axe’s board, handpicked by Prince to do the most damage. Prince brings this information back to Chuck, who has the perfect candidate in mind.
Unable to be the good son in the way Senior needs him to be (by supplying him with a new kidney), Chuck is finding other ways to fill the role, from paying for Senior’s coffin to outsourcing his eulogy to Ira. While he can’t help his father extend his life, he realizes he can give what time he has left a purpose by making him Axe’s bank trustee. Senior is reinvigorated by the assignment, but Axe knows there’s something he wants even more. Thus, Axe becomes the good son Chuck could not, granting Senior his kidney courtesy of his curator and ensuring an ally in his bank rather than a hindrance.
It’s a rare moment this week when Axe isn’t completely consumed with destroying Prince. Having damaged his reputation to the point where charities are distancing themselves and investors are pulling out of Prince’s fund isn’t enough for Axe. “He’s dead when I say he’s dead.” When Prince undergoes a brief crisis of conscience and pulls out of the green energy companies he’s been nurturing rather than taint them with his presence, Taylor sees an opportunity to buy up his holdings on the cheap. Axe appears to go along with it, only to force Mafee to sell Taylor’s own positions in order to make Prince lose even more money. That this will not only cost Axe money but set back the cause of green energy when we need it most is not even a concern. Hurting Prince is all that matters.
While Prince flounders about, trying to make amends with the mother of the partner he screwed, his right-hand man Scooter is more focused. Axe’s pet frozen pizza project is finally coming to fruition as Anthony the pizza guy gives his approval, but the first batch of supermarket-ready pies is stranded at sea after Prince acquires the shipping company. Axe is willing to blow ten million dollars to have the authentic Italian pizza ovens installed in a local warehouse; whether it’s more important to him to help his old friend Anthony or deny Prince even this small victory is a question we don’t even have to ask.
Money always corrupts in this world, but not everyone gets the opportunity to find out firsthand. Tanner only needs a few commissions in order to buy the country house in Vermont he dreams of, but Wendy can’t help but notice that when money is the inspiration, the art itself suffers. After she consults with Axe, he makes the commissions disappear. Wendy thinks she’s doing Tanner a favor by letting him get back in touch with his pure creativity, but Tanner ends up destroying the one piece of recent art that came from the heart, which in turn ends their relationship. Still, value is in the eye of the beholder, so a defaced Tanner original is still a Tanner original as far as Axe is concerned—though he appears to take more aesthetic pleasure from the discarded sketch of Wendy sleeping.
While he may have wooed one unexpected ally to his side in Senior, Axe’s pettiness ends up driving his enemies into each other’s arms. Taylor crashes Chuck’s meeting with Prince in which they decide to let Axe go too far and be the agent of his own undoing, so the battle lines have been drawn for the season’s last few episodes. How much longer Billions can continue to keep these plates spinning is anyone’s guess, but with a sixth season on the way next year, an endgame is not yet in sight.
- Judging from an offhand comment by Chuck’s would-be kidney procurer, the show’s timeline is still pre-pandemic. That makes sense, since COVID-19 was referenced for the first time in episode seven, and future Billions viewers will experience season five as a continuous experience.
- During a fire-and-brimstone speech to an investor who is trying to pull out his money, Prince refers to himself as the atomic punk. Over the end credits, we get Van Halen’s “Atomic Punk,” from their 1978 self-titled debut.
- Martin Scorsese clearly didn’t have Senior’s mortality in mind when he settled on a four-hour running time for The Irishman.