Everyone is either unhinged or going rogue in this week’s midseason finale of Billions. Bobby (Damian Lewis), who’s feeling betrayed by Wendy (Maggie Siff) and his personal painter Nico Tanner (Frank Grillo) last week, is desperate to break their relationship up just for the sake of dominance. Meanwhile, Chuck (Paul Giamatti), who’s been trying to be more ethical since the beginning of the season, keeps getting tested when he has to face two different options once again. And all of these are happening while threats, losses, and drugs force both of these power-hungry men to confront the last bit of their humanity in a very classic Billions way — packed with fireworks, absurd humor, and plenty of The Godfather references.
Chuck and Kate’s Perfect Scheme
Directed by our own Wags, David Costabile — “The Limitless Sh*t”, as usual, focuses on Chuck and Bobby as they’re dealing with serious personal and professional challenges. For Chuck, he has to face the bitter aftertaste of being defeated by Bobby in his own game last week. But Chuck knows very well that he has no time to reflect on his mistake. He has to act on whatever plan in his mind immediately, which is taking Todd Krakow (Danny Strong), the slimy Treasury Secretary who’s planning to help Bobby getting his bank license, out of the equation.
In an attempt to find dirt on Krakow, Chuck employs a group of his brilliant Yale students. Some of them refuse to do the assignment, telling Chuck that it’s wrong to go after someone who doesn’t do anything wrong, which is true. Thankfully, more than a few are willing to roll with Chuck, though the result is somewhat lackluster: they find nothing juicy about Krakow. The guy may look like a weasel, but he’s clean. This is when Kate Sacker (Condola Rashad) enters the picture, giving Chuck an inspiration for a perfect play to entrap Krakow without getting their hands dirty.
It’s fascinating to see Kate keep coming up with some brilliant plan to help Chuck this season. She’s become this perfect character that everyone, especially Chuck, can always rely on. And as rewarding as it is to see Rashad finally gets the meaty materials that have been long overdue, I can’t help but feel worried for her, especially knowing that in Billions’ universe, anytime a supporting character gets a lot of screentime, they’ll be screwed over by other characters in the same season. Though, I’m certainly hoping that that won’t be the case.
Anyway, Chuck and Kate’s scheme is simple but very risky. They want to put paranoia in Krakow’s head by telling him that there’s some investigation going on, and if he, by any chance, has some criminal background like tax fraud or something, then he will be imprisoned. At first, Krakow seems unaffected by it. But then once he’s on a meeting with the other government officials, the paranoia starts to get on his head, pushing him to do an extremely overreactive thing in front of his colleagues. He eventually quits his job as the Treasury Secretary, which means that Bobby’s dream of getting his bank license is now in trouble.
Chuck’s arc this episode also deals with this season’s theme of fatherhood and family bounds. And it’s perfectly illustrated when Chuck tries to find a way to get his dad, Chuck, Sr. (Jeffrey DeMunn) on the top of the kidney donor list by asking Pete Decker (Scott Cohen), a gym businessman who’s been providing stamina enhancing drugs for athletes, for a favor. Chuck knows that Pete can point him to some people with access. And he’s right. Pete introduces Chuck to some shady guy named Swerlow (Rick Hoffman), who can help Senior get on the donor list, and even get him a kidney donor from an undocumented immigrant should it come to that.
The thought of getting a kidney from a young girl with so much to offer obviously creeps Chuck out. That’s the line that he’s not willing to cross, at least for now. But we know better that when it comes to Senior, Chuck can become the kind of man who will literally do anything as long as it makes his dad see him as a much worthier son. The answer to whether Chuck will take Swerlow’s offer or not remains to be seen, but to be quite frank, finding out about that is less interesting than seeing the inner process that Chuck has to go through in making that decision, which I hope will get tackled by the last five episodes later on this year. (Production gets halted due to the pandemic).
Axe Is in Beast Mode
Bobby’s personal challenge, which comes from jealousy, may seem less captivating compared to the life-or-death situation that Chuck must face, but it doesn’t make it any less impactful. If anything, how Bobby maneuver himself and his feelings toward the whole Wendy-Tanner situation is a crucial part of both the episode and Bobby’s arc this season. After last week stalking Wendy all night long, Bobby invites her, Tanner, Wags, along with his new girlfriend and soon-to-be baby mama, and the real Maria Sharapova, for a sushi dinner in his house. The dinner unsurprisingly gets awkward quickly when Bobby lets his jealousy gets the best of him.
But dinner is not his only plan. Bobby is also desperate in exposing who Tanner really is to Wendy when he goes behind their backs to turn Tanner’s apartment into a public art display. He does so by showing Wendy that Tanner, who first admits to Wendy that he’s not the kind of artist who cares about price tags, is actually corruptible too, just like every other character in Billions. It’s a savvy play from Bobby, of course, but to think that he can control Wendy’s personal life just like that is actually very dumb, especially given the fact that Wendy is the most independent character in the show. The consequences of his action are still up in the air, but it’s not gonna be much of a surprise if, in the end, it will destroy the trust that Wendy has in Bobby instead of getting her back.
In Axe Capital HQ, things aren’t exactly looking better as well. Victor Mateo (Louis Cancelmi) gives Bobby and all of his employees a brain-enhancing pill named Vigilantrix that he called “the Limitless sh*t” —referencing the movie of the same name while swearing to Bobby that taking the pills will help them be more hyper-focused. At first, the pills function exactly as planned, and Bobby is more focused than he’s ever been before. But soon Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon) suspects that something’s not right when they realize that the pills are blinding Bobby and all the Axe Cap guys and gals to a point that they nearly lose $3 billion dollars. “This isn’t the Limitless sh*t. It’s the Scarface sh*t,” Taylor says to Bobby.
Bobby immediately tells everyone to plug the computer off after Taylor tells him so. But it doesn’t take long until he’s getting boiled up again, especially after he knows that Taylor, Wendy, and Lauren (Jade Eshete) have been going after his back to make a deal with his rival Mike Prince (Corey Stoll) in order to stabilize Taylor Mason Carbon after a disastrous turn of events. Bobby sees this as an act of betrayal, even after Taylor explains that working with Mike is good for the long term.
It’s clear at this point that Bobby is too blinded by his own insecurity that he can no longer see the logic behind everything. He now only sees things from the perspective of his rivalry with Mike, not from the business angle, which, of course, will cost him big time in the future. And instead of trying to understand Taylor’s move, Bobby decides to wage war. “Get me Bach. Get me Hall. Get me, anyone who can help us find out what is near and dear to Michael Thomas Aquinas Prince,” Bobby declares to Wags. “Because when I find out what matters to him, I am going to fucking destroy it. And him right along with it.” This is a perfect cliffhanger to close the midseason finale. It certainly makes me excited to see what comes next.
Ready for the Big War
“The Limitless Sh*t” may not resolve anything in the end. A lot of questions are still left unanswered, and aside from the dynamic between Bobby and Wendy, nothing much has really progressed. But as an ending to the first batch of the season, the episode gives us exactly what we want: explosive anticipation of Bobby and Mike’s war, with Chuck and the other players ready to join alongside and/or against these two deca-billionaires. I cant wait to see who will come out on top!
Do you think Taylor, Lauren, and Wendy make the right move? Let us know in the comments!
All seven episodes of Billions season five are available to stream on Showtime.
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