Clash of titans
I know, I know — you’re getting utterly bombarded with news about the exploits of certain filthy-rich white men. Don’t let that turn you off “Billions,” though. True, the Showtime drama is driven by, well, the exploits of filthyrich white men, but it’s also smart, entertaining and, blessedly, fictional. Led by the muchlauded Paul Giamatti (“Sideways,” 2004) and Damian Lewis (“Homeland”), the second season of “Billions” debuts Sunday, Feb. 19, on Showtime.
Last year, 12 episodes of cat-and-mouse in the world of high finance and power politics ended in an explosive confrontation between brash U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Giamatti) and self-made hedge fund billionaire Bobby “Axe” Axelrod (Lewis). Chuck is among the most powerful prosecutors in the country, and when he’s tipped to a case of insider trading connected to Axelrod in the series pilot, he launches into what could be a career-defining investigation.
Career-defining maybe, but it’s anything but simple. Ever aware of his blue-collar beginnings, Axe is generous, charismatic and a much-loved member of the community. A 9/11 survivor, he pays the first year of college tuition for all of the children of his former colleagues who were killed in the attacks. He has two darling kids and a beautiful wife, Lara (Malin Akerman, “Watchmen,” 2009), who has a similarly humble background. Though we learn that he’s definitely not above board, on the outside, Axe is the picture of a model citizen. Making the situation even more complicated is Chuck’s wife, Wendy (Maggie Siff, “Sons of Anarchy”), who has close ties to both men, and her own stake in Axe’s firm. A sharpminded psychiatrist, Wendy has worked with Axe from the start, helping him build Axe Capital from the ground up. She now has a lucrative career as the firm’s in-house psychiatrist and performance coach, working closely with Axe, who recognizes her as a valuable asset and confidante. For Chuck, bringing down Axe Capital would be to bring down the company in which his own wife is heavily invested.
Much of the show’s freshman season focused on the war the two men waged on one another, as Axe sought to expand his empire ever further and Chuck fought to expose Axe’s financial corruption. While the conflict began with Chuck going after Axe, the latter is now out for revenge — and, as we know, he has the resources to achieve it.
Season 2 sees a power shift as Chuck falls under investigation for his questionable methods and conduct, and struggles to hold on to both his office and his family. Additionally, Chuck and Axe alike fight to get Wendy back, after she walked away from both of them at the end of last season.