High stakes, low morals

January 17, 2016

Billions is all about the rich and the powerful and the games they play on Wall Street

High stakes, low morals

One is a shady-but-supremely confident billionaire hedge fund trader and the other is the powerful and ambitious US Attorney who wants justice to prevail; Billions is their story of betrayal, obsession about being right and what binds them is loads and loads of money. Although only the pilot of the show has been aired so far, the buzz around it is so strong that people are already expecting too much!

High expectations are very justified. On one side is Damian Lewis as Bobby "Axe" Axelrod, the Homeland veteran who has proved his mettle on TV; on the other side is Oscar nominee Paul Giamatti as US Attorney Chuck Rhoades, who is never short of being top notch. They both believe that they are on the right side of the law thus pitching the other in the wrong; this is what establishes the premise of the series and suggests that the road ahead is nothing but rocky.

Brian Koppelman, David Levien and Andrew Ross Sorkin are behind this soapy series set in the Wall Street, where not only are the men in constant tussle with each other, the audience gets to see their better halves in action as well. Street smart Mrs. Lara Axelord (Malin Akerman) is pitted against Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff), Chuck’s wife who is also the in-house shrink in Axe’s office. One look at either of them and you immediately know that they are the women behind successful husbands and that they will have a pivotal role to play as the series progresses. They are nothing close to average housewives, who stay at home, waiting for their busy husbands to return home; they are the ones who help their spouses make the tough decisions in business and give them all the support they require.

So, what does Chuck have against Axelrod … what axe is he grinding? Not much is revealed in the pilot but one gets the feeling that Axe came from humble beginnings and that 9/11 played an important part in his transformation from a normal businessman to his billionaire status. There is however one big problem for the viewers - Billions might only seem relevant to those who know how things work in Wall Street. The Wall Street lingo sometimes gets too undecipherable and complex and the writers must ensure that as the story progresses, the language must be made user-friendly. Either that or viewers get an education in Wall Street lingo and begin getting a grasp of it.

As for the actors, you can’t get any better cast than this. Damian Lewis is back in the league of extraordinary actors; Paul Giamatti is no stranger to TV either and with his vast range of expressions, the series has become a must watch. While the English actor Damian Lewis once again effortlessly portrays an American, he comes out as a different person than the one who was in Homeland or Wolf Hall. He is pitted against a prizefighter named Paul Giamatti, who is a far better actor than he is given credit for. His performance comes out all guns blazing against those who believe they are above the law and that can be one of the reasons why he hates his nemesis.

There is power, there is politics and then there is power politics that too of the dirty kind. The pilot episode of Billions plays on the dirty politics of Wall Steet and by the climax, when the two giants meet for the first time, you are hooked to the show. Both the actors blast each other with powerful dialogues, aggression that is new to TV and hatred that is visible in their eyes. Despite a lot of swearing in the scene, the two come out unscathed for bigger battles, it seems.

Will Rhoades’ hatred against white collar criminals win the race or will the man-of-the-people, Axe succeed in escaping the clutches of the law. Find out in the upcoming episodes of this attention grabbing series where no side seems to be the right side. Whoever wins the battle or loses it, one thing is certain - the stakes are sky high and the game’s afoot.


High stakes, low morals