clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The ‘Billions’ Exit Survey

The Showtime drama was excellent this year. Let us count the ways (with a high-speed trading algo).

(Showtime/Ringer illustration)
(Showtime/Ringer illustration)

The second season of Billions came to an end on Sunday, but we’re still buzzing about it. (Admittedly, that might be due to the tainted Ice Juice.) So we rounded up The Ringer’s biggest Billionsaires to take stock of a legendary second season.

1. What is your tweet-length review of Season 2 of ‘Billions’?

Chris Ryan: Drown me in Ice Juice, give me a soy bath, bury me in a Vineyard Vines fleece vest, and read off memorable quotes from The Firm’s IMDb page. This show is its own kind of perfect.

Mallory Rubin: I sent this about 30 seconds after I finished watching the finale and I meant it sincerely:

Alison Herman: When in doubt, bring on a non-binary math genius to give your main characters lots of side-eye.

Bill Simmons: We were 23 deleted Malin Akerman scenes away from a 12-episode no-hitter. She kept getting infield singles and bloop hits. Fuck.

Amanda Dobbins: It is nice to bond with my coworkers about something!

Sean Fennessey: A show hasn’t made a redefining Season 1 to 2 leap this deftly since Parks and Recreation.

Ben Lindbergh: Better than buying every signed first edition of The Second World War.

Ryan O’Hanlon: I will miss watching the best show on television.

Sam Schube:

(Showtime)
(Showtime)

2. What was your favorite moment from the season?

Fennessey: Every scene involving Dollar Bill. Followed closely by every scene featuring Taylor. Followed closely by every scene featuring Wags.

Herman: Wags freaking the fuck out in Sushi Nakazawa. I like my ego flare-ups with a side of food porn.

Lindbergh:

The only reason for Chuck to say “the wife’s” instead of saying “my wife’s” from the start was to set up the ridiculous scene-closing line. Depending on your affinity for Billions, you either immediately turned off the TV when you saw this or rewound to watch it again.

Schube: The part where Taylor shit-talked Axe and Wags for speaking exclusively in dudely movie references. This show knows exactly how ridiculous it is.

Dobbins: When Chuck opened the bottle of fancy rosé for Wendy.

Rubin: Every scene between Chuck and Axe crackles with the intensity of a heaping spoonful of caviar shoveled onto a warm slice of pizza, and the finale’s verbal dick-measuring contest in the prison was a rich dessert at the end of a succulent season-long meal of showdowns. But watching Axe temporarily sacrifice Boyd to Chuck so that Axe could get a few seconds of TV time out of his buddy, then piss on Chuck’s victory parade, was the highlight of both Episode 5 and the season for me:

“Hello Bob. I don’t put any stock in omens or fortune-tellers, but this must feel a little like your future foretold, huh?”

“Me watching you arrest other people while I walk right out of the door? Yeah, kind of does.”

We don’t need Taylor to write up a report on that, folks.

O’Hanlon: I bought a separate laptop so I could have this playing on a full-screen loop for the rest of my life:

Ryan: Wags and Axe telling Taylor they have to fire someone, and then talking about drinking blood.

Simmons: You mean, other than the entire Ice Juice episode? I’m going with the charity poker tournament, even if it squandered a golden chance for an unexplained Teddy KGB cameo or someone dropping a “Welcome to the Chesterfield South” joke. Gambling scenes always deliver — except for the ones in Mark Wahlberg’s “The Gambler,” which was a movie funded by Gamblers Anonymous to make people hate gambling. (It didn’t work.)

3. Your least favorite moment?

O’Hanlon: None — other than disappointment of realizing that Axe had not, in fact, referred to Monte Carlo as the “SantaCon of the Riviera.”

Simmons: We were 23 deleted Ma — crap, I said that already. I wish they hadn’t wasted the “Axe tries to buy an NFL team” plot as a throwaway for pushing a bigger story line along. I wanted Axe to own an NFL team so badly. The whole thing hurt. I felt used. We could have used Axe to frame Roger Goodell. Maybe that’s Season 3.

Fennessey: Every scene involving Malin Akerman. Remove her from this special show.

Lindbergh: Lara’s supposed-to-be-smooth cigarette reveal:

Rubin: This “You weren’t ready” delivery was immensely satisfying:

Unfortunately, every Lara-centric plot point that led up to it was not.

Schube: The part where Wendy Rhoades decided not to send a cool lady who liked Wilco to Mars.

Herman: If I have to hear the words “heaving his seed” echo in my head every day for the rest of my life, you do too.

Ryan: All the Lara Axelrod moments.

4. Who’s your MVP for the season?

Ryan:

MVP: Wags

Sixth Man: Adam DeGiulio

Rookie of the Year: Taylor

Most Improved: Sacker

Defensive Player of the Year: Dake

Coach of the Year: Black Jack Foley [holy shit, David Strathairn HAS TO PLAY GREGG POPOVICH IN A MOVIE]

Simmons: Taylor. Low usage rate, incredible efficiency, 50–40–90% shooting, spread the floor, impervious to all game plans, unselfish, made everyone better. A character unlike anyone I can ever remember on TV. Really great.

O’Hanlon: Taylor: Give them all the awards.

Fennessey: Taylor is the obvious choice, but Jeffrey DeMunn as Chuck Rhoades Sr. was consistently stirring and somehow managed to make legacy-shaming seem noble.

Schube: Taylor Mason, who is going to be a billionaire. Also Dr. Gus, the psychotic performance coach whose tenure at Axe Cap was tragically short. Also this idiot:

Herman: FIRE WALK WITH WAGS!!!!

Lindbergh:

1. Taylor might be the best debut character on any show this spring.

2. Christopher Denham (Oliver Dake) auditioning as an Agent in the Matrix reboot.

3. Daniel K. Isaac as Ben Kim, for getting by far the least screen time of the eight Billions actors who’ve appeared in every episode so far.

Rubin:

(Showtime)
(Showtime)

5. Your LVP?

Rubin:

Simmons: Here’s a hint: I screamed “Are you kidding me? YOU’RE NOT GONNA WRITE HER OFF?” at the very end of the final episode. Creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien should do a Charitybuzz auction with the winning bidder deciding how they write off Axe’s wife in Season 3.

Dobbins: Malin Akerman is not a good actress, sorry.

Schube: I’m excited for Malin Akerman to achieve her destiny as the lead on an ABC sitcom.

Fennessey:

Lindbergh: Lara is the easy pick, but salute to Axe rival Todd “Napoleon Complex” Krakow for making a case in only three episodes.

Ryan: Lara, obviously, but in terms of what they left on the table, I feel like we didn’t get enough out of Eric Bogosian.

Herman: A tie: Why is Chuck Sr.’s response to his son finally catching a W “I’m going to force you to watch while I prove your wife cheated on you”? Why is Lara’s response to her billionaire husband getting thrown in jail “It’s time to really commit to my small business”?

O’Hanlon: The abbreviation “Crim.”

6. Was Chuck wise or foolish to spend $27 million to send Bobby to jail?

Fennessey: Was George Steinbrenner wise to spend $39.5 million on Carl Pavano in 2005, after the team lost the ALCS in a disgraceful fashion to the Boston Red Sox? Was it wise to spend the next four years in a World Series–free purgatory of baseball life? No. But then, in 2009, this happened. Sometimes you need to bottom out to rise up.

Herman: It was in a blind trust anyway, Wendy is gonna pay “Sorry for sleeping with Benson” alimony till the end of time, and the man himself says it was worth it. Who am I to disagree?

Dobbins: People have definitely spent far more to become the governor of New York?

Rubin: Foolish, but in a wonderful way. These two act deliberately and rationally in all other areas of life, but when it comes to dealing with each other, everything’s a homer-hitting contest in Dollar Bill’s batting cage. Logic goes out the window as fast as Hall’s cellphone or Mafee’s confidence. It’s unconscionably stupid — and that’s why it’s great TV.

O’Hanlon: The only wise person in this show is whoever dresses Black Jack Foley.

Simmons: Foolish, weird and even creepy. No man would spend that much money to ruin another man, not even if it was Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. But Billions cocreator Koppelman supports an NBA team that spent $72 million on Joakim Noah — it threw off his ability to understand money.

Schube: I still can’t believe he did this.

Lindbergh: WORTH IT.

Ryan: WORTH IT.

7. Describe Wendy Rhoades’s job in one sentence.

O’Hanlon: Picture Trent Dilfer talking about quarterbacks; then picture the exact opposite of that.

Simmons: Hugs, leather, nodding, smirks, writing, more hugs, rarely available, but again, hugs.

Schube: I am extremely uncertain.

Lindbergh: It’s not about numbers.

Ryan: She’s the only one here who doesn’t do numbers.

Rubin: She’s the only one there who doesn’t do the numbers, guys; please keep up.

Herman: Overpaid babysitter.

Fennessey: No.

8. Who was your favorite guest star (or celebrity cameo) this year?

Simmons: I would have said Mary-Louise Parker, but in the final episode, it seemed like she and Giamatti might have sex. And that breaks my no. 1 rule for enjoying TV — “DON’T EVER SHOW ME PAUL GIAMATTI HAVING SEX.” They didn’t do anything, but the scars are still there. So I’m going with Steve Tisch. His acting reminded me of vintage Brian Grazer in Season 4 of Entourage.

Dobbins: I think I accidentally skipped the first Mary-Louise Parker episode and I still have zero idea what she was doing in the finale, but: Mary-Louise Parker.

Rubin: I have no idea what accent Mary-Louise Parker is using, why she always takes off her shoes in front of Chuck, or how she felt comfortable grabbing the stolen sex dungeon computer without the instant aid of Purell, but I love it.

Schube: STRATHAIRN. Not since the days of FDR has a New York power broker sounded this patrician.

Fennessey: Phil Hellmuth, full stop.

Herman: I hope Axe gets out of jail in time to help David Chang with his IPO.

Lindbergh: Mark Cuban, but I missed Mark Teixeira. Juice Press should sue Ice Juice for patent infringement.

O’Hanlon: Once or twice a year, you’ll come across a still-pure, unironic corner of the internet. I present to you: the Ben Folds Facebook community’s reaction to Ben Folds’s piano playing at Foley’s white-jacket party.

9. What was your favorite Wags moment?

Rubin: I refuse to pick. Every Wags moment is a perfect, dimpled snowflake, coating our lives with refreshment and cheer. I’ll need a rejuvenating IV every Sunday this offseason to survive without him.

Schube: When he calls Axe “an American sniper” in his birthday toast, and then admits that his compliments “don’t limn the truth of an indefinable essence.”

O’Hanlon: Butt tat.

Simmons: Every moment when I didn’t have to see his ass crack.

Lindbergh: The VR tour of Axe’s survival-bunker birthday present.

Ryan:

Fennessey: This is me at Sugarfish at least once a week.

Herman: Why is this a separate question from “favorite moment of the season”?

Vaping booze while Mitski plays in the background. Gleeful desecration of the American dream is what this show’s about, baby!

10. What’s your forecast for Lara Axelrod’s business?

Fennessey: Who is Lara Axelrod?

Lindbergh: I’m taking a substantial short position.

Ryan: “What is it that you do that you’re the best in the world at? You offer a service you didn’t invent, a formula you didn’t invent, a delivery method you didn’t invent. Nothing about what you do is patentable or a unique user experience. You haven’t identified an isolated market segment. Haven’t truly branded your concept. You want me to go on? So why would an investment bank put serious money into it? I all but told you ahead of time, but you wouldn’t listen. Now you’ve heard it, but it’s too late. YOU. WEREN’T. READY!”

Rubin: In short: It’ll be bad, just like Lara.

Herman: This is the only time I’ll ever say this, in any context: She should’ve shut up and listened to her husband.

Schube: Mark my words: Cousin Mo will wind up on Shark Tank.

O’Hanlon: Never makes an app, gets muscled out of the market, eventually starts selling knife sets, actually makes a decent middle-class living.

11. GUEST QUESTION: “Did Season 2 have not enough sex, too much sex, or just the right amount of premium cable sex?” — Bill Simmons

Ben Lindbergh: Why waste opportunities for florid dialogue on mostly silent sex? My only regret is that Chuck Rhoades Sr. and George (Mary-Louise Parker) haven’t gotten together. Still holding out hope for those two.

Herman: Billions is a prestige show too chicken to show either of its leads fucking, and the narrative acrobatics it pulls to squeeze some cable sex in anyway will never not be hilarious to me.

Rubin: We got only one morning-after-with–Bob Benson scene and thus by definition the answer is “not enough.” Not nearly enough.

Simmons: I don’t think it’s fair for me to answer my own question.

Fennessey: [whispers] Don’t get fired.

12. Is Bobby Axelrod redeemable? What about Chuck? Do you care either way?

Lindbergh: There’s probably some level of loathsomeness at which I wouldn’t want to watch either, but even the Ice Juice self-sabotage and the Axe Cap austerity plan didn’t max me out on theatrical evil. I’m not tuning in to see Chuck and Bobby be good guys.

Herman: This show is best when it acknowledges they’re both terrible.

Schube: They will lose everything, but they’ll still have each other.

Dobbins: That is not the point.

Fennessey: It’s better if they’re not — which we learned of Chuck this season.

Rubin: If either of these guys discovers Jesus at the bottom of a bottle of Michter’s or Ice Juice, this show stops working, so I really hope not.

O’Hanlon: DON’T CARE.

Simmons: Chuck enjoys being dominated by dominatrixes and MMA fighters; he’s a shitty husband and a shittier father; and he has no problem bankrupting his entire family just to win a petty feud. You can’t redeem someone whose dream in life is to be peed on by Ronda Rousey.

Ryan: Chuck should win the governorship, and become a rising star in the national firmament. Axe should become Robert Mercer, and apply his investment models to political campaigning and bring about a populist revolution, culminating with him taking down Rhoades’s bid for the presidency.

13. Will Chuck win the governorship? If so, is Governor Chuck Rhoades more of a Pataki (feckless, weird) or a Cuomo (paranoid, vile)?

O’Hanlon: Cuomo. See: answer no. 2.

Lindbergh: Cuomo, but Albany is only a springboard to higher office and lower morals. We’re heading for a House of Cards scenario by Season 6.

Fennessey: Not on his first try. He’ll be felled by one scandal or another. But he’ll bounce back, and by Season 13, he’ll be in the big chair in Albany. Chuck is loosely based on Eliot Spitzer, but I suspect he’ll be more of a Hugh Carey, a governor who thrived in crisis.

Schube: He’ll fix the airports, but lose the job over an Olympic-bid scandal.

Herman: Chuck is Selina Meyer: give him what he wants and the show is over. (But if he got it, he’d obviously be a Cuomo.)

Rubin: He has to win, because something about the dynamic between Chuck and Bobby has to shift to keep the show fresh. Chuck is feckless, weird, paranoid, and vile, so he’ll be a hybrid of those fearless leaders, but a hybrid who’s well positioned to continually evolve into a worthy foil for Bobby. Even when Bobby’s losing, he somehow manages to feel a few boat lengths ahead; Chuck needs a bigger paddleboard.

14. What do you foresee for Robert/Bob/Bobby Axelrod?

Dobbins: A divorce and an investment in the Bonobos of henley T-shirts.

Schube: I’m worried he’s gonna wind up shooting dope in a Caracas high-rise.

Rubin: More motorcycle rides. More moving mentor-mentee sessions with Taylor. More mutual mental manipulation with Wendy. More of everything that we love. Bobby’s hit a pothole, but you know what? Worth it.

Herman: Something involving the Cayman Islands.

Lindbergh: I hope this show lasts 17 seasons and that every one of them ends with an even more elaborate Bobby-Chuck showdown. In Season 17, at least one of them will be dangling off of Mount Rushmore, which will feature the newly carved visage of President Rhoades.

Simmons: Majority owner, New York Jets.

Fennessey: Prison time.

O’Hanlon: A large for-profit prison investment.

15. What was your favorite music cue this year?

Fennessey: Drive-By Truckers’ “Goddamn Lonely Love” at the conclusion of Episode 6, “Indian Four.” Runner-up: “So Long Baby Goodbye” by the Blasters, in the finale.

Schube: Only a show this gleefully, self-awarely stupid would dare to open the season with a running sync of “Jump Into the Fire,” one of the … I dunno, five most famous movie songs in history? Bless these knuckleheads.

Simmons: “Debaser” by the Pixies. I mean — come on.

Herman: Shout-out to the writers’ assistant who introduced the showrunners to Car Seat Headrest.

Rubin: I quite enjoyed “Homecoming,” the cue that closed out the finale, perhaps because it felt sweet and apt, or perhaps just because it felt like the only non-Springsteen jam of the season. Hard to say.

Lindbergh:Sex and Candy” over the exploitative family football toss, but honorable mention goes to “Trouble” for almost making poker-playing palatable.

Ryan:

16. If this season was a flavor of Ice Juice, what flavor would it be?

Ryan: Something with turmeric.

Simmons: Cucumber — refreshing, healthy, totally satisfying. Which WWE wrestler, porn star, rapper or Kevin Hart movie will steal the title “Ice Juice”? That’s the real question.

Fennessey: Strawberry mint. Sweet, with a sprig of herbaceous freshness.

Schube:

Herman: Pamplemousse.

Rubin: Dom’s Delight: A spicy, forceful blend of blackcurrant, cayenne, and your own fear. You’ll do what this juice says.

O’Hanlon: Whatever Dr. Gus smells like after he gets off his stationary bike.

Lindbergh: Butt tattoo.

BONUS QUESTION: What goes into The Ringer’s Burn Box?

Simmons: The transcripts of every NBA-PEDs conversation that I’ve had with Chris Ryan and Juliet Litman — including the three we’ve had in the past two weeks alone.

O’Hanlon: Slack.

Fennessey: Any further reference to Lara Axelrod.

Rubin: It should probably be the picture of Wags’s ass that I insisted on including in this post.

Schube: My “James Gray is overrated” take.

Herman: The entire contents of Mallory Rubin’s snack drawer.

Ryan: Meet me at the marina and I’ll tell you.