Bobby Axelrod, Master Of Puppets

Last week, Bobby Axelrod wore a Metallica shirt. This week, in ‘Short Squeeze’, we get the real thing. He takes three childhood friends to see James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo play live. His phone, however, hardly ever leaves his hand.

Deer Hunter
The fourth episode of Billions opens with Axe Capital employee Mick Danzig (Nathan Darrow, House of Cards), walking across his lawn in the middle of the night, drunk, carrying a gun. Not just any gun. A big automatic machine gun, if I had to guess. Those annoying deers, that just eat, shit, repeat, they have to go. So he fires away like that’s the thing you do in a situation like that. He misses. Underneath the scene, Andrew Bird’s nice mellow song ‘Oh No’ is playing. One of the lines that keeps repeating is: ‘Oh, arm in arm, we are the harmless sociopaths’. It’s not long before the police moves in, puts him down. Not long after that, Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) gets a call, who calls Hal (Terry Kinney), who’s got some sort of leverage with the police; Mick’s free to go. Bobby tells him to go to work like nothing happened.

The Trouble With Wendy
That’s it for Mick this week. Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff) gets even less screen time. For some reason, she drives Chuck (Paul Giamatti) to work. She coincidentally spots Pete Decker (Scott Cohen) walking by, and asks her husband about him. She must know these kind of things are off limits in their marriage; that’s one of their rules, to avoid any conflict of interest and displaced loyalties. So why does she ask anyway? To include her in the episode? It sure seems like it. At the end of ‘Short Squeeze’, Chuck apologizes for pretending not to know what Decker was doing there, and Wendy apologizes for asking. To me, these two meaningless scenes prove my point. Wendy’s got the role of an outsider. She’s not pivotal to the story, so until she does become part of Chuck and Bobby’s cat and mouse game – and she will, at some point – it’s hard to find ways to include her in the episodes (other than putting her high heels on her husband in the bedroom).

Everything But The Girl
Bobby’s out with his longtime friends, one of which is Noah Emmerich (The Americans, White Collar, The Truman Show). And when I say out, I mean out. They’re on a private jet on their way to a Metallica concert. Wow. They’re still together? Apparently so. Most series would just incorporate some live footage, but it looks like they shot the band themselves and the characters were actually there. That’s very cool.
Inside the stadium, a girl (Kerry Bishé, Halt and Catch Fire, Scrubs, Public Morals) starts hitting on Bobby, before and after the show. He respectfully declines. He’s married, and it’s actually ‘a real thing’. A real gentleman he is. I couldn’t help wondering if it was all a setup. Putting him in bed with another woman, in order to blackmail him later. There’s no evidence of that, though (yet), but that’s what this series does. It makes you wonder and anticipate. That’s what good drama is all about.

Meanwhile, Chuck and Bryan (Toby Leonard Moore, Daredevil, The Pacific) are grilling Decker. The man doesn’t know much. He’s never been part of Bobby’s inner circle. He explains the day-to-day business of Bobby Axelrod, which is something other shows would’ve done right away. In the pilot. With a voiceover, if need be. Not Billions. Time to give detailed information about the inner workings of Axe Capital comes when it’s the appropriate time in the story. People say this series doesn’t know what it’s doing, but it knows exactly what it’s doing.

I’m sorry about that. It seems like we suffered a minor Marco Rubio Glitch right there.

Decker shares what he knows, but it’s even less than Chuck was hoping for. He does give up one name: Bill Stearn. A tiny lead to push the case forward. I thought it’d be a long term thing, but the mole inside Chuck’s office – Tara Mohr (Annapurna Sriram, South of Hell) – is discovered. Another great move by Kate Sacher (Condola Rashad). Tara confesses and Chuck makes a play, trying to flush out Mr. Blackmail, but Hal’s smart enough not to bite. Bobby’s feeling the heat, coming from all sides – Chuck’s father (Jeffrey DeMunn) is also actively going after him – and tells his right hand man Mike Wagner (David Costabile) to subtly ‘sell everything’. Everything? Everything. This way, everybody will think he’s out of the game. I’m sure he’ll remain master of puppets.

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