Two giant egos collide in a clash of the titans in Billions

27 March 2019

Two giant egos collide in a clash of the titans in Billions

I will do whatever it takes to avoid my fate” – chilling words from a serial killer. Except Bobby “The Axe” Axelrod isn’t a murderer.

Damian Lewis’s character is a bad guy for sure, but he only manipulates the money market. He’s made literal billions by cheating, lying and stealing his way through deals as the big boss of Axe Capital investment firm in Billions (2016-current, Seasons 1-3 are on Showmax).

On the opposite side of the fence is US Attorney For The Southern District Of New York Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti), who wants nothing more than to see The Axe back where he started: too broke to afford a slice of pizza from his working-class neighbourhood. They’re two bulls looking for a china shop to destroy and they’ve about to lock horns.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall

Okay, so Bobby’s backstory is that he barely survived the 9-11 terror attacks on New York, and thanks to a little extra luck, his stocks shot through the roof and he became mega successful overnight. It’s given him an ego that’s out of control. He has the Midas touch. He can do no wrong. If you want to make money, you give Axe your money and let him sniff out a deal like a bloodhound.

Except that’s not who he is. “He’s not a nice guy. He doesn’t care who he screws over as he climbs to the top,” explains Damian. “Getting on Axe’s bad side is pretty much the worst thing you can do. He has endless resources that he doesn’t mind expending to crush you into oblivion.”

And it’s the exact same for Chuck, who should be honest and trustworthy as someone sworn to uphold the law. But he’s just as bad as Bobby, if not worse, explains Paul: “Chuck betrays anyone in his path. His father. His wife. His office. His duty to the United States. But he justifies his actions – it’s all or nothing. And he’s blind to the fact that he’s breaking the law. He wants Bobby behind bars and to be shamed in public. He knows that Bobby and his Axe Cap employees are operating in illegal spheres. They are not doing things by the books. No one could be that lucky or perfect. It’s impossible. But Chuck doesn’t have the evidence he needs to end this once and for all.”

They do have something else in common… or someone. Chuck’s wife Wendy (Maggie Siff) is Bobby’s in-house psychologist at Axe Capital. She has access to each and every single one of his shady deals (at least two per episode) but that’s protected by doctor-patient confidentiality. She couldn’t tell Chuck what his nemesis is getting up to even if she wanted to. And being a woman of morals, she likewise won’t give Bobby and his team a heads-up to whatever Chuck is planning.

On one hand, she’s literally in the worst place possible because she’s being pulled in two directions by the two men in her life. On the other, she’s got a front-row seat as two giant egos collide in a clash of the titans.

The real deal

Think that the storyline is flimsy and that cases of fraud are few and far between in the finance world? Think again.

Chuck is based on Preet Bharara, the real-life US Attorney For The Southern District Of New York between 2009 and 2014 and his war against hedge fund kingpin Steve Cohen and his company SAC Capital Advisors. Plus, Preet and his team are credited with exposing Ponzi scheme baddie Bernie Madoff and finance house JPMorgan Chase in 2014, which ended with Madoff in prison and JPMorgan Chase paying a $1.7 billion fine for not stopping Madoff’s activities.

Truth really is stranger than fiction.

Stream Billions Seasons 1 to 3 on Showmax before Season 4 starts. New episodes will land on Showmax every week, starting on 10 April at 21:00, at the same time as the DStv broadcast.

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