Everyone Feels the Stab of Betrayal in ‘Billions’ Season 3 Finale
“Billions” closes its third season with everyone essentially eating each other, figuratively of course. By the end of the big finale you can’t trust a soul, especially with your money. This is the kind of show for viewers who are not turned on by action or fist fights, but by numbers and financial intrigue. The market can be just as vicious as a battlefield. Here we get two thrillers for the price of one. Bobby Axelrod (Damien Lewis) is now officially squaring off against former protege Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon), while Chuck (Paul Giamatti) is now in a duel to the death with his own boss, Jock Jeffcoat (Clancy Brown). The way characters are left standing poses some interesting questions for the next round.
In the previous episode we had seen Taylor apparently make the decision to separate from Axe Capital, but as the finale begins Taylor is joining Bobby and his other key associate, Wendy (Maggie Siff) for a giant capital fundraiser with investors being promised the moon and stars. It’s a huge success and everyone parties afterwards with a cameo appearance by The Hold Steady. But the next morning Bobby is in for a shocker. Taylor has officially left Axe Capital, not only that, they’ve taken the raised funds and have begun luring over current clients, staff and associates. Bobby of course vows revenge, and starts flirting with the idea of approving some drastic measures from shady gangster Grigor Andolov (John Malkovich). As all this goes down, Chuck is still attempting to pull off a sort of coup against his superior, Attorney General Jeffcoat. He will try and get evidence Jeffcoat is obstructing justice, but doesn’t realize his own colleagues, including Katie (Condola Rashad), are preparing to turn the tables right back on him.
When your whole show is essentially based on a chase, by the end of a third season you have to work hard at figuring out a new route. “Billions” never loses its sense of intrigue because the twists and turns are all psychological, financial and based around the savagery of office politics. In the season finale we’re pulled in by the juicy melodrama because the writers know how to make business sound like a game of Risk. Taylor’s move on Bobby is based purely on offering everyone else a better deal. Come with me and I’ll make you more money, but with cleaner hands. Of course once everyone sees you’re not loyal to the very person who groomed you, then how will they ever trust you with their money? Taylor learns this the hard way in a brilliantly executed scene where she tries to lure Wendy, who scoffs at her self-righteous attitude. In another excellent scene, Grigor ponders why Bobby won’t just let him kill Taylor. When Bobby backs away, Grigor announces he will take his money and put it in Taylor’s new outfit, warning, “how can I trust a man who isn’t willing to kill for his money?” Maybe it’s a little too much, but this is a business melodrama, so let it have its fun. It also works because Malkovich has perfected the art of playing threatening maniacs. Taylor, a rather interesting, gender-neutral character, still can’t figure out how to harmonize their supposedly leftist values with continuing to work in the corporate world.
The finale’s great twist comes at the end when Chuck finds himself cornered in an ultimate checkmate move by Jeffcoat. This whole story angle is completely separated from the original premise of the show, which was always Chuck attempting to finally nab Bobby for all his crooked business deals. By the end of the season Chuck became obsessed with getting Jeffcoat out. But as in the corporate world, loyalties can be just as deceiving in the halls of power. The final showdown is pretty brutal as Bryan (Toby Leonard Moore), Dake (Christopher Denham) and Katie are all waiting at the office, letting Chuck walk in confident into Jeffcoat’s lair only to be deflated. This is Clancy Brown’s best moment this season, as with Biblical malevolence he fires Chuck on the spot, sits on his chair and kicks his boots up on the desk. Of course Chuck turns and warns that the smile won’t last for long, and as the show hasn’t been cancelled, we can be sure of that.
The final scene of the finale ends with Chuck, Bobby and Wendy have dinner together. Yes, this is what happens. Betrayed by their own colleagues, the former foes can now break bread together. Will they unite for a big scheme in season 4? We have to wait and see. What is certain is that “Billions” has not lost its style and ability to be gripping with tight writing and sharp performances. The show remains as alluring as watching sharks in a tank.
“Billions” season 4 finale aired June 10 at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.