The Chris Rock test
Photo: Jeff Neumann / SHOWTIME
Who is the most odious? The guy who imperatively claims to be a “monster”, the guy who hides his monstrous qualities behind a facade of phony humility, or the guy who claims to keep his monster at bay with a code? This is a question that arises Billions regularly, make an episode like “The Chris Rock Test” a lot of fun – because the answer is, as always, they are all equally disgusting.
In the corner we have Chuck Rhoades, who keeps his promise to change for the better. On the surface, he keeps his promise, starting the episode in therapy. (The brutal reality of COVID-19 again makes its way into our televised escape; Chuck’s therapist is played by the late Mark Blum.) During the session, Chuck is asked to name an avatar of wisdom, and his choice says a lot. He recently read novels about Dexter Morgan, so Chuck chooses Harry Morgan, father and conscience of the literary serial killer, as his source of advice. (A Showtime drama referring to the basis of another Showtime drama? Who would have thought?)
But after Governor Bob Sweeney (Matt Servitto) relieved Chuck of his jurisdiction over the Axis cryptomining affair – punishment for Chuck’s failure to launch the book for the billionaire – New York’s Attorney General York is even more excited about his mission to put Ax behind bars. .
“A movement like this really wakes up my dark passenger,” Chuck frowns at Kate, referring to the inner demon of Dexter Morgan. And just like Dexter developed code to control this black passenger – the murder, but for what he considered “the right reasons” – Chuck intends to do the same, in the name of justice. He then almost withdrew with his commitment to “purge the world of wickedness”, including himself, by instructing Kate to keep it to his own code.
No one is murdered under Chuck’s watch – at least not in this episode – but this week’s selfish plan involves the GA engaging in an incredibly sneaky play: “helping” his longtime ally, the judge Adam DeGiulio (Rob Morrow), wreaks havoc on a recently unearthed “torture note” he wrote years ago. This damage control destroys the aspirations of the Supreme Court of DeGiulio and a new concert as Solicitor General.
Is it any wonder that the whole DeGiulio scandal was invented by Chuck Rhoades? This is certainly not the case with Kate, who not only deciphers her boss’s ruse to the letter, but calls her for having disclosed the torture note in the first place: as soon as Chuck was stripped of his criminal jurisdiction at New York regarding the cryptomining case, he decided to bring Ax to justice through the Supreme Court. Since he will need an attorney in his pocket for this, who better than his old friend for work?
In another corner, in the majestic Mohonk Mountain House in New York State, we have Bobby Axelrod, present at the Mike Prince financial conference and ready to plot with Wags and Taylor at his side. If you remember last week’s episode, after Ax and Wags got out of their ayahuasca-fueled vision quest, Ax said goodbye to the shaman with this revealing line: “Until we see each other and move your knowledge around the world. It turns out that the shaman is the key to a big Ayahuasca medical contract that Ax has planned, which makes him the only reason for Ax Cap’s presence at Mike. That’s right, Mike. How humble can someone like Mike Prince be if he named a conference after himself?
This question is explored during a public fireside chat. Ax and Mike embark on the predictable pecking contest to find out who had the hardest time reaching the top, with Ax artfully pointing out some uncomfortable truths: (1) He’s a “fucking carnivorous monster”, and ( 2) Mike may like to hide behind his nice exterior, but he is just as much a monster.
While we patiently wait for Mike to inevitably unleash his bad side, there is a fascinating underlying plot from Wags. Normally, Wags can make their regular sale with their eyes closed, especially when it’s at a strip club. But if the club’s main attraction is his daughter, Mandi, then all bets are void. As a testament to David Costabile’s brilliant play, we don’t need to see Mandi – or even what will happen next. All we need to see is the collapse of Costabile’s face, and his stiff, numb body needing a hug the next morning as he laments to Ax, “I failed the test of Chris Rock. “
He did it, but he also succeeded Billions test, which appears to be that you cannot be a character in this series unless you are a careless parent. The only character who has ever shown anything that resembles good parenting is Lara Axelrod of Malin Akerman, and she is no longer there. So I rest my case.
That night at the Mike farewell conference dinner, Ax and Wags have a lot to celebrate: Wags finally signed the ayahuasca medical contract with an FDA employee, and Ax obtained the necessary clinical trials with a Hospital CEO – the point of sale in both cases was their shaman, Bram Longriver (Henri Binje). Naturally, just as they get up to go, Mike introduces his “friend and key partner in a revolutionary health initiative”. Yes, he stole the Axis shaman.
Oh it’s sure in between, but the next Axis fight against Mike will have to wait for Ax to draw his next shot with Wags. It’s so amazing that it makes sense to Billions: Ax wants to become its own bank. And he does it for the most sensible reason he has ever thought of, so that he can die in his own bed rather than in a prison cell.
As for Taylor, they continue to wage a lost battle to maintain their soul. At Mike, they face many clumsy clashes with their ex, adventurer philanthropist Oscar Langstraat (Mike Birbiglia), whom they fought off in season three. Taylor’s vulnerability is further exacerbated by the news that Wendy has poached Mase Cap investor relations guru (and Taylor’s girlfriend) Lauren Turner (Jade Eshete).
So when Chuck summons Taylor for a meeting with the dark by the East River, they are well placed to follow his wise counsel. Chuck knows that Taylor sold him to Ax and warns them that one day Ax will backfire on them. When the day comes, they will need Chuck’s help.
First of all, Chuck sells himself to Taylor as an ally, insisting that even if he is no different from Ax (good for you to have recognized him, Chucky!), He controls his monster (eh, the jury is on that one). Second, he recommends that Taylor kiss his own monster, as that is the only way to defeat Ax in his own game.
In the words of Billy Joel, “you may be right,” Chuck.
• The separation of Chuck and Wendy takes place at the back of this episode, but it’s going to get really ugly. In retaliation for Wendy who released their divorce, Chuck froze her assets – and she is ready to go to war in response.
• I appreciated the way Billions has finally touched on something about the success of Ax-to-Rich that I’m sure he has pestered a lot of people: Mike Prince observes that “the roads have been paved for [Axe]Because he was “born white and male”.
• Could the dollar bill collapse under the financial weight of two families?
• If New York’s main authority on BDSM calls torture of waterboarding, yes, it is torture.
• Only Billions can read online “the gnocchi were firm and tasty” an erotic sound.