So, in a meeting before the bright lights of the Tower of London, Wendy and Wags and Taylor — and we in the audience — are reunited with the redheaded stepchild of the series. Never one to let a 1970s New Hollywood Cinema movie reference go unstated, Bobby Axelrod compares the crew here assembled to Luke, Leia, and Chewbacca, leaving himself as both the Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon. Let the war against the emperor commence!
But there’s a second front opening up in the war on Prince. Though he’s both down and disgraced, to the point where his adolescent children no longer want to be seen eating with him in public, Chuck Rhoades is by no means out. At the end of last season, he accepted exile from the legal community and extensive legal troubles of his own as the cost of helping his colleague, Attorney General Dave Mahar of New York (Sakina Jaffrey), take Prince down.
But c’mon, this is Chuck we’re talking about here. You think he’s going to sit idly by as his reputation is dragged through the mud to the point where his own kids are embarrassed by him? With the help of the obnoxious journalist Lucien Porter (Matthew Lawler), he becomes the beneficiary of a P.R. campaign in the press that paints him to be a Robin Hood figure — the lone man willing to stand up to the billionaire class with deeds rather than mere words, and who paid for it by losing his government jobs not once but twice.
The resulting turnaround in the public imagination might well be Chuck’s masterstroke to date. Suddenly this old-money Yalie’s fever dreams of being championed by the socialist likes of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez don’t seem so far-fetched. Sure, it irks Dave, who all but tells him their nonaggression pact is off by episode’s end. But to Chuck’s mind, she didn’t tell him what her full plan was, so why should he return the favor?
All of a sudden “Billions” has a sense of urgency it hasn’t had since the really monomaniacal days of the Chuck/Axe conflict. Keep in mind that this episode begins with a five-months-later flash-forward in which an enraged, borderline psychotic Prince storms into his place of business, tracks down Wendy and shatters the glass walls of her office, demanding to know what it is that makes her so sure he shouldn’t be president. In that act, he answers his own question.
Considering the time of its creation — pre-Brexit, pre-Trump, pre-Bernie and A.O.C., pre-Covid — “Billions” has been fairly adept at keeping pace with the times. The one-two punch of Clancy Brown’s good-old-boy attorney general Jock Jeffcoat and Danny Strong’s sleazeball treasury secretary Todd Krakow demonstrated the series’s deftness at reflecting its surroundings. But it’s inarguable that the political and economic reality of America and the wider world has gotten weirder, faster, than even Hollywood’s brightest minds could conceive.