Billions Season 1 Episode 1 Review: How Big the Ego?

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A pissing match. A dick measuring contest. 

These are just a couple of things that spring to mind to describe the burgeoning relationship between US Attorney Chuck Rhoades and hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod on Billions Season 1 Episode 1. In fact, Bobby himself even described it that way.

Chuck, if given the opportunity, probably wouldn't admit he was in any way playing a game, but rest assured he is.

When you're trying to take down one of the country's wealthiest men, you're not in it for the sake of justice. You're in it to prove something. 

Cat and Mouse - Billions

Chuck used a lot of descriptive phrases about Bobby and why they should wait to touch him, such as, "Bobby Axelrod is Mike Tyson in his prime," and, "A good matador doesn't get a fresh bull." 

Despite having something from the SEC (who, for reasons unknown, didn't initiate their own investigation into Axe Capital, but sent it right to the US Attorney's office), Chuck knows that Bobby's image needs to be tarnished just a bit in the eyes of the public before he can start dragging him down.

It was just a little bit too fortuitous that Bobby just so happened to be falling apart at the seams, fighting his inner demons and unsure about his position in the world at the very moment Chuck needed it. 

You know Bobby has a little too much money when he's so taken with Elmo the family dog pissing on his furniture, showing who's boss. You had to figure the dog was doing it every night since they got him, and Bobby still found it quaint, wanting Elmo to run free. 

For the average individual, that would have grown old in record time, but apparently not Bobby. In fact, it was seeing Elmo after surgery, lethargic and without the fire in his soul, that took us out of the pilot and really got the series rolling. Bobby tarnished his image and bought the big house on the beach in the Hamptons.

Because he felt that Chuck looking into him was putting his nuts in a vice and squeezing the life out him, a billionaire! The nerve. Will he regret the hasty decision? We'll find out.

Apparently having Wendy Rhoades on the payroll isn't enough. He needs her in his back pocket. Wendy is likely to become a key figure in the fight between the two men, as they both rely upon her heavily, trust her opinion and have faith she is trustworthy with regards to the other man in her life. 

I don't envy Wendy Rhoades.

Lara Axelrod, too, will have her work cut out for her, as she appears to have made it her life's work to walk around behind her husband cleaning up any possible messes in his wake. Look at the way she threatened the wife of one of the men lost on 9/11, who thought Bobby living while others died was unfair. Lara didn't even hide the threat, but gleefully admitted it.

No doubt Lara and Wendy have a lot to talk about.

Another major player is Chuck's father. He appears to be a bit of a dick, maybe too wrapped up in the success of his son. His friend, Skip, who had been sentenced to prison by Chuck, seemed like a lost cause.

If he had gone to Chuck on his own, he might have had something to hold onto other than the kind words from Chuck and a full sentence looming in front of him. Instead, Rhoades, Sr. wanted Skip's lawyer to run his mouth to the press about the badassery of Chuck, Jr.

Mission accomplished, but at Skip's expense. Chuck will carry that with him forever. Something tells me it will hardly bother Rhoades, Sr.

The players at Axe Capital are also key, and I have to wonder why follow him all over town, to personal events like his kids' basketball games, to discuss trades rather than picking up the cell phone. Nothing they discussed in person seemed like anything they could have said over the phone, therefore saving time and being in front of their machines to make the trades. After all, it was urgent, right?

The things done for drama's sake seemed just a little bit over the top, and that was one of them.

Bobby having a private, thinking thug on retainer is interesting. He gathers intel for Bobby which the latter pays for in cash, like a TV criminal. Bobby using the same reporter who questioned Chuck about hedge funds leak the news about another fund manager seems awfully suspect, and like another shot in the contest between Bobby and Chuck.

Probably my least favorite part so far, mostly because I think it's such a cliche, is the bondage. Yes, we get it. Powerful men want to feel subjugated because they rule so mightily. It keeps them from going over the edge and becoming all consumed with their strength. Just yuck. Starting the hour with a golden shower was...unique.

I've decided to review Billions because I spent years working for hedge fund managers. Specifically those who made money after the market collapse. They were good. They could look at the down market and see money where others saw loss. Your worst years were probably some of their best. 

I sat through SEC audits and understand the game on the broadest of senses. When Bobby Axelrod mentions an Alpha conference, I'm not in the dark! For a mathematical idiot, that's pretty big stuff.

So, are you going to hang around and see what's next for this incredibly intertwined foursome and those who inhabit their lives?

What's next is Billions Season 1 Episode 2, "Naming Rights," when we discover there really is room for Bobby's ego to grow. Oh, thank GAWD! I was worried. Weren't you worried? Hey Big Ego!!! Can you guess by the title what's at stake? 

Drop me a comment if you're into Billions and what lies ahead.

Pilot Review

Editor Rating: 3.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.9 / 5.0 (18 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Billions Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

My cholesterol's high enough. Don't butter my ass, Danzig. Just get smarter.


Bobby Axelrod is Mike Tyson in his prime, and you do not want Mike Tyson in his prime.