“Billions,” my favorite TV show, returns. The celebrations of Brian Koppelman and David Levien for Wall Street greed, with a little “Dallas,” couldn’t come back at a better time. It’s at Showtime tonight at 9 p.m.
I have seen four episodes, so I am a little faster than a very good premiere tonight. Damian Lewis’s Ax (JR Ewing, say) and Chuck Rhoades from Paul Giamatti (Cliff Barnes) are still dancing around Maggie Siff’s Wendy Rhoades (Sue Ellen, with a whip). Will they find out? Their annoying triangles end in ellipsis, not exclamation marks. And her acting is definitely worthy of an Emmy. All three of them must get an award.
This season, so far, we get a lot of new characters but also pumping supporting players. Asia Kate Dillon as Taylor remains incomprehensible and enjoyable, pawns in the main game and players at the same time. Taylor has always been an X factor in the game between Ax and Chuck. One day, he (they) will just blow up their brains and take all the money.
But this might be Wendy’s season, because she finally made some independent movements. He waited a few moments to take the focus of this series. Maggie Siff, who is very skilled in “Mad Men,” really belongs to him now here.
Don’t forget the supporting players, though: David Constabile’s wagon can be watched without stopping. You have to wait for episode 4 when he gets the moment. I burst out laughing in some of his businesses. Real “Billions” fans will love it. Condola Rashad: what took you so long? Assistant Kate Sacker DA (I think that’s her, they traded titles a lot), improved a lot. Of course, Jeffrey DeMunn as Rhoades Sr returns, with a young wife and a baby. The wife is likely to cause problems soon.
Our immediate new guests are Corey Stoll, as Mike Prince, a billionaire who comes after Ax, and Julianna Margulies as Yale’s professor who is all Rhoades leading Chuck. There are many cameos from New York’s crème de la crème actors including poignant scenes with Mark Blum who recently died as a psychiatrist. Broadway star Tony Yazbeck dances from last season, as does Deborah Rush. Harry Lennix is back too!
At Ax Capital, there are too many talented actors including Sarah Stiles, Ilfenesh Hadera, Kelly AuCoin, Dan Soder, and Samantha Mathis. Koppelman and Levien and their team in the four episodes that I saw have succeeded in getting everyone’s attention. This is not easy to do. But everyone gets a moment, a few lines, an indication. You can start the story line in almost any direction. I think that’s why “Billions” reminds me a little about “Dallas.” Leonard Katzman is very good at using large treasury players and eager to support the main action so we look for them week after week. Same here.
For New York media types, tonight we will get one very Graydon Carter-esque Vanity Fair photo shoot with a group of billionaire soldiers. Famous photographer Mark Seliger and Carter successor Radhika Jones get the lines and melee. It seems very nostalgic now.
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