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Billions recap: Magical Thinking

Axe wonders if he’s a sociopath

Posted on

Jeff Neumann/Showtime


TV Show
run date:
Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis, Maggie Siff, Malin Akerman
Current Status:
In Season

The episode starts off with Axe Capital losing up to $1 billion in an instant after Axe makes a bet that everyone in his office advised him not to make. But that’s weird because Axe doesn’t make bad bets. How could this have happened?

It takes nearly an entire episode to find out, but the astute among you (especially the ones who read deeply into the way Axe handled Donnie’s death) might have figured it out already.


To get to the bottom of what’s throwing him off his game, he kicks everyone out of the building and holds an all-nighter with his one-woman psychology department, Wendy Rhoades. This is significant, given the fact that in the previous episode we learned that the two of them haven’t had a full session in quite some time. The trust between them has been eroding, but Axe is in such a bad place right now that he simply needs Wendy’s help, period.

After many hours of talking, debating, snacking, walking, vaping, etc., the two of them end up by a small lake near the office. They get down to brass tacks: Axe flubbed the bet on purpose, out of guilt. He was inflicting punishment on himself for what he did to Donnie — for stealing away whatever little time Donnie had left on this earth. And furthermore, he admits that the real reason he didn’t have Donnie go through with that life-extending drug trial his doctor offered was because he was afraid that Donnie would end up living long enough to testify against Axe. (He also tells her about a few incriminating things he’s done, but we’ll get to that later.)

Anyway, it’s all cruel stuff. But does that make him what every successful banker fears they might be: a sociopath? He asks Wendy, but she eases his mind. He’s not normal, no, but he’s not quite a sociopath either because he does feel the guilt of his actions. He’s somewhere in between, she tells him.


But Wendy does more than just administer heavy dollops of pop psychology in tonight’s episode. Early on, we see her taking a spin at the new fund where Maria now works, the same place Wendy secretly invested a bunch of money in. They’re looking to hire her as their new performance coach, and Wendy herself is considering a change — especially since last episode, when it really dawned on her that her colleagues at Axe had been slowly squeezing her out of the inner circle.

From the moment she walks inside the new joint, it’s very clear she’s dealing with a different animal: The office is large and spacious with flowing hallways, the culture is more open and collaborative, and the top brass is 60 percent women. “There is another way,” her would-be boss tells her.

But here’s the thing that sort of bothers me about the scene: Wendy is supposed to be, like, pretty renowned in the finance world. Not only is she one of the oldest employees of Axe Cap, but she’s also a U.S. attorney’s wife. There’s no way she’s walking around that trading floor, in plain view of every low- to mid-level employee in the building (not to mention some high-level ones) without one of them getting the word out that Wendy Rhoades was touring the joint.

And while word doesn’t quite get back to Axe, he intuits it and asks her point-blank whether she’s looking elsewhere. She tells him she is.

NEXT: Chuck’s being tailed