We gave it a B+
As Billions gets closer to the end of its second season, two narrative threads are slowly unraveling. First there’s Chuck and his bid for governor. It’s been a pretty low-key story line all season long, only ramping up in the last few episodes, but it’s been the motivation behind so many of his actions. For all the talk of wanting to take down Axe and Boyd, Chuck is still very much motivated by his own personal gain. The end goal, at least for now, is the governor’s office. For Axe, his goals are perhaps a little more vindictive: he wants to find out who screwed him over on the Sandicot deal so that, presumably, he can screw them back. That’s kind of how the world of Billions works, after all.
Chuck’s bid for governor, for all intents and purposes, seems to run through Black Jack Foley. Or so says Chuck Sr. at least, and when “The Kingmaker” kicks off, Chuck is in a bad way after failing to secure the clerkship for Foley’s granddaughter. Foley has thus decided to back candidate Rob Sweeney. Chuck’s father later gives him hell — in a cigar locker of course, to really drive home his point — about his failure to suck up to the right people. But Chuck’s having none of it; he’s riding high on his takedown of Boyd, and believes he can get by on his own. “I have my own power,” he says, and he might not be wrong.
Meanwhile, Axe is adamant about finding out why Foley wanted to screw him, if indeed he did it on purpose. So he gives Taylor a task. He asks them to find out who Foley is buying ore from for his steel, hoping that he can snatch up a bunch of product and send a message. While Taylor takes that on, Wags overhears Mafee on a call from a Spartan-Ives competitor promising to give them an offer they can’t refuse if they so choose to do business with them. Mafee shows some hesitation at taking the meeting, but Wags is all in, even after Mafee shows some concern for his sobriety. Wags is having none of the comparison to, in his words, “Courtney Love in ’93,” so the meeting is booked.
Once Taylor comes up with a name, Chuck sets out to meet with the distributor and see what kind of deal he can make. That gives us one of the best scenes of the night, simple in its execution but oh so telling in its content: Axe and Lara walk on an airstrip discussing Lara’s need to be in Sandicot to promote charter schools and the Axe Capital-funded rebuild of the city, while Axe needs to make moves against Foley. The two of them kiss, and as the camera zooms out we watch them walk into two different private planes. It’s the kind of shot that makes you hate these people, even if it’s injected with a little bit of cool factor as well.
While Axe is on his way to try to get a step up on Foley, Chuck is working his own magic. He approaches Foley’s now-preferred candidate, Rob Sweeney, a former EMT, about becoming his lieutenant governor, asking him to drop out of the race and join Chuck’s campaign instead. His selling point? Name recognition and good polling. Sweeney refuses though, saying that stranger things have happened than a near-nobody getting elected.
That answer doesn’t satisfy Chuck, and, as we know, he’s not above getting someone to do the dirty work for him in order to bury an opponent. He tells Ira to do some digging on Sweeney, and what he finds is quite something. Chuck goes back to meet with Sweeney again, this time armed with something real. He’s found out that Sweeney sent his gay son to a Christian boot camp in the hopes of “praying the gay away,” and Chuck also has some of the heartbreaking letters the boy wrote during his stay there. Sweeney puts on a tough front, but later he drops out of the race, and Chuck gets the first notch in his belt.