While Axe watches a deal collapse, Chuck lands the biggest win of his career
Episode 206
Credit: Mark Schafer/Showtime
S2 E6

Despite the occasional face-off between Bobby Axelrod and Chuck Rhoades, the first half of Billions‘ second season has largely been about the subtle ways the two egotistical men use to get one over on each other. Axe has been throwing lawsuits at Chuck while trying to woo Wendy back to Axe Capital, and in return, Chuck has been doing everything he can to take down Lawrence Boyd, hoping to send a signal to everyone in the hedge fund business that the Southern District’s Chuck Rhoades is no slouch. He’s here to make a name for himself, and maybe save his marriage in the process.

If the goal of arresting Lawrence Boyd last week was to make the man see his demise clearly, mission accomplished. As “Indian Four” kicks off, Boyd is out on a $5 million bail, and he is absolutely shaken. He doesn’t see a way forward, a way to beat Rhoades. With an audio recording and a flipped employee acting as a witness, he’s done. Axe isn’t so sure. He knows there’s still one play, the one Boyd turned down before: having the shady, creepy Hall step in and do what needs to be done.

So later, when Boyd heads outside for a sit in his sauna, Hall appears from the shadows like the hedge fund Grim Reaper. It’s delightfully cheesy, and a case of Billions being in on the joke of its own over-the-top nature. Hall tells Boyd to be prepared to make multiple payments of $2.5 million to flip the witness back — and from there, “Indian Four” becomes a tense cat-and-mouse game, with Chuck trying to nail Boyd down despite the dealings of Hall and Axe.

While all this is going on, Axe has to deal with his own problem. Namely, there’s a single holdout when it comes to the purchased land in Sandicot that’s meant to make way for a casino. A man named Hank Flagg owns 200 acres in the area, and he’s turned down the $1.5 million offer provided by the development company in which Axe has a stake. Flagg’s land is essential for completion of the project, as it’s meant to be used to build a highway access road. Axe, confident in his skills as a huckster, decides it’s time to pay the man a visit and see if he can’t convince him to make some sort of deal.

Before he takes off, though, Wendy asks him for a meeting. After hearing from Ira that Chuck really is in trouble with the lawsuits and the AG’s investigation, she decides to do what she can to help. She tells Axe she’s willing to come back to Axe Capital for a 20-percent increase in salary and a 2-percent stake in the company. He accepts the former but turns down the latter, instead giving her a profit share and a 1-percent stake if he ever sells the business. Right now, he’s the only person who has shares in Axe Capital, which should tell you all you need to know about where his loyalties lie.

Once he accepts that offer, Wendy throws out one more condition: He needs to drop the lawsuits against Chuck. He accepts, no questions asked, and that’s when Wendy realizes the lawsuits were mostly a ploy to get her back. Sure, Wendy isn’t doing this just for Chuck, but she still doesn’t like being manipulated. So, one final stipulation then: She won’t have any sessions with Axe. That relationship is done.

While everyone is focused on their own problems, another player seems to emerge in the latter half of tonight’s episode: Chuck Sr. He’s always been a tertiary character, but he perhaps becomes something more here. He apparently has eyes and ears everywhere, so when he hears about the casino and Axe’s involvement, he makes a call to someone he lovingly calls “Blackjack Foley.” That call will be unbelievably important later.

Back at the Southern District’s office, with Boyd no longer taking a deal because of the witness bribe, the case is heading to trial. Bryan isn’t too happy about it — he knows explaining treasury-rigging to a jury of everyday Americans is an impossible feat, that a deal would have been the easiest route to a win. Instead, he foresees a jury that can’t understand the enormity of the crime; after all, it’s not flashy murder.

In one of the episode’s more compelling sequences, Chuck tells Bryan to channel his fury toward the case, chastising him for being distracted by Chuck’s own issues. Sure enough, Bryan responds with a rousing performance during the jury selection process. While never really crossing the line, he paints Boyd as the Wall Street Fat Cat that he is, using his upbringing as a lower-to-middle-class American as a way to not only get the jury riled up, but also to show that Boyd stands no chance in court.

It’s a brilliant move, and it results in Boyd and his lawyers coming back to the table with an offer. Here’s the thing, though: Chuck doesn’t want a deal. He wants to make an example of Boyd and the hedge fund industry … and make a name for himself while he’s at it. Chuck is ready to go to war, and everything seems to be falling into place. The AG calls and congratulates him on the case and basically tells him he has an “open field” if he can keep the AG out of it. That means the investigation into Rhoades’ office, headed by Oliver Dake — aka Darkest Timeline Sheldon Cooper — is no longer a problem. It’s just in the nick of time, too, as Lonnie was about to confess.

So, everything seems to be looking up for Chuck. The AG investigation has been suspended, Boyd is on the hook, and he’s celebrating with scotch. But when Ira tells him about Axe dropping the lawsuits, he immediately sours. He knows what that means. He leaves his celebration and confronts Wendy. She plays it off like it’s no big deal, saying she wanted to go back to Axe Capital anyway and just so happened to find a way to help him in the process. But Chuck sees this as Wendy putting another strain in their relationship, one they may not recover from. He walks away from her, seemingly distraught, leaving their marriage hanging in the balance.

On the plus side, Chuck loves when bad things happen to Axe, and boy, does a bad thing happen to Axe at the end of this episode. After Flagg resists Axe’s “down-to-earth” charms and proves he knows how much money everyone is set to make from the casino deal, Axe has no choice but to buy his property for $5 million. It’s a blow, although nothing for a guy like Axe. But then Sandicot loses the deal, everyone involved is out a ton of money, and it somehow all ties back to Chuck Sr. and that phone call. Oh, and Axe makes up with Lara by feigning compromise and saying he won’t have sessions with Wendy, something Wendy, not Axe, had decided.

He’s flailing right now, and as always, the Rhoades and the Axes seem destined to forever be in conflict.

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