Axe struggles to stay away from Axe Capital while the business falters
When, near the end of last week’s season premiere of Billions, Axe agreed to give up his ability to trade in order to move the case along and maybe save Axe Capital in the process, everybody watching at home, and everybody in the office of Axe Capital, knew that it wasn’t going to be easy for him to step away. He’s made Axe Capital what it is. He’s sacrificed everything along the way, including, most recently, his marriage. It remains to be seen whether Axe Capital needs Bobby Axelrod, but there’s no doubt that Bobby Axelrod needs Axe Capital.
As “The Wrong Maria Gonzalez” kicks off, Axe stares out at the city at night. He’s lost, unsure of what to do. He calls Wendy, his lighthouse in the storm and also the wife of his enemy. Super awkward. He tells her that he can’t walk away, that he made an impulsive decision and he wants to walk it back. She tells him he needs to accept a loss for once, and that he’ll come out stronger for it in the end. He hangs up, and it isn’t long before we get to see whether he heeds Wendy’s advice or not.
Surprise, he doesn’t! He decides to take a meeting with a number of outside investors that aren’t involved with Axe Capital, looking for a way to maybe take $2 billion from his company that he’s kept away from Taylor — more on that in a second — and make some secret moves with it. Of course, such a move is extremely dangerous. If he’s caught, Axe Capital would certainly be done for, and Axe would end up in prison. But those are the lengths this man will go to in order to hold on to the only identity he’s ever known.
Meanwhile, Oliver Dake and Bryan Connerty get a bad draw on their case. Apparently, whoever will hear their case is still decided by a tumbler full of names, like Jimmy McGill pulling numbers at seniors’ bingo, and they get stuck with Judge Fundt, a man whose libertarian credentials suggest he’s not going to be too keen to prosecute someone using the “free” market to his advantage. Chuck advises Dake to start making moves to get Fundt off the case, but Darkest Timeline Sheldon Cooper just loves to play by the rules and says he’ll be playing with the cards they were dealt.
Chuck doesn’t accept this, and just like Axe, he goes to Wendy in a panic. He fills her in on everything and says that he has no idea what to do. When Wendy reminds him that Fundt owes him a favor, Chuck waves it off, saying he tried to subtly cash it in years earlier but that the judge ignored it. “Impose your will on him,” says Wendy. Her handling of Axe and Chuck isn’t all that different, talking them through various crises and giving them the confidence to do something without hesitation.
Alright, back to the $2 billion. When Taylor learns that Axe will be cordoning off that money from Axe Capital’s total count, they’re livid. They could do a lot with that extra money, and on top of that, they see it as a vote of no confidence. That news is bad enough as it is, but things get worse. Taylor learns that Brazil has been hit hard by a tsunami, a freak occurrence there, and it’s threatening a lot of their investments. Axe Capital is going to end the day with a massive loss, something Taylor doesn’t want. “How heavy are we in Brazil?” asks one of the workers. “Jim Morrison near the end,” quips Wags.
All of that means that Taylor needs a big play to secure Axe’s confidence and make sure Axe Capital doesn’t have a disastrous day. Wendy tries to tell them that days like this happen, but they won’t accept that. Taylor tells Wendy that they can’t lose their mystique, because it’s all they have. If Taylor loses that mystique, they’re nothing but a figurehead with no experience. In other words: The next few hours are crucial.
Of course, Axe doesn’t help matters by showing up at the office. Ari hurriedly films him the entire time to try and keep a record of his whereabouts for the case. Axe looms over everybody, listening in on their conversations, itching to make his own plays. Taylor confronts him, telling him that he has to walk away no matter how hard it is, that they have to be able to do their job in his place. He responds by confirming he’s taking the $2 billion, a move that feels more spiteful than rational, which tells you that Axe is really struggling with his new situation.
While Axe and Taylor panic, Dake and Bryan’s case against Axe Capital gets thrown for a loop, and the way it happens is classic Billions. Bryan and Dake believe they have their key witness all ready to testify when they confront Maria Gonzalez, one of the women who was paid to taint her own Ice Juice. When Maria, who’s also Victor Mateo’s maid, shows up late for her job, he gets suspicious and immediately tells Axe about it.
Axe turns right around and begins making moves, and that leads to Maria getting detained by ICE. When Bryan and Dake head to the holding center to get her, they have the wrong Maria Gonzalez. Their star witness is on a plane back to Guatemala, and their last hope of keeping her in the U.S., the attorney general, is in no way sympathetic to their cause, or immigrants in general. Now, they’ve lost the person they desperately needed, and they’re still stuck with a judge who won’t be very sympathetic to their case either.
That’s where Chuck comes in. Dake may not be one to bend the rules, but Chuck’s always loved wading into those murky waters. He ambushes Fundt and calls in his favor, but he doesn’t do so angrily. Instead, he grovels. He says he just wants Fundt to step away from the case. The judge agrees, and that means Dake and Bryan at least have a chance, even without the real Maria Gonzalez. The question is, what did Chuck truly give up? What cost is he willing to accrue in order to put Axe away? It feels like there’s a lot more to this judge story to come.
With Maria Gonzalez taken care of, all that’s left for Axe Capital to turn the day around is Taylor making a sound decision on Brazil for the firm. With Axe mad that they didn’t see the tsunami coming — Taylor admits that they didn’t think about the earlier earthquake in the area the way Axe might have — Taylor is unsure of what to do. They’re second-guessing everything. Eventually, Taylor comes to a decision, making a risky play on a new type of investment brought to their attention by Ben Kim, who’s also too unsure of himself to pull the trigger.
It’s a high-risk play, and Axe Capital still turns a loss for the day, but it could have been worse, and it could pay off huge in the future. That kind of move is something that Axe respects, and he tells Taylor as much. He comes back to the office and tells them that he won’t pull the $2 billion. Also, after Taylor tells him that they’re willing to use some outside investors, which essentially allows Axe to have his hand in that money anyway, he comes to a realization. “I’m your hedge,” he says. He’s both admiring of and threatened by Taylor. The power plays are piling up already, and that’s without even mentioning Axe flying his kids to little league in a helicopter. After a fun but rather familiar premiere, “The Wrong Maria Gonzalez” sees season 3 shifting into another gear. Welcome back, Billions.