Billions recap: 'The Overton Window'
It's pure chaos as Axe Cap is under attack, and Chuck drops a bombshell on election night
Remember last week, when I said Billions had aired that early season episode that really kicked the action into high gear? Well, I was right, but there’s a good chance that “The Overton Window” is even better. It takes two moments of attack and turns them into pure Billions gold, as Axe and Chuck try to fight their way out of a tough spot. It’s an episode that solidifies their partnership in a way that’s seemingly irreversible, and it’s great to not really know what that means for the rest of the season.
The episode opens on the night before the primary election to determine the presumptive State Attorney General for New York. Chuck’s deal with Axe is paying off. Axe has hired men to sabotage school buses in the district, and to offer up a free casino trip with plenty of chips for a number of other constituents. That means record low voter turnout, which is a good thing for Chuck. Axe wants Chuck to do a happy dance. Chuck obliges with an absolutely hilarious “flatfoot and buck,” but he’s not actually excited. He has to drop out of the race.
Flashback to the night before, and Black Jack Foley is telling Chuck Sr. that he’s taking his son down no matter what. He doesn’t care if it costs him everything he’s worked for, he won’t let someone like Chuck into the office of the Attorney General. He’s prepared to go public with Chuck’s love of sadomasochism if he doesn’t drop out of the race before the primary election.
Not everyone wants Chuck to back out. Axe wants him to keep fighting, even telling his new friend that back in the day when Chuck was going after him, he was one of the few people who scared him, that had his heart beating every time he’d come around. Chuck Sr. wants his son to keep going too, to weather the storm. He tells him to just lean into the fight, to deny the allegations and go on the offensive. Still, Chuck needs to know why Foley is so set on sinking both their ships. Then, he finds out: Foley has terminal cancer, and maybe has a few weeks to live at most. He’s also been feeding dirt on Chuck to Jock Jeffcoat in exchange for the protection of his wealth, giving his heirs immunity from prosecution after his death. That means Foley has nothing to lose, and Chuck has no options.
While Chuck meets with Wendy and is told in no uncertain terms that he has to drop out because their sexual preferences simply can’t get out, Axe has to deal with his own crisis. After learning that a natural gas plant is mere hours away from exploding, Axe Capital has to dump all of their positions in natural gas to avoid a $500 million loss once the news breaks and the market reacts. The only problem? At the moment the market opens, and they can begin dumping in the dark, their whole system crashes. They’ve been hacked, and Axe suspects Grigor. No one else could shut down their whole system, including mobile devices and laptops.
That means, as Axe puts it, “it’s time to pump up your Reeboks because we’re going old school.” They have to use burner phones to dial direct lines to traders, something most of the staff has never, ever done because they’re not old and they’ve always had the internet. Luckily, Axe and Wags are in their element, clearly recapturing the verve of their old days during these calls. They manage to dump a lot of the positions, even with Taylor learning about the play from Mafee and working to undercut them, leading to a $48 million loss instead of one totaling $500 million. That counts as a win, but Chuck knows Grigor isn’t going away anytime soon, and that’s why he needs Chuck in the AG’s office.
As Rebecca works on a deal for Chuck, securing him a payout for a CEO he wanted ousted at a company and even getting him three board seats in the process—needless to say, Axe is absolutely smitten—Chuck decides his fate. He’s called a press conference and is prepared to drop out of the race, pocketing the speech Ira has written for him. At the podium though, he decides he can’t do it. He won’t lose this way. So, he goes all in. He says that he’s coming to the people as an honest man in the hopes that he can trust them, that he can reveal something dark about himself without the public turning on him. He lays it out plainly, how he’s into sadomasochism and practices with his loving, consenting wife. He says his political opponents were going to use this against him, “but I said bring it.” “I’m here to trust you,” he says, and it’s a rousing speech, and one that, at the end of the day, leaves Chuck Sr. smiling and Chuck Rhoades with 76% of the primary vote, all but guaranteeing that he’ll be the next Attorney General.
Of course, it comes at a cost. Wendy lays into him, completely shocked that he’d betray her wishes and blow up their personal lives in such a public way. Chuck tries to defend himself, saying that if Wendy is honest too, people will love it. What he’s not seeing is that this isn’t about polling data. This is personal, and Chuck’s move reveals something to Wendy. It shows her just how ruthless he is. He’s always drawn the line with her before, refusing to sacrifice his relationship in any way. Now though, he’s not above it.
We flash forward 30 days, and Chuck is sworn in as the State’s Attorney General. His first act as AG is to meet with Grigor, freeze his assets, and give him 12 hours to leave the country. It’s the favor Axe said he’d ask when they first made their deal, and now Chuck is following through. Grigor tries to counter, offering Chuck his own partnership as well as a few weeks touring some of Europe’s most outlandish BDSM clubs, but the new AG refuses. He’s fully with Axe now.
So, Grigor hops on a plane, but not before meeting Axe on the tarmac. Axe tells him that he’ll be releasing the billions of dollars he had invested in Taylor Mason Capital as a gesture of goodwill. Grigor will take it. It’s a weirdly anticlimactic end to this feud, if it is indeed the end. Grigor has accepted that he’ll run his scams in Russia instead, and Axe will stay put in America. Two oligarchs agreeing to stay within their borders.
Surely though, this isn’t the end of Axe and Chuck’s troubles. For one, in a genuinely sweet moment, Taylor is working with their father on a project that could apparently increase algorithm efficiency to previously unheard of levels. The two are growing closer, Douglas finally adjusting to who Taylor is. Plus, there’s Chuck’s marriage on the rocks. “The Overton Window” settles a lot of scores early in the season, but that just means there’s now a lot of room for a lot of other things to go wrong.