Billions is my new favorite show. It’s running on Sunday nights on Showtime, and as of today they’ve shown 8 episodes. The show pits two power-seeking, ego-driven men against one another: a wildly successful billionaire who runs a hedge fund company, and the US Attorney general who knows the billionaire is crooked and is determine to bring him down.
You’re probably wondering why this is my current favorite. It’s not science fiction, after all. Truth be told, my favorite shows are rarely sci-fi or fantasy. I loved Star Trek TNG and Voyager and was practically addicted to Battlestar Galactica… but otherwise I’m drawn most to shows that aren’t sci-fi or fantasy. To some extent, I often learn more from other genres and some of those shows wind up inspiring my stories. For example, HBOs The Wire was an astoundingly good show that inspired the plotting for The Operative.
Why I like Billions so much:
- Good actors. The starring roles are played respectively by Damian Lewis, who I’ve liked since his role on Homeland, and Paul Giamatti, who won me over at the first of many viewings of Sideways.
- Good character development. The billionaire (“Axe”) comes from nothing and he’s an extremely competitive, impulsive, dopamine-driven financial type whose fortune began literally the day the twin towers fell and his colleagues perished. He has great people-reading skills and relies on a finely tuned set of instincts. The Attorney General (Chuck) comes from money and power, and seeks to bring down the crooked while challenging anyone who questions his ability to do so. He’s just as competitive as his nemesis, but he’s got Daddy issues and a strong craving to be dominated in sex play. Both men have good sides and bad, both are fully developed humans we want to know more about.
- The wife. The third-billed character in this male-driven story is Wendy, Chuck’s wife. A psychiatrist, she works for Axe as a coach of sorts, pulling the heads out of the hedge funders’ asses when necessary (including Axe’s) and getting them to perform at their best. Which creates an obvious conflict of interest and a great deal of tension in the show as her boss and husband each examine her loyalties with narrowed eyes. She’s the link between the men, the one who could provide the other with the key to winning the war. Wendy is the iron fist in the velvet glove, and the character that I most look forward to seeing.
- The psychology. Hey, I’m able to put aside science and accept rule-bending if it works for the story. But when it comes to psychology, the problem isn’t usually inaccuracy… it’s falling into stereotype or sticking with weakly developed plots written by people who don’t have the chops to do it justice. Billions veers from these limitations with Wendy and her keen assessments of those she deals with, including Chuck and Axe.
Once in a while, the dialogue could use some tweaking… and it’s my opinion that Chuck gives too many metaphorical speeches about justice. And I struggle with Axe’s wife, for reasons I’m having a hard time pinning down. But I love the show and look forward to seeing how the first season concludes.
See you Sunday night…