Much-lauded “Bil­lions” stars Paul Gia­matti (“Side­ways,” 2004) and Damian Lewis (“Home­land”) re­turn for a sopho­more sea­son of the Showtime drama, premiering Sun­day.

The Hamilton Spectator - - THE SPEC TV - BY JAC­QUE­LINE SPENDLOVE

I know, I know — you’re get­ting ut­terly bom­barded with news about the ex­ploits of cer­tain filthyrich white men. Don’t let that turn you of f “Bil­lions,” though. True, the Showtime drama is driven by, well, the ex­ploits of filthy-rich white men, but it’s also smart, en­ter­tain­ing and, bless­edly, fic­tion al. Led by the much-lauded Paul Gia­matti (“Side­ways,” 2 004) and Damian Lewis (“Home­land”), the sec­ond sea­son of “Bil­lions” de­buts Sun­day, Feb. 19, on The Movie Net­work.

Last year, 12 episodes of cat-and­mouse in the world of high fi­nance and power pol­i­tics ended in an ex­plo­sive con­fronta­tion be­tween brash U.S. At­tor­ney Chuck Rhoades (Gia­matti) and self-made hedge fund bil­lion­aire Bobby “Axe” Ax­el­rod (Lewis). Chuck is among the most pow­er­ful pros­e­cu­tors in the coun­try, and when he’s tipped to a case of in­sider trad­ing con­nected to Ax­el­rod in the se­ries pi­lot, he launches into what could be a ca­reer-defin­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Ca­reer-defin­ing maybe, but it’s any­thing but sim­ple. Ever aware of his blue-col­lar be­gin­nings, Axe is gen­er­ous, charis­matic and a muchloved mem­ber of the com­mu­nity. A 9/11 sur­vivor, he pays the first year of col­lege tuition for all of the chil­dren of his for­mer col­leagues who were killed in the at­tacks. He has two dar­ling kids and a beau­ti­ful wife, Lara (Malin Ak­er­man, “Watch­men,” 2009), who has a sim­i­larly hum­ble back­ground. Though we learn that he’s def­i­nitely not above board, on the out­side, Axe is the pic­ture of a model cit­i­zen.

Mak­ing the sit­u­a­tion even more com­pli­cated is Chuck’s wife, Wendy (Mag­gie Siff, “Sons of An­ar­chy”), who has close ties to both men, and her own stake in Axe’s firm. A sharp-minded psy­chi­a­trist, Wendy has worked with Axe from the start, help­ing him build Axe Cap­i­tal from the ground up. She now has a lu­cra­tive ca­reer as the firm’s in-house psy­chi­a­trist and per­for­mance coach, work­ing closely with Axe, who rec­og­nizes her as a valu­able as­set and con­fi­dante. For Chuck, bring­ing down Axe Cap­i­tal would be to bring down the com­pany in which his own wife is heav­ily in­vested.

Much of the show’s fresh­man sea­son fo­cused on the war the two men waged on one an­other, as Axe sought to ex­pand his em­pire ever fur­ther and Chuck fought to ex­pose Axe’s fi­nan­cial cor­rup­tion. While the con­flict be­gan with Chuck go­ing after Axe, the lat­ter is now out for re­venge — and, as we know, he has the re­sources to achieve it.

Sea­son 2 sees a power shift as Chuck falls un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for his ques­tion­able meth­ods and con­duct, and strug­gles to hold on to both his of­fice and his fam­ily. Ad­di­tion­ally, Chuck and Axe alike fight to get Wendy back, after she walked away from both of them at the end of last sea­son.

“One of the in­ter­est­ing things about this show is the con­stant shift­ing of power dy­nam­ics,” said Gia­matti in a Showtime promo. “Ev­ery­one’s in some kind of jeop­ardy.”

“What’s be­com­ing clear is there’s one cas­tle, and there’s go­ing to be one king,” added Lewis in a re­lated video.

Sea­son 2 brings both new and fa­mil­iar faces to “Bil­lions.” Along with the core cast, David Costa­bile (“Break­ing Bad”) re­turns as Mike Wag­ner, Axe’ s ap­ple-polishing right-hand man and the COO of Axe Cap­i­tal. Chuck’s own point­man is Bryan Con­nerty (Toby Leonard Moore, “John Wick,” 2014), a chief as­sis­tant U.S. at­tor­ney who is a match for Chuck in his fer­vour for putting bad guys be­hind bars. Con­dola Rashad (“Money Mon­ster,” 2015) plays Kate Sacker, an am­bi­tious young as­sis­tant dis­trict at­tor­ney with an Ivy League back­ground. We saw some sparks f ly be­tween Kate and Bryan last year, and fans are look­ing for­ward to their re­la­tion­ship be­ing fleshed out in sea­son 2.

Also this sea­son, Mary-Louise Parker of “Weeds” fa me makes a one-off ap­pear­ance as bril­liant strate­gist Ge­orge Min­chak, and ac­tor-writer Danny Strong (“Gil­more Girls”) has a re­cur­ring role as “stylish and smooth hedge fund whale” Todd Krakow, who be­comes yet an­other thorn in Axe’s side. “Zoo’s” James Wolk adds to the pile of fat cats as tech bil­lion­aire Craig Hei­decker.

Malin Ak­er­man as seen in “Bil­lions”

Damian Lewis stars in “Bil­lions”

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