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