IR TV Review: BILLIONS – EPISODE 2 (“The Chris Rock Test”) [Showtime-S5]

“Billions” as an idiom is again possessed by the thought of one-upsmanship. The question becomes within that structure is what happens when pieces are slowly pulled out of the puzzle by fate. Human failure is mostly based on numbers but the variable which is the emotional contingent is the one that allows sometimes for true breakthroughs or failure. Axelrod (as played by Damian Lewis) thinks simply making chess moves can ultimately stack him on the board as winning. But that is not the only thing that keeps a person on top. Unfortunately and equivocally, it is possessed of a give and take mentality. Episode 2 entitled “The Chris Rock Test” invariably relates to the champagne room but not in a way one would expect of high rollers. In attending a symposium by his enemy billionaire (played by Corey Stoll), Axelrod plays right into those hands.

Having been at many of these kinds of power symposiums myself it is as much about perception as it is perspective. Most people on the level can see through the aspect of power plays but the question is making it subtle or overt enough that it either feels too melodramatic or idiosyncratic to be true. Elon Musk is a good example of this and yet the Dragon craft will hit its crewed landmark shot and still capture a certain perception of the public. Add the recent Tom Cruise spectacle as part of an action movie shot in space and there becomes another. “Billions” works on that same concept but there is the human dimension.

Both of Axelrod’s right hand people who are sharks suffer a set back both because of unnecessarily comforting emotion of losing to an adversary they either didn’t expect or didn’t think would rear its ugly head. The question to be learned is coming to terms with that perspective. Chuck (play by Paul Giamatti) understands the balance. His interaction with a therapist allows him greater range even though his wife who heads up Axelrod’s firm is defragmenting part of his consciousness. This is why a sly interrelation with a would-be judge (played with slicing texture by Rob Morrow ) is undeniable. The possibility of Fleischmann from “Northern Exposure” is always a reminder just underneath. The balance that ultimately plays though in this episode is the aspect between redeemer and monster when both can be primarily the same thing.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

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