The idea of loyalty and expectation seem to intersperse in the ongoing direction of what it means to be ambitious in the current world of “Billions”. In episode 4, “The Opportunity Zone”, it takes into place what nostalgia is, what has come before it and how it adjusts into our decisions. With Axelrod (as played by Damian Lewis), he sees it more as a competition to be used as a poker chip (though he still wants to think that he is doing for a greater good). The reality is that he knows he is a monster. If he is just making the balance known for PR reasons, then he doesn’t belong as much in the game…or likely people will eventually see through his lies to bring him down. The only variable becomes unless their own well being is too integrated into it already. The point of reference in this episode is Axelrod’s own original home of Yonkers, New York. It is where he came from but it doesn’t gel now with who he is now (as much as he likes that story). What is interesting is to see him BS poetic where he can see the experiences he had but not relate to it anymore (even while pretending he does).
The question becomes again, as with other shows, is the character doing this for himself or eve remotely or partially for others. This idea is balanced into a subplot with an artist he has befriended and bankrolled (again seemingly for the competition). But it is actually his second-in- command (Maggie Siff) who deconstructs the artist in a way (in one of the episode’s best scenes. She manifests the artist to see what it is he s doing versus the actual end result through actual will of purpose. The metaphor of a pizza maker and how that business integrates to what we think we are deserving of and what we are capable of are two different questions that begin to be explored. This reflects also in Chuck Rhodes, Siff’s ex-husband, in his continuing path to bring down Axelrod. The interrelation of family in this instance shows an interesting dynamic as little gives and balancing of ego make for stronger forward momentum. These small victories show inherent human nature and who might likely win. The last shot, while initially meant to show redemption instead breeds discord, not outwardly but inwardly within the aggressor, and that is the kind that can rot power from within.
By Tim Wassberg