“Billions” as it progresses through the 5th season, tries to tick off certain emotional levels of human consumption whether it be desire, regret, anticipation, reflection, etc. In Episode 5, “Contract”, the idea becomes how do people in power positions react when threatened from an angle they can’t control. What this episode examines are those personal moments that can hurt more than any dagger filled with money. This is true of all the characters but the plot focal point that sets it off is through Wendy Malick, so Blanche in many ways in “Hot In Cleveland” who can play icy with a dash of vulnerability here very well. It is a small problem she has that Paul Giamatti’s Chuck Rodes knows how to approach. In a battle with Axelrod. Rhodes has the slight edge as his humanity starts to show…which might be his saving grace. Axelrod (as played by Damian Lewis) only knows how to strike out hard and then only sees a regret later though it might be too late. He then usually writes it off as a loss that has to be fixed without understanding that the fix changes the outcome.
The issue is that elements from Axe’s childhood, he can never redo despite how much he would really like to. One of the more interesting images is him peaking from behind his old h house in Yonkers whom he bought out underneath a kid he was helping while his second in command, Wendy Rhodes, Chuck’s ex-wife looks on. It is one of many diametric images. Another one occurs when a health scare affects Chuck’s father whom he recently started reconnecting with. A small interlude in a hospital with significant others is an interesting pivot, especially when those two (in Frank Grillo and Julianne Marguiles – who is exceptional in this role) are moving in tandem with their own subplots. This way it is not just about the alphas at the top but the sub alphas and the betas wanting to move into an alpha spot. This chess game is interesting in dynamics since in all considerations it is not about the end game but who can live with the spoils that they eventually will concede to.
By Tim Wassberg