What do you get when you mix modern day superheroes with the real-life influence of some of the most jaw-dropping financial scandals of the 21st Century? Well, if Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis are in the cast you’ve got the binge-worthy premise of the SHOWTIME® Original Drama Series, Billions.
When it comes to the epic game of cat and mouse played between U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Giamatti) and billionaire hedge fund king Bobby “Axe” Axelrod (Lewis), the difference between good and evil isn’t always clear-cut. As fans of the show know by now, both men (and their wives) are willing to do almost anything if it means getting what they want.
Looking for a quick refresher before jumping into the third season of Billions? To help get you re-acquainted with the show’s main characters, we’re covering some of the boldest things they’ve done to advance their own agendas. From Bobby Axelrod and Chuck Rhoades, to Wendy Rhoades and Lara Axelrod, we’re taking a look at just how far these overly ambitious characters have been willing to go—and whether viewers of the show would follow suit under the same conditions. Read on as we explore the responses from over 1000 people on the actions of these rich and powerful characters.
“This Business Makes Liars Out of All of Us”
It’s hard to hate the idea of a guy who may have survived the attacks of September 11, and pays the tuition of his colleagues’ children who weren’t as lucky. That is, until you learn that same man also uses bribes, blackmail, and insider trading to get ahead in his billionaire hedge-fund world.
Axelrod’s character may be loosely based on real life fraud, but it’s hard to imagine anyone being this cutthroat. Just two episodes into the first season, Axe orders his “fixer” (read: his muscle) to blackmail an employee at the U.S. Attorney’s office with a sex tape in order to get intel about their investigation into his business. He’s also been known to manipulate his company’s own performance coach (who happens to be Chuck Rhoades’ wife, Wendy) to make sure she stays loyal to him, and not to her husband’s investigation. Axe’s actions don’t go unnoticed, and by the end of Season 2 fans watched as Axe finally found himself behind bars.
So how do fans feel about Axe’s behavior? When asked if they would help their boss spy on a co-worker’s personal life for a $10,000 bonus, more than 45 percent of people we polled would take the cash. And how about blackmail to avoid going bankrupt? Nearly 43 percent of Americans we surveyed, would do whatever they had to do in order to protect their assets.
In Season 2 of Billions, Axe makes his own move against Chuck by sabotaging the release of Ice Juice, and consequently tanking the company’s IPO. Even if they knew they wouldn’t get caught, most viewers weren’t into this particular type of treachery. Just over 1 in 3 would follow along with the plan for a $10,000 bonus, while the rest agreed to opt out.
When The Ends Justify The Means
Chuck Rhoades, whose character is also loosely based on real life events, might have started off as Billions‘ personal caped crusader, but that hero status didn’t last long. Chuck’s passion for taking down Bobby Axelrod went from another day at the office at the beginning of Season 1, to a complete obsession by the show’s Season 2 finale. Chuck might have felt victorious seeing Axe imprisoned because of his investigation, but he made a few personal sacrifices along the way.
Chuck is committed to catching Axe in his crooked ways, but there’s a serious catch: Chuck’s own wife is an employee at Axe Capital, and she has intel she isn’t willing to hand over. In one of the show’s biggest breaches of trust, Chuck emails his wife’s session notes to himself from her computer to get the dirt he needed on Axe to (hopefully) close the case. When he finally managed to have Axe arrested, even those efforts weren’t entirely clean. Chuck purposefully fed info to Axe & Associates through a third party while surveying Axe’s reaction to the data himself.
Despite being a U.S. Attorney, fans we polled were less comfortable with Chuck’s methods of madness than with Axe’s. At most, less than 40 percent would forward their significant other’s text messages to their boss for a $10,000 bonus. Only 27 percent would endorse a corrupt lawyer for the same $10,000, and 35 percent would help their boss blackmail a corrupt judge for the money.
Straddling Both Sides Of The Fence
There are multiple sides to Wendy Rhoades’ character, and we may not have seen them all yet. A licensed psychiatrist and the in-house performance coach at Axe Capital, Wendy is distinctly positioned between her husband and the man he’s trying to imprison. Her marriage to Chuck has even more turbulence behind-the-scenes where she acts as his sexual dominant, a visual image from the show’s opening scenes that might still be seared into the minds of fans.
Wendy might be living in a male-dominated world, but she doesn’t take any of their heat without giving back a little of her own. Like the time she visited former employees from Axe Capital, and convinced them not to open up about the company, or when she used her “confidential” therapist status to protect Axe’s crimes to her own financial advantage.
People we polled were torn when asked how they’d react in situations like the ones Wendy finds herself in. Nearly 74 percent had no problem visiting an ex-employee’s house to talk them down from sharing secrets about their company for $10,000. Though less than 13 percent would secretly record their significant other to get ahead at work. Like the time Wendy convinced Axe to increase her salary by 20 percent to come back to Axe Capital, nearly 65 percent polled said they would stay at their jobs after they learned morally reprehensible secrets about their boss for a $25,000 raise.
Playing The Long Game
Working with Axe isn’t easy, trying to catch Axe in his schemes has proven even harder, but none of the characters in Billions have to deal with the complications that come with being his wife. More than just getting what she wants, Lara is fiercely committed to protecting her family, a reality that played out to its fullest in the Season 2 finale. Lara confidently informed Axe she wouldn’t be by his side in the legal battles to come, and we’ll certainly see more of her protective side as Season 3 progresses.
No stranger to the kinds of scrapes most Billions characters are used to, Lara has meddled with an author’s personal life to ensure they left out details about her family profiting from the tragedy of 9/11. And while she tried to use Wendy to keep Chuck away from Axe, she also pressured her husband into firing Wendy in an effort to protect their marriage.
More than 60 percent of people we surveyed confessed they’d be willing to protect their significant other’s reputation by threatening their enemies. Still, others were less empathetic to some of Lara’s actions. Only 26 percent would harass their significant other’s enemies to help them earn a higher salary, and 30 percent would pressure their significant other to fire an innocent employee to save their relationship.
See All of the Drama For Yourself
As the tension between the show’s characters reaches a boiling point, Season 3 of Billions promises to be the epic showdown fans have been waiting for. Fans only need to look back at all of the ruthless things Axe and Chuck have done to each other (and the people around them) to try to bring each other down. They aren’t alone either. You don’t have to tune into the show for very long to realize Wendy and Lara are just as active in their husbands’ games as everyone else is.
Ready to see the drama unfold for yourself? DIRECTV has the access you need to the newest season of Billions wherever you are! Watch on your TV or online with live TV streaming when you want it. Need to catch up? DIRECTV has instant access to the first two seasons of Billions so you won’t miss a thing. Get off the sidelines and into the action with DIRECTV and SHOWTIME® now at DIRECTV.com.