‘Billions’ episode 2 review: More problems, more money

Billions -

Through two episodes of Showtime’s “Billions,” there is a part of us that really wishes that this was a spin-off to “Suits” on USA more so than it is a compliment to “Shameless” on Showtime. It is a very good show anchored by some very good performances. In particular Maggie Siff is fantastic, though you would be hard-pressed to find a time when she was anything less.

This is a show that should have been told to go to a sit-down restaurant and order from the menu, but instead it’s chowing down at the buffet. It needs a little bit more control and a little less of the swearing and that surprising sex scene from the premiere. The subject matter and the back-and-forth between Chuck Rhoades and Bobby Axelrod is fascinating enough to carry the entire series, mostly because it feels like Chuck is in the thick of a battle he cannot win no matter how hard he tries.

Just in case you’re looking to cite specific evidence as to how terrible a position Chuck is in at present, consider this: There is already a mole within his office, and there’s also a potential one at home in Wendy. She may be claiming neutrality in many ways, but she’s fully aware of the sort of man Axe is and is choosing to do very little about it. In turn, he is using her like a pawn to figure out more ways he can get the upper hand on anything that Chuck throws at him. That’s why he remains so arrogant, so blind to the idea that anyone is going to be able to overthrow his empire. It’s a fascinating level of believable conceit.

Eventually, though, we do need some further reason to actually care for Bobby once more. There were moments during the premiere that we thought there was some essence of a heart in there, but now he is floating more towards mustache-twirling villain. If this show wants to be the smart cable drama it professes to be, we need more ambiguity, and more of a sense that maybe everyone has their flaws.

We’re being extremely critical of what is a well-shot and fairly well-written show two episodes in, but that is mostly on the basis of capability. We know the people involved are very talented, and as a result here’s to hoping that some of the early growing pains for this series subside soon. Grade: B-.

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