‘Billions’ episode 3 review: Rhoades fights further in strongest episode to date

Billions season 1Three episodes in, is Showtime’s “Billions” started to really find its footing? It was very much a good show through its first two episodes, but it was still having a tricky time figuring out what sort of show it wanted to be.

Maybe it is us still getting used to the show, or maybe it is the show figuring it out itself; either way, we’ve decided that this series is an edgier version of “Suits” with a little bit of humor and, surprising, “Fifty Shades of Grey.” At first, we found the Chuck – Wendy Rhoades sex scenes to be really distracting, and almost jarring for the rest of the show. We’re starting to now understand them in a way beyond Showtime wanting mature content for their shows. With Wendy as the “mistress” for whatever crazy fantasies Chuck is having, he’s giving her the power. While he likes to be at the center of everything at work, that’s clearly not the same in all facets of his life. To us, this is his blind spot; he’s not realizing the benefits of Wendy working still for Bobby Axelrod. Even if she’s not intending to help him evade his investigation, he’s a smart guy. He can use almost anything as an advantage.

By far, this episode gave us so much more for Wendy than anything before it. We haven’t talked about her offering up $250,000 in order to protect Maria from danger, or how she so shrewdly navigates sessions at and around Axe Capital. Almost like with Chuck (however disengaged he may have been during their latest prodding, if you will), she understands well what makes other people tick.

There was great stuff overall for Bobby this week, as well, including him managing to completely overtake a food company with just a few master strokes. We felt in episode 2 like Damian Lewis was too busy playing him as a soulless villain; in this episode, there was some more of the charm and the charisma that got him where he is today. We’re also learning that his wife is far from a pushover, as well, even though the relationship between the two is far from perfect. Lara Axelrod has a rare talent for being able to make harsh moves while still keeping the brightest smile on her face.

Three episodes in and we’re not entirely sure that Chuck is any closer to getting Rhoades than he was when he started … but he does still have plenty of ideas. The reality here is that if he catches him too soon, “Billions” becomes boring. The writers have to figure out the right amount of time to stretch out the central conceit, while giving it enough twists to keep it from being boring. Grade: A-.

(Photo: Showtime.)

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