This Billions review contains spoilers.
Billions Season 4, Episode 12
Not only is Billions coming back for a fifth season, but co-creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien have signed a new overall deal with Showtime. This is great news for the pair, as it means they’ll have the creative freedom to create new, thrilling television for our seemingly unending age of “Peak TV.” It’s also good because, although we already knew that more Billions was on the way, now it’s practically guaranteed. This is great news because following the events of the season four finale “Extreme Sandbox,” and especially that episode-ending cliffhanger, audiences are going to want more from Koppelman and Levien.
From Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) and Taylor Amber Mason’s (Asia Kate Dillon) ongoing battle of financial wits and war to the continued dissolution of Chuck (Paul Giamatti) and Wendy Rhoades’ (Maggie Siff) marriage, this season has been chock-full of deceptively wonderful goodies. We’ve seen apparently friendly, day-long excursions quickly turn into vengeful takedowns, the return of a fan-favorite antagonist, what could be a significant turn between three of the show’s biggest characters, and… chickens. Not all of these episodes and moments have been stellar, of course, but more often than not, Koppelman and Levien have been swinging for the fences and running home more often than not.
And then there’s “Extreme Sandbox,” which took everything that season four has done so well and turned up the volume.
On the lighter side of things, there’s the origin of the episode’s title — a recreational construction venture run by Mark Cuban — yes, that Mark Cuban — that lets clients operate heavy machinery for the sole purpose of destroying things. Cars, rocks, the very dirt beneath them — anything and everything can be a target. It’s all meant to be an outlet for aggression, and consider the sheer amount of crap that this season has dumped on Wendy and Rebecca Cantu (Nina Arianda), it’s no wonder that Bobby has decided to send them there for a playdate.
“One thing that’s come from this year,” Wendy later tells Rebecca over a beer, “I know I can handle f*cking anything. And Axe Cap? It’s mine. They really rallied around me in their own weird way. It’s the upside of being on a team, I guess.”
“I can see that,” says Rebecca. “It’s just not how I work. I like owning a team.”
Yay! People are having fun while the only thing that’s being destroyed is meant to be done in by construction equipment. This seems like a nice change of pace for Billions, no?
If you’ve been watching all of season four, let alone the three seasons that precede it, then you already know that Wendy and Rebecca’s day off isn’t long for this world. What’s more, you also know that it’s not just their happiness that will be utterly trashed by the episode’s end, but just about everyone else around them. The rest of the folks at Axe Cap, Rebecca’s efforts to take over and run the department chain Saler’s, Bobby’s ongoing battle with Taylor, Chuck’s squabbling to undo his enemies among the feds — it’s all going to be turned on its head when the credits roll and the screen fades to black.
Let’s get back to Wendy and Rebecca, then. One thinks that Bobby’s company is hers. The other believes that she’s better suiting for being in charge. As “Extreme Sandbox” plays out, however, the validity of these sentiments comes under intense scrutiny. For Rebecca, this arrives in the form of Bobby himself, the fellow hedge fund manager and entrepreneur she’s been dating this season. It turns out he didn’t send her and Wendy to Cuban’s venture out of the goodness of his heart. Instead, he removed her from the picture so that he could go behind her back and undo the handshake deal she made with Taylor behind his back. So instead of coming into the Saler’s board meeting as its assumed leader, she discovers that Bobby has undone all her hard work, won the board from her and, in the process, made a substantial amount of cash.
“You snake motherf*cker. You sent me off and you set me up,” Rebecca hisses at after the meeting. “I wanna run this business for real.”
“This one wasn’t fit to run,” Bobby retorts after noting that, despite his deception, she’s still coming out on top with at least $1 billion following his snakey deal. “You climbed into bed and made a f*cking pact with my sworn enemy. But hey, as you once told me, ‘You’ll soon come to see the wisdom in this plan.’”
Needless to say, Bobby and Rebecca’s expensive, season-long flirtation is now dead. She hates him for sneaking behind her back, eviscerating her own deals and making his own. He hates her for having anything even remotely to do with Taylor.
As for Wendy, she finds herself on the receiving end of some unexpected leniency from the medical board, which had previously decided to revoke her medical license for three years. Instead, it seems they have decided to issue her a verbal warning — both because she decided to tell the truth at the hearing, and because they apparently received dozens of letters attesting to her character. That, and Bobby donated around $25 million to a medical charity to get on some of the board members’ good side. Her estranged husband Chuck also had a hand in these changes, and he willfully takes credit for them all, a move that briefly repairs their broken marriage. Once she discovers the donation and Chuck’s latest deception, however, Wendy leaves their home presumably for the last time… and heads straight to Bobby’s place.
It’s just enough to sour Chuck against Bobby yet again, inspiring the New York state attorney general to refocus his vengeful efforts on the manipulative financial guru. So while the formerly allied pair’s plans to do in Taylor and their company Mason Capital have resulted in that company’s dissolution and the return of some former Axe Capital employees to the fold, Chuck appeals to their good graces for a chance at revenge. So yes, season five will see Taylor and Mafee (Dan Soder) back under Bobby’s watchful eyes, they will also be working as sleeper agents for Chuck’s office.
Billions airs on Showtime.