This Billions review contains spoilers.
Billions Season 4 Episode 6
Jaws dropped when last week’s “A Proper Sendoff” saw Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff) respond to colleague turned rival Taylor Amber Mason’s (Asia Kate Dillon) initial attempt to offer consolation following her husband’s public revelations about their private life on Billions. It turns out that Bobby “Axe” Axelrod’s (Damian Lewis) seemingly ever-faithful lieutenant was more than willing to reach out to the enemy when the going got tough. So this would mean that Wendy’s phone call was a direct violation of the Axe Capital founder’s early season four declaration that none of his underlings were to associate with Mason and the other traitors under any circumstances, right?
Well, yes. When Axelrod’s spymaster Hall (Terry Kinney) informs him that Wendy and Mason were spotted together, the tyrannical hedge fund manager makes his position quite clear. “Monitor that situation even more closely,” he says of Wendy, whose “current emotional state” may very well spell all kinds of doom and betrayal for his company. Which is telling, because before Hall even said anything about it, they were discussing the latest comings and goings of Mason and their father Douglas Mason (Kevin Pollak), whose recent team-up has Axe Capital worried. In other words, Bobby is far more concerned about what Wendy may or may not be doing than getting revenge against Mason, which he’s been hellbent on doing since last season.
Then again, nothing is ever as it seems in Billions, and showrunners Brian Koppelman and David Levien prove this in a big way with “Maximum Recreational Depth.” Yes, Wendy is talking to Taylor despite Bobby’s irritably specific instructions, and yes, she’s confiding some very personal information in the process. As best as the audience can tell, she is being absolutely genuine when discussing her own problems with Taylor. The thing is, it could very well be a ruse. After all, Wendy is a professional counselor by trade and a master psychological manipulator by practice. Maybe she’s using her own tragedy to plant multiple seeds in the hopes that one or more of them will take root in Taylor’s mind and sprout into something beautiful? Maybe she’s just doing her job in order to find something that Axelrod can use.
By the time Wendy, Bobby, Hall and a drunkenly depressed Mike “Wags” Wagner (David Costabile) — for reasons that we’ll come to later — are meeting for the final time this episode, it becomes clear that Axe Capital’s counselor has been playing Mason. Between their secretive discussions just within range of Hall’s snooping, Wendy’s digging through her old personnel files on Mason and a sweetly dumb Mafee’s (Dan Soder) inadverently revealing their rival’s scientific and financial plans, it seems the counselor has been doing her homework. She reveals to Bobby and everyone else that she’s been doing a little “side mission” and has, as a result, learned not only what Mason’s plans are, but precisely how to go about skewering them.
So, all this time, Wendy has simply been using Taylor’s willingness to reach out across the battle lines to bolster Bobby’s high end, right? Most likely, yes, though it’s also obvious that she isn’t as sure about her place at Axe Capital as she was before Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) made their private affairs public in the political and power circles of New York. As she tells Taylor in the episode’s opening scene, “If I don’t get it out, I’m gonna end up in a bad place.” Later, while prodding Mafee for information at the bar, she quips that Axelrod isn’t her first boss and likely won’t be her last. Taken in combination with the Axe and Mason Capital employees’ private conversations about her, which she discovered last week, it seems that Billions is no longer going to be a matter of Bobby and Chuck versus Taylor. Wendy is entering the ring, not for either of these two sides, necessarily, but for herself.
As for the rest of the gang, the major plotline that takes a passenger seat to Wendy’s driver is Chuck’s continued attempts to screw over his (former) federal colleagues while simultaneously pulling favors for Bobby. He is especially enraged by Bryan Connerty’s (Toby Leonard Moore) continued attempts to undermine the New York State Attorney General’s office at almost every possible juncture. Thanks to his close relationship with a judge and his willingness to fly to the Cayman Islands to threaten a banker (played by Geoffrey Owens, no less!), Chuck seemingly has no problem gaining the leverage necessary to put his own plan into action.
Unfortunately for him, he’s so hell-bent on doing and keeping his new elected position (courtesy of Bobby’s illegal machinations, of course) that he doesn’t actually see what Connerty and Kate Sacker (Condola Rashad) are actually up to. Specifically, Chuck doesn’t realize that the feds have been tailing him and his father since the previous episode, and thanks to another judge’s willingness to overrule a previous denial, they’re able to get a much-desired wiretap on the Rhoades boys. In other words, Connerty and company have seemingly found a way to crawl into Chuck’s skin that could result in their flailing him, his father and possibly all of his accomplices — including Bobby and the Axe Capital crew — alive.
Like all good things in Billions, there is plenty to complain about. For one thing, despite the excellent performances provided by Dillon and Kevin Pollak, Koppelman and Levien just can’t seem to make Taylor and their father’s troubled relationship interesting. Sure, it’s becoming more and more important in the eyes of Bobby and Wendy, but only insofar as it serves Axe Capital’s drive to raze its enemies to the ground. Meanwhile, a tiresome subplot concerning an ally of Bobby’s who’s under federal investigation never carries the weight its burdened with.