The greatest pleasure of watching “Indian Four” (March 26) — the sixth and therefore midpoint episode of Season 2 of “Billions” — is how quickly and efficiently it wraps up so many of the side stories and occasionally superfluous plot lines of the season so far.
In fact, hearing Damian Lewis’ Bobby Axelrod once and for all get rid of Oliver Dake (Christopher Denham) — the one-note government agent investigating Chuck (Paul Giamatti) — was a great relief, and not just because it changes the vector of their confrontations — we can’t help but be happy to get away from his “Moby Dick”-referencing cliches and tics, possibly forever.
As a clean-up transitional episode, then, “Indian Four” is less exhilarating and aggressive as the previous two installments, as the lion’s share of the episode’s run time is about resetting its chess board. The case of Lawrence Boyd (Eric Bogosian) is all but sewed up at this point, with Bryan (Toby Leonard Moore) turning an entire trial jury against him in about five minutes flat… Which not only Chuck back into a secure position with his government job, but makes a statement to the entire hedgefund world that Chuck Rhoades is back — and won’t just be taking names from now on, either.
After Season 2’s relegation of them to side players, “Indian Four” also brings Lara and Wendy (Malin Akerman & Maggie Siff) back to the forefront. It’s not really surprising in Lara’s case, since last week’s episode ended with Axe talking down to her in a way that any experienced “Billions” viewer knew wouldn’t go without some repercussions. But watching her call out Axe on his lies and games is a healthy reminder as to how hard “Billions” has worked to make its two central marriages as level as possible.
Of course, the conflict between Lara and Axe wouldn’t exist this week either, without Wendy stepping up to the plate and actually looking into what’s been causing Chuck so much stress as of late. While going to Ira (Ben Shankman) involves him breaking some serious attorney-client privilege, it’s worth it to see Wendy realize just what Axe has been doing to Chuck with all of these civil lawsuits.
This leads to a meeting in which Wendy agrees to come back to Axe Capital, but only under some very clear caveats: A 20 percent raise and two percent stake in the company — the latter of which is turned down by Axe, since he’s the only one who owns any piece of Axe Capital, in case we needed a reminder of where his loyalties truly lie… But he does agree to a one percent profit share if he ever ends up selling the company, which is enough for her.
Wendy’s other requirement is that Axe drop all of his civil suits against Chuck — something he agrees to almost instantly, effectively tipping Wendy off to the fact that he only ever filed them in order to get her back at Axe Capital anyway. As a result, she throws one more requirement into the mix: That she won’t ever have any sessions with Axe himself while she’s working there, something that clearly upsets him, but is apparently worth it.
The scene itself is a long time coming, and finally puts an end to Wendy’s “will she/won’t she” about returning to Axe Capital — and even despite the clearly unavoidable resolution, it’s still a highlight, as always, watching Siff and Lewis work together: One of the drawbacks of this season and storyline is that it’s kept them apart for so long. Now that she’s back under his roof, we’re doubtless going to get a lot more of their unique chemistry.
After monumental shifts in luck over the past few episodes, “Indian Four” seems to solve basically all of Chuck’s problems: He’s all but won his case against Boyd, effectively saving his job and reputation; his relationship with Wendy is growing stronger and stronger with each passing day, and now all of the lawsuits against him have been dropped. Even Chuck Sr. (Jeffrey DeMunn) managed to foil one of Axe’s latest business ventures from behind the scenes, calling on his powerful country club buddies to end a gambling play in which Axe had invested $5MM.
But as is always the case in “Billions,” Chuck just can’t let go of his ego enough to appreciate all this — instead, after realizing that Wendy’s return to Axe Capital is the reason his civil suits were dropped, he immediately confronts her about going behind his back again. Though she saved him by doing it, Chuck also sees Axe still finding a way in to their marriage (in his defense, it is), and that’s a “dealbreaker” for him.
After last week concluded with Chuck enjoying a victory meal by himself, “Indian Four” ends with him literally turning his back on his wife. It’s the perfect melancholy note to end the episode — and one that spells only disaster for what’s left to come this season. Because it seems that no matter what they do, Chuck and Axe may never truly be rid of each other, and we can only imagine the lengths they’ll go to in order to try and make the other just disappear.
“Billions” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.