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Billions: Season 4, Episode 7 (Infinite Game) - Review

Billions

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

THERE’S a point during the seventh episode of Billions continually brilliant fourth season in which the father of a key character laments that even if his son wins in his war against one of the main players, “it won’t feel like it”. By the end of the episode, just about every character – barring one – knew how that felt.

And therein lay the episode’s genius. For make no mistake, this was another writing and acting masterclass, which stemmed from the pen of co-showrunners Brian Koppelman and David Levien and was delivered with consummate ease by Damian Lewis, Paul Giamatti, Asia Kate Dillon and Maggie Siff.

For the latter’s Wendy Rhoades, in particular, victory came at the expense of her soul. A key participant in Bobby Axelrod’s merciless takedown of Asia Kate Dillon’s Tyler, the winning sensation she experienced in getting her own mojo back was painfully short-lived.

Rather, in the show’s final moments, she was seen breaking down while out on a midnight jog, desperately alone. Had she just sold her soul?

Siff’s journey to this point has been particularly hard during this fourth season. Betrayed, once again, by her husband, Chuck (Giamatti), she’s had to pick herself up to take back control of her life and her image.

In order to do so, she became the key participant in the takedown of Axe’s new nemesis, Taylor, exploiting the latter’s trust to expose a key business deal and exploit the estrangement between Taylor and his own father (Kevin Pollack). The plan worked as Taylor had to choose between father and business. While desperate to protect the relationship with the former, business concerns – and the need for survival – eventually won out, prompting another painful emotional fallout between father and misunderstood child.

Taylor finished the episode similarly alone and emotionally broken – the toll of waging a war against Axelrod exposed for all to see.

The third broken soul was Giamatti’s Chuck Rhoades. His own career success coming at the expense of his marriage to Wendy. For she has now put their home up for sale and, by the episode’s end, had prospective buyers coming to view it, forcing Chuck out onto the street despite another hard day at the office.

If the victors get the spoils, then for most of this season’s big players, they’re scraps at best.

But therein lies the brilliance of Billions – its ability to toy with your allegiances and mess with your moral and ethical code.

Chuck cut a particularly disconsolate figure here, especially in light of the story he told Wendy in a bid to salvage their relationship early in the episode. His recalling of his father’s pancake Sunday history was as chilling to hear as it was heart-rending for the teller. It gave the audience a deeper understanding of Chuck’s need to be dominated. But it exposed the depth of the rift that now exists between him and Wendy.

As a piece of well-written drama, it was second to none – allowing both Giamatti and Siff the chance to shine. They were equally brilliant. And the scene is sure to become a Billions seminal moment.

But here was an episode that delivered classic scene after classic scene. Taylor’s final showdown with Dad was similarly heart-wrenching, exposing both the vulnerabilities of both characters as well as the selfishness and egotism that have under-pinned their rise.

Siff, for her part, got to revel in being the ultimate bitch, yet capably exposed how much it cost. Her hurt was plain for all to see.

These are complex, flawed characters – deeply unlikeable at times, yet equally easy to sympathise with at others.

The only real ‘winner’ was Axelrod. He defeated Taylor. And he afforded another long-time business partner, local pizzeria owner Bruno (Arthur J. Nascarella), the chance to be sent off to his dream retirement in Florida. It was a nice moment of humanity and friendship from Axe that neatly offset his otherwise ruthlessly single-minded pursuit of Taylor. And, again, it was brilliantly played by Lewis.

Toss in another memorable confrontation, between Mafee and Dollar Bill at Axe’s office once Wendy’s deception had been exposed, and you had a truly exciting, emotionally exhilarating [and challenging] episode in what is becoming an embarrassingly brilliant series.

Where the characters go from here is anybody’s guess. For while Axe may be on a high, there’s sure to be a bump in the road ahead. While the wolves are closing in on Chuck and his father, and it’s open to debate whether Wendy or Taylor can ever recover their own souls.

Billions is complex, intelligent, utterly compelling viewing – the type of which threatens to run out of superlatives.

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