One of many credibility stretching conceits of the Showtime drama Billions is that one in every of its lead characters, a high-ranking authorities lawyer performed by Paul Giamatti, is a hard-core sexual masochist. We meet him within the pilot, certain, gagged, and hooded, cringing underneath the heel of a dominatrix. (That she seems to be his spouse is one other of the fast plot twists that maintain the collection’ coronary heart pumping.)
With the accusations breaking this week of the bodily abuse of 4 girls by former New York Lawyer Common Eric Schneiderman, that high-concept premise is beginning to look much less contrived. Schneiderman is the alleged perpetrator, not the recipient, of violence in information accounts, however the disconnect widespread to each characters—the true and the fictional—is unsettling. Giamatti’s Chuck Rhoades, the U.S. lawyer for the Southern District of New York, is so possessed by the will to nail his nemesis, hedge-funder Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) that he’s keen to sacrifice pals, household, ethics, and his personal monetary curiosity in its pursuit. This punitive zeal makes an ironic distinction together with his sexual choice. Schneiderman’s obvious hypocrisy lies in his help of #MeToo, taking motion towards Harvey Weinstein, and, as a legislator, introducing particular legal guidelines towards verbal threats and bodily choking, two of the crimes of which he now stands accused.
Billions was beneficial to me by the identical buddy who bought me hooked, some years again, on Breaking Unhealthy, a collection that stayed good to the final drop of its staggering 5 seasons. As I started binge-watching it from the primary episode to now just a few weeks in the past, it was exhausting to see the place the plot—the legit lawyer circling the insider buying and selling dangerous boy—would go. But because the collection progressed, that circle simply grew tighter as the 2 males, Giamatti’s character now more and more mired in corruption, confronted off like a pair of T. rexes earlier than a combat. It helped that Lewis, together with his singular white-skinned, red-haired coloring and swimming-pool blue eyes, is at all times mesmerizing to observe.
Even higher, the feminine characters are attention-grabbing. For one, the elegant Condola Rashad is cool and tenacious as an assistant D.A. in Chuck’s workplace. Although there are glimpses of model-pretty groupies bare in Jacuzzis at events across the billionaire bankers, each Bobby and Chuck are married to highly effective, no-nonsense girls. Lara Axelrod, performed by the beautiful Swedish-Canadian actress Malin Akerman, is as ruthless as her husband, and nearly as good at calling the pictures. There’s no socialite she will be able to’t crush with a candy smile, a transparent risk, and a nicely positioned telephone name, and no white lie she will be able to’t catch her husband in. Maggie Rhoades (Wendy Siff), one other magnificence, is notable for her extreme demeanor—she wears a everlasting frown and infrequently smiles—in addition to her black outfits in varied levels of bondage stylish. The in-house psychologist at Axelrod’s agency, Axe Capital, she is a lady in management with seemingly ironclad boundaries. Much better paid than her husband (as she doesn’t hesitate to level out), she just isn’t about to compromise her integrity, even when it places her marriage in jeopardy.
Till now. Previous the tipping level of season three, one thing disconcerting has occurred. Not solely has Rhoades brutally framed an harmless man, browbeating him with threats supposed to play on a Jewish sense of guilt and the necessity to atone, Wendy additionally colludes with Chuck and Bobby, to persuade an Axe Capital colleague to lie a few commerce that implicates her. I get that Billions reveals that everybody is corruptible, however the way in which she does it? With intercourse! On this world of sturdy girls, the writers—Brian Koppelman, David Levien, and Andrew Ross Sorkin, three males—noticed match to show one of many feminine leads right into a digital whore.
That, in accordance with the claims of Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, is Schneiderman-style considering, and it slams a gripping collection with advanced characters proper again on the earth of a jaded, stereotypical—and harmful—“macho” mindset. Nonconsensual intercourse, claims Schneiderman, “is a line I would not cross.” Nonconsensual sexism, a minimum of in accordance with this viewer, is a line Billions simply crossed.