‘Billions’ Season 4, Episode 2: You Win Some, They Lose Some

‘Billions’ Season 4, Episode 2: You Win Some, They Lose Some

So Chuck advises Sansone to go after Panay rather than Gomez, then to cozy up to Panay’s successor — drumroll, please — Bobby Axelrod, who has been cleared of wrongdoing and can get back into business with the cops. All Chuck asks for in return is Sansone’s endorsement of his candidacy for New York State Attorney General, which he delivers at the San Gennaro festival in Little Italy.

Another scheme, another fall guy, another way for top dogs like Chuck, Bobby and Taylor to manipulate frenemies into doing their bidding.

Strong B-plots complement the main action, presenting other characters with their own moral dilemmas. Taylor’s trusted underling Mafee (Dan Soder), the genial man-child who quit Axe Cap last season when he realized he’d been manipulated by Axe and Wendy, refuses to extend a similar lifeline to his buddy Rudy (Chris Carfizzi), whom Axe fired last week for fraternizing with the enemy — namely, Mafee. It’s cold, but Rudy isn’t a great trader. In Mafee’s view, taking him on would be more trouble than he’s worth.

Wendy is faced with an even more personal dilemma. During a frank after-hours conversation about sex at a party with her co-workers, she crows that her and Chuck’s bedroom policy is “Action whenever either of us [expletive] wants it.” But when she asks for warm, intimate, face-to-face sex, Chuck insists on breaking out the whips and chains — going so far as to beg after she tells him she’d rather not.

That’s precisely the kind of behavior she ridiculed as the province of “sexual panhandlers” at the party, as prompted by Bonnie (an excellent Sarah Stiles), the big-haired, bawdy trader who manspreads during her therapy sessions and insists that no woman wants a whiner. But as Wendy learns from their former dominatrix Troy (Clara Wong), submitting to sexual power is Chuck’s “arousal template,” and it’s unshakable.

Still, there’s a sense that the real power plays have yet to come. Insofar as this is only the second in a 12-episode season, that’s to be expected. But the various schemes and shenanigans that Chuck, Bobby and Taylor have been running feel minor, even so. The characters scratch a few backs, grease a few palms, hamstring a few second-stringers, fiddle around the margins and avoid direct attacks — zugzwang instead of checkmate. On this show, it’s an odd sensation.

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