Billions wrapped up its sixth season Sunday night. I guess there will be at least one more?
I have enjoyed this show way more than I thought I would. A lot of the Showtime shows, in chasing HBO’s pay-cable glory, have struck me as too broad and loud. (Dexter and Weeds come to mind; just not to my taste.)
Billions was pitched on the star power of Paul Giamatti and Damien Lewis, as a New York-based prosecutor and ruthless hedge fund billionaire, respectively. I tuned in from the start.
Complicating matters, the prosecutor’s wife, played by Maggie Siff (Rachel Menken on Mad Men), is an employee at the billionaire’s firm, where she’s a trusted Deanna Troi-type of performance coach.
I was a bit skeptical—can these guys really chase and hunt each other for six or seven years?
Well, they sure can, thanks to super-smart creators/showrunners Brian Koppelman and David Levien.
And I should have known, because those two wrote Rounders some 25 years ago—something else that I was dubious would be any good (I don’t care about card playing) but it was really smart.
Billions is a cut above due to the intelligence of the writing. It’s a unique, glamour-soaked milieu that’s super fun to watch: not only the star power of all those top-flight actors (and guest stars); and the thrills of watching all that money; but spending time with people who are so thoughtful about their own psychology.
The characters pepper their dialogue with rapid-fire pop-culture references, most of which I get (but not all). Of course, no human being actually talks like this—let alone an entire TV cast worth of them—but it’s never crossed over into being sinfully annoying.
At the end of season five, Damien Lewis left the show because, tragically, his wife, the wonderful actress Helen McCrory, died from cancer and he wanted to spend more time with his family. But the show has segued Corey Stoll into his place—as a billionaire who cloaks his rapacious appetites with the veneer of good deeds. And it didn’t miss a beat in season six.
So well done Billions, and I look forward to season seven!