Did Billions Accidentally Raise the Stakes Too High?

Did Billions Accidentally Raise the Stakes Too High?

The problem of raising the stakes too high is one which we have seen with several shows, including the Thanos track of the MCU. But what exactly do we mean by raising the stakes?

Let us begin with explaining the term and then I can go on to describe how this is applicable to Billions, one of the best written shows of today.

By raising the stakes too high, I mean it has brought in more than it can deal with in terms of plot and characterization. It raised our expectations and most probably also their own, and the delivery did not make up for the amount of expectations.

Basically, it let us down and brought in much more than what was needed.

I am not talking about the initial fewseasons of Billions. In fact, the show is intriguing and well written with a great cast. But with the build up, the expectations were far more.

Billions built up the rivalry between Chuck Rhoades Jr and Bobby Axelrod for 5 whole seasons. Axe was portrayed as the ultimate antagonist or the ultimate villain, whom Chuck should immediately put in jail.

Did Billions accidentally raise the stakes too high?
Chuck and Axe | Source: IMDb

Their relationship had various layers and considering the kind of themes that the show has dealt with involving Chuck and Axe, what is expected of season 6 seems a little too amateurish for a show of this stature.

Now frankly speaking, that was not done in a day. It took the makers a considerable amount of time and solid writing consistently to build up Axe’s POV and Chuck’s POV, how the two are in this cat-mouse dynamic, which is what I am calling raising the stakes high.

For a show like Billions which has matters of finance and business as the central theme, such a rivalry track being at the centre is not uncalled for. But in that case, Axe’s replacement at the end of season 5 should have been better. Even better, Axe should have not said goodbye.

With Damian Lewis taking his leave from Billions, we are stuck with a new villain, Mike, who TBH seems a little underwhelming considering the Axe that we have been used to for the last 5 seasons.

That is not to say there was no potential for Mike. But his character was not given enough time to flesh out and he was turned into a villain over one episode. Mike was previously nowhere close to a villain, but he has been transformed into one all of a sudden, as Bobby took his leave.

While the viewers of Billions have been used to Axe’s tricks and Chuck’s defences, Mike did not even get enough development for us to accept him as Axe’s successor. I get the fact that Lewis leaving the show was his decision and it would be hard for us to accept anyone else in Axe’s role.

‘Always an Honor to Meet a Legend’

But maybe then Mike could have been given more time, or the show could have ended in season 5 itself with a proper farewell to Bobby Axelrod. The growing relationship between Bobby and Wendy was also left floating in the air.

That few minute long scene is definitely not worth the development of their friendship and mutual respect that we have seen for the last 5 seasons.

Mike Prince is not yet the shark that Bobby Axelrod was. With Axe, it was his style that made the show so entertaining. From his ability to exploit loopholes to the aggressive strategies of acquiring power, it had all become very significantly typical of his character.

Billions is a show about rich egoistic people with whom the lines of morality and the representations of what is right and wrong is pretty blurry and ambiguous. Chuck, for instance, is as aggressive as Axe while the latter is very much pushed as the antagonist. Though themes of finance and business are central to the premise, in its core the show talks about human relationships and behavior, like every other show.

With Axe already being an established figure, Mike’s antiques in season 6 might seem pretty inconsequential. In the season 6 trailer of Billions, we saw Mike sitting on Axe’s chair which was meant to symbolic of him being transformed into a series regular and taking over Axe’s place.

Did Billions accidentally raise the stakes too high?
Damian Lewis as Bobby Axelrod | Source: IMDb

While it does make sense because Damian Lewis decided to leave the show, it is just that maybe the show could have ended with season 5 or perhaps Mike could have been given more space to grow into the replacement of Axe that the show intends for him to be.

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About Billions

Billions is an American drama created by Brian Koppelman, David Levien, and Andrew Ross Sorkin. The series is set in financial centres based in America.

The series follows hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis), as he accumulates wealth and power in the world of high finance. The series premiered on Showtime on January 17, 2016.