Flashback to the "Billion" finale: The house of cards collapses (2023)


Flashback to the "Billion" finale: The house of cards collapses (1)

Credit: Mark Schaefer/SHOWTIME


S3 E12

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billionbuilt on the rivalry between Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) und Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis). It was the heart of the first season, which was entertaining but still finding itself and exploring what kind of show it would be. In Season 2, their rivalry came to a head with a back-and-forth power play that led to a criminal investigation that played out in the first part of Season 3. Season 2, however, changed the stakes and storytelling forever. The supporting cast became the show's greatest strength, as Wags (David Costabile), Ari Spyros, Dollar Bill (Kelly AuCoin) and newcomer Taylor Mason (Asian Kate Dillon) added everything the show had been missing in its first season.

In other words,billioncould only be the story of Ax vs. Chuck for so long. At some point, they had to break away from their blood feud and find new enemies in order for the show to tell new stories and move the characters in different directions. One of the great things about this show is that it never stagnates. The ground beneath the characters is constantly moving, and this makes for exciting, unpredictable drama. Elmsley Count, the Season 3 finale, marks another massive change and is incredibly exciting.

When it was clear that Ax would not stand trial for his crimes, that Wendy (Maggie Siff), Ax and Chuck made sure it was all gone once they dealt with it, the larger story of the season began to fall into place. Ax returned to Ax Capital while avoiding Taylor, not giving them what they felt was their fair share of duties and responsibilities. Chuck went back to Southern where he met Attorney General Jock Jeffcoat (Clancy Braun). Since then, both Ax and Chuck have fought uphill battles as Chuck tries to escape Jock's thumb and Ax tries to save his company's reputation.

As the finale begins, both battles seem to cool down. At a capital launch event hosted by Spartan Ives at Citi Field, Ax and Taylor finish addressing investors and exit the company with more than $6 billion in promised investments. The thing is, prior to his arrival, Taylor created his own pitch that gives Grigor Andolov the gist of what Taylor Mason Capital will be doing with his cutting-edge quant project. "You screwed it up," says Grigor's associate, assuring that the money will come soon, as will a tense showdown with Ax in the future.

For now, however, Ax has no idea what to expect. He's so focused on Ax Capital's reputation that he can't see Taylor running away. He fails to see the moves he's made as going against everything Taylor has built during his absence and essentially dismisses her leadership and ideas as inconsequential. That kind of blindness makes him vulnerable, and so does Chuck. By the end of the episode, the two titans of the series are on the ropes, blindsided by those who were once close to them.

The entirety of "Elmsley Count" is amazingly driving. From the start, the episode goes full throttle and doesn't let up. It's the kind of finale that makes you realize how perfectly the house of cards was built, ready to collapse in spectacular fashion. Knowing what we know about Taylor, it's exciting to see Ax celebrate the night of the Citi Field meeting, only to have the episode cut to the next morning when Wags tells Ax he can't seem to reach investors who have promised money. Realizing that both Taylor and Mafee are missing, Ax begins to understand what happened. All in all, Taylor made off with more than $3 billion of what Ax thought was his.

Chuck, on the other hand, thinks he has his sights set on Jock. He delivers a target letter, naming Jock's brother Jeb as the focus of law enforcement, causing Jock to get excited. But the AG isn't beginning to obstruct justice in the way they'd hoped, so Chuck gives it a little nudge and urges Epstein to convene a grand jury. That gets the ball rolling and sends Jock straight to Chuck.

He asks Chuck to basically make everything go away. He wants a few minutes alone with Cutler to "change his mind." Chuck asks for full control over what cases Southern pursues in return to make it appear like he doesn't want to do that work, and the trap is set. Chuck arranges for Jock and Cutler to meet at a spa, the room is bugged, to get all the evidence they need against the Attorney General.

While Chuck awaits this evidence, Ax must make his own decision. In the best scene of the episode, Ax confronts Taylor at the newly formed Taylor Mason Capital. After humiliating Mafee, he moves on to Taylor and says they have no idea what's coming. Ax compares the world he trades to the top of Everest, the "death zone". He says that Taylor will soon run out of oxygen. "Young lungs, so we'll see," Taylor replies. Their exchange is laced with history, anger and resentment, and even a hint of respect, and that bodes well for the future ofbillion.

But the choice Ax has to make? It's a big one. Grigor (John Malkovich) offers what he calls "pest control," which essentially means he'll have one of his guys kill Taylor and make it look like an accident. Ax seriously considers the offer for two reasons: first, because it would solve his problem, and second, because turning down a man like Grigor usually has consequences. I mean, this is the same man who slapped Hall in a meeting. Hall is the scariest guy of them all, and he's firmly put in his place by Grigor. Not a guy to mess with.

Thankfully, the show isn't going down this path, which would be difficult to bounce back from. Ax rejects Grigor's offer, losing all of his investment money to Taylor in the process. So Taylor Mason Capital is up and running, and now Ax Capital must assess a new threat. Taylor says her company will surpass Axe's in three to eight years, depending on market forces. That's a number Ax doesn't like to hear.

Now Ax has a new enemy, one who is his former protégé. It's about time the tables turned against Chuck, too. Epstein tells him to meet at the southern offices to go through the record of Jock's obstruction of justice, but when he gets there he finds Jock, Epstein, Kate, Connerty, and Dake all standing around like they're in the same one Team. It's the end for Chuck. He was outmaneuvered when Jock fires him and Connerty takes his place as interim attorney. It's unclear how this all came together - did Kate's meeting with Connerty change things? When did Epstein freak out? – but right now, all that matters is that Chuck is unemployed.

This all leads to a final, suspenseful scene. The scene itself is simply Wendy, Chuck and Ax sharing drinks in the Rhoades brownstone, but it's still electrifying. Wendy, who turned down a recruiting offer from Taylor, is more loyal to Ax than ever and more angry than ever at Jock Jeffcoat. So, like she did earlier this season, she brings Ax and Chuck together. Sitting at the dinner table, glasses of wine in hand, they begin to form a new bond. Ax wonders if Chuck has any ideas on how to defeat Jock; he does. Chuck wonders if Ax knows what he's going to do about Taylor; he has some ideas. As the episode fades to black, the former enemies share tales of how they'll get back on top, and againbillionended a season on an incredibly promising note.



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