Last January, Showtime launched the new series Billions, transforming Homeland star Damian Lewis into Bobby "Axe" Axelrod, a brilliant and ruthlessly ambitious hedge fund manager with a morally questionable financial origin story. He was squared off against Paul Giamatti's U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades, an equally ambitious prosecutor willing to bend the rules to the point of breaking in order to get his man.
Their battle, guaranteed to lead to mutual destruction, ended in something of a stalemate after their see-sawing victories and devastations in season 1. Now in season 2, currently airing Sunday nights on Showtime, Axe is looking to reinvigorate his empire (with extra layers of security precautions). Chuck's fight of the moment is not so much with archenemy Axe as it is to keep his own job, working his most cunning political magic to thwart a government investigation into his seemingly shady conduct.
The new season has adopted a lighter touch so far, capitalizing on its satirical humor and the fun of both men's personal machinations to get what they want. While Billions currently only gets about half the viewership of the network leader Shameless, Variety reports that Showtime sees its growth potential and has already granted the series a third season.
Aside from already showing comparable numbers to Ray Donovan and The Affair, the new season's ratings have continued to climb. President and CEO of Showtime Networks, David Nevins, feels Billions' timely subject matter guarantees continuing interest the show.
"Billions continues to be a show on the rise, growing not only in audience, but in critical buzz and cultural relevance. It offers a unique mix of pure entertainment with sly commentary on our current have/have-not economy. Season 2 is off to a tremendous start, and has only whetted our audience’s appetite for what will come in Season 3."
Though billed as a dangerous mano-a-mano between Axe and Chuck, another important facet of Billions is Chuck's wife Wendy (Maggie Siff). As an impressively successful "performance coach" for Axe and his employees, she was caught in the middle of the power struggle between the two men. In season 2, she's separated from Chuck and has quit Axe Capital, and it's been intriguing to watch her seek out her own potential without relation to the two men, while possibly wielding even more power over them than before.
While finding truly likable characters in Billions is a difficult task, the intricate web they weave is always an interesting one. There's plenty of material to work with for another season, as even when the two adversaries aren't in a direct confrontation, it's fascinating to watch the "good" and "evil" sides simultaneously grapple with their own egos, desires, failings, and endless grab for power.
Billions airs Sundays on Showtime at 10pm.