Showtime offers up a first look at season 3 of Billions, along with a premiere date in a brand new trailer for the series. Season 2 took a massive step in the right direction, infusing the series with a great deal more humor, most of it directed at the nature of the grudge match between billionaire hedge fund manager Bobby ‘The Axe’ Axelrod and his nemesis, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Chuck Rhoades. Over the course of two seasons the dueling ambitions of the two men played by Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti has provided plenty of fodder for creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien to make light of two warring alpha males, while also delivering an intriguing game of cat and mouse that at times feels as delightfully convoluted as the plot of Ocean’s 11.
Season 2 left off with Chuck throwing caution and a whole lot of money to the wind in order to set up Axelrod and score an indictment against the Metallica-loving moneyman. The move was motivated as much by Chuck’s disdain for his chosen adversary as it was to further his efforts to be the next governor of New York. Meanwhile, Bobby’s life seemingly unraveled in the wake of the charges against him, leaving little choice but to scramble to protect his business, which resulted in Taylor (Asia Kate Dillion) continuing their rapid ascension at the firm and in the world of finance, possibly hinting at an internal squabble at Axe Capital in season 3.
“What has the stronger pull, fear or money?” Axe asks at the end of the trailer. The question is as good a summation of the new season as it is a strong example of how Billions likes to conduct itself. Koppelman and Levien have assembled a writers’ room adept at giving characters dialogue that says exactly what they’re thinking without being overly obtuse about it — or at least obtuse in a way that’s still highly entertaining. It is seen in the posturing of Bobby and Chuck, but also in the supporting players played by Maggie Siff, Malin Akerman, and season 2 MVP David Costabile, whose David ‘Wags’ Wagner was kind enough to grow a villainous mustache that could be twirled while conducting diatribes on showing proper respect for sushi or lamenting the alcohol and narcotic-induced decision to get a tattoo on his ass.
Aside from a delightfully vindictive smirk on Giamatti’s face that's aimed at Christopher Denham’s Oliver Dake and Wags’ admonishment of Taylor in front of a conference room of Axe Capital employees, the trailer goes light on the humor. It chooses instead to market the show as something of a thriller, or the aforementioned game of cat and mouse between Chuck and Bobby. That’s fair, as the indictment against Axe did raise the stakes considerably.
But, if anything, Billions season 2 learned the series was at its best when the feud between its two main players was simmering in the background. The show can’t continually bring its combatants to blows only to see them retreat to start all over again the next season. That being said, it certainly appears this is the case in season 3, so it will be interesting to see how the series adjusts the tension of the narrative while ensuring it continues to move forward.
Billions season 3 premieres Sunday, March 25 on Showtime.