May 20, 2024

SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers for “Admirals Fund,” the series finale of “Billions,” now streaming on Paramount+.

“Billions” ends where it began. At the close of “Admirals Fund,” Episode 12 of Season 7 and the series finale of the Showtime drama series, Bobby Axelrod is scheming once again to make a new fortune with his merry band of alpha-male traders, who are revved up by his leadership to kill in the name of capitalism.

The closing segment of “Billions” was unabashedly designed to appeal to fans of the sudsy drama that turns on the crazier-than-fiction tales of hedge fund managers and traders. Axelrod, played with gusto until the final frame by Damian Lewis, winds up on top. His most recent foil, rival trader/investor Michael Prince (Corey Stoll), has been publicly humiliated in defeat, although he is destined to rise again (“As it has ever been for men like you over the centuries,” Prince’s loyal confidant Scooter (Daniel Breaker) tells him in their parting scene.

As is to be expected, the finale features a lot of reflection between key characters on who they are as people — who they have been in the past and where they are headed in the future. There’s some ruminating on whether people can change, and what it is that makes them change. A key turning point for core characters is buttressed in the soundtrack by the use of Blind Faith’s haunting “Can’t Find My Way Home.” But in fact, by the closing moments, pillars of the “Billions” universe seem to be setting out on a clear path to find solace and even happiness.

For the grand battle, Axelrod and Rhoades teamed up to help Axelrod exact revenge against Prince for the coup that Prince pulled against Axelrod at the end of Season 5. That forced Axe out of the country and allowed Prince to take over the ashes of Axe Capital. The Season 7 plot of Axe’s revenge campaign was typically complicated, involving Prince’s quixotic bid for the presidency by promulgating a Trump-esque platform, an ego-stroking trip to Camp David, a big dose of fake news around energy stocks and some sleight of hand that allowed the good guys to stay rich while Prince was (mostly) wiped out.

Damian Lewis as Bobby “Axe” Axelrod, Dan Soder as Dudley Mafee, Asia Kate Dillon as Taylor Mason and Maggie Siff as Wendy Rhoades
Christopher T. Saunders/SHOWTIME

Most of “Billions” revolved around epic cat-and-mouse chases between Axelrod and Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti), the former New York federal prosecutor-turned-New York attorney general-turned disgraced politician-turned (by the end of Season 7) New York federal prosecutor again. Rhoades wanted to nab Axe for violating the federal rules of high-finance, whereas Axelrod always saw his efforts not in the dim light of insider trading but as going the extra mile to understand the market.

Rhoades closes out the series an unusual state of contentment. He’s pulled off a professional coup in nailing Prince. He even gets an attaboy from his ultra wealthy and politically connected father, Chuck Rhoades Sr. (played with a charming sneer by Jeffrey DeMunn), who has nagged him throughout the series for not being nearly successful nor mean enough for Senior’s liking. And Chuck has once again secured the role of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York – one of the most powerful law enforcement posts in the country.

One the quirky conceits of “Billions” from the start was that Chuck Rhoades, crusader for justice and fairness on Wall Street, was married to (and then divorced from) Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff), a razor-sharp psychologist who works as a life coach for Axe Capital, helping traders overcome their insecurities. The tension in their marriage was both personal and professional. It took actors of Siff and Giamatti’s caliber to pull off what would otherwise be too fantastical of a storyline to survive.

Damian Lewis as Bobby “Axe” Axelrod and David Costabile as Mike ‘Wags’ Wagner
Christopher T. Saunders/SHOWTIME

Wendy Rhoades throughout the series was torn between her loyalty to Axelrod and her fealty to her husband and father of her two children. That strain eventually led the Rhoades’ to divorce. The finale depicts Wendy and Chuck sitting down happily at a fancy Japanese restaurant with their teenage children. Whether that signals a romantic reunion for Chuck and Wendy or not is open to interpretation (probably the stuff of future fan fiction). But the message is clear: these two are no longer at odds.

Another Wendy sub-plot throughout “Billions” has been the peculiarity of her relationship with Axelrod. There’s an unmistakable chemistry between the two. They are deeply involved with each other – something that irritated Chuck and Bobby’s various partners to no end — but not in a sexual way. The “Billions” writers kept that discipline to the end, teasing out a long final scene that ended with a hug that was still more brother-to-sister than lover to lover.

Wendy heads out of the world of Axelrods and Princes to do some good for the world by running her tele-health therapy business. “Maybe you’ll take me public some day,” Wendy tells Axe with a smile as she assures him they will still stay connected even if she’s not formally on his payroll.

“Billions” Season 7 cast members. From left, Daniel Breaker as Roger “Scooter” Dunbar, Corey Stoll as Mike Prince, Toney Goins as Philip Charyn, Damian Lewis as Bobby “Axe” Axelrod, Asia Kate Dillon as Taylor Mason, David Costabile as Mike ‘Wags’ Wagner, Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades, Maggie Siff as Wendy Rhoades, Sakina Jaffrey as Daevisha ‘Dave’ Mahar, Dola Rashad as Kate Sacker and Jeffrey DeMunn as Chuck Rhoades, Sr.
Mark Seliger/SHOWTIME

As for the fates of other key characters in the series:

Mike “Wags” Wagner (David Costabile): Axe’s hard-partying, hard-working, ever-faithful second in command is heading off to Miami to check out the investment scene there. He is also breaking from Axe at long last, albeit on good terms.

Kate Sacker (Dola Rashad): The ultra-ambitious federal prosecutor turned general counsel for Michael Prince Capital has not wavered from her plan (telegraphed as early as Season 1) to pursue political office. She’s on a mission to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as the series ends.

Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillon): Taylor’s quant-tastic genius helps play a big part in the sting that ends “Billions,” of course. And they too decide its time to move on from the Axe universe, sort of. Like Wendy, Taylor yearns to give back after more than proving their worth at making piles of money by outsmarting others. Taylor moves their foundation into the old Axe Capital headquarters in Greenwich, while the newly constituted Axe Global claims the former Michael Prince Capital headquarters in Manhattan.

Dudley Mafee (Dan Soder): The doe-eyed trader with a heart of gold is back with Axe and celebrating the dawn of legal weed sales in the Empire State.

Bryan Connerty (Toby Leonard Moore): The former federal prosecutor who went into a professional spiral after a big falling out with Chuck Rhoades has his honor restored. Chuck Rhoades helps him get his law license reinstated even if Connerty is now otherwise engaged as a chef at a high-end Japanese hibachi restaurant (where the Rhoades clan dines in their final scene).

Roger “Scooter” Dunbar: Mike Prince’s loyal soldier lays down his sword. He’s saved from personal ruin by his nephew, Phillip, who worked for Michael Prince Capital but was in cahoots with the Axe group all along. Scooter gives Prince the politest of brushoffs at the end, but a brushoff nonetheless.

“Dollar” Bill Stearn (Kelly AuCoin): The epitome of the amoral Wall Streeter driven only by money, Dollar Bill is back with Axe, once again leading the pack of trader wolves — and shouting vulgarities to his heart’s content.

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