'Billions' Season 5 Episode 2 Review: Prince draws first blood against Axe, Chuck makes it 1-1 against Wendy
Spoilers for 'Billions' Season 5 Episode 2 'The Chris Rock Test'
Monsters vs Men. The selfish vs The Selfless. The win-at-all-costs vs The urge to win. The giver vs the scuttler— This list can go on if we have to compare the fierce and intense rivalry between Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) and his new adversary in town, Mike Prince (Corey Stoll). 'The Chris Rock Test' weaves in multiple storylines making it an intense affair. It isn't surprising that 'Billions' manages to get its key players to channel their rage and competitive spirit in ways the audience wouldn't see coming.
Coming back to the part about monsters, that's Axe simply stating that he is a monster out there to devour, and he makes no qualms about it. It has been an established fact that he was a self-made man who came from nothing. And he uses this to make a play against Prince at one of his philanthropic events. Except, his rival is three steps ahead and Axe didn't see that coming.
Psychoceuticals is where Prince has gone deep in, and Axe intends to go much further to beat him at his own game. It also seems their trip up north shown at the start of the season was that to know more ayahuasca and use that as part of the market. Simon Shenk, a magnate of has access to the drug and along with the multiple bankers is part of Prince's conference. Axe's idea: Get them all on his side. And despite the meticulous planning, Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon), Wags (David Constabile) and Axe fail.
That Taylor has to negotiate with Oscar Langstraat (Mike Birbiglia) becomes an issue and by the looks of it, the latter hasn't gotten over the events that unfolded in the past between him and Taylor or "the emotional baggage" as Axe dubs it.
As far as the troubles for Axe Cap goes, Ali Kashkokh (Cindy Cheung) comes drops in unannounced to check-in to see how the company's books stack-up. In the end, some Taylor Mason Capital gets them off the hook.
Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) and therapy is a sight to see and the fact he quotes references from Jeff Lindsay's 'Darkly Dreaming Dexter' as his source of wisdom shows the new trajectory he intends to take. He makes no secret of the fact the hug between Wendy (Maggie Siff) and Axe sent him in a fit of rage. Couple this with the desire to take down the billionaire, Chuck says the emotions of rage and jealousy can be felt all through his system.
To focus on Rhoades, he needs to demolish Axe and that mantra is cemented in the opening minutes of the episode.
That he freezes Wendy's assets is the first indication of Chuck going to war and she receives the jolt when she checks out a new place to stay but loses it after the freeze. With this, Chuck makes the scoreline 1-1 after her divorce announcement goes public.
However, Chuck's stress isn't done as trouble comes in the form of Manhattan District Attorney, Mary Ann Gramm (Roma Maffia) who takes over a major chunk of Chuck's cases. But not before she has a meeting with Axe where she tells him, it's the "crime " that matters more than the criminal. An offer he makes to stay on her good graces gets a mixed response. Gifts are accepted, but she won't let go of Axe if he's involved in the case.
In a move that would help him and Kate Sacker (Condola Rashad), Chuck gets Adam DeGiulio (Rob Morrow) as Solicitor General to help as an ally.
It has been another scintillating episode in the series where Axe has the odds against him while Chuck 2.0 gets a move on. The game for power is on and it is just the beginning.
'Billions' Season 5 airs Sundays 9 pm ET on Showtime.