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'Billions' Season 5 Episode 3: Is Bobby Axelrod a good father or just a typical billionaire baron?

‘Beg, Bribe, Bully’ gives a glimpse into the dirty business of how billionaire dads take out the big bucks to solve family issues
UPDATED MAY 18, 2020
Bobby Axelrod and Gordie Axelrod (Showtime)
Bobby Axelrod and Gordie Axelrod (Showtime)

Spoilers for 'Billions' Season 5 Episode 3

You're still young, that's your fault
There's so much you have to go through...

When a touching Cat Stevens song ‘Father And Son’ begins a ‘Billions’ episode, you know there's a family crisis in the cards. ‘Beg, Bribe, Bully’ puts Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) in the spot and gives a glimpse into the dirty business of how billionaire dads take out the big bucks to solve family issues. It all begins when his son, Gordie Axelrod (Jack Gore) gets himself almost expelled while trying to be a “crypto millionaire”. Assuming his fatherly duties head-on, Bobby chides his son for the bitcoin experiment-gone-wrong, especially when he tries to shift the blame on the “s**tty wiring”.  He is firm, but not furious. And, first and foremost, he is hellbent to get his son out of trouble.

With oodles of sass, he tells his smart friend, “Give us a call when you quit college. We'll have a job for you,” and darts his way into headmaster Julien Kessel's (JC MacKenzie) office with a hefty bribe.

Bobby Axelrod (Showtime)

Speaking like a true business-minded man, he says, "Let me make you an offer: A generous donation to the school. Plus the costs of fixing up whatever it is Gordie broke." The headmaster turns a deaf ear to his words and calls it an act of “dangling trinkets in front of his face". But Bobby is not so easily disarmed. “I can't tell how many zeroes you're looking for,” he says and defends the lack of character in his son by saying, “Our business leaders started young.” But the headmaster puts it straight: “I will not allow you to a price on Gordie's soul.”

Bobby takes it as a personal insult and gets Mike Wagner (David Costabile) to look for some dirt on the headmaster. Bad news. Kessel is clean. He's a man with no arrests, no legal battles, not even a DUI. 

The way Bobby handles the situation and communicates with his son — telling him the price of his actions and how they have to “ruin a headmaster, a good man” — touches Wags' heart and he blurts out: “What a show of parentage!” He is so influenced that he tells Hall (Terry Kinney) to find his lost sons, especially the oldest one. When Wags is disappointed to know that his son, Georgie, runs a cannabis business, Bobby advises him: “Don't beat yourself up on this, Wags. Fathering ain't easy.”

Bobby, Gordie and Wags (Showtime)

Finally, Wags and Axe find a way to blackmail the headmaster by throwing photos of little kids working at his house in his face. The result: Bobby takes the mike for a morning lesson and makes a kickass speech at the school auditorium. Unleashing the truth about the world, he says, “It's populated by people like me who will tear you apart,” and then tells each one of them to “be greedy, be hungry". He says, “Subjugate and conquer. Because that's who were are. It's the dirty secret you may not want to hear you f**king love the result.”

Ba Dum Tsh. That's it. Bobby shows the big guns and leaves the house with echoes of thunderous claps. But did his conscience allow him to do it without a flinch? Crippled with guilt, Bobby first takes Wendy Rhoades's advice before making the move. When she tells him that making his son learn the lesson might give him a “drinking problem by the time he is 28”, he decides to take the interventionalist approach and usher tough love on his kid in the future.

The real question after the episode is: is that the right way to be a father? Perhaps, he should take advice from his ex-wife Lara (Malin Åkerman) who was privileged but knew that her sons had to learn the importance of earning every penny. Will Bobby be able to instil that kind of thought in his sons?

Bobby Axelrod's family (Showtime)

"Bobby has morphed into a Trumpian villain. Thoroughly unenjoyable & disappointing," one fan says and another one posts, "The way Axe made sure his son was good, was awe Inspiring. Then you come back to reality and think about how many times Donald’s dad did that for him, and why we’re in the toilet because of it." One went on to say, "Trying not to spoil #Billions but oh god Axe is the most embarrassing parent ever," and another fan writes, "This episode of billion made me hate Axe. Typical rich white man behavior. Smh."

Some, however, loved it. "This Axe speech at his kids' school falls way short of the Wall Street," one writes, and another one posts, "Omg, Bobby going absolutely rogue at a school-wide assembly is incredible, LFG - go out & get it!" Another said, "Bobby Axelrod’s speech this episode of #Billions really turned me up ! Lol."

The answer is debatable, and only time will tell what cost Bobby may have to pay for endowing his son with his lineage instead of showing him how to stand on his own feet. As more episodes of ‘Billions’ air every week on Sunday, 9 pm ET on Showtime, it may show what it really means to be a ‘Father And Son’. And we hope, it's not like in Stevens' song.

From the moment I could talk, I was ordered to listen
Now there's a way, And I know that I have to go away...