'Billions' Season 5 Episode 3: Axe gets his edge back and walks into success: 'If you can't buy art, buy the artist'
These were traits that made him the success story he is and let's also note that 'beg' isn't in his dictionary
Spoilers for 'Billions' Season 5 Episode 3: 'Beg, Bribe, Bully'
It has been a disastrous start for Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) this season. And if anything, he doesn't like losing. 'Beg, Bribe, Bully' sees him get back some of that missing edge and he does get it back in style with Rainbow's "Long Live Rock 'N' Roll" richly complementing the storyline. Frank Grillo ('Captain America: The Winter Soldier) makes an appearance in the episode as Nico Tanner, a talented artist. And one of Axe's wish is to have his 'Implosion' series.
Pity that Mike Prince (Corey Stoll) beats him to it, but for Axe, a failure can be converted to success, and he does that by dishing out the best line in the episode — "If you can't buy the art, buy the artist". It's no easy job though as Tanner refuses the offer until Axe breaks bread with him and explains the logic behind the move. He wants the next eight paintings of Tanner. It's a win-win for both as the artist makes a gazillion bucks while Axe can piss in Mike's front yard and have a nice gloat about it.
The bank idea is still something that was introduced but might be carried over to the next episode. The potential thought of becoming a bank meets snags in the form of Axe's past federal troubles that wouldn't get past the SEC. The advice from Axe's experts: Take chances with the state charter. But will he do it?
There's some family time coming in after Gordie Axelrod (Jack Gore) in a bitcoin experiment-gone-wrong scenario faces expulsion from school. Axe marches in and tries the bribery approach and fails when the headmaster, Julien Kessel (JC MacKenzie) doesn't give in. He and Wags (David Costabile) search for dirt when they realize a portion of a donor's money was used by Kessel to fund the education of Syrian refugees, who are actually staying at his home and doubling up as domestic help.
It has to be noted that Axe wasn't entirely comfortable pulling this stunt, but he did so to teach his son that ruthlessness and business are an essential part of life and in his line of work— they matter. Big time. There is that quick scene where he reaches out to Wendy (Maggie Siff) for advice about this and decides to take the route. In addition, he also delivers a pep talk to the kids in the school and his rockstar speech did have us wishing he dropped the mic.
In many ways, this was a much-needed win for Axe. To assert dominion and to get what he wants. After going down thrice to Mike, he's regained his mojo and that will make things interesting in the episodes to come.
Meanwhile, family issues are still the Achilles heel for Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti). After being invited as a visiting professor at Yale, he realizes his father never paid the donation that was promised. And to get that done, he needs to introduce his family to his dad's newest wife and daughter as an extension of the Rhoades family. He cuts two deals for this and it is an indication that things have taken a bad turn for the man. He withdraws the TRO against Wendy in order to convince her and his children to meet Roxanne (Lily Gladstone).
Elsewhere, Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon) struggles to become a more efficient version. Taylor Mason Capital find a potential client in the chancellor of Lawrenceberg University who looks to divest the university's billion-dollar fund but fails in the attempt to convince the board. While the job eventually gets done by Sara Hammon (Samantha Mathis), it comes with a catch of just running the trade, a result that sees Taylor throw the deal off the table.
'Beg, Bribe, Bully' gives a peek into Axe's mindset. These were traits that made him the success story he is and let's also note that "beg" isn't in his dictionary. He may have that aspect in him when he was a kid, but when he grew up to establish an empire, two of the three traits served him well and the episode is an assurance that he'll be back. Two episodes down, and 'Billions' just makes it all the more interesting by bringing in that family angle. It also involves Wags and his family as a storyline and that's partly amusing and compelling at the same time.
Guess it's time for Mike to be ready to face the music.
'Billions' Season 5 airs Sundays 9 pm ET on Showtime.