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It is anathema to every political feeling I have, about equality and egalitarianism and “no ethical consumption under capitalism,” but I’ve been watching Billions. It’s, of course, prestige-ass prestige TV about a scumbag billionaire (Bobby Axelrod, played by Damian Lewis) and his empire of influence, and the principled, but also-privileged Attorney General (Chuck Rhoades, Paul Giamatti at his finest) who is out to get him. There’s tension and weight to each man’s motivations and relationships, each guy’s style of wheeling and dealing and making things happen in the world.
I think I hate every person on this show. They are selfish. Petty. Sometimes cruel. But crucially, it’s so well-written that I keep watching.
And there are characters that I suppose I hate less, though I still wouldn't care for them, as people. Like Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff), Chuck’s wife who works as a therapist to the insanely wealthy traders who work for Bobby. And Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon), a brilliant non-binary person who makes their way up the ladder at Bobby’s firm, proud of themself and their work. Both of these characters are fascinating and nuanced—and far more interesting, I think, than the leads, who work as two sides of the same coin, but run on different brands of masculine hyper confidence.
Taylor, especially, confounds me. I loved them—their confidence, their competence, their clipped, precise way of speaking—until a season two monologue about the nature of the world as they see it (regarding a small town’s financial health and survival) soured me entirely. I’m dancing around spoilers, but “become antifragile or die” is the main point here, and it sucks. They are an intelligent, articulate speaker, and even terrible ideas can sound palatable in such a context.
Most of Billions is propelled by toxic ideology. Even Chuck, as the guy who wants to bring down “bad guys” and make the world a little more fair, gets his hands dirty and steps on people to advance. He’ll play the game, because everyone needs to play the game, on this show. In this reality.
So, yes, I’ll probably keep watching Billions. And I’ll keep feeling disgusted by these characters and their actions, just as much as I’m compelled to watch them, feeling ever more secure in my own anti-capitalist leanings. It's all very predictable, I suppose. Maybe it's even the point!
How about you, dear reader? Is there a show or game or movie that is so antithetical to your worldview, but, for some reason, you can’t look away? Let’s take it to the forums!
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/3kjgy9/i-dont-think-i-like-billions-but-i-cant-seem-to-stop-watching-it