‘Billions’ Season 5 Premiere Recap: Axe and Chuck Both Get Blindsided

After four seasons of back-room deals, underhanded plays, and outright lawbreaking, can Billions viewers be shocked? With the Ice Juice storyline back a ways and the Connerty setup capping off season 4, fans of the Showtime series probably know better than to take anything at face value.

[Spoiler alert: Plot details through ‘Billions’ Season 5 Episode 1 follow.]

Certainly, no one would expect New York Attorney General Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) or billionaire Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) to stop peeking around corners. And viewers got a perfect example of this expected deceit in the season 5 premiere.

In a quick chat in Axe’s office, Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillon) revealed that they (i.e., Taylor) returned to Axe Capital as an assumed double agent of Chuck’s. Upon hearing of the deception, Axe barely flinched.

“I know,” Axe told Taylor, before citing their (Taylor’s) body language as evidence. But in the gimmick-heavy season 5 premiere, the main characters of Billions both felt the sting of surprise setbacks.

Axe went from ayahuasca high to cover-shoot snub

Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis act in 'Billions'
Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades and Damian Lewis as Bobby “Axe” Axelrod in BILLIONS | JoJo Whilden/SHOWTIME

In the season 5 premiere’s slow start, viewers bounced from the amazingly awkward Chuck Rhoades Sr. wedding to an Alaskan hut where Axe and Wags (David Costabile) were tripping on the psychedelic plant ayahuasca before going back to the wedding.

Prior to their Big Apple return, Axe and Wags kicked off what looked like a Geico motorcycle commercial shoot. (Has Geico used “Bad Company” in an ad yet?) However, the real photo shoot was about to happen in New York, so the pair cut their ride short and answered the call of Vanity Fair.

Following his arrival and psych-up from Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff), a man entered who had the rare ability to get Axe’s attention. It was Mike Prince (Corey Stoll), a “social impact pioneer” who also sits in the $10 billion-and-up class (the “decas”) Vanity Fair planned to showcase on its next cover.

Though Axe felt confident about the shoot, he and Wags received word that Prince landed the Vanity Fair cover on his own shortly after. At that point, Axe decided it was time to attack. He quickly called his “humble billionaire” competitor and accepted his invitation to an upcoming “fireside chat.”

Chuck’s weakness continues to be his personal life

Damian Lewis and Corey Stoll work on 'BIllions'
(L-R): Damian Lewis as Bobby “Axe” Axelrod and Corey Stoll as Michael Prince in BILLIONS | Jeff Neumann/SHOWTIME

On a professional level, you never really have to worry about Chuck Rhoades. After getting the boot from his perch as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Chuck landed on his feet smoothly enough, ending up with the state AG gig.

But Chuck’s personal life came close to bottom at the end of season 4. With Wendy crashing at Axe’s place and the kids out of his home, he struggled to regain his bearings. The downward spiral continued into the season 5 premiere, when the elder Rhoades offspring got drunk at the wedding.

But Wendy’s calls for help never reached Chuck. (He was under the spell of a dominatrix.) That steeled Wendy’s resolve to move on alone, and she advised Chuck to have his office make a formal announcement on that front. And when Chuck stalled, Wendy informed the press of their impending divorce herself.

That left Chuck as the second powerhouse blinded in the season premiere. In this case, though, Chuck won’t be responding aggressively toward Wendy. Instead, he’s vowed to train his sights even more sharply on Axe. But now that he’s felt the sting of “a triple cross,” what’s left? In Billions’ world, only something a quadruple cross will do.

Also see‘Billions’: Who Will ‘Good Wife’ Star Julianna Margulies Play in Season 5?