On Thursday morning, the nominees for the 2018 Emmy Awards were announced, and sadly for anyone who cares about honoring the art of television, Billions was once again snubbed. The Showtime drama, which just wrapped up its third season, stars the legendary Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who is hellbent on bringing down Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis), a billionaire hedge fund manager who unapologetically plays dirty. The twist? Rhoades's wife, Wendy, works for Axelrod as a performance coach, a therapist who works at his firm whose job is to help the employees earn as much as they can through psychoanalysis.
Billions is the story of two ruthless geniuses and their intricate scheming as they bend the law in order to settle personal feuds. Full of poetic and scholarly dialogue, the show ascends above the average TV drama because the writing is as smart as the characters. Giamatti's performance is ferocious, and his character often speaks in grandiose allegories. His dialogue is iconic, overwrought in the way only the best, highest-shelf prestige TV dialogue is overwrought: "A good matador doesn't try to kill a fresh bull. You wait until he's been stuck a few times," Rhoades explains in the pilot. "Calculation is not something to be scoffed at. It's a tool. A tactic. And I use it proudly and often," he says in season three.
With each character enmeshed in their fantastical ruthless plotting against their foe, Billions exists in a universe that is not too different from ours, just one that's better written. There are no good guys here, just shades of antihero: Giamatti's crusading US attorney is working on the side of justice in the legal sense, and his targets are billionaire scum, but the ways he tries to bring them down is so corrupt that it's unclear who exactly you're supposed to be rooting for.
The answer is, you sort of root for everyone. This includes Taylor, Axe's brilliant gender nonbinary protege who has killer lines like, "What’s the point of having fuck-you money if you never say fuck you?”; Dollar Bill, the cheapskate stock broker with a secret second family; and Ari Spyros, an insufferable coffee snob and former SEC investigator who works for Axe, dubbed by the Ringer as "the most brilliant hateable character on TV."
Billions isn't quite a cultural sensation like Game of Thrones, which makes it more fun to be in its cult—every time I meet someone who has seen it, they're just as big a fan as I am. But obscurity is for suckers. Give it a fucking Emmy already, or at least a nomination.
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