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‘Billions’ Season 4, Episode 5: Best Served Cold

Outwardly, the genius of the move is its theatricality. But behind the scenes it’s driven by the painstaking politicking that girds all of Chuck’s big successes. First, he approaches a powerful assemblyman with evidence of his wrongdoing, securing his support in exchange for immunity. Then he brings this information to the governor. Chuck can either use the Assembly to have his powers restored, he tells him … or he can turn on the Assembly, handing the governor a major victory over corruption — that’s if the governor restores Chuck’s powers himself.

It’s an offer the gobsmacked governor can’t refuse. Combine it with the spectacularly public show of force and … well, as a wise man once said, theatricality and deception are powerful agents to the uninitiated.

All of this is well and good if you’re in the market for advice on how to crush your enemies. Most of us, however, could use some tips on issues that hit a bit closer to home. That’s where Wendy comes in. Surprisingly (to me anyway) she hasn’t simply kicked Chuck to the curb for outing them as sadomasochists. But staying in her marriage and getting on with her life are two very different things. It’s the latter she’s struggling with, hiding in her office with the lights out to avoid her colleagues’ knowing glances.

Until, that is, she goes on the internet and begins facing the scandal head-on. It’s exactly as bad as she expected: lewd jokes, crude photoshops, lots of speculation as to the exact sounds Chuck makes when she’s giving him the business. “Like a stuck pig,” she explains to Axe, who emphatically does not want to know.

Her reaction? Nothing, pretty much!

“The thing is, as I read it, it stopped mattering,” she tells Bobby. “It stopped really being about me. It stopped having anything to do with me, because I don’t know these people, and they don’t know me.” It’s like the Bene Gesserit litany against fear; call it the Wendy Rhoades litany against trolls. This isn’t to minimize misogynist internet harassment, mind you. It’s just to say that given the means to sufficiently insulate oneself from critics, which a multimillionaire like Wendy Rhoades definitely has, they have only the power you give them.

But this is “Billions,” folks: If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been playing attention. During the course of Wendy’s research, she discovered that while many of Axe Cap’s enemies were hooting and hollering over her plight, Taylor Mason, who spent the episode wooing the keepers of the New York Fire Department pension fund, was not among them. Bobby’s public enemy No. 1 shut down the mockery whenever it popped up and even reached out to Wendy to express support.

What do she and Bobby make of this display of empathy? In a word, from Axe: “Lame!” Wendy didn’t take Taylor’s call before. But now that she knows there’s a weakness here that can be exploited? It’s time to reach out and crush someone.

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