Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades and Damian Lewis as Bobby
Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades and Damian Lewis as Bobby "Axe" Axelrod in Billions. Supplied

Return of drama fuelled by epic rivalries

If Billions has somehow escaped your attention, then now is the perfect time to catch up on one of the best shows on television.

The smartly-written and superbly acted drama returns for a fifth season on streaming service Stan today.

The epic Wall Street saga follows US Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) as he goes after hedge fund king Bobby "Axe" Axelrod (Damian Lewis) in a battle between two powerful New York figures.

Damian Lewis as Bobby
Damian Lewis as Bobby "Axe" Axelrod, the jeans-and-a-T-shirt wearing titan of the financial world on Billions. Jeff Neumann

It is loosely based on the activities of Preet Bharara, the former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and his legal battles with hedge fund manager Steve Cohen of S.A.C. Capital Advisors with subsequent seasons drawing inspiration from other real-life investment scandals.

When we last saw Bobby he was welcoming his former protégé-turned-enemy Taylor Mason (the first non-binary character on mainstream North American television) back into the Axe Cap fold.

But viewers know Taylor has struck a secret deal with Chuck, now the Attorney General of New York, to work from the inside to bring Bobby down - confirming the tenuous ceasefire Bobby and Chuck and struck to save Wendy's medical licence in season four is well and truly over.

Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) and legal eagle Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) in Billions.
Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) and legal eagle Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) in Billions. Supplied

While having Chuck and Axe on the same side was an interesting development last season, Billions is at its best when the two are going for each others' juggulars.

To have these highly intelligent power players manoeuvring against each other once again is a good sign and this season's tag line, trust no one, certainly hints at a betrayal or two.

Constantly caught in their crossfire is Chuck's wife, psychiatrist Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff).

Paul Giamatti and Maggie Siff in Billions.
Paul Giamatti and Maggie Siff in Billions. Supplied

As Axe Capital's in-house performance coach, and the company's 'spirit animal' as Axe once described her, she has helped both men reach the pinnacles in their fields.

Their pseudo love triangle seems destined to fall apart as it seems a trial separation has only driven Wendy and Chuck further apart.

"I have lost my bearings," Chuck confesses in the first episode of season five. "Until recently I'd always had a north star, twin north stars - justice and Wendy Rhoades."

Bobby, meanwhile, has gone on an epic crosscountry motorbike trip with his right-hand man Wags, to celebrating hitting a new milestone - a $10b net worth.

David Costabile as Mike
David Costabile as Mike "Wags" Wagner, Damian Lewis as Bobby "Axe" Axelrod and Maggie Siff as Wendy Rhoades in a scene from season five of Billions. Supplied

But upon some self reflection, enchanced by a psyhedelic night in a Native American sweat lodge, he's questioning if any amount will ever be enough.

A photo shoot for a Vanity Fair article on the 'new decas' introduces a potential new foe: business titan Michael Prince (Corey Stoll).

With a bankroll to match Bobby's, he'd certainly be a worthy adversary.

Also joining the cast this season are Julianna Margulies, Roma Maffia, Daniel Breaker, Frank Grillo and Rick Hoffman.

And where do we find disgraced lawyer Bryan Connerty (played by Hobart native Toby Leonard Moore) after Rhoades' masterstroke deception, an elaborate trap involving his father and other key figures, caught him in the act of illegally listening in on wire taps?

Toby Leonard Moore in a scene from season four of Billions.
Toby Leonard Moore in a scene from season four of Billions. Supplied

He's nowhere to be seen in the first episode of season five, but as Chuck's scorned former disciple he's too good a character to just disappear. According to IMDB he'll be back about halfway through the season.

Somehow, Billions keeps getting better each season, bucking the trend of most TV dramas which tend to fizzle out over time.

Season five of Billions premieres on Stan today.


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