Billions


Pilot and Episode 2 "Naming Rights": This is Showtime trying to make the world of investment banking as interesting/dramatic as what Netflix did for politics with House of Cards. The only difference is that the world of hedge funds and traders are surprisingly a lot more foreign than Capitol Hill. Further distancing the audience is the difficulty in relating to the ultra-rich - who here is also a co-lead and ?likely anti-hero.

Thankfully, at least, Showtime has decided to not dumb it down too much which shows respect to the audience and kept all the technical jargon in, although conversely, that might end up alienating some audience if they keep it up too much.

Secondly, thank you for staying away from gratuitous sex scenes, although I do applaud them from going beyond network TV's S&M and used golden showers to show how edgy cable tv is. But then, we get drugs and a lesbian sex scene in episode 2. Two steps forward, one step back.

There was too much exposition in this pilot with too much telling rather than showing and that really dragged the pacing, especially when there are only two leads. Some of the lines were over clunky but there were some really good quotable quotes, although the build up of which sometimes did not really make it worth it. One thing interesting about the series (more in the pilot) was how the director (Neil Burger - both episodes) cut away from a conversation to show a scene of what the conversation was/will be about.

Damien Lewis is back to Showtime with his weird American accent. However, he is a good actor and does really make a good anti-hero, making us feel confused and torn as to how bad is his character. Although the showrunners really drilled it in by hammering us repeatedly with innocent white-collar criminals and their incessant pleas of "...but I only did it because...no one was hurt".

Paul Giamatti really chewed his scenes - reminding me a lot of James Spader in the early days of Blacklist, but his more quiet scenes had more impact, especially when he played across Maggie Siff.

Siff's character is going to be interesting and I really hope she will not end up being a cliche. Thus far, she has been written as smart and independent and as the only character with interactions with both sides, she will be the most interesting to watch down the road. And Siff played her well.

Malin Ackerman also plays the other more interesting character and Ackerman icily exudes an underlying ruthlessness that makes her an ideal match again Lewis. Sadly, she has had not much screen time, but whenever she is on, she gets great lines.

The only other actor that stood out thus far was Toby Leonard Moore, and unfortunately that was more because he was essentially playing the same role as he last did on Netflix's Daredevil.

The concept of the show is there and it will be interesting to see how the hunt goes. Although it will be difficult to imagine how it will proceed beyond this current 12-episodes season. How long can the hunt stretch out? Is this going to end up more Revenge or more Hannibal? More Homeland Season 1 to 3 or Season 4 and 5? The good news is that at least it is still interesting enough to continue watching.

Episode 3, "YumTime": Malin Akerman and Maggie Siff got more to do this episode and they are both a delight to watch. Giamatti is really chewing the scenery mercilessly. And Lewis is doing the same but with those really scary eyes and brows. It will be interesting to see how the A-plot in this episode fall in with the rest of the show in the long run. But at least thankfully the The Big Short-esque jargon has been kept to a minimum. And although there is way less nudity or skin shown here as compared to other Showtime flicks, the swearing is excessive. Way too excessive.

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