Show review: Billions

I am no binge watcher by any standards. I’ve not watched many popular shows such as Game of Thrones, The West Wing, and closer home Inside Edge or Sacred Games and many others over the past years. There was a time when sitcoms were a thing, but that was before we had kids, and we lived in America back then.

Cut to 2020, and it is perhaps impossible for anyone to not be watching shows on Netflix, Amazon, Hotstar and other OTT channels. With the kids at home all the time, we rarely get to watch shows or series unless we stay up after they go to bed, so in general, we have ‘consumed’ very few shows.

I had earlier written about the Knowledge project podcast I listened to, where Brian Koppleman was interviewed. He is one of the lead writers of the Showtime hit series ‘Billions’. You can read that post here. By such time, I had watched about 15 mins of the Pilot episode and never got time to get back to watching it. However, something prompted me to give Billions a try again. Drama around a hedge fund and the US District Attorney’s office must have intrigue!

Here’s a backstory. I was a huge fan of legal shows, mostly Law & Order (the original) and Boston Legal and read several books of John Grisham. Something about courtroom dramas has always appealed. And being a finance professional, while I can’t say I understand everything about financial markets, I do understand corporate frauds, insider trading and the SEC. In fact at one point like 14 years ago, I read books written about big corporate frauds like The Conspiracy of Fools by Kurt Eichenwald about the Enron saga, and When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long Term Capital Management by Robert Lowenstein, about the hedge fund by the same name.

And thus I came back to Billions, where I must still admit, the pilot episode took some time for me to understand and get my head around. Perhaps also because I hardly watch American shows anymore. But once I got past it, I was enamoured. Powerful, strong and layered characters are at the center of the story. I didn’t know much about layered characters until I watched perhaps 14-15 episodes of the show. Good guys can have bad sides and bad guys can have good sides. The audience themselves find that their loyalties shift sometimes. While both Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti are in the skin of the characters they play, it was Maggie Siff who had me blown away in Season 1, with her magical voice, her good looks, interesting personality and even more interesting job as a ‘performance coach’ at the hedge fund.

I am well into Season 3 now, and no binge watcher, by the very definition, considering it is a month and I still haven’t finished all episodes that are streaming. Sometimes I like to savour the things I like, experiencing them slowly, cherishing each episode I watch. I’ve experienced the ups and downs of the show itself, seen personalities change and evolve, and switched loyalties as to who I am rooting for. And still loving it so far. Hats off to the writers for creating such engaging scripts, the directors, cast and crew have all done an incredible job too!