Unfortunately for Chuck, Fourth doesn’t see things his way. In Prince’s tough talk about the bomb, Fourth hears a man willing to thumb his nose at the “nanny state” — a man truly made for a world where there is no black and white, no good and evil. Like many to-the-manner-born elites, Fourth is a natural constituent for a form of politics run by “big men with agendas — not the populace, not the rule of law and certainly not the voters.”
Chuck leaves, visibly shaken. If self-styled guardians of the soul of the nation like Fourth don’t understand that they’re selling that soul by backing Prince, what hope does he have?
Which raises another question: Is “Billions” the most chilling show on television right now? And I’m not talking about the wintry setting of this week’s episode. Like virtually every episode since Prince’s presidential ambitions became clear, “The Owl” casts an unflinching eye on the danger posed to American democracy by megalomaniacal strongmen, by the ultra-rich, and especially by the people who are both.
In a sense, this is covered ground for the show. Chuck already took on billionaire overreach when he battled Bobby Axelrod for five seasons. His conflicts with the pointedly unnamed presidential administration in power in the show’s universe from 2017 to 2021, represented by odious officials like Attorney General Jock Jeffcoat and Todd Krakow, made a clear argument that authoritarianism, corruption and reactionary politics are correlated phenomena.
But since Axe never got directly involved in politics, and since the former president was never depicted as an on-screen character, “Billions” has never had such an opportunity to explore all these issues up close by embodying them in one man. And in an episode that depicts the threat he presents in the starkest, most existential terms imaginable, it’s worth noting what that one man actually does.
Mike Prince was trying to do the right thing, you remember. Even at the Owl, he, Bradford and Scooter hovered over his phone, listening for updates on the rescue mission. Then something goes south, just as the chopper reaches the stranded hiker: the Chinese military shows up out of nowhere, taking the man into custody and forcing Prince’s team to abort the mission lest they get involved in a shooting war with a foreign government.