Yes, a good chunk of this week’s Billions takes place at a Metallica concert. Is that really a surprise, or does it in some sense feel like it was only a matter of time? Our bro Gen Xer of a CEO had to let loose sometime. On the surface, his Metallica excursion — Axe and his childhood friends take his jet to see the aging metal icons play in Quebec — shows how Axe spends his recreational time. It’s like all the Sopranos guys at a high-stakes card game; Axe can, and does, do it big when he kicks back.
But the Metallica weekend also brings Axe to a major, final moment of reflection and decision. At the end of the episode — when he arrives back at work in Connecticut — Axe orders Wags to begin to sell off the company’s shares. “People will think you’re done,” Wags says worriedly. But it’s clear that, for Axe, that’s just the impression he wants to create, or, possibly, what he actually wants to do.
How did he get to this conclusion? Is this a mid-life crisis? Was Axe inspired to action when James Hetfield advised him to do the business equivalent of just getting out there and “playing” when he’s stressed about something?
Perhaps he heard something in the saccharine acoustic anthem about seizing the moment sung by Elyse, the lead singer of Metallica’s opening band — a young lady who looks very much like Axe’s own wife who begins to talk him up flirtatiously as soon as he walks in the VIP area. Who can resist a wryly grinning 40-something in a leather jacket, after all? In conversation, also, she contributes encouraging platitudes to Axe about “making a change.” Axe ultimately takes this not as an incitement to sleep with her, but as self-help rhetoric about … well, we’re not sure what, but it’s guaranteed to be a game-changer, and to be about making money, not sex.
It’s most likely that his final plan of action stems from the important piece of information relayed to Axe by a shadowy business associate — the Eastern European-accented Constantine — late in the episode. We don’t get to hear it. Axe now knows something the audience doesn’t, and Billions is no doubt going to make us squirm a bit before we find out.
This is certainly the weird and most enigmatic Billions episode yet. On paper, though a Metallica concert would suggest that the episode would move away from the business sphere, it delves deeper into it than ever. Axe dips out between ’Tallica jams to combat a “short squeeze” being put on him by Chuck’s father via cell phone. One of Axe’s friends (The Americans’ Noah Emmerich guest-stars) steals a stock tip from Axe, in regard to the squeeze, and is then forced to ask him for a $210,000 bailout.
And so Tommy Axelrod regains an understanding of why it’s important to be bold on his Metallica trip. Taking big chances results in big wins. We viewers learn business never stops for a man like Axe, and realize the plot of the Showtime show is bound to get a lot more technical and knotty before Chuck and Axe finally come to blows.