‘Billions’ season 5 episode 5 recap: Bobby and Chuck should learn from ‘the Godfather’
Sometimes you have to break a bank to make one. Or something like that.
“Contract,” tonight’s episode of “Billions” (written by Theo Travers and directed by Adam Bernstein) finds Bobby Axelrod continuing his bizarre quest to start a bank and destroying another bank in the process.
Axis plans for his hometown of Yonkers have evolved beyond simply rebuilding every store brick by brick in their area of opportunity. He also wants to be Yonkers’ bank. He applied for a banking charter from the New York Department of Financial Services. Of course, state attorney general Chuck Rhoades wants, for some reason, to prevent him from getting the license.
We’re here to sort out what makes sense and what doesn’t. There are a lot of things that don’t work.
Chuck bribes DFS superintendent Leah Calder (Wendie Malick) to turn down Axis candidacy. In exchange, Chuck promises to sue the ex-fiancée of Calder’s son, who keeps the engagement ring, a family heirloom.
When he can’t use the law against the ex-fiancée, he concocts another ploy: he enlists Jackie Connerty (Michael Raymond-James), the brother of Bryan Connerty – the man Rhoades imprisoned – to steal the ring. .
Uh, what? Chuck brings Jackie into his office, in the middle of a workday, with hundreds of people around, and proposes this criminal enterprise to Jackie. Why would Chuck expose himself to this point? Why wouldn’t Jackie go to the federal government, put a string on, and destroy Chuck Rhoades? It’s bad enough that Chuck bribes the DFS, but he’s also orchestrating a stupid heist, and for what? To prevent Ax from having a bank?
Meanwhile, Ax has no qualms about committing crimes either. He meets Calder, who begins to stall. She tells him that there is already a bank, Vark Community Bank, in the zip code where he wants to deposit his bank. So, like, he can’t. Because there is already a bank there.
The DFS approves banking charters, not monopoly licenses. We are not aware of any restrictions regarding banks and postal codes. We understand that Calder is stagnating, but that’s a ridiculous objection, and Axis lawyer should have objected immediately. Instead, the lawyer simply shouts that Vark isn’t even FDIC insured.
Uh, yes it is. Community banks offer checking and savings accounts. Which means these accounts are FDIC insured. It may seem like a tiny point, but it becomes important later.
Calder’s objection forces Axis’ next bet: destroy Vark’s community bank. His traders are taken out of their daily jobs and tasked with devising a plan to ruin Vark. They decide to blame the bank for charging higher interest rates on loans to minorities than to whites. Ax tells the story to his favorite newspaper.
A few scenes later, Financial Journal reporter Randy Kornbluth (Brian Berrebbi), who is so close to Bobby that he appears to be working for Ax Capital, breaks the story as Vark suffers a banking crisis that will end it.
Listen, we get it. Access journalism is a problem in our industry. We don’t know how the other stores work, but we can promise you that Randy wouldn’t have a job in this Journal.
And this “bank run?” Nope. This does not happen, not with FDIC insurance. Even if the bank goes bankrupt, what normally happens is that another bank takes over. There would almost certainly always be a bank in that postcode. What could have happened, however, is that the exposure would have given rise to an investigation by the DFS. Who would have investigated the video. And found out who did it.
Has Ax really committed a crime here? He did not imagine the project, but he asked three employees to apply for loans from the bank using false information. Dollar Bill (Kelly AuCoin) used a false name, and Ben (Daniel Isaac) and Tuk (Dhruv Maheshwari) probably did too. Applying for a loan using false information is a crime.
Which raises a question: why would Ax do such a blindly stupid move? Since this series loves its references to “The Godfather”, we’re going to create one: People like Bobby Axelrod and Chuck Rhoades should use stamps, lots of stamps. You do not hire the jewelry thief yourself. You don’t personally approve of the bank bite and use your own employees to get started. That’s how you end up in jail.
Do you think Dollar Bill, Ben, and Tuk are all going to go to jail to protect Bobby? Do you think Jackie Connerty is going to protect Chuck?
These ploys just don’t make sense, and it raises a larger question about the “billions”. What is this show? You could take the exact same script, and in a different tone, it would be a parody of Wall Street in “Silicon Valley”. But the show also seems to fully adhere to the myth of the Master of the Universe. Is this the satire of Wall Street, or the glorification of it?
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