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Series / Billions

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Chuck: Walk away.
Bobby: I should. But then again, what's the point of having "fuck-you money" if you never say "fuck you?"

Billions is a drama series that debuted in 2016 on Showtime, and will air its final season beginning in August 2023. Billionaire hedge-fund manager Bobby "Axe" Axelrod (Damian Lewis) is a New York City folk hero: 9/11 survivor, philanthropist, and a wizard at making money. But when a series of questionable stock trades are traced back to Axelrod, U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) must consider building a criminal case against him - even as his personal life presents a potential conflict of interest.

In February 2023, it was announced that Showtime has greenlit several potential spinoffs, with creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien working on a new series set in Miami.

Only spoilers for Season 7 are whited out below. Proceed at your own risk.

Billions contains examples of:

  • Accomplice by Inaction: This is what ultimately brings down Bobby's scheme with Axe Bank. A bank is required to have higher standards when it comes to accepting money from suspect sources. The bank has to do due diligence and inform the authorities if it detects attempts at money laundering (or, say, profiteering from the sale of black market cannabis). Failure to do so can make the bank and its officers liable for a slew of criminal charges.
  • Actor Allusion:
  • Alliterative Family: From what we've seen of Lara and the rest of the Benjamin siblings, this is in play. We have Lara, her sister Lou, and her brother Larry. We meet another brother who is a cop, but his name isn't given, and the brother who died in 9/11 was actually named Dean.
  • Analogy Backfire:
    • In season three, Taylor is considering bringing a quant system to Axe Capital to boost their trade performance. Wags isn't thrilled with the idea of putting too much trust into data and continually makes the baseball analogy "Billy Beane never won the World Series". Taylor ignores him before finally getting fed up and pointing out that while Billy Beane never did, copycat Theo Epstein won multiple World Series.
    • In another episode, Spyros tries alerting Axe to a situation by saying they're at DEFCON 6. Taylor points out that a) the scale only goes to 5 exactly and b) 1 is the most severe point on the scale.
  • As Himself:
    • Mark Cuban appears in season two having lunch with Axe and discussing the latter's attempt to purchase an NFL franchise.
    • Restaurateur David Chang appears - along with his restaurant, Momofuku - preparing a dinner for Bobby and discussing his new franchise.
    • Ben Folds appears as himself at Jack Foley's party to play a short song.
    • Penn Jillette does a performance at the fundraiser in the second episode of season one.
    • Restaurateur Daniel Boulud and his restaurant Daniel show up in a scene where Bobby, Wags, and Spyros dine together for a private tasting.
    • Axe rubs shoulders with Metallica, Kevin Durant and Maria Sharapova.
    • Spanx founder Sara Blakely makes a cameo in "Elmsley Count."
    • Chuck meets Kenny Dichter and Donny Deutsch while trying to trade off the parking pass in "Chucky Rhoades's Greatest Game."
    • Michael Bolton performs at the grand opening of Chuck Senior's casino in "Chickentown".
    • The internet famous chef, Nusret Gökçe (best known as "Salt Bae"), appeared in Season 3.
    • Lawyer and legal pundit Neal Katyal (a self-admitted fan of the show) appears in the Season 5 finale as Wags's lawyer.
  • Asshole Victim: Jeffcoat presents Chuck with the case of a prisoner killing a prison guard and is surprised that no charges have been filed against the killer. He is then presented with evidence that the guard tortured the prisoner for weeks before the prisoner fought back. The other prison guards, who should be raising all sorts of hell over one of their own getting killed, are conspicuously quiet on the issue and have all declined to testify against the killer. Connerty, the original prosecutor assigned to the case, outright tells Chuck that the killer is the real victim. Chuck himself quickly concludes that prosecuting the killer would be a miscarriage of justice.
  • Artistic License—Law:
    • In season one, Connerty and Rhoades tell a suspect that he faces twelve years for insider trading, conspiracy, fraud, and other crimes. But insider trading alone potentially carries a sentence of twenty years.
    • Wendy's role as a doctor is repeatedly invoked to insulate her from the legal battles between Axe and her husband. But the federal government doesn't recognize doctor-patient privilege, so she and her communications with staff would be just as open to FBI and SEC investigation as anyone else at the firm.
  • Audience Reactions: In-Universe. "Overton Window" gives us an epic montage of reactions from the cast to Chuck's press conference in which he comes out as a sadomasochist. They range from hurt (Wendy) to shock (Connerty and Sacker) to disgust (Jeffcoat) to confusion (Sara) to concern (Taylor) to beaming pride (Chuck Senior).
  • Audit Threat: The entire show runs on this, but on a smaller level, when Bobby's Dark Secret comes out, the FDNY does this to the restaurant owned by Lara Axelrod. She is quietly accepting, but her sister the chef is furious.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Bobby first meets Rebecca Cantu at a bank's pitch meeting for a new advanced robot. Rebecca (who was raised by a mechanic) immediately calls bullshit on the pitch after hearing the robot emit a hum, which tells her both that the robot has an internal combustion engine and is metastable, neither of which make it a good investment.
  • Back for the Finale:
  • Back Story:
    • Bobby's past as a poor kid in Yonkers is dropped frequently, but the reveal in "Boasts and Rails" of what really happened on 9/11 to leave him as the Sole Survivor sheds new light on him: he was out of the office at a law firm, about to walk away with a huge payout. The towers fell, and Bobby used the tragedy to make his first billion.
    • Lara grew up in the same bad neighborhood as Bobby and maintains some shady connections with at least two mobsters from Boston who were formerly friends with her brother Dean.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Axe to Chuck: "When I pull a deal off the table, I leave Nagasaki behind."
    • Wendy to Chuck Senior: The next time you want to ambush, threaten, humiliate, or otherwise fuck with me, youd do well to remember who youre fucking with.
    • Chuck to Connerty: I am running. And when I win, Im gonna roll over you like its Tiananmen Square.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • The Season 4 premiere starts with an In Medias Res scene of Wags getting roofied and thrown into a closet while partying with a diplomat from Qurac. We're led to assume that Wags is about to be kidnapped and tortured in retribution for him making a series of offensive and off-the-wall statements to the diplomat and representatives of the country's sheikh. In reality, Andolov orchestrated the whole thing as a warning to Axe to quit harassing Taylor. Wags is returned safe but massively hungover.
    • The Season 5 finale begins In Medias Res with Chuck showing up at Axe Capital demanding to see the boss. One would think, considering that Axe is facing an ironclad case and decades in prison for pocketing money made from illegal cannabis, that he somehow managed to weasel out of the predicament that Chuck put him in and that Chuck is confronting Axe because of this. Instead he's confronting Mike Prince, the new occupant of Axe's office, who betrayed Chuck by helping Axe flee the country in exchange for taking over Axe Capital.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Chuck's father agrees to try to influence his son's decision in a corruption case against a friend of the family. Chuck blows his stack and chastises his father in front of another lawyer. Rhoades Senior hoped that his son would react that way since the witness will now spread the story among New York's legal community and Rhoades Junior will gain a reputation as someone who will not bend to pressure no matter what the source. When Chuck hears about it afterwards, he is greatly impressed and has no problem with the way his father manipulated him.
    • Chuck warns Bobby not to buy the mansion due to the negative publicity such a purchase would bring. If Bobby is an honest man, he will take the advice to heart and pass on the house. If he is guilty, he will see the warning as a challenge and accusation and buy the house to spite Chuck. At the end of the pilot, Bobby does the latter, buying the house.
    • How Bobby gets Wendy back at Axe Capital, to the point where the 127-defendant civil lawsuit against Chuck was created by Bobby just so he could make it part of the deal that gets Wendy back: she returns to work, if and only if he drops the lawsuit, and he knew she wouldn't be able to resist helping her husband.
    • The crowner has got to be Rhoades Senior's long con with Sandicot. He uses his influence to dangle the casino in front of the residents. He knows Marco has ties to Bobby, and will bring him on as an investor. Bobby takes the pitch, and Senior goes to Jack Foley to give the license to another town. Bobby has been screwed over royally, and doubles-down, having to decimate the town's finances to earn his money back. Sandicot just so happens to be located in the part of New York State that Chuck polled weakest, and Senior's machinations have just guaranteed that no one in Sandicot is going to support anyone who Bobby Axelrod likes, and will now look favorably on a chief competitor.
    • Chuck outdoes his dad in a big way towards the end of Season 2. Upon learning about Axe's petty play of buying up the rare Churchill books, Chuck agrees to investing in Ice Juice with Rhoades Sr. and Ira Schermer. Chuck then instructs Lawrence Boyd to leak the news to Axe, predicting that Axe will embark on a scheme designed to get back at Chuck by tanking Ice Juice's IPO. Axe does just that by using Hall and several associates and compromised parties to frame Ice Juice for a mass poisoning and trash their numbers. Only Chuck, having forged an alliance with Oliver Dake, has FBI agents following every one of those associates and collecting incriminating evidence at every step.
    • Taylor manages to pull one off on Axe in Season 4. First they short oil refineries in anticipation of a bill that will ban fracking in New York State, which will put Axe out of position. Then they appear on CNBC and publicly lob a few personal jabs at Axe for good measure, which sufficiently goads Axe into throwing his resources (including Chuck) into killing the bill. However, Axe finds out too late that Taylor had previously purchased the water rights in the fracking areas, and baited Axe into killing the fracking ban — thus ensuring that while Axe will make money from the fracking, Taylor will make more.
    • "Extreme Sandbox" caps off another season-spanning gambit by Chuck. Fully expecting for Connerty to go after him, Chuck colludes with Senior to give Connerty every impression that the two of them, plus Treasury Secretary Krakow, are engaging in a corrupt real estate deal, and escalate the dispute over that deal to the point where Connerty and Jeffcoat become obsessed with it being resolved with the Rhoadeses in jail. Chuck, Senior, and Ira then have a conversation (bugged as part of Chuck's sting operation), in which Senior alludes to an "idiot", but is redacted by the DOJ after Ira invokes attorney-client privilege. Connerty breaks an evidence seal to get to a USB drive to listen to the unredacted version — whereupon we learn that the "idiot" Senior is referring to is Connerty himself, and that Chuck lured Connerty into both listening to the privileged conversation and into breaking into Senior's safe, leading to Connerty's arrest moments later. Also expecting Jeffcoat to go all-in on Connerty's law-breaking, Chuck has Kate plant a bug on Connerty to record their conversations, which gives Chuck enough blackmail material to force Jeffcoat to resign.
    • In the second half of Season 5, Chuck, by now recognizing that Axe is most vulnerable when he is tunnel-visioned towards vanquishing an enemy, conspires with Prince by having him make a bid for a legal marijuana company, Fine Young Cannabis, fully expecting Axe to do everything possible to woo FYC's CEO, Dawn Winslow, into making a deal with Axe instead. In their eagerness buy up FYC and one-up Prince, Axe and his team fail to vet the company thoroughly and find out too late that Winslow was using black market weed to stock FYC when supply was lacking, meaning that Axe is now on the hook for participating in a criminal enterprise and his arrest is imminent.
  • Berserk Button:
    • When Bobby finds out another parent drove his sons home while drunk, he jumps out of the pool and drives all the way to the man's house to punch him in the face while still wearing nothing but his swimming trunks.
    • Putting Wendy in legal jeopardy is also a big one for Axe. After Ari Spyros backstabs Wendy by leaking her Ice Juice short to Bryan Connerty, Bobby is livid with Ari and decides to form a temporary alliance with Chuck to thwart Bryan's prosecution.
  • Best Served Cold:
    • Bobby still remembers being fired from his teenage job as a caddy by an embarrassed club member whose grandson had laughed at a bungled shot. About 20 years later, Bobby offers the grandson and his family a $25 million buyout they desperately need, only to reduce it by $16 million at the last second, in reference to the $16 Bobby would have been paid for caddying the game.
    • Steven Birch waits eighteen months in prison and on parole to screw Bobby in return for selling him out to Chuck.
    • Chuck recalls getting gang raped in boarding school and waiting a long time before getting his revenge on the ringleader by "accidentally" shattering the boy's jaw during a baseball game.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: Brought up in a discussion between Bach and Lara - everyone remembers allegations, not rebuttals.
    Bach: Someone says 'Charlie fucked a goat', even if the goat denies it, he's still 'Charlie the Goatfucker'.
  • Big Applesauce: Shot in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Hamptons (Long Island), New York is very recognizable. Lara Axelrod was a former nurse at NY Presbyterian, Bobby survived the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, and the Rhoades's townhouse is in Park Slope.
  • Big Fancy House: Axe is warned that buying an enormous $63 million mansion in the pilot episode will bring unwanted attention to his underhanded dealings, but he decides to buy it anyway.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Lara Axelrod is good at pretending to be friendly and polite while bullying and threatening her friends and associates.
    • Mike Prince in spades. He goes out of his way to present himself as a forward-thinking and altruistic philanthropist type, but in reality he's just as much of a predator as Axe. In fact, as Wendy points out, Prince is actually more dangerous than Axe because he is in denial of who he really is, and the smug superiority this has instilled in him has resulted in one hell of a God Complex.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: There's a remark between Chuck and Spyros in season 3 that is a reference to the #MeToo movement, specifically a Take That! towards Donald Trump:
    Chuck: You know what I have on you. Date rape.
    Ari Spyros: We're not in Hollywood, Chuck. Nothing is going to happen. Say it loud enough, they might even make me President!
  • Bittersweet Ending: How Axe's initial arc ends for both him and Chuck. Axe escaped near-certain prosecution and jail time in the Fine Young Cannabis scandal, and is now in a place (Switzerland) where he can enjoy his money and lifestyle in peace without ever having to worry about Chuck again. The flip side is that he is now permanently exiled from New York City, a place that has deeply sentimental value to him, and separated from his loyal employees including Wendy, who he only recently confessed his love to. Meanwhile, Chuck has the peace of mind knowing that he put a stop to Axe's dealings in the end, but knows that he will never have the satisfaction putting Axe behind bars. This probably factors in to Chuck's decision to shift his feud from Axe to Prince.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: A venal, manipulative Affably Evil billionaire versus an equally manipulative, sociopathic Knight Templar Inspector Javert attorney.
  • Blackmail: Bobby resorts to this in "The Conversation" when he thinks Wendy has sold him out to Chuck, and reveals he took photos of their skinny-dipping from "The Deal" and has her web history confirming an interest in BDSM. She shuts down Chuck's investigation, or he releases the photos. Luckily, Wendy has a third option - provide Bobby proof that Chuck stole her case notes in exchange for him destroying the blackmail evidence.
  • Blackmail Backfire: Invoked by Bobby when a man threatens to inform US Customs about some paintings Bobby bought overseas and has not paid taxes on. Bobby has no problem paying the man to keep quiet but he warns him that if there are any further attempts to blackmail him over the matter, he will burn the paintings and then make life hell for the blackmailers.
  • Bland-Name Product: In Season Four, Bobby gets involved in a takeover of "Salers," an old but failing department store chain with a logo that is clearly based on the old but failing Sears department store chain.
  • Book Ends: The series ends with Axe having regained control of his company and Chuck once again as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in more or less the same positions they started.
  • Boxed Crook: The usual procedure of the U.S. Attorney Office consists of catching a medium player red-handed and then try to leverage its way up to Axelrod.
  • The Boxing Episode: "Fight Night", in which Dollar Bill and Mafee decide to settle their differences in the ring. The episode goes full-on Rocky with a pre-fight Training Montage, but the bout itself quickly degenerates into a Wimp Fight in which both men resort to illegal moves before simultaneously collapsing from exhaustion, leading the exasperated commentators to call a draw. The only person delighted by this is Winston, who was the only one to bet on this outcome.
  • Bound and Gagged: Chuck Rhoades, in the very first scene of the series. It's part of an S&M session with a dominatrix - who turns out to be his wife Wendy.
  • Brains and Bondage: The Rhoadses enjoy BDSM, or at least Chuck does. Wendy's heart isn't really in it but she acts as the domme, and is even complimented for her performance by more than one professional dominatrix.
  • Broken Ace: Both Chuck and Bobby are working out their childhood issues through their careers:
    • Axe is an undisputed master of the financial world, but he is also a deeply insecure man. His father leaving at age 12 deeply traumatized him, so much so that anybody who betrays or turns against him causes him to go off the deep end. Axe leaves a series of increasingly angry voicemail messages to Lara when she leaves him with his kids, devotes his firm's resources to screwing over Taylor when they leave to start their own fund, and destroys his relationship with Rebecca because she went over his head to find a diplomatic solution with Taylor. Axe also obsessively preserves the best parts of his unhappy childhood (Bruno's pizza shop, Scrumpets, the pool hall from "Ball in Hand").
    • Chuck is driven to take down Axe partly in order to be his own man, free from his father's manipulations. It's also hinted that Chuck is jealous of Axe's bond with his wife Wendy, which leads to Chuck resuming their feud when Wendy leaves him after Axe made a hefty donation to the medical board to keep her license.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Steph regards Bobby this way after getting fired from Axe Capital, causing her to flip despite signing an NDA.
    • Prince's two daughters to Prince after he uses them as pawns against Axe in the Fine Young Cannabis scheme.
  • The Bus Came Back: Remember Steven Birch, the fall guy from the first two episodes? He comes back to back Bobby's "Five Families" play in "Currency", having been released from jail on good behavior, and tanks the Nigerian devaluation to get back at Bobby.
  • Call-Back:
    • "Currency" has Chuck interrupting Bryan's game night (he's playing Go) and reminding Bryan of their discussion in "Where the Fuck Is Donnie Caan", also proving he's still a better Go player than Bryan.
    • In Season 4, Taylor Mason needs new investors that Axe Capital cannot influence. Turns out the New York firefighters still hate Bobby's guts and their pension fund is looking at new investment opportunities.
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
    • In the first episode, Chuck discovers that his lawyer father is trying to get him to offer leniency to a personal friend facing corruption charges, and promptly blows his stack. It turns out to have been an invoked trope as Rhoades Senior knew how his son would react and deliberately provoked the confrontation to enhance his son's reputation as a incorruptible, tough-as-nails prosecutor.
    • Chuck does it again in "Short Squeeze" when he finds out Rhoades Senior is behind the squeeze on Crossco Trucking, mostly to get back at Bobby for his play on the Yum Time board and Senior's mistress. He very calmly tells his father that Senior is not to do a single thing about the trades until the next morning, where he allows his father to dump the stock, but at a loss, and allows Senior to avoid prosecution. Chuck also gets in a jab to Rhoades Senior over how petty the squeeze on Crossco is, saying "you want me to get Axe because he fucked with your side piece and then he beat you."
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Firing, rather than killing, in this case. After Axe beats the Ice Juice charges, he immediately fires Ari Spyros for betraying Wendy. However, Dollar Bill gets Spyros his job back when Spyros lets him in on insider info about companies being investigated by the SEC whose stocks he can long or short.
  • Captain Ersatz: Saler's, the sinking department store chain that Axe and Rebecca purchase in Season 4, is an obvious stand-in for Sears — right down to the logo font.
  • Casual Kink: The Rhoades' S&M sex play is treated as perfectly healthy, obeying all of the real-world protocols and safety conventions. However, it's implied that the origin of Chuck's fetish is being bound and raped in boarding school on top of guilt over the immoral actions he takes in his professional life.
  • Category Traitor: After Axe's Dark Secret is revealed, Lara gets this from her friends and family in the NYPD and FDNY since several of their comrades, including her brother, died in the 9/11 attacks while Axe made a fortune off of it.
  • Caught on Tape: Chuck admits to breaking into Wendy's laptop, reading her session notes, and using it as evidence that Bobby has bribed police to open an investigation against him. Wendy records the conversation as proof she didn't sell Bobby out, but erases it in exchange for Bobby destroying the blackmail he has of her.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
    • The Wire gets quoted during "The Oath", and that show, like Billions, happens to feature David Costabile.
    • "Flaw in the Death Star" has an extended quote and parallel to the film version of L.A. Confidential that relies on referencing the Night Owl Massacre. David Straithairn played Pierce Patchett in the film and plays "Black" Jack Foley in this show.
    • "Kompenso" has Bobby and Lara bring up Highlander in conversation. Clancy Brown played The Kurgan in the film and plays Jock Jeffcoat in the show.
    • In that same episode, Chuck references Casino. Kevin Pollak, who played Philip Green in that movie, joins the cast in Season 4.
    • In "Infinite Game", Brogan tells Chuck that he needs him to act as his "Michael Clayton" to bail him out after he accidentally shoots his neighbor's dog. Billions creator Brian Koppelman has a bit part in that movie as the gambler who taunts George Clooney's protagonist at the underground poker game.
  • Characterization Marches On: Chuck's affinity for BDSM drives several subplots in earlier seasons. By season 7, it only gets a single offhand mention.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Wags uses the trope as an analogy in "Indian Four" when announcing to Axe, via cellphone, that Boyd took a guilty plea.
    Wags: Surrendered like a French fucking soldier.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Pretty much the entire cast, as befits a premium-cable series.
    • Mike Prince deserve special mention for abstaining from profanity for nearly the whole show before letting loose a Cluster F Bomb in the series finale.
  • Comically Small Bribe: When Chuck has to engage in a Chain of Deals to get a needed favour, his one real asset is a special pass which allows the carrier to park anywhere in New York City without getting a parking ticket. While this would be extremely valuable to the average New Yorker, the people Chuck is trading with already have the influence to get their own "park anywhere" permits and treat Chuck's offer of the pass as barely above an insult. Chuck keeps offering the pass till it becomes a Running Gag but it pays off when he finally encounters someone who just lost his great parking spot and is thrilled to trade Chuck for the pass.
  • Common Nonsense Jury: Chuck and Bryan do not want to take the Boyd case in front of a jury because they know that the average juror will not pay attention when they explain the technical details of treasury bond trading and thus will not be able to understand the evidence against Boyd. However, Bryan then utilizes this in their favor. During jury selection he questions the jurors about how they feel about Boyd being so obscenely rich. It quickly becomes clear that the jurors have deep contempt for wealthy bankers who cheat the system. At trial, Boyd will have to face a jury that is highly biased against him and likely to ignore the fact that the technical evidence against Boyd is weak.
  • Consummate Liar: Bobby is one, fooling just about everyone (including Chuck). Obviously, Wendy sees through him due to her position as his psychologist, but there's a great scene in "Risk Management" where Lara sees through him perfectly and says if she weren't his wife, she'd have believed his first two attempts to lie.
  • Continuity Nod: In "Flaw in the Death Star", Bobby's meddling with Dr. Gilbert's treatment of Donnie (in "Where the Fuck Is Donnie Cahn?") and forcing him to take part in the Ice Juice ploy (in "Golden Frog Time") comes back to haunt him in a very big way.
  • Contrived Coincidence: When the motley crew of criminal protagonists needs to manipulate the call records of OneSky Wireless, the system proves to be hard to crack in time. But one IT guy happens to have sold access to celebrity accounts, so he is easily blackmailed instead.
  • Cool Bike: In "Indian Four" Bobby approaches a farmer who refuses to sell land that is essential to a casino deal. The two men bond over the fact that they both like to restore classic motorcycles and Bobby is particularly impressed by the titular Indian Four motorcycle the farmer owns. In the end Bobby agrees to the farmer's terms on the condition that the farmer throws in the bike as part of the deal.
  • Cool Car:
    • Bobby has an unknown number of them, but the Maserati he gives Wendy as part of her severance bonus really qualifies.
    • Ari Spyros is incredibly vain about his Porsche, to the point that he wears a Porsche-branded jacket to the office. Dollar Bill trashes it with his minivan.
  • Corrupt Politician: In general, Chuck and most of the other government attorneys are shown to selectively enforce whatever laws suit their own personal agendas rather than uphold all the rules of the land and use their positions to routinely break the law themselves without having to face any consequences. Essentially, the only real difference between them and the white-collar criminals is that they use their government positions get whatever they want rather than money.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Axe becomes a low-boil version of this trope towards Wendy in Season 5 when she develops a relationship with Nico Tanner, an artist who Axe has tapped to commission a painting. He creepily monitors the CCTV feed outside Tanner's apartment building to know how long she is there and uses his Manipulative Bastard skills to sabotage their relationship and, ultimately, make Wendy romantically open up to Axe.
  • Crime After Crime: Axelrod and Rhoades are not shy about doubling down and commiting further felonies to cover up previous offenses and schemes, gleefully engaging in criminal conspiracy all the time.
  • Cut Short: The first half of Season 5 ends on an abrupt note, after production shut down over the COVID-19 Pandemic, with Axe and Prince's feud only warming up.
  • Dark Secret:
    • Bobby made his fortune short selling stocks on 9/11. There was nothing illegal about it but most people would see it as profiteering off a national tragedy. What was illegal was what he was doing before 9/11, insider trading and about to be fired from his old firm because of it. The attacks took out anyone who knew about his lawbreaking and allowed him to take over the firm and rename it for himself.
    • Ari Spyros raped a classmate in college. Chuck uses this information to deter him from continuing to be a Millstone to the Axelrod investigation. It doesn't work when Chuck tries it again; Ari even brags that he could probably even use the information to get himself elected president.
    • Black Jack Foley has been bribing a state inspector into designating his low-grade steel as high-grade. Chuck manages to blackmail Foley — repeatedly stated to be New York gentry and the state's biggest backroom dealer — and gets out from under Foley's thumb.
    • Chuck loses his Yale teaching job when a student attempts to blackmail him with a photo of Chuck, from his college days, burning student election ballots. Even though Chuck's intentions were noble (his actions were part of a movement to force Yale to divest from companies doing business with apartheid-era South Africa), and despite the student eventually backing down from the blackmail attempt, the head of Yale doesn't want the hassle of a potential scandal and forces Chuck to resign.
    • Zig-zagged with Michael Prince. Wags hears through the grapevine that Prince's right-hand man, Scooter, has seemingly been placing sports bets but can't keep up with his debts. Bobby tries to use this to pressure Scooter into giving him dirty laundry on Prince, only for Prince to tell him that Scooter was placing the bets on Prince's behalf and that the money has been paid up, meaning the gambling is a non-issue. But soon after, Axe learns that David Fells, a partner in Prince's first company, was a shareholder who had problems with drugs and alcohol. Prince offered $200,000 to David in return for control of the company on the condition that he sober up. The catch was that Prince knew the company was about to be purchased by Microsoft, meaning that that $200,000 was a fraction of what David could have made. Prince's betrayal caused David's substance abuse to escalate, leading to his death in a car crash a month later.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • When Bobby and Lara become estranged, Lara's presence in the show drops to almost nothing. She has only one scene in Season Four. After that scene, she's essentially Put on a Bus and plans to move away.
    • Chuck and Wendy's kids are seen less and less in the series, and by Season 4 they're in only one passing scene. Bobby and Lara's kids become entirely absent from the show by Season 4 in spite of getting some decent screen time in the early episodes, though this later improves when a Season 5 episode revolves around Bobby and Wags getting Gordie out of trouble at his prep school.
    • After getting himself busted by Chuck and Kate's sting operation and being sent to prison, Bryan Connerty only has one scene in Season 5 where he doesn't even have a word of dialogue, simply punching Chuck in the face.
  • Deus ex Machina: Chuck/Axe digging up dirt from somebody and getting leverage to weasel their way out of an impossible situation happens often and usually in a sudden and abrupt manner. Examples include Judge Wilcox, Lawrence Boyd or Black Jack Foley. This also happens when Chuck turns on Jeffcoat, whose position is vetted by the US Senate and scrutinized by the whole nation, but a New York attorney has no problem finding a solid line of investigation against him in no time. Granted it's a show about corruption, but the convenient high frequency of the plot and the lack of build-up is problematic. On the other hand, the iteration makes the Season 3 finale twist more surprising as the effectiveness of the trend is at last subverted.
  • Diagonal Billing: Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis share top billing with Giamatti to the left and Lewis to the right but higher up the screen.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: While visiting the Qadiri embassy, Wags is drugged and locked in a closet. Axe wants to call in the NYPD or the FBI but is told that they cannot enter the embassy grounds to investigate. Best that can be done is that Axe inform the State Department, who will then file an official diplomatic protest. Even if diplomatic pressure forces Qadir to release Wags, they can always claim that he got high and accidentally locked himself in the closet. This is also averted in the same episode as a man working for a foreign ambassador does not have personal immunity and thus still has to pay his parking tickets. Also, the ambassador's adult stepson had to abide by New York's laws on where a registered sex offender is allowed to reside.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • When it comes out that Axe was short selling stocks on 9/11, he's slammed by many, especially firefighters. This despite the fact that Axe didn't know it was terrorism when the first plane crashed and has given millions to helping the FDNY. It's one thing for firefighters to take it to Axe but they also target Lara's sister by using fake "fire codes" to shut down her diner...despite the fact that she and Lara both lost their firefighter brother on 9/11.
    • Axe is approached by John Rice, the son of his old business partner, who wants to return Axe's investment with a $102 million cashier's check. In response, a suspicious Axe lures John into taking a fishing trip, where he engineers a situation that forces John to confess the real reason for the attempted payback, while Axe's minions back at Axe Cap sully John's name on the Street and steal most of his business, with John being unable to stop any of it.
    • Played with when Chuck manages to push through a pilot project for mobile voting in New York State despite Jeffcoat's opposition to the idea. Jeffcoat goes straight to the NYPD commissioner and blackmails him into shutting down Senior's development project. Jeffcoat wants to destroy Chuck but this is too big a response for a relatively trivial slight and is out of character for Jeffcoat. Chuck deduces that there is something much bigger going on and by getting the pilot project approved he accidently did much more damage to Jeffcoat than he intended.
    • Rebecca makes the mistake of cutting a deal with Taylor to save both Saler's and her relationship with Bobby. Except Bobby doesn't see it this way — he views Rebecca's action as a "betrayal" that's getting in the way of his revenge. So Bobby stages a boardroom coup, seizes control of Saler's from Rebecca, announces he's liquidating the company and bankrupting its suppliers (which would put Taylor deep in the red in the process), and afterwards coldly tells Rebecca that he knew full well that he knew he would blow up their future together by doing this — and decided to do it anyway.
  • The Dog Bites Back:
    • Steven Birch, Bobby's patsy from the first two episodes, gets his revenge a season later by fucking up the deal Bobby, Krakow, and Boyd have to destabilize the Nigerian currency.
    • Ira, whose life Chuck destroyed to nail Axe in the Ice Juice gambit, accepts a $30 million bailout from Axe in exchange for giving up Chuck and his father to Dake and Connerty.
    • Bryan and Taylor, who spend the third season being mistreated and humiliated by Chuck and Bobby respectively, get back at their one-time mentors. Bryan rats out Chuck to Jeffcoat and gets him fired, while Taylor forms a breakaway hedge fund and takes away Andolov's investment under Bobby's nose.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: This is Wendy's reaction in Season Four after she deduces that Spyros is asking for counseling just to make her feel better.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Ari Spyros, SEC representative, repeatedly walks into the U.S. Attorney's office and sticks his nose into any case he wants, while being incredibly stupid and unable to keep his mouth shut. Then when Spyros goes over to Axe Capital, he puts Wendy on Connerty's chopping block because he assumes the move will ingratiate himself with Axelrod. He wonders, of course, why nobody likes him.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • Chuck does a favor for Oliver Dake, resulting in their alliance during the Ice Juice gambit.
    • Chuck and Bobby are forced to work together when Connerty decides to investigate both of them and uncovers evidence of Wendy's short during the Ice Juice incident. Their alliance becomes permanent after Taylor becomes Bobby's competitor and Jeffcoat fires Chuck from Southern.
    • Chuck and Prince conspire to bring Axe down with the cannabis scheme. Then Prince gives Axe the opportunity to flee the country permanently in exchange for taking over Axe Capital, making it clear that this trope had been in effect the whole time they were working together.
    Chuck: You were in lockstep with me in nailing [Axe]... right up until you weren't.
    Prince: Well Chuck, I was never really in your ranks. Never in lockstep. We just had a similar problem for a while.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: It's a given at this point that season finales for this show involve this trope somehow.
    • Season 2: Chuck backstabs both his father and his best friend to entrap Bobby at the close of Season 2.
    • Season 3: Taylor and Mafee betray Bobby by leaving Axe Capital to start their own hedge fund. Bryan and Kate also team up with Dake and Epstein to turn Chuck in to Jeffcoat, who fires him.
    • Season 4: Bobby backstabs Rebecca for cutting a deal with Taylor by seizing control of and liquidating Saler's. Kate backstabs both Connerty and Jeffcoat by participating in Chuck's sting operation against them. Chuck backstabs Bobby by secretly resuming their feud and cutting a deal with Taylor to have them return to Axe Cap as Chuck's mole. Taylor plans to backstab both Bobby and Chuck by turning them against each other.
    • Season 5: Prince backstabs Chuck by leaking information to Axe about his imminent arrest in the cannabis scandal, facilitating Axe's flight to Switzerland in exchange for taking over Axe's company.
    • Season 7: Everyone backstabs Prince by manipulating the natural gas market to wipe out his fortune, and in a manner that destroys his presidential aspirations.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Mick Danzig, one of Axe's top earners and a guy who once drunkenly shot at deer on his lawn with a machine gun, is so disturbed by Axe's brutal austerity measures against Sandicot that he eventually quits Axe Capital. Subverted about a season later when he comes back and participates in one of Axe's schemes against Taylor.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: Jock Jeffcoat, the hulking, deep-voiced U.S. Attorney General who rules the judicial branch with an iron fist. He has a thick Texas accent and a decidedly cowboy aesthetic.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Chuck is corrupt, hypocritical and petty but deep down he believes in justice and that the law exists to protect the innocent. He is thus furious when Jeffcoat orders him to perpetuate a miscarriage of justice just to win a few political points with some racists. When this results in a victimized man being brutally murdered, Chuck is prepared to unleash hell on the killers until Jeffcoat tells him to not pursue any charges. Chuck has enough and decides to bring down Jeffcoat no matter what the cost is to him or his career. Chuck is willing to do a lot of things for power but he still has some standards.
    • In spite of the cast being made up of some pretty morally gray and alpha-male types, only Krakow and Grigor Andolov ever intentionally avoid using Taylor's desired pronouns. Even when Axe is gunning to destroy Taylor, he still scrupulously adheres to the correct pronouns.
    • Bobby and Wags are willing to do a lot of unethical and illegal things to make money but they immediately veto Dollar Bill's idea to infect a chicken farm with bird flu. They would rather lose money on the deal than engage in what is essentially bio-terrorism that could potentially kill people.
    • In spite of being a domineering asshole and a Politically Incorrect Villain, Jeffcoat is proud to have put away and executed more Klansmen than any other prosecutor.
    • Kate has no compunction about backstabbing anyone in the name of advancing her political career, even her own father. That said, when Kate's father gets caught up in the cannabis scandal which brings down Axe, Kate engineers a scenario where he instead goes down for the comparatively lesser crime of price fixing, the penalty of which is a relative slap on the wrist compared to the decades in prison Axe and Dawn Winslow are facing. She also comes to see the danger Prince poses as president and agrees to aid Wendy's plot to sabotage his campaign.
  • Evil Pays Better: Private firms like Axe Capital and its lawyers in retainer are fond of throwing around the magical words "seven figures" as a temptation and/or justification. They can pay per week what a public servant makes in a year.
  • Exact Words:
    • Chuck promises Judge Wilcox the Southern district won't prosecute him. He didn't mention anything about the Eastern.
    • At the end of season two, Oliver agrees to not rope Chuck's father into his prosecution of Bobby for the Ice Juice scheme. At the start of season three, Chuck persuades Oliver to also spare Wendy from scrutiny, pointing out that their agreement was to keep Chuck's family out of the Ice Juice case, not just his father.
  • Extreme Doormat: Ben Kim is extremely timid and easily bullied by the other traders. His time with Wendy is predominantly spent on getting him to stand up for himself.
  • Fake Defector:
    • Donnie Caan is not a mole for Chuck. Bobby sent him in as a fake mole to feed the SDNY fake information.
    • Dollar Bill is not a disgruntled, mistreated trader. Bobby stages a fight so he can plant Bill inside a splinter group that has spun off from Axe Capital, and ruin it with bad information.
    • Inverted when Taylor agrees to return to Axe Capital and act as Chuck's mole.
  • Failed a Spot Check: What (temporarily) puts Axe to pasture. Chuck and Prince engineer a situation in which Axe becomes so laser-focused on one-upping Prince in the Fine Young Cannabis deal that he neglects to exercise due diligence (having assumed Prince already vetted the company) and is caught flat-footed when it turns out Fine Young Cannabis was selling black market ganja, and he faces decades in prison for profiting from a criminal enterprise.
  • Fanservice: Damian Lewis has a very brief full-frontal scene in the first episode, and has numerous shirtless/underwear scenes. Maggie Siff frequently appears in dominatrix gear and lingerie. Malin Ackerman does a topless scene in the fifth episode.
  • Foil: Bobby and Chuck are foils for each other, sharing many traits while being complete opposites in many others. They are both driven, brilliant men in their field who are willing to bend or break rules to get their desires. However, they differ in a number of notable ways:
    • Bobby comes from a poor family and grew up as a street hustler in a broken home. Chuck comes from a rich and influential family and received an elite education.
    • Bobby is obsessed with attaining wealth at all costs, while Chuck passes up opportunities for great wealth to get power and influence.
    • While Chuck and Bobby both begin the show as monogamous married men, Chuck engages in kinky S&M play, while we see that Bobby's sex life, for all the opportunities that his wealth provides, is extremely conventional.
    • Bobby wears casual clothing as a point of pride, hearkening back to his working-class upbringing. It's also a sign of confidence, showing that he doesn't need to dress up to get respect. Chuck, on the other hand, always wears suits even in casual settings, which he reveals is due to feeling of insecurity over his wife's disproportionate beauty.
  • Follow in My Footsteps: Rhoades Senior is a rich, scheming politico who is very disappointed that his US Attorney son doesn't have the same drive for power as he does. In season two, Senior gives Chuck evidence of the new mole in his office - Bryan Connerty - and approves of Chuck's double-dealing with Lawrence Boyd to eventually bring down Axe.
  • Foreign-Language Tirade: Chuck directs a lengthy Italian rant at Jeffcoat in the Season 4 finale and caps it off with negative hand gesture that roughly means, "I don't give a damn anyway." Jeffcoat thinks the entire performance is Actually Pretty Funny.
  • Foreshadowing: At the start of Season 5, Axe and Mike Prince are scheduled to participate in a group photo shoot for the cover of Vanity Fair, only for Axe to be called away from the shoot early. Prince takes advantage of Axe's absence to take over the Vanity Fair cover for himself. By the end of this season, Axe is forced off the show similar to how he was forced off the Vanity Fair cover, with Prince taking over both Axe's company and his role as Chuck Rhoades' nemesis.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes:
    • Wags is pretty reprehensible, but he's essential to Axe Capital:
      Wags: I don't do well with folksy people. They find me to be a rapacious scumbag.
      Bobby: Hate to break it to you, but I don't think it's only the folksy people.
      Wags: What about you?
      Bobby: You're my rapacious scumbag.
    • Ari Spyros gets on the nerves of everyone in Chuck's office by butting into their investigations, and is especially loathed by Chuck after he finds out that Spyros raped a classmate in college. When Spyros leaves the SEC for Axe Capital, his new co-workers regard him the same way.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": During Black Jack Foley's funeral, Chuck exerts his newly-reinstated powers as New York attorney general by staging a mass arrest of corrupt state lawmakers while delivering a fiery "eulogy" for Black Jack.
  • Gambit Pile Up: Everyone has some scheme or another going on to take the upper hand, and they naturally collide.
  • Genre Savvy: Played for Laughs when Bobby and Wags try to talk Dollar Bill out of infecting a chicken farm with bird flu. They tell him that they watched Contagion (2011) and the only thing that will come out of messing with the bird flu is that Gwyneth Paltrow will die on a gurney and Matt Damon will be the last man on Earth.
  • Godzilla Threshold: At the start of the final season, Wendy, Wags and Taylor, realizing how dangerous Prince and his presidential aspirations are, know that the only person capable of opposing him is Axe and scheme to get him back to America.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Chuck is the U.S. Attorney trying to uphold the law, but stoops to low levels (including breaking the law himself) in his efforts to build a case against Bobby. Bobby has made amoral, shady and outright illegal business deals to build his fortune, but he has also given millions to charity and helps out people from his old working class neighborhood.
  • God Complex: Wendy ultimately realizes that this is Prince's problem, and even mentions the trope by name.
  • Ham and Deadpan Duo: Wags and Bobby, respectively.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Bobby explains to Rebecca just what was going through his mind before he liquidated Saler's behind her back:
    Bobby: I wanted to let it go, what you did by making that deal with Taylor. I wanted to think of it the way you said — not as disloyal, or an action against me — but as a practical solution to a problem that you, someone I loved was faced with. And so that night I told you it was fine. I wanted it to be true. I laid there in bed next to you and I just tried to breathe out the bad, breathe in the good. And with each breath, instead of peace, love and understanding filling my lungs, the old bile was there. I stared at the ceiling with you sleeping next to me, beautiful and serene. I played out our relationship to its end. I thought about marriage. Let it land on me that I'd already assumed it was going to happen. Us having kids together, too. I smiled at the notion. It was hopeful, romantic, the kind of thought a normal man would be having. But then, I felt something go cold in me. And I knew the truth was in that cold. And that eventually it would turn hot, to rage. And when it did, I would blow the whole fucking thing up, kids and all. 'Cause sure, your choice was rational. But to me, it was traitorous. I wouldn't be able to live with it. I'd wreck everything we had over it. I would make you suffer tenfold for what I had suffered. Especially if I waited without crushing Taylor, because by then Taylor would be rich and safe. So I decided: Fuck it. Might as well get my revenge and rip off the fucking scab of this thing between us at the same time. Then we'd be even too, each fucked over. Each aware of who the other really is. And then... then we could find out what was still between us.
  • Here We Go Again!: Chuck and Axe's alliance is short-lived and by the end of the season 4 their scheming feud is back.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Bryan Connerty and Taylor Mason both start out as progressive-minded idealists in their respective fields — Bryan wants to fight the bad guys by the book while Taylor tries to steer Axe Capital in forward-thinking directions. Becoming disillusioned and subsequently at war with Chuck and Axe respectively brings the worst out of them — Bryan goes along with Jeffcoat's political agenda to spite Chuck and enlists his petty criminal brother to break into Chuck Senior's safe; while Taylor facilitates the lifting of a state ban on fracking just to get the better of Axe. While Taylor eventually steps back from the edge, Bryan eventually ends up arrested and disgraced.
  • Hollywood Law: Invoked and lampshaded when Chuck and Bryan interrogate a flight attendant about a stock trade she made. They are highly trained lawyers who know the insider trading laws inside and out. In contrast, she gets most of her law knowledge from television and is not savvy enough to request a lawyer. Thus she does not realize that her trade does not legally qualify as insider trading and she did not actually commit a crime. Bryan turns on the charm and using Exact Words convinces her to cooperate in exchange for immunity from charges that do not exist. The flight attendant later averts the trope - she figured out the charges were fake, but she wants to see her boss punished and she thinks Brian is hot. She helps them, but makes it clear to Bryan that she knows the truth.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: Rhoades Sr. had great political aspirations in his youth. Then after 9/11, an apartment building he owned burned down and he was labeled a slumlord. This derailed his political career before it even started. It is suggested that he is now trying to live out his dreams through his son.
  • Instant Web Hit: The video of Bobby punching out Layner gets 4,000 hits in barely a few minutes, along with a Mortal Kombat style voiceover. Chuck's not a fan, though Bobby, Lara, and Bach think it's hilarious.
  • Internal Reveal: Chuck reveals his sadomasochistic inclinations to the world during a televised press conference when Foley tries to use the information to end Chuck's candidacy. Pretty much every character except Bobby, Wendy, and Senior are stunned when they find out.
  • Ironic Echo: When Chuck fires Bryan, he screams in his face to leave his credentials at the front desk and "get the fuck out of here." Then when Bryan helps rat out Chuck to Jeffcoat, leading to Chuck himself getting fired, Bryan mockingly gives him the same line.
  • Is That a Threat?: Invoked almost verbatim by the widow of one of Bobby's former partners, who publicly questioned why Bobby was out of the office on 9/11 while her husband and the rest of the staff perished. Bobby's wife Lara takes the woman aside and reads her the riot act:
    "When we were growing up, if someone has a problem with you - and they take that beef public - the ground just falls out from beneath them."
    "Are you threatening me?"
    [scoffs] "Fuckin' right, I am."
    • Lara makes good on it in episode three when the widow is about to publish a memoir which includes a chapter that trashes Bobby and reveals some shady business deals he made. Lara proceeds to destroy her life by doing things like getting her kicked out of the country club and having the admissions office at Stanford reject her son's application. The widow relents and removes the chapter so Lara will fix everything.
  • It's All About Me: Prince may think he's a do-gooder and above it all, but in reality he has an ego about the size of the Sun which has given him a God Complex to match and makes him look down on Axe and Chuck as "lesser Caesars". After he decides to run for president and the old Axe Cap team realizes just how dangerous he is, they resort to seeking Axe for help.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing:
    • When non-binary Taylor turns the tables on Todd Krakow at the Alpha Cup and starts winning, Todd starts calling them "it".
    • Inverted when Grigor Andolov intentionally refers to Taylor as "she" — which, while innocuous for most people and not as on the nose as "it", has the same effect for a non-binary person if the pronoun misuse is deliberate.
  • It's Personal: The huge feud between Rhoades and Axelrod quickly evolves into this.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: The trope is used to demonstrate how privileged a character's upbringing was. The blue blooded Chuck comes from a long line of Yale alumni and is one himself. Meanwhile, while Axe and Connerty are just as intelligent as he is, they come from working class backgrounds and thus went to Hofstra and Fordham, respectively.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Gordie's headmaster from "Beg, Bribe, Bully" may be a sanctimonious gasbag, but he has every right to expel Gordie after his bitcoin mining scheme led to the campus and the town surrounding it suffering a blackout (which not only inconvenienced thousands but also could have put some people, like folks on dialysis, in danger). He also rightfully calls Bobby out for giving Gordie the impression that he can buy his way out of any problem, no matter how severe, without consequence.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: The conflict between Bobby and Taylor turns into a series of these as each is trying to outsmart the other. Bobby uses his political influence to wreck Taylor's startup so Taylor will then sabotage their relationship with their father. Taylor fires back by staging a major push to outlaw fracking, knowing that Bobby will counterattack and make sure that fracking is not only legal but also less regulated. Taylor makes a fortune buying up the water rights the reinvigorated fracking industry will need.
  • Karma Houdini: After the both of them engage in equally corrupt acts throughout the series, Axe and Chuck end the story having suffered no serious legal consequences, with Axe even reclaiming his company.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Despite having emerged victorious over Axe in Season 5, Prince ends the series with the vast majority of his fortune gone and his presidential ambitions in ruins.
  • Klingon Promotion:
    • Lampshaded when Chuck persuades Alvin Epstein, the New York Attorney General, to help him bring down Jeffcoat, the U.S. Attorney General. If Epstein succeeds, it will get him a reputation as the most formidable prosecutor in the country and he would be the natural choice to succeed Jeffcoat. Chuck winds up becoming the victim of this when Epstein and Connerty both betray him to Jeffcoat, which earns Epstein the job of Deputy U.S. Attorney General and Connerty the job of Interim U.S. Attorney for the SDNY.
    • Mike Prince ends up taking over Axe Capital (and becoming Chuck's new nemesis) after he helps Chuck entrap Axe in the Fine Young Cannabis case and forces Axe to permanently flee to Switzerland. He is eventually deposed by a conspiracy involving Axe, Chuck, and most of the main characters, with Axe reclaiming his seat at the top.
  • Knight Templar:
    • Chuck Rhoades, who will stop at nothing to bring Axe down. This includes outright breaking the law he's sworn to uphold as the U.S. Attorney.
    • Bryan Connerty starts evolving into one himself in Season 4 as he becomes increasingly obsessed with removing Chuck as state attorney general.
  • Knowledge Broker: Hall, Axe's shady, sneaky, blackmailing government insider.
  • The Lad-ette:
    • Lara Axelrod, according to her actress.
    • Saldana is one of two women on the Axe Capital team of investors, and can swear just as loudly and creatively as the guys. Unfortunately, she only lasts a few episodes.
    • Season 3 introduces Bonnie, who has picked up the Axe Cap Ladette ball and seems to be running with it.
  • "Last Supper" Steal: The poster of Season 3.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Season 5 opens with Chuck investigating a bitcoin mining scheme Axe is involved in that consumes so much electricity that it causes a brownout. Two episodes later, Axe's son Gordie tries to run a similar scheme out of his prep school dorm room that causes a cascading blackout.
  • Loophole Abuse: Axe spends the first half of Season 5 struggling to get approved for a bank charter, only to be stymied by Chuck. In the second half, Axe and his traders leak incriminating information about a predatory lender to the media knowing that Chuck will investigate as state AG, which will plummet the lender's value and allow Axe Capital to purchase it at a rock-bottom price. What Chuck doesn't realize until it's too late that Axe Cap is not buying the lender for its value, but for its asset: a bank charter.
  • Man Behind the Man: Black Jack is a kingmaker who works behind the scenes to put people into positions of power and then control them.
  • Manchild: Mafee is a dopey and not-particularly-bright trader with the personality and tastes of a teenager, however he is a very hard worker.
  • Mle Trois: By Season 3, the Axe vs. Chuck feud becomes tangled with Chuck prosecuting Axe by proxy via Dake, and Connerty nominally working for Dake but investigating Chuck for his role in the Ice Juice fracas, and it all gets compounded when Chuck adds Attorney General Jeffcoat into the mix.
    Wendy: And now we're all three of us royally fucked, in a way that's so incestuous that if one of us goes to prison, we all do.
  • Mirror Character:
    • Chuck Rhoades and Bobby Axelrod are both very prideful and refuse to make a settlement with the other because they're obsessed with beating them. They even used to be friends, back when Chuck was still in private practice and Bobby was still a trader. Wendy describes them as enjoying being "the smartest guys in the room". Naturally, when Chuck gets fired and the conflict between them is over, the two bury the hatchet and begin to bond again. Only for the feud to start again after Chuck is elected state attorney general.
    • Bryan Connerty was once Chuck's protege but turned against him after discovering how both Chuck and Wendy broke the law in the Ice Juice affair. After Chuck gets elected as state attorney general, Connerty breaks the law by having his brother break into Chuck Senior's safe to gather incriminating information on the Rhoades family and breaking an evidence seal to listen to a privileged conversation.
    • Bryan Connerty and Taylor Mason are mirror characters to each other in Season 4, in that they are both the former proteges of the lead characters who are now engaged in feuds with them. In the end, while Taylor is smart enough to avoid putting themself in a legally compromising position, Connerty turns out to have been manipulated all season long, breaks the law in the name of bringing down Chuck, and ends up being sent to prison.
  • Mistaken for Romance: Apparently, most people assume Bobby Axelrod and Wendy Rhoades are sleeping with each other. Even Chuck has shades of this, following Wendy multiple times and mistaking her close relationship with Bobby for cheating. Subverted by the second half of Season 5, where Bobby sabotages Wendy's relationship with Tanner out of jealousy, and the two eventually confess romantic feelings towards each other.
    Chuck: What you have with Axe? It's real. It's weird and it's deep and I fucking hate it.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Bobby and Chuck end up creating their own worst enemies by the end of Season 3. Chuck thwarts Connerty's prosecution of himself and Wendy and unceremoniously fires him from Southern, causing Connerty to conspire with Kate and Dake to turn Chuck in to Jeffcoat and have him fired from the U.S. Attorney's office. Bobby begins pushing Taylor around while he's on the high of beating the Ice Juice charges, culminating in him screwing over Taylor's boyfriend Oscar using knowledge he gleaned from them; they get even by forming a breakaway hedge fund, recruiting Mafee, and taking away Grigor Andolov's investment in Axe Capital. Both betrayals cause Bobby and Chuck to make their Enemy Mine alliance permanent.
  • Moving the Goalposts: Axelrod is ready to plead admittance to insider trading, with a $1.9 billion fine, but during the meeting to settle, he begins to boast about it being little more than pocket money. Rhoades retaliates and adds a lifetime ban from securities trading to the deal. Bobby rips up the check and storms off.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Bobby Axelrod goes by "Axe" and named his company "Axe Capital," highlighting his aggressive personality and business tactics.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: Chuck's plot against Jeffcoat is thwarted by a coalition of conspirators. Instead of one-upping the Attorney General, he finds the antagonist party inside his office and is summarily fired.
  • Never My Fault: When Wendy confronts Chuck over stealing her session notes to use against Axe and lying to her about his continued involvement in the case, Chuck keeps trying to claim that Axe's actions forced him to do it.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Chuck Rhoades is a composite of former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, who he shares professional interests with, and former NY Attorney General (and later governor) Eliot Spitzer, who also had a fantastically rich father, burning political ambition and odd sexual tastes.
    • Bobby has aspects of Steve Cohen, the former head of SAC Capital, one of the most high-profile men convicted of insider trading. They share working class origins, wives from Washington Heights, an interest in high-stakes poker games, and philanthropy.
    • Mike Dimonda, the investigative reporter looking into Rhoades' cases resembles Jeremy Scahill, except he's covering high-profile financial crimes instead of wars.
    • Season 2's Todd Krakow is Martin Shkreli; slimy and unprincipled and vastly wealthy. He becomes an expy of Steve Mnuchin when he's appointed Treasury Secretary in Season 3.
    • Craig Heidecker from "The Oath" is basically Elon Musk, with his billion-dollar private space agency.
    • Jock Jeffcoat is basically Jeff Sessions — an ultraconversative Attorney General from the deep south who is serving the agenda of a new Republican administration.
    • One episode features a billionaire who now spends his time trying to convince other billionaires to commit large sums of their wealth to charity. He's basically Warren Buffet (though Buffet himself also exists in the show).
    • Venture capitalist Rebecca Cantu, with her background in a thinly-veiled HSN/QVC company, is based on both Joy Mangano and Lori Greiner. She also looks and dresses a lot like Greiner.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished:
    • In "Sic Transit Imperium," Lara gets in touch with Chuck and practically calls a temporary truce to have him encourage Wendy to attend Bobby's birthday party. But as soon as Wendy arrives, she tells Lara that it was she who set the new perimeters between herself and Bobby at Axe Capital, unwittingly tipping off Lara that Bobby had lied to her.
    • Wendy does it again in "Maximum Recreational Depth" after Taylor offers emotional support following Chuck's press conference. After seemingly rekindling her friendship with Taylor, Wendy digs through their old Axe Cap therapy file to find information about their fraught relationship with their father Douglas. She then approaches an unwitting Mafee and fishes out enough information about the invention Taylor and Douglas are working on that she hatches a successful plan to force Taylor to betray Douglas.
  • No Hero to His Valet: Bobby quotes this in the second episode to his right hand man, Wags, who responds that it goes double for a man's COO.
  • Noodle Incident: Chuck Sr. tells the Yale Club an anecdote that ends with the Orphaned Punchline of a woman stepping on a billiard ball. It's an extended Shout-Out.
  • Not Me This Time: Chuck Sr., unknown to Chuck, calls in a favor to a colleague to make sure Sandicott, where Bobby poured millions in investment for a casino, doesn't get a gaming license. When Bobby finds out about it, he assumes Chuck was responsible and confronts him at the Yale Club, much to the latter's confusion.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore:
    • By the end of Season 3, Chuck has been fired from the U.S. Attorney's office while Axe faces a formidable new competitor in Taylor. Now that they no longer have any responsibility or interest to go after each other, the feud that has drove most of the series has seemingly ended and the two begin to rekindle their old friendship.
    • At the end of Season 5, Axe, having landed himself in Chuck's crosshairs over the FYC scandal with absolutely no legal way out, is forced to flee to Switzerland. Mike Prince buys out Axe's company and firmly establishes himself as Chuck's new adversary.
  • Nouveau Riche:
    • Axe grew up in the working class and still shows it as a billionaire by wearing jeans and t-shirts to work and having business meetings at a pizza parlor in his old neighborhood. Of course, he has no desire to be part of the Old Money crowd, who he feels he's better than for having made his fortune himself instead of resting on his ancestors' accomplishments.
    Sandy Benzinger: Sports franchises are how we knight people in this country. And you're not royalty. You're a robber baron.
    • Most traders at Axe Capital spend their money extravagantly. The parking lot of a funeral attended by the firm is littered with supercars.
  • Number Two:
    • Wags is obviously this to Bobby.
    • Bryan Connerty is this to Chuck for the first few seasons.
    • Sara Hammon is this to Taylor at Mase Cap.
    • Scooter is this to Mike Prince.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Dollar Bill (in Arkansas) tells Axe and Wags (in New York) that he has come up with a "final solution" to salvage his Chicken Man scheme. In the short time it takes for Dollar Bill to steal a chicken infected with H1N1 with the intent of releasing it into the general chicken population, Axe and Wags appear in Arkansas and show up at the specific chicken farm where Dollar Bill is heading to talk him down. It's later shown that Axe and Wags flew to Arkansas on Axe's private jet (which has been established to always be on standby for Axe's use), but no jet can make that journey in such a short time unless it's the Concorde.
  • Old Friend, New Gender: An interesting case involving Taylor, who Wags sees walking past him in the Qadiri consulate looking stunning in a wig and dress. This trope is in play because Taylor, despite being physically female, identifies as non-binary and has exclusively dressed androgynously up to this point.
  • Once a Season: The first three seasons end with a pivotal scene between Axelrod and Rhoades, with a change of tune in the Season 3 and Season 5 finales.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: While Chuck does technically recuse himself from the Axelrod case (due to his marriage to Wendy), he definitely still has this in spades. He insists Bryan keep him in the loop and continues to wheel and deal behind the scenes to bring Bobby down.
  • Paper Destruction of Anger: In episode "The Deal", Chuck wants to buy Axe off with a big cheque, but Axe crumples it up and throws it at him.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Chuck takes this view. Brian needs convincing.
    Chuck: There are no innocent men. Not on Wall Street.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Bobby has several of these moments, but his biggest one comes when he introduces Kevin Rhoades, Wendy and Chuck's son, to Mark Teixeira, his favorite baseball player. He could have monopolized the guy, instead, he gets Tex to give Kevin a photo and autographed ball.
    • Bobby also has no problem with Taylor identifying as non-binary and using the pronouns "they, them and their," which is surprising considering the boys club culture at Axe Capital.
    • Bobby is by no means a cuddly boss, and he won't hesitate to fire an employee for a petty reason. But he also recognizes that they need to be positively reinforced to perform well and compliments them when they do.
    • Lara gets a moment when she tries to contact Wendy and Chuck picks up the phone. What follows is a pleasant, if awkward, conversation where Lara practically calls a temporary truce and asks Chuck to encourage Wendy to attend Bobby's birthday party.
    • Lara and Wendy join forces temporarily in "Kompenso" to discuss counseling for Gordie and Lara agreeing to advise Bobby during "comp day," the day when he negotiates with his employees regarding salary and bonuses.
    • After Chuck saves his campaign for attorney general by disclosing his sadomasochistic activities with Wendy at a televised press conference — humiliating Wendy in front of the entire Axe Cap office in the process — Taylor calls Wendy and offers to be someone to talk to despite their differences.
    • Spyros has a rather humorous one after he spies Wendy's defeated expression when she returns to work in Season Four. He stops in for an impromptu counseling session, only for Wendy to quickly realize that he's asking her for advice out of charity to make her feel useful to the company. She kicks him out of her office.
  • Photographic Memory: Bobby displays this when recounting when and where people were standing when he punched out Layner to figure out who could have recorded the footage.
  • Photo Op with the Dog: Chuck does it quite literally in "The Good Life" to manipulate an Iowa farmer. He does generally love dogs, but he gains the trust of the farmer first by petting and complimenting his dog.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Bobby and Wendy's friendship (and working relationship) goes back to before both of their marriages - they saw each other through 9/11, building Axe Capital, and now the question is if their friendship can withstand Chuck and the US Attorney's Office going after Bobby for insider trading. This becomes very notable in Season Four, when Bobby can speak more meaningfully about his connection to her than her own husband can.
  • Plausible Deniability: Bobby was smart enough to isolate himself from the illegal trades that Chuck is trying to nail him for. All the trades were done by independent traders who, while personally beholden to Bobby, were legally separate from Axe Capital. All the insider information was communicated through anonymous phone conversations by someone who definitely did not sound like Bobby.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • Jeffcoat. While he complains when people call him a racist, saying that he sent more klansmen to prison and the electric chair than any other prosecutor, he does use very politically incorrect language at times, such as referencing smallpox-infected blankets when giving Connerty instructions.
    • Andolov and Krakow both intentionally avoid using Taylor's preferred pronouns.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • Bobby, in the page quote. Qualifies as a precision strike because it occurs the first time Rhoades and Axelrod meet face-to-face.
    • Wendy gets one in the season 1 finale, in her response to Bobby accusing her of betraying him: "I did not sell you out. Polygraph me, motherfucker."
  • Product Placement: Tons; far too many examples to list in full, but highlights include:
    • Michter's Whiskey is probably the most egregious example; hardly an episode goes by without it making an appearance.
    • Mafee makes sure to turn the label on his Heineken bottle toward the camera in s04e03.
    • Mercedes and Maserati cars are everywhere.
  • Pronoun Trouble: Taylor identifies as non-binary and states their preferred pronouns as "they, theirs and them." Various characters stumble over the pronouns for a while before getting accustomed to it. Taylor's father Douglas continues to have trouble, which has led to some strain in their relationship, but this has less to do with rejection and more with struggling to understand a person who until recently he regarded as his "little girl." Interestingly, very few characters intentionally defy Taylor's preference, even in the frat-boy atmosphere of Axe Capital.
  • Put on a Bus: Season 5 ends with Axe being forced to flee to Switzerland. He comes back, though.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: By the end of season two, Chuck has finally gotten Axe charged with something and arrested. But to do so, he completely wrecked his relationships with his father, best friend, and (possibly) Wendy, lost his entire trust fund, and alienated some of his legal team. Meanwhile, Axe Capital as a whole is still in business, Axe is let out on bail after only a few hours, and Axe vows to do everything in his power to destroy the prosecution's case. Chuck's political ambitions and Wendy's investment in the Ice Juice play (which Chuck did not know about) will make his case very complicated. Chuck himself begins to realize this in the Season 3 premiere once the initial satisfaction of getting Axe indicted wears off and he realizes there are still loose ends that need tying up. Eventually, when he and Wendy face a real risk of being sent to prison, he's forced to team up with Axe to blow up the entire case to avoid a trial.
  • The Quisling: Bobby namedrops it in "Boasts and Rails" when he rattles the cages of his managers and orders them to do everything above board in hopes of ferreting out the traitor - Donnie Caan - who he looks right at as he says it.
  • Qurac: The fictional Arabic country of Qadir plays a role in the Season 4 premiere.
  • Rags to Riches:
    • Bobby Axelrod, who grew up poor in Yonkers, is now a billionaire hedge fund manager.
    • Rebecca Cantu, Bobby's girlfriend in Season 4, was raised by a small-town auto mechanic and is now a venture capitalist.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Subverted when Connerty returns to the Southern District and is assigned to a dingy office and is denied access to the computer network. It seems that he is punished by being made to work in crappy conditions on petty cases without his previous power or prestige. However, Chuck then humiliates him in front of the entire office and fires him outright.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Chuck tells Wendy how he feels about her job:
      Chuck: "I'm there for my patients" bullshit, beause these patients that you see are criminals. And if you're right there in the middle of it with a bunch of criminals, what do you think that makes you?
    • The Season 1 finale closes with an epic exchange between Bobby and Chuck. They hold nothing back.
      Axe: You are also full of shit. All these and regulations... arbitrary, chalked up by politicians for their own ends. And these fines you're always going after... Where do they go? Who gets them? The poor? No. The Treasury, the government. It's taxation by other means. You decide what cases to take, and you only take the cases you won't lose. What do you do? Nothing, besides suck from the municipality, feed off of it. And in exchange, you what? Keep order? You're a traffic cop hiding in federal robes.
      Rhoades: You're a criminal, Bob. And it's my job to shut 'em down and put 'em in jail. Maybe a few generations from now, they'll tell stories about you, like they do Jesse James or Billy the Kid. Only in reality, those guys stole and hurt and destroyed lives. Now you say you don't think you've harmed anyone. I say that the effect is the same, worse even, because you infect the entire world. You throw the whole system off balance, leaving chaos and poverty in your wake.
    • "The Third Ortolan" has Wendy call out Chuck and Bobby for being so obsessed with beating the other that they created a situation where everyone they care about, including her, got dragged into the mud and will suffer no matter which one of them wins.
    • "The Elmsley Count" has Wendy give one to Taylor, only to get one right back in the form of a Shut Up, Hannibal!:
      Wendy: Nice ideas. But you are no moral fucking compass. For a moment I thought you might be because you needed me to think that, but you used me.
      Taylor: If anyone has been using people for their own ends...
      Wendy: Oh, don't even try that shit. You preyed on me, and my empathy for you programmed me to get you what you wanted from Axe — being part of the raise. So fuck you.
      Taylor: You don't seem to understand: I'm not just offering you a job for my sake, I'm offering you a fresh start for yours — a reset from your slew of fuck-ups. You let things devolve at Axe Capital. You didn't see me being pushed out the door. You couldn't stop Axe from succumbing to his own worst nature; instead, you succumbed to it. And who knows whatever fallout you've created, or at least allowed, elsewhere in your life?
    • Wendy gets hit with a far more brutal one from Mafee in "Infinite Game" after he finds out that Wendy used him to sabotage both Douglas' invention and Taylor's relationship with Douglas. Wendy breaks down at the end of the episode, showing that this speech landed a punch:
      Mafee: You! Do you have any fucking idea what you've done? I used to think you were this idealized version of a person with all the answers and the ability to make each of us the best of who we could be! I trusted you - we all did - because you charmed, manipulated, worked us to! All with that bullshit Buddha smile! And now, I know what was behind that smile wasn't some serene and wise teacher! It hid a sick, vicious phony! Now I know what you really are: a goddam monster! [...] You're a garbage person, Wendy! It's what you are!
    • Dr. Eleanor Mayer gives one to Wendy in "Winston Dick Energy", though it's a downplayed case in that she isn't actually trying to attack Wendy; Wendy is confronting her for consulting Axe Cap/Prince Cap employees, who she considers her patients, and Dr. Mayer simply points out that while Wendy is good at making them better traders, her performance coaching doesn't actually help them with their deeper problems.
  • The Reveal: Chuck's dominatrix in the series' opening scene is Bobby's in-house therapist - not to mention Mrs. Rhoades.
  • Revenge Before Reason:
    • Lampshaded by Wendy when she is trying to convince Victor not to retaliate against Bobby. Victor might be able to hurt Bobby, but Bobby in turn will destroy Victor's life. In the end, Victor reluctantly agrees that it is not worth it.
    • Rhoades Sr. tries to get revenge on Bobby by sabotaging a large short trade Axe Capital is involved in. He manages to hurt Bobby, but he used illegal methods to do so, and it all threatens to backfire against him and Chuck. In the end both Bobby and Chuck end up owing favors they'd rather not owe, and Rhoades Sr is forced by Chuck to take a $15 million loss on the whole deal since it is the only way to make sure that no criminal activity will be suspected.
    • The firefighters are extremely pissed off when they find out what Bobby did on 9/11, but they quickly start taking it too far. While Bobby profiting off the attacks was amoral and unethical, he was not responsible for the deaths of any firefighters, and his money did help the victims and their families. Furthermore, all of their acts are targeted towards Lara even though she had nothing to do with Bobby's actions and actually worked as a nurse at Ground Zero alongside them.
    • This is played with when it comes to Bobby. He takes everything very personally and loves to pursue his grudges. We see him take revenge for a slight that happened decades earlier, and the target of the revenge are the deceased perpetrator's children. His feuds with Chuck and Taylor go to pretty dark places and he at one point even contemplates murder. On the other hand he also has a tendency to forgive grudges at the drop of a hat if that aligns with his current interests.
      • Eventually Chuck, learning from the Ice Juice incident, realizes that Bobby makes himself the most vulnerable when he zeroes in on an enemy without proper consideration for anything else. This allows Chuck to put Bobby in a situation where he tries to buy a legal cannabis company that Mike Prince is interested in acquiring, making Bobby so focused on one-upping Prince that he fails to vet the company thoroughly and ends up being on the hook for profiting off the company's illegal sale of black market cannabis. This scandal puts Axe out of the game permanently.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Lara's ex-boyfriend Mikey, an FDNY firefighter, believes this was the case with him and Axe and that Lara chose Axe for the money. Subverted when Lara reminds him that their relationship was in shambles before she met Axe and she didn't fall for Axe because of his wealth.
  • Rivals Team Up: The original premise of the show is Chuck and the District Attorney's Office versus Bobby and Axe Capital. By the final season, all these parties are united to take down Mike Prince.
  • Sadistic Choice: Axe and Wendy engineer a situation in which Taylor is forced to either betray their father Douglas or sacrifice their fund. Taylor catches on to the plot too late and is forced to turn against Douglas.
  • Safe, Sane, and Consensual: The Rhoades' S&M play is treated as a Casual Kink. Chuck is the one who's into it, but Wendy seems to take to being a dominatrix. Subverted by Season 4: Wendy realizes that she isn't into the S&M anymore — especially after Chuck disclosed it to the world without her consent — and Chuck has to use a new dominatrix when Wendy stops doing it for him.
  • Secret Test of Character: After learning that Axe and Wendy have boxed them into a situation in which they must either betray Douglas or sacrifice Mase Cap, Taylor engineers a scenario to test whether Douglas is more committed to re-connecting with them, than to his own advancement. He fails.
  • Sequel Hook: Wags decides to leave Axe Capital for Miami in the series finale, signaling that he will be a central character in the planned Billions: Miami spinoff.
  • Self-Made Man: Bobby takes a lot of pride in being raised in a working-class home in Yonkers and having to hustle his way through life to get where he is. By contrast, Chuck Rhoades was born into a wealthy family and had every privilege growing up, even though his salary as U.S. Attorney is a tiny fraction of what Bobby makes.
  • Shmuck Bait: A common tactic by the characters is to bait a trap by presenting the enemy with something that they will find irresistible and seal their doom by going after it.
    • Chuck uses the Ice Juice IPO as bait for Bobby since he knows Bobby would not be able to resist such an easy target for stock manipulation. It backfires because Chuck inadvertantly creates his own shmuck bait and falls hard for it.
    • Chuck's plan for taking down Bryan and Jeffcoat is to irritate them enough that they would jump at a chance to destroy him. Chuck then arranges for just such an opportunity with the caveat that to use it Bryan has to listen to a tape that he is legally prohibited from listening to. The tape is actually just Chuck and his father mocking Bryan for listening to the tape.
    • Taylor is presented with a shady business opportunity that would save their company from bankruptcy. It is subverted because Taylor is Properly Paranoid and spots that they are baited to step into a trap. They walk away.
    • Chuck and Prince conspire to take down Bobby for good by having Bobby get information that Prince is trying to purchase a legal cannabis company, fully expecting Axe to try to put one over on Prince by purchasing the company himself without vetting it first. Bobby learns too late that the company has been illegally selling black market cannabis to meet demand, meaning that he now faces decades in prison for profiting from a criminal enterprise.
  • Shout-Out: This show loves referencing things, from pop culture to sports events. It has its own page.
  • The Shrink: Wendy Rhoades, in-house therapist and morale coach to Axe Capital. Tellingly, one of her more traditional patients (as in, actual psychological counseling, not psychologically-assisted cheerleading) is Bobby.
  • Sins of the Father:
    • Defied by Axe. He gladly introduces Chuck's son Kevin to Mark Teixiera and privately tells Chuck that he believes that the wives and kids should be kept out of their rivalry.
    • Chuck asks his (currently-estranged) father that, despite their differences, he hopes Senior will extend to his own son, Kevin, all the influence and insight Senior gave to Chuck.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Spyros never fails to be entirely impressed by his eloquence, culture and brilliance. He proudly wears Porsche gear and is extremely vain about his expensive espresso maker. When he confesses to Wendy about doubting himself, she immediately pegs him as lying, since his problem has always been overconfidence. This is in spite of the fact that he's constantly belittled and humiliated by the rest of the cast.
  • Smart People Play Chess:
    • Chuck was a child prodigy at chess whose career was derailed by aggressive and overconfident play. He and Bryan are also Go players.
    • Taylor mentions the zugzwang strategy to Sara, and that they almost named Taylor Mason Capital after it.
  • Smug Snake: Bobby. He's supremely confident that Chuck will never be able to pin anything on him.
  • Sole Survivor: Bobby's old firm had offices in the World Trade Center. On 9/11 Bobby was out of the office and ended up being the only partner to survive the attacks. It is implied that the reason he was out of the office is a Dark Secret, and may have something to do with how his fortune increased exponentially after the attacks. He was actually fired from the firm and was at his lawyer's office finalizing the severance package paperwork. He made a fortune short selling stocks on 9/11.
  • Speaks in Shout-Outs: Everyone, at least Once per Episode, and specially on Axe's camp. Axe himself rarely fails to insert some apropos line from The Godfather.
  • Staging an Intervention:
    • Lara's brother Larry, sister Lou, sister-in-law, and family lawyer all sit her down when the truth about Bobby comes out. They want her to divorce Bobby for what he did on 9/11, but Lara refuses to consider it, because she loves Bobby.
    • Spyros, Bach, Wags, Victor, Dollar Bill, Ben, and Tuk confront Axe in his office to warn him against purchasing a scandal-ridden department store chain for Rebecca. He refuses to listen, but the point is later rendered moot when Rebecca cuts a deal with Taylor.
  • Start My Own:
    • Taylor spins off their own hedge fund, Taylor Mason Capital, from Axe's at the end of Season 3. They are eventually compelled to fold the company back into Axe Capital by the end of Season 4, however. In the series finale they decide to leave the financial world to start a philanthropic foundation.
    • Dollar Bill and Mafee decide to start their own hedge fund in Season 5 after Axe is forced into exile and Prince takes over Axe Capital, with Dollar Bill eventually returning in Season 7.
    • After Axe returns to Axe Capital/Global in the series finale, Wags decides to leave the company to start his own fund in Miami. Also doubles as a Sequel Hook for the planned spinoff Billions: Miami.
    • Wendy also decides to leave Axe Capital/Global after Axe returns, to focus on the mental wellness company she took over for Prince during his exile.
  • Stepford Snarker: Bobby is a male variant. It first crops up in "The Good Life" and seems to be getting worse in "The Punch".
  • Straight Gay: Donnie was casually this.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Chuck's fixation on prosecuting Axe Capital at the expense of other cases eventually leads to Washington D.C. launching a probe into his conduct. Wendy's $5 million payout-slash-bonus from "Magical Thinking" is the clue that tips Internal Affairs off.
    • Chuck tries to justify revealing and detailing his S&M activities with Wendy to the world on television by asserting that the voters find his honesty refreshing and accept his lifestyle. Wendy angrily retorts that everyone she knows will look at her differently from now on; even a month later, her co-workers at Axe Cap give her wary glances. Wendy also mentions how the public knowledge will negatively affect their kids.
    • Wendy uses knowledge she obtained during therapy to help Bobby sabotage the relationship between Taylor and their father. Sara reports her to the medical association, which could cost Wendy her license. Even before her case is heard, Wendy's professional reputation takes an immediate dive.
  • Take a Third Option:
    • By the middle of Season 3, Chuck is faced with two choices: either let Connerty send him to prison for his role in the Ice Juice affair in exchange for Wendy getting off (albeit with her medical license revoked), or plant a slide of the Ice Juice contaminant in Bobby's apartment to deflect suspicion off of him and Wendy. Instead of taking either option, Chuck hands the slide over to Bobby and forms an alliance with him to thwart Connerty.
    • Near the start of Season 4, Andolov tells Taylor to go into business with two of his Mafiya buddies, the Rozlov brothers, and makes it clear that Taylor can't refuse. If Taylor agrees, Andolov will have further leverage over them, and if they refuse, he will pull his money from their fund. In order to avoid either option, Taylor engineers a situation in which they manipulate both Axe and his bank into turning off the Rozlovs' credit line, meaning the Rozlovs no longer have money to give to Taylor to manage. Even Andolov himself is impressed by Taylor's ingenuity.
    • "Overton Window": Black Jack Foley presents Chuck with a choice: bow out of the race for state attorney general or have his sadomasochistic fetishes publicly exposed. Chuck, trusting that the voters of New York State will be tolerant of his private predilictions, nullifies Foley's leverage by publicly admitting to them during a live press conference.
    • Chuck is forced into this throughtout season 4. His enemies are powerful and are determined to prevent Chuck from salvaging his political career. If Chuck tries to wait them out, he will be marginalized and forgotten. If he tries to take them on directly, they will crush him. So he has to make unorthodox, Refuge in Audacity moves that will make him both admired and feared and give him a power base that his enemies cannot subvert. He arrests dozens of state legislators on corruption charges, thus shattering the old power structure in the state and making the other politicians afraid to move against him. It also means that the new governor has tied his career to Chuck's and has to back Chuck against the federal government no matter what happens.
  • Taking You with Me: Of a sort. Black Jack Foley learns he has terminal cancer and has only weeks to live, which causes him to aggressively maneuver against Chuck, threatening to leak the details of Chuck's sex life unless he withdraws from the attorney general's race. Unfortunately for Foley, Chuck decides to Take a Third Option and publicly admits to his sadomasochism, which propels him to victory in the election.
  • Theme Naming: The surnames of the two central characters, Axelrod and Rhoades (a homophone of roads), a share a vehicular theme. Make of that what you will.
  • They Don't Make Them Like They Used To: This is Bobby's primary argument during the fight for control of Yum Time. Yum Time Snacks used to be an iconic brand but the current CEO changed the formula to cut down on costs. Now the snacks taste like crap and the company is losing market share.
  • Threat Backfire: Chuck thinks he's finally got Axelrod by threatening "Dollar Bill" Stern by threatening to expose that Stern has an entire second family hidden away. Stern replies by sending his wife a message confessing to the other family rather than give up Axe.
  • Time Skip:
    • "Overton Window" shifts forward from Chuck's primary victory in the state attorney general race and his election to office 30 days later.
    • "Liberty" shifts forward several months after the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic, which reflects the show's having to split filming of the fifth season into two parts due to the pandemic in Real Life.
  • Tranquil Fury: Chuck Rhoades generally keeps his anger to a slow simmer - but when he does erupt, he goes nuclear.
  • Trespassing to Talk: Axe's fixer Hall breaks into Tara's (one of Chuck's assistants) apartment to blackmail her with video of her and her female lover having sex and doing cocaine. She turns mole for Hall to save her reputation.
  • Twist Ending:
    • "Golden Frog Time" has one that's the entire season in the making. Chuck has manipulated his best friend Ira and his father into investing in the Ice Juice IPO. He's put millions of his own money from his trust fund into it as well. He uses Lawrence Boyd to leak the insider info to Bobby, who takes the bait and starts shorting the stock. He then allows Bobby to poison the Ice Juice supply and bribes everyone from Axe Cap employees to journalists to publicize the story. He installs Oliver Dake as the lead attorney for Eastern District and sets the wheels in motion to arrest Bobby. Chuck loses $27 million, his father and friend's respect, and potentially sets up his wife in the process, but as he says later to Bobby - "worth it".
    • "Elmsley Count": Chuck appears to have everything under control once again, and his gambit against Jeffcoat is well underway. But Connerty has become wise to the plot and Kate Sacker decides she values politics over her boss. Chuck's allies betray him to Jeffcoat, who is waiting inside Chuck's office and fires him right there after negating a moment of triumph.
  • Undying Loyalty:
    • "Dollar" Bill Stern is so loyal to Bobby and Axe Capital that he would rather go to jail for 12 years and let the fact he has a second family get revealed than make a deal with the government so they can prosecute Bobby.
    • Ultimately subverted by Scooter in the series finale, after Axe and company have succeeded in wiping out Michael Prince and ending his presidential campaign, realizing that he can no longer stay blindly committed to his boss.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Chuck is an overweight and balding man of average appearance, while Wendy is a knockout. In season 2, Chuck reveals that he's fully aware of the trope and insecure about people wondering What Does She See in Him?. This is why he insists on always wearing sharp suits in public, even in casual settings.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: In "Naming Rights," Wendy goes to talk to Victor, who Bobby had just fired publicly. Victor has dyslexia and people laughed at him when he was growing up. Including his teachers.
    Victor: I sent every one of those pricks a photo of my first million-dollar bonus check.
    Wendy: That made you feel really good for about 24 hours, and then you hated yourself for letting them know they ever got to you.
    Victor: Kind of. Sometimes.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The initial plot thread of the Pepsum trades and the entire M.O. of Axe Capital are patterned off of SAC Capital and its founder Steve Cohen when the firm was investigated for insider trading regarding drug company Biovail. Chuck Rhoades is based off the former US Attorney for the Southern District Preet Bharara, complete with his penchant for pursing financial cases.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Upon discovering that Wendy is conspiring to sabotage his presidential campaign, Prince violently lashes out by destroying the glass wall to her office with a printer. He only gets more unhinged as the scene goes on.
  • Villain Protagonist: Axelrod and Rhoades, two corrupt figures who have no problem with screwing people over to promote their goals, never wander too far from villain or Anti-Villain territory to begin with, but they solidify their status in Season 3 when they team up against Connerty and his honest prosecution to save their own asses. Wendy joins them as a Villain Protagonist in the process.
  • Villainous Rescue:
    • The only thing that stops Chuck being indicted on corruption charges (for not recusing himself from the Axelrod case and manipulating Lonnie and the DA's office to do it) is the even-more-corrupt Lawrence Boyd cutting a deal with Chuck that the AG herself can't ignore, and the AG cutting off Oliver Dake's investigation in return.
    • The plot against Prince and his presidential campaign hinges on getting Axe back from his exile in Europe, and he indeed proves to be instrumental to its success.
  • We Need a Distraction: Hall tells Bobby to throw Steven Birch to the wolves because Birch's prosecution and trial will use up all of the US Attorney's time and resources. However, Rhoades sees right through this and offers Birch a plea deal instead.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Zig-zagged. Circumstances constantly shift on this show and friendships are frequently broken (usually thanks to Chronic Backstabbing Disorder), only for the parties to later reconcile either thanks to a genuine burying of the hatchet (Bobby and Bruno), deciding that they are "even" (Chuck and Ira), or a new alliance of convenience (Bobby and Chuck).
  • What Does She See in Him?: Becomes a prominent point during the Rhoades's marriage counseling in season two, with Chuck throwing out the trope name as the reason why he always dresses in suits, even for casual dinners: he wants to at least look like someone Wendy would be with.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Bryan Connerty proves himself an able disciple of Chuck Rhoades, throwing Butch Probert to the wolves to save the "real mole" Donnie, even though he knows he's ruining a man's life. Chuck gets him drunk and tells him that it doesn't matter what happens to Probert, he'd have been caught anyway. Interestingly, Bryan is able to turn his path around in season two, and by season three, dedicates himself to prosecuting Chuck for his own crimes.
  • Wham Episode:
    • "The Third Ortolan": Faced with Connerty obtaining evidence that will result in both of them (and Wendy) being sent to prison, Axe and Rhoades agree to set their feud aside and team up so they can save their own skin.
    • "Elmsley Count": Taylor and Mafee break away from Axe Capital, and Bobby loses Grigor's investment in the process. Meanwhile, Jeffcoat fires Chuck for plotting against him, allying with Kate, hiring Dake back, and promoting Bryan to interim senior attorney at Southern. The end of the episode makes Bobby and Chuck's Enemy Mine alliance from mid-season permanent, as they get together with Wendy to plot revenge against their enemies.
    • "Overton Window": Rather than be blackmailed into withdrawing from the state attorney general's race, Chuck reveals his prediliction for sadomasochism to the world and cruises to victory, while losing Wendy's trust in the process.
    • "Extreme Sandbox": As revenge for Rebecca going behind Bobby's back to cut a deal with Taylor, Bobby takes control of Saler's right from under her, ending their relationship. Chuck lures Connerty into a trap which ends with Connerty being arrested and Jeffcoat being blackmailed into resigning. Wendy leaves Chuck (again) after finding out he did nothing to aid her situation with the medical board. With Taylor about to be forced into working at Axe Cap again, Chuck convinces them to be his mole with the aim of bringing Bobby down (though Taylor has slightly different plans).
    • "Liberty": After years of unspoken sexual tension between the characters, the episode ends with Bobby and Wendy effectively confessing their love for each other.
    • "No Direction Home": Realizing that he was no way out of being sent to prison on the cannabis charges, Axe flees to Switzerland and leaves New York City behind. Prince buys out Axe at a low price and takes over all of his assets, including Axe Capital and Taylor Mason Carbon. Chuck realizes Prince has betrayed him and confronts him at the now-former Axe Cap offices, effectively resetting the series with Prince as Chuck's new adversary.
    • "Hindenburg": Despite having successfully foiled Prince's Olympic bid, Chuck is unable to save himself from being removed as New York's attorney general by the state senate, largely thanks to Prince's machinations.
    • "Tower of London": Admittedly not much of a wham since Showtime marketed the hell out of his return, but it counts within the narrative of the show itself: Wendy, Taylor, and Wags turn to Axe to take down Prince.
  • Wham Line: Wendy and Axe's Love Confession in "Liberty":
    Wendy: Ive never allowed myself to really think, I feel the same things when I look at you.
    Axe: I've waited so long to hear those words.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Despite her marriage to Chuck, there is a high degree of lingering sexual tension between Wendy and Axe until they finally exchange a Love Confession near the end of Season 5. Their relationship ends before it can really begin, by mutual consent, when Axe is forced to flee the country. They ultimately don't hook up when Axe returns in Season 7, but the series finale confirms that they will remain friends.
  • Wimp Fight: The boxing match between "Dollar" Bill and Mafee turns into this after the first two rounds. Both men know how to throw a punch but lack the stamina for a lenghty bout. By round three they can barely lift up their gloves and resort to illegal moves to gain any advantage. By round four they can barely stand. They both collapse before round five and the fight is declared a double loss.
    Commentator: This is probably the pussiest fight I have ever seen in my life.
    Other Commentator: This looks like an audition for the fucking Walking Dead.
  • The Wonka: Bobby is incredibly rude to his employees, runs off to foreign countries at the drop of a hat, wears heavy metal band tees to virtually every important meeting, ships in food from anywhere he wants, and destroys his own office when he thinks it could be bugged, but he's also the most brilliant mind in finance and took his company from zero to several billion dollars in around ten years.
  • Worth It:
    • When Bobby punches out a neighbor who drove his kids home drunk, the neighbor threatens to sue him for millions. Bobby sneers, "Worth it!"
    • In the Season 2 finale, after Chuck makes it clear that he intends to bring Bobby down. Bobby counters that he's now going dedicate his life to destroying everything that Chuck has ever built. Chuck sneers, "Worth it!"
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: In season one, the conflict between Axe and Rhoades was fairly straightforward, but it evolves very quickly into this. By season two, nothing is sacred, and the two are using everyone and everything in their path to come out on top.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: When Axe doesn't show up at the helipad to surrender to Chuck on the Fine Young Cannabis charges, Chuck is caught flatfooted since he thought he had all of Axe's means of escaping, including his planes, under surveillance. Chuck isn't aware that Axe has a secret third plane, which he quickly uses to flee to freedom in Switzerland.