Sometimes the goose that lays the golden egg must die, especially when the goose in question is a TV series. Popularity (profitability) comes in the way of creative satisfaction, wherein the TV series meanders, shelling out screen time after it has a hooked viewership, and just because we like the characters and the setting, we are left to watch inconsequential episodes. Ultimately, audience understands the con on display, and we witness the abrupt end of the series (ratings fall). On occasions it is a prolonged demise as the creators first try to do away with characters or introduce new ones, trying to get a bump in the life cycle. However, ultimately what suffers is the story, no arc remains, and what could have been a bound satisfying experience becomes unsavory.
The next in line to follow the same deadly cycle is the show ‘Billions’.
Billions came with refreshing tale of two characters in complete antagonism towards each other. The characters are the Grand Masters and they play out a chess game of epic proportions, each move, each turn, embedded in the driven nature of it’s lead characters, Axelrod and Chuck.
Round One (Season 1) went to swashbuckling Axelrod, clear cut winner, through aggressive plays, thoroughly outwitting a formidable opponent. Round Two (Season 2) was the rise from ashes for Chuck. Working on his strengths, laying a patient trap, moves hidden in moves, redeeming himself, and landing punches after punches. Entirely satisfying watching.
However the novelty of the series is its limitation, it has just the two opponents, it’s not a tale of two families, not about two empires, just about two individuals. Hence as far as the arc of good boxing match goes, there can be only one winner. Round Three should ideally deliver us the winner by means of a knock-out.
But! the series is popular (profitable) and this seems to be coming in the way of that wholly satisfactory end. We are through half of season three, and already there are indications. New adversaries are cropping up, Chuck has a new nemesis he despises, Axelrod is running errands away from Chuck. Plus we are supposed to be drawn into sub plots of the side characters.
True there might be some wit on display, some insightful lines from Taylor, Wendy etc. They might become characters in their own right, having their own conquests, desolation, rehabilitation etc. It could be fascinating however it will defeat the purpose of the series.
Thus far, all characters were just pieces on the chessboard. They were pawns, used or sacrificed in the grand game. They proved pivotal as a Queen, or saving an onslaught as a castling shield. However, they were just part of the game, ultimately just notations . If we continue the chess metaphor, now we have the Rooks having their own side game with their own pawns. We are already in absurd territory, however what is even more absurd is what I fear may happen by the end of the series, the coming together of the central antagonists, in what can be seen as an alliance against a greater coalition (absurdity of too many what’s!). A complete betrayal of the essence of the story is on the cards. I fear Billions will become JADed (Just Another Drama) when it had a potential of becoming short lived yet noteworthy, the kind of which is debated in courses and is discussed amongst aficionados decades later.