Fans of Showtime’s “Billions” know that creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien pepper the script with references to classic movies. This new Season 5.2 is particularly rich with them, you almost feel like you’ve got to be Googling along as each one comes.
But this episode coming on Sunday night has the best movie tribute I’ve seen so far. The penultimate scene recreates the famous frittata scene that ends Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott’s beloved film, “Big Night.”
On “Billions,” however, it’s more of an omelette, and it appears to be cooked live on screen by Paul Giamatti’s Chuck Rhoades for his teenage daughter and billionaire Mike Prince (Corey Stoll). The scene is three minutes long and has no dialogue, rather a first for an American TV series.
But “Billions” is full of firsts. The whole episode is unusual in that it cleverly addresses a problem the show had when it resumed filming after the pandemic. Star Damian Lewis was stuck in London not just because of travel restrictions but also because Lewis’s real life, the great Helen McCrory, had tragically died from cancer.
To get around Lewis having to shoot scenes in London, the writers exposed his character to COVID and explained his teleconferencing into the show as Bobby Axelrod in quarantine. It works very well, and it also gives David Constabile, who plays Wags, a chance to really shine in Axe’s absence. It’s another great episode of the underappreciated drama.
PS Guest alert: Polly Draper, famous for being Ellen on “thirtysomething” and for being the mother of actors Nate and Alex Wolff, has a cameo in this episode. She’s a member of Chuck’s Zoom dinner party. Polly is much missed on TV in regular roles. She looks great!