Monday, June 17, 2024

Goodbye, Bobby Axelrod: Damian Lewis Exits “Billions” After Five Seasons of Knockout Performances




“Billions” finished its fifth season tonight, 18 months late.

The Showtime series has been mostly ignored by the Emmys, but it’s my favorite show on TV and should have won tons of awards. Why it didn’t, and why Showtime is mostly ignored in this arena, is another story.

“Billions” is about an upper class New York Attorney General, Chuck Rhoades, who has played cat and mouse with a private equities pirate, Bobby Axelrod. “Axe,” as he is known, also has lusted after Chuck’s wife Wendy. She works for his company as a psychologist. The principal actors are Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis, and Maggie Siff, and they are all the best in their world.

Tonight, a SPOILER. After five seasons, it looks as though Chuck has defeated Bobby. Axe has fled to Switzerland for a new life. Actor Damian Lewis has left the series. In real life, Lewis’s beloved actress wife, Helen McCrory, died this year from cancer. They have children, he lives in the UK. Between that tragedy and the pandemic, Lewis may not be returning. (Maybe one day…)

Creators Brian Koppleman and David Levien, knowing all this, started developing a Bobby replacement in Mike Prince, another corporate raider. Prince is brilliantly played by Corey Stoll, who will give Chuck quite the fight in Season 6 coming this January. Everyone else remains in place except Kelly Aucoin, so good as one Axe’s traders.

But who knows? Maybe Axe will return and vanquish Chuck. Tonight’s episode is incendiary and certainly awards worthy. Koppelman and Levien are at the top of their game. We are not worthy!

PS This is the second time Lewis has left a Showtime series at the top of its run. But his exit from “Homeland” was only after one season. He has lots of options going forward, more TV, or maybe movies…

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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