Entertainment

'Billions' Is Back and Ready to Settle Old Scores from the First Half of Season 5

After a long break, Showtime's financial drama returns to finish off what it started in 2020.

Showtime
Showtime
Showtime

Billions streams on Stan in Australia. Sign up here.

“Don’t make a whole thing out of it,” says Chuck Rhoades early on in Sunday night’s mid-season premiere of Billions, which paused its fifth season back in June of 2020 as the ongoing global pandemic halted production on Showtime’s (on Stan in Australia) long-running finance drama. In the scene, the comment works as a sly reference to the change in actor Paul Giamatti’s physical appearance: He lost some weight and ditched the goatee he’s sported since the show debuted in 2016. But it also works as a mission statement for the show’s writers and a hat-tip to the ever-loyal audience, a sign that Billions is up to business as usual.

That means no immediate jump right into COVID-related plotlines, GameStop references, or elaborate jokes from Wags about the exquisite torture of watching Gal Gadot’s “Imagine” video. Instead, “Copenhagen,” an episode penned by writer Adam R. Perlman, picked up right where the show left off, juggling schemes and rivalries with relative ease. That means Damien Lewis’s hedge fund guru Bobby Axelrod is chasing a bank charter and attempting to destroy smarmy rich guy Mike Prince (Corey Stoll), Chuck remains obsessed with catching Axe red-handed, Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon) can’t figure out exactly how to be an ethically ruthless manager at Mason Capital, and Wendy (Maggie Siff) is still dating an abstract painter who looks like Frank Grillo (played by Frank Grillo). No pivoting required.

Showtime
Showtime
Showtime

OK, that’s not exactly true. Yale sociology professor Catherine Brant (Julianna Margulies) appears to have exited the show, having ended her relationship with Chuck off-screen after an awkward threesome that was teased in 2020’s “The Limitless Shit.” Would the plotline have wrapped up in a different, less abrupt manner in “normal” times? Probably. But the transition to a new phase for Chuck, one that finds him still attempting to reign in his manipulative tendencies, is handled without too much narrative throat-clearing. Forced to clean up a collegiate election rigging scandal from his past, Chuck chooses not to take a scorched Earth approach. In the wold of Billions, progress is always incremental.

Though Chuck might be changing his ways, Axe remains as consumed with anger and jealousy as ever. He spends most of the episode targeting Prince because he’s about to become an ambassador to Denmark, eventually derailing his fellow tycoon by digging up a dark secret from Prince’s past courtesy of the mother (Becky Ann Baker) of an early business partner. Similarly, the other employees at Axe Capital have hardly given up their vices: Dollar Bill still knows how to dig up dirt and Wags gets a joke in about “re-toxing.” You might feel like the episode has more of a reliance on presumably safer-to-film two-person scenes rather than large-scale rumbles in public spaces, particularly the fancy Manhattan restaurants the show often turned into arenas of battle, but that doesn’t mean the series has entirely pulled back on the decadence. Sports betting is discussed at length. Country singer Jason Isbell stops by for a cameo. Tom Petty pops up on the soundtrack.

The best indulgences on Billions tend to be verbal anyway, and “Copenhagen,” with its Oingo Boingo jokes and Tin Cup allusions, finds the series comfortably in its excessive wheelhouse. (Having one character tell another character they should watch Heat might feel too Billions even for Billions, but, after so many months away, is that really possible?) Thematically, co-creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien continue to peel away at the larger moral questions the show has always grabbed with, using Grillo’s artist character as a way to tease out ideas around wealth, security, and personal happiness.

Unlike some other series that sling arrows at the ultra-wealthy, Billions has always maintained an admirable focus on the “work” part of the “workplace drama.” That doesn’t mean the show can’t be satirical, funny, or brutal. But it often functions best in a more earnest register, one that examines what Taylor calls in one of the episode’s sharpest lines “the elegance of success.” To put a spin on the show’s favorite line from Heat, the action is the ice-juice. Luckily, after over a year away, Billions still knows how to tap into that precious flow-state.

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Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He’s on Twitter @danielvjackson.

Entertainment

Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.

Victoria

Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.

Queensland

BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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