Billions is a series that we follow here in Brazil on Netflix and that has been enchanting us for six years as a kind of Sex and the City with testosterone. Instead of shoes and relationships, it’s money that mobilizes the characters and, in common, a fascinating New York, with real, famous restaurants and chefs, giving us an imaginary escape from the lives of billionaires.
A few months ago I shared here in the column the sadness and surprise of the farewell of one of its protagonists, Bobby Axe Axelrod, played by the always charismatic Damian Lewis. Because the series is back, with an episode of season 6 already aired in the United States (if you don’t want spoilers, don’t look at social media), which means that if it doesn’t start this week on Netflix, very soon we’ll be able to follow the series again. And that’s it, it’s almost a different series because there’s no way to fill the void of Damian Lewis’ departure. Actor Corey Stoll has the courage to face the challenge.
Corey is Michael Prince, who entered the Billions universe as the great antagonist of season 5. Bobby Axerold (Lewis) immediately felt that he had found an opponent, who not only steals the cover of a magazine, but also annoys him by posing as ” nice billionaire,” something Axe – oddly in agreement with Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) – disagrees to be even possible.
As we have seen, Ax spared no effort in trying to discover the skeletons in his rival’s closet, and yes, he discovered that the cliché of “all great fortune is born of a crime” has foundation. After all, Mike only got to where he is by hitting his best friend, who killed himself in grief. At the end of Season 5, Ax was finally taken down by Chuck, who had Mike Prince help him. Do we like the result?
No, because apparently Ax left us for good (I still suspect a comeback in the final episode) and Chuck has found a new name for his obsession. But at the end of the day, who is Michael Prince (Corey Stoll)?
Michael Thomas Aquinius Prince is said to be a billionaire who rose from a small town in Indiana to dominate the New York financial market. His fortune came when he sold part of his company’s shares to Microsoft. He is focused on the green economy, preaches seeking to save the environment (while enriching himself) and wants to “give back to society” part of what he has collected. As the actor who plays him says, Mike believes every word he says, something that deeply angers Axe, who considers him a hypocrite.
The former athlete and hero of his city, however, is not an unprepared player. He faced Axe’s challenge head-on, who looked like a curmudgeon next to him. That’s right, the character’s name is perfect. “Mike” (who also voices the microphone) reveals someone who likes to speak up and be heard and “Prince”, obviously a prince on paper, with class and leadership. Mike Prince is exactly that.
Mike Prince outmaneuvered everyone in his path without committing a crime or losing his temper. Chuck now wants him behind bars. No Ax to help? Good luck.
The spotlight problem on Mike Prince has more to do with Axe’s departure. Clearly the weaknesses have not yet been revealed and Carey Stoll comments that the transition from “villain” to protagonist has been challenging, but, at least in the first episode already aired, he continues without answering our questions. He’s one of the weirdest antagonists in recent years.
Bobby Axelrod’s character seems to have been inspired by Steven A. Cohen, owner of the New York Mets baseball team, who founded a billionaire hedge fund, but who was the subject of one of the largest investigations by the US government, being convicted of fraud. In fine alone, he paid about 2 billion dollars. A bargain for an estimated $16 billion in the bank. Mike Prince physically resembles Cohen, is equally sporty and an art collector. Will he be a good guy or a bad guy? Getting Chuck and Ax to agree on a subject would be unimaginable, but the two dislike him, which signals the possible answer.
What about us? Do we root for Mike Prince like we used to root for Axe?