Billions

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
Billions TV Poster Image
Mature drama mines the depths of money, power, and success.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Major themes include money, power, corruption, and greed, all of which factor into the show's central conflict. There's some attempt to show the strength of families and the various ways in which husbands and wives work together as partners, though it's hardly all hearts and rainbows.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Most characters are flawed in some way and are often concealing their true motivations, both from others and from themselves. Several have dark secrets, too, though some are more sympathetic than others. Male characters outnumber the females, but a few women play pivotal roles.

Violence

Verbal sparring and threats; references to 9/11 attacks and suicide; scenes depicting S&M show a character deliberately burning her partner with a cigarette.

Sex

Sexual situations include steamy kissing and S&M/bondage/role-playing; brief shots of bare breasts and full-frontal nudity.

Language

Audible language includes "f--k," "s--t," "c--k," and the like.

Consumerism

Characters use Apple products (laptops, phones) with visible logos and mention brand names such as Tinder.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking; some characters smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Billions explores weighty adult themes of power, success, and greed in a high-stakes world that breeds arguments and threats, with strong language (including liberal use of the word "f--k") and frank sexuality that includes brief shots of bare breasts and full-frontal nudity. (There's also a female character whose affinity for S&M/bondage finds her urinating on her husband's chest while wearing high-heeled boots.) Characters drink socially, smoke cigarettes, and use popular brands, too, with some visible logos.

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What's the story?

U.S. district attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) is convinced that hedge-fund giant Bobby "Axe" Axelrod (Damian Lewis) is using insider trading to pad his profits -- and his image as a benevolent billionaire. But since Rhoades will only prosecute a case he can win, he needs airtight evidence to bring Axelrod to court. Add the fact that Rhoades' well-paid wife, Wendy (Maggie Siff), is one of his adversary's most trusted advisors thanks to her job as Axelrod's in-house performance coach, and literally BILLIONS are at stake. But as these two hulking male egos go to war, only one can win.

Is it any good?

Billions is a drama with big aims and characters so complex that it almost dares you to figure them out. But the show’s cheaply manufactured metaphors don't exactly inspire you to give it a go. Sometimes they're so absurdly obvious that they're borderline stupid, such as when a dog getting neutered inspires its owner to get cocky and buy a multimillion-dollar beach house. And the ones involving dogs and urination, meant to explain the complexities of power and submission? Well, they're just plain gross. So much for subtlety.

Thankfully, Billions also has its fair share of assets, among them a pair of dueling leads with real acting chops and Siff's intriguing portrayal of Rhoades' equally complicated wife. It also bears the stamp of journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin, who helped develop the series after his bestselling book about the financial crisis, Too Big to Fail, became an HBO movie featuring Giamatti (in a SAG Award-winning performance) as Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Billions' major themes of power, wealth, and greed and why they so often sow seeds of conflict. Can you have money and influence without selfishness and greed, or do they always go hand in hand? Does every action and decision truly have a consequence, or is it possible to buy and steal your way out?

  • What's the public perception of the super rich? Do we expect the world's wealthiest citizens to help others because they already have more than they need? Do we expect a certain level of corruption from those who appear to have beaten the system?

  • How do Billions' main characters measure up as role models, and who are the heroes and villains? Which side do you find yourself rooting for, and why?

TV details

For kids who love drama

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