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‘Billions,’ Season 2, Episode 5: The Taste of Loneliness

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David Costabile in “Billions.”

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Jeff Neumann/Showtime

Season 2, Episode 5: ‘Currency’

Sunday night’s episode of “Billions” is book ended, improbably, by Johnny Cash’s cover of “(I’d Be) a Legend in My Time,” a country song that Don Gibson wrote and recorded in 1960 and Cash recorded shortly before he died, as part of his “American” collaboration with producer Rick Rubin. (The cover appears on “American V: A Hundred Highways.”) It seems peculiar to lay a stripped-down, mournful country track over Wags’s peeling into Axe Capital or Chuck’s tearing through a sandwich after a major arrest. But when you consider the last three lines, the theme of the episode emerges:

If loneliness meant world acclaim,

Then everyone would know my name

I’d be a legend in my time.

Last week, I wrote about Wendy’s free agency in the wake of leaving her job and separating from her husband. This week’s episode finds virtually every character, major and minor, in a similar state of isolation from the people close to them, each left to their own devices. Even Chuck’s triumph over Lawrence Boyd ends in a lonely, vaguely pathetic gorge-fest in a sandwich shop, an upscale version of a scene played by Paul Giamatti in “Sideways,” in which his wine connoisseur character drains his prized bottle of Château Cheval Blanc in a fast-food joint. His marriage is still broken, an internal investigator is still breathing down his neck, and Axe, the elusive Road Runner to his Wile E. Coyote, is still at large.

Everyone else is worse off. After losing a fortune on 400,000 “celestial phones” that literally couldn’t stand the heat, Axe stares down his first losing quarter and does everything possible in the final three days to wrench his percentages into the black. That leads to a play on Nigerian currency that’s so shady and reckless that he has…

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