Last night's finale, "Elmsley Count," which draws its name from a magician's card trick, suggested that it could even be a possibility, theoretically. Since the pilot, Axe and Chuck have been on a collision course, hellbent on destroying each other even if it means damaging themselves and the people they love. With its detours into S&M and disaster capitalism, Billions often suggests the highest form of pleasure for people with unlimited financial resources is inflicting pain on others. As the cast grew bigger and the plotting grew denser in Season 2, there were signs that the primary conflict wasn't the main focus, but the season still ended with Axe and Chuck bickering in a prison cell. This was a prestige TV steel cage match.
The final image of Season 3 suggests a new path: We see Chuck and his wife, Wendy, the in-house performance coach at Axe Capital brilliantly played by Maggie Siff, seated at the dinner table in their brownstone with Axe. Instead of lunging at each other's throats with Wendy assigned the role of special guest referee, the two men are sharing a bottle of wine and talking strategy. The stage had been set for this détente earlier in the season when the three temporarily joined forces to out-maneuver an over-ambitious prosecution team that threatened to bring them all down, but that was an alliance borne out of desperation. The conversation that ends Season 3 looks more like a long-term strategy session.
What brought these two enemies together? Over the course of Season 3, both Chuck and Axe have been defeated by youthful usurpers with tenacity and nerve. In Axe's case, his undoing can be traced back to his manipulation and betrayal of Asia Kate Dillon's Taylor Mason, the non-binary protege who stole Season 2 and has emerged as the show's most compelling character. Ever since Axe torpedoed Taylor's romantic relationship with a California-based tech venture capitalist earlier this season, their rise to power was inevitable -- the heist-like introduction of a new company echoed Mad Men's classic Season 3 finale "Shut the Door. Have a Seat" -- but the language they used to express their disillusionment was startling in its lacerating precision.
In the finale's best scene, Taylor attempted to recruit Wendy to their new company in a parking garage. Wendy, still loyal to Axe, countered by trying to convince Taylor there was more to working at a seemingly soulless hedge fund than numbers and decimal points. She plays to their sentimental side by speaking of the "lasting relationships" and "real trust" that exists between the employees of Axe Capital. "I'm pretty sure there's only money and that can buy all those things," says Taylor. "Or at least the same result. That's what you and Axe taught me." As Axe put it earlier in the episode, the palace coup is complete.