I admit from the beginning that Billions (Season 7) Episode 8 is one of those episodes where nuance or compelling discussions are largely absent. But the overarching theme of the whole episode is the dominant expression of wealth and how much old money still speaks when it comes to running institutions like a presidency. And even as Mike Prince stands tall as the one aiming to supposedly break the wheel, it again falls prey to the age-old question – does the breaking of the wheel only fall on people so arrogant that they are unable to realize they might be creating the wheel again once they are in power?

Billions (Season 7) Episode 8 “The Owl” Recap:

The fact that there is a secret snowy retreat where the rich one-percenters hang out and commune with nature (apparently) and engage in revelry (reality) feels like the sort of plot point poking fun at the one-percenters. The problem is that the humor itself feels cringy, intentionally or unintentionally. Thus, Rhoades Sr.’s request to Chuck to join him in the annual pilgrimage to The Owl is met with a dismissive rebuttal. A similar reaction is given by Mike Prince regarding going to “The Owl” for networking purposes. But Prince is now bound to have to attend, such that he would be able to bend the ear of George Pike IV (“Fourth,” as he is affectionately called by his peers, and who drops names like Jack and Bobby, referring to Kennedy’s). That is because Mike Prince’s current presidential opponent is centrist candidate Nancy Dunlop, the wife of the Governor of Montana. She is also the first woman to have ever been given admission to “The Owl” (after the real-life Bohemian Grove). Not surprisingly, Prince chooses to attend, and Chuck chooses to attend along with Ira because according to Rhoades Sr., “Your target is here.”

The secondary problem that comes to complicate Prince’s life further regards his wife, Andy. One of Andy’s “friends,” Derek, had been practicing mountain climbing on the Indo-China border before going to tackle the Everest climb, except he is now trapped on the Chinese side of the border. Realizing that getting into a political tussle with China wouldn’t be a good option for Mike regarding his political ambitions, he still manages to arrange a private rescue team.

Upon arrival at “The Owl,” the duo meets the likable Nacy Dunlop, the “nut-cracking” sole female member of this organization. She not only can drink men under the table, but she is devoid of misgiving in joining in a battle with the “Indian Leg Wrestling” (yeah, you can’t say those words in 2023) and even manages to defeat Senior’s hanger-on Dr. Swerdlow (Rick Hoffman). Here’s the problem: when dudes see another female completely becoming acclimatized to their rituals, they shed their misgivings and welcome that female as one of their own. Needless to say, Dunlop’s prowess and popularity with the population at “The Owl” make the Prince, Scooter, and Luke worried.

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The best scene, however, takes place after this, with both Prince and Chuck running into each other while relieving themselves in the woods. Both of them admit that they are uncomfortable with the prevalent culture, and even Prince admits that he is in admiration of Chuck despite being the blue-blooded son because, like Prince, they didn’t let their past determine their actions. But the part where they differentiate is the clothed nature of the human condition and their perspective on who should rule, with Prince stating that the one at the top should have conviction and lack hesitation. Realizing that their moments of bonding are over, their parting is almost melancholic—at one point, they might have been friends. Corny moment, sure? But it works if done right, and in an episode that is severely lacking emotional resonance, this moment of resonance works here.

The next morning, Chuck meets with Governor Dunlop, and he convinces her to support her ticket for Democratic Candidate. While she rebuffs his direct advances because he is “soft” and doesn’t even participate in the wrestling match, Chuck tries a different tactic in which he promises to grease the palms of “the Fourh” such that the kingmaker would look favorably at this candidate. This only proves that Chuck is no different than Prince, as he has made his career out of talking in the ears of powerful men and controlling them.

Billions (Season 7) Episode 8
A still from Billions (Season 7) Episode 8

The problem is the arrival of “The Fourth,” played by Gryphon Dunne. He is the man who would invite his acolytes to the fireplace room, the “room where it happens” as it stands. There, he would listen to what is essentially the “Presidential Debate,” except that both of these candidates are vying for the attention of the Kingmaker. And that night, while the debate occurs, Dunne immediately brings forth the “new voices” that would shepherd this generation to unimaginable heights. But when Dunlop brings forth a “sensible point on nuclear disarmament,” according to “the Fourth,” Prince takes the bait and almost immediately acknowledges that if given a choice to bomb a hostile country or be diplomatic about it, he would choose to bomb the hostile country if the circumstances called for it. And he would do so without hesitation. According to “The Fourth,” “that’s a nuance few can grasp.”

This country is weird, and even if the jokes don’t always land, the point it is trying to make is sound. But it still begs the question of why Wags’ subplot of being adventurous in their marriage by letting Chelz gobble over chocolate and debase herself while having sex is just weird. Weirder, too, is how it ultimately resolves, with Chelz pointing out how it goes back to Wags using sex as a connection for the love he wants to always have. It is just weird and such an ancillary subplot that it makes no sense for this to exist except to finally wrap these moments of comedy up before the last four episodes of Billions are underway.

Back at “The Owl”, what makes Prince the frontrunner for Dunne’s approval is his announcement that he has already liquidated all of MPC’s foreign investments to show that he has a strong domestic portfolio. Governor Dunlop promises to take the same action once funding is sanctioned for her campaign, but again, hesitation fails her; the fireside chat ends with “The Fourth” shaking the hands of Mike Prince and not even acknowledging Dunlop.

Chuck tries to convince “the Fourth” as a last-ditch effort to retract his support for Mike Prince, but “the Fourth” isn’t interested in listening to reason. In Prince’s rhetoric, he sees a man strong enough to point his finger at the “nanny state,” a man perfectly suited to a world that is not underpinned by antiquated thoughts of democracy, of right and wrong, and the power of voters. Because American democracy has always been at the service of “big men with big agendas,” and right now, Mike Prince fits their bill.

Billions (Season 7) Episode 8 “The Owl” Ending Explained:

The episode ends with “The Fourth” promising to connect with Prince through their respective offices, but before leaving, he advises Prince to take care of his marital problems, especially the close shave he is risking with the Chinese.

What occurs next is never explicitly told but is definitively implied. At the MPC office, as the anxious Andy, Wendy, Scooter, and Luke are huddled over, according to Derek, They hear Derek being able to see the rescuers before realizing that other people have followed them as well. Gunshots follow, puncturing the airwaves before dropping dead. Andy is devastated, but Mike and Scooter surmise quite calmly that Derek might be alive, but even if he is, he is currently in Chinese custody. Back in their custody, a confused Andy asks how the best rescue team would never be caught by the Chinese authorities. To which Prince calmly rebutts by saying, “You wanted him off the mountain; he is off the mountain.” Prince effectively tipped off the Chinese government, which led to Derek’s capture and, more importantly, distancing him from this operation.

It all goes to show that even in this world where both Axe and Chuck are not averse to utilizing shady deals to meet their ambitions, people like “the Fourth” and Michael Prince are eager to sell their souls to the devil’s for power and destroy the status quo, this is going to cause all the old enemies to band together. Either way, the stage is set for the final act of this season to commence.

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Billions (Season 7), Episode 8 Links: IMDb
Billions (Season 7), Episode 8 Cast: Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis, Maggie Siff
Where to watch Billions

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