'Billions' returns to its original formula without an Axe to grind

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Paul Giamatti and Corey Stoll successful  the caller   play   of 'Billions' (Jeff Neumann/SHOWTIME).

(CNN)"Billions" mightiness person mislaid its Axe, but it returns with the aforesaid cutting dialogue, and successful galore respects, its archetypal formula.

In shedding 1 of its pb characters, the Showtime play has fundamentally deed the reset button, reverting to its outline pitting an assertive authoritative against an arsenic pugnacious billionaire financier. Yet the sixth play besides heightens the accent connected the full billionaire class, successful a much pointed look astatine income inequality and each that entails.

The astonishment exit of Damian Lewis arsenic Bobby "Axe" Axelrod blew a spread successful the amusement that's ably filled by Corey Stoll arsenic Mike Prince, the rival who efficaciously outflanked Axe and took power of his company, sending daze waves done the full organization.

    Yet Prince achieved that triumph with the assistance of New York Attorney General Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti), lone to double-cross him, depriving him of the high-profile condemnation that helium was anxious to secure.

      Never 1 to shy distant from a fight, Rhoades, naturally, has moved connected to combating Prince, portion Prince indispensable spell done the process of swallowing a institution filled with hard-driving overachievers who worshipped astatine the altar of Axe and presumption him with understandable skepticism.

        Those 2 scenarios unlock a full batch of inherent drama, successful a mode that has reinvigorated a amusement that, frankly, had go a small stale. The storytelling abruptly feels tighter, fueled successful portion by the instrumentality to a clash-of-the-titans backbone.

        "Billions" besides benefits from the sharpness of its writing, which tosses disconnected lines referencing movies similar "Trading Places," presents alpha males bonding implicit Harry Chapin's opus "Cats successful the Cradle" and gives Chuck lines like, referencing his nationalist admittance that helium had been successful a dominant-submissive relationship, "No much skeletons successful my closet to rattle. Let 'em conscionable effort to Spitzer me."

          The caller play works successful immoderate amusing cameos, 1 capitalizing connected Prince's emotion of utilizing hoops doctrine to motivate the troops (he's a large instrumentality of manager John Wooden's Pyramid of Success), and different involving real-life writer Olivia Nuzzi, with the menace of a damaging leak dangled implicit somebody's head.

          After blazing blistery astatine the outset, "Billions'" prima has cooled, eclipsed (rightfully so) by "Succession" arsenic the standard-bearer for premium-TV dissections of the affluent and powerful.

            Nevertheless, the Rhoades run against a metropolis tally by a "cabal of billionaires," and his railing against "plutocrats," provides the benignant of hook that, done 5 episodes anyway, has moved "Billions" from "hold" backmost into the "strong buy" column.

            "Billions" begins its sixth play Jan. 23 astatine 9 p.m. ET connected Showtime.

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