“What does it profit a man, if he gains the world but loses his soul?”
This old proverb, spoken by Jesus Christ (or, according to college freshmen, Bob Marley), reflects on the idea of sacrifice and priorities. It’s a question that philosophers, artists, and politicians have been asking for thousands of years? Is it worth getting what you want if you have to give up all of your morals and integrity in order to get it? And in the latest episode of Billions, we learn that for Chuck, the answer is a resounding and emphatic “Yes.”
The aspiring State Attorney General finds himself backed against a wall in this episode, as he discovers that an article is set to be released that will reveal during his time as Attorney for Southern District of New York State, Chuck declined to prosecute Sugar Vape for marketing to kids despite being decidedly non-kid-friendly (unsurprisingly, the decision came due to the fact that Chuck’s dad is friendly with Sugar Vape’s CEO). Chuck tries to kill the story but ultimately, it reaches the public and suddenly, he is facing a severely uphill battle in his upcoming election.
So what does Chuck do? He meets with Axe and he makes his enemy-turned-frenemy an offer he can’t refuse: Help Chuck get elected and he will have unlimited access to favors from the State Attorney General. It’s a clear win for Axe and he quickly agrees. But when Chuck asks him what favor he wants, Axe coyly lets him know that he’ll collect “when the war is over.”
Whatever this favor is, it’s going to be massive but for Chuck, the idea of backing down or giving up isn’t even an option. To get what he wants, he’s willing to hurt others but more importantly, at least in the morally corrupt Billions universe, he’s willing to hurt himself. The ends always justify the means and he will ruthlessly lie, cheat, steal, betray, and even humiliate himself in order to get where he is trying to go.
So exactly how low is Chuck willing to go in order to ensure that he is the next State Attorney General? Just look at what he tells Axe during their meeting.
“I have traded pleasantries and handshakes with some truly disagreeable people and whatever it says about me as a person, I’ll admit, I’m willing to do it with a million more of them to achieve my ends,” Chuck says with equal amounts of self-loathing and pride.
Chuck sees the world as a game in which only two things matter: survival and power. But will his blind pursuit of power ultimately cost him his survival instincts? Only time will tell but knowing how ruthless Axe can be, don’t be surprised if whatever favor he ends up asking of Chuck will manage to break Chuck in spectacular fashion. And by the end of the season, Chuck may even find himself wondering if he should have spent less time trying to gain the world and more time trying to hold onto whatever semblance of a soul he has left.