After last week’s sinister buildup, where audacious terms like “eating the dragon’s heart” were tossed around, finding out that Mike Prince is just running for president seemed like a giant letdown.
Don’t get me wrong, I get that this is Billions’ take on the nightmare that was the Trump administration, and it did cross my mind once or twice that the presidency would be Prince’s endgame. But I feel like we are just too burnt out to watch this storyline play out on screen again for two reasons: One, a power-hungry character making a White House grab is an overused TV trope. Two, we’ve already seen what happens when a megalomaniac does become president, IRL. And that was enough, wasn’t it?
If anything, Prince is setting himself up for a giant letdown: The 45th president learned the hard way that becoming commander in chief doesn’t grant you all-encompassing global supremacy. (Okay, okay, Donald Trump “learned” no such thing, but you get what I’m saying.)
While we’re still on the subject of giant letdowns, let’s talk about Wendy’s tell-all. I know her book about MPC needed to be a red herring so Chuck could emerge as the white knight self-tasked with taking down Mike Prince. And I know it was part of Wendy’s season-long Buddhist journey, where she needed to prove she could rein in her ego, but this whole storyline made me roll my eyes. Besides, burning a book in a Buddhist temple in 2022 doesn’t have much effect unless we see Wendy delete the manuscript from her hard drive.
“Succession,” unfortunately, is one of those episodes where all the characters come off as uncharacteristically clueless until the final few minutes, making Prince’s big reveal all the more disappointing. It just didn’t make sense to me that Philip and Taylor took the entire episode to stop and wonder, “Hey, why is a guy at the top of his game forming a succession committee now?”
All the clues were there; it’s just that everyone on Billions is too self-absorbed to notice the details until the time is right. Even I initially ignored Senior mentioning that his elderly secretary — who still uses a typewriter! — voted for “Ike.” It turns out that throwaway line foreshadowed Prince’s usurpation of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s iconic presidential slogan. (Gee, where could Prince have possibly gotten that idea from?)
Chuck is barely settled into his new, provided-by-Senior office when Scooter swaggers in, thick binder in hand, with the unlikeliest of offers: A senior position, of Chuck’s choosing, at any of the Mike Prince-owned companies in said binder. Prince, meanwhile, makes his political aspirations pretty obvious at the outset of “Succession” by (1) forming a succession committee and naming Taylor and Philip the two potential candidates, and (2) announcing a universal basic income plan with (an unseen) Andrew Yang, of all people. Except he’s not calling it a UBI, he’s calling it, ew, “Mike Money.”
Prince initially attempts an above-board rollout of his pilot program, arranging a partnership with the city government. That is, until a mysterious truck parks itself in front of Stately Prince Manor, switching on to reveal an upwardly ticking wealth clock of Mike Prince’s Net Worth (approximately $17 billion). As soon as the viral tweets and memes hit, New York City officials — and Andrew Yang — reverse course in their decision to partner with a guy who could easily fund the UBI plan by himself. Sure, the wealth clock is embarrassing, but how was Prince’s net worth not already public knowledge at this point? Folks like the Brooklyn Borough President (Joanna P. Adler) had to know whom she was getting into bed with. Oh, and did we ever figure out who was behind this prank in the first place? It has Chuck’s fingerprints all over it, but he doesn’t ever take responsibility.
What Chuck can take responsibility for is keeping Dave Mahar on his side, despite her determination to run an independent attorney general’s office. While Dave doesn’t see anything wrong with the “Mike Money” program in theory (not even the name, Dave?), she can’t deny Prince has too many assets for one person. So, she seizes the land Prince purchased for the Olympic Games, sending a clear message that she is in no way intimidated by a wealthy guy who threatens lawsuits and tears. That’s because the last time she ever cried was at a screening of Sophie’s Choice — and even then, the tears were fake. Badass. Around the same time, Chuck informs Scooter he’s turning down Prince’s offer. Once again, Chuck and Dave think they’re saving the people from a billionaire’s greed when they’re actually giving Prince no other choice but to reveal his presidential intentions. Or, as he’s been saying all season: “Do the thing.”
Throughout the episode, Wags pushed Prince to go in on a hugely profitable Chinese infrastructure deal. Prince remains opposed to the idea up until the UBI pilot program implodes, when he finally agrees to meet with the Chinese businesspeople. But it’s only so he can blow up the deal in a dramatic fashion — even doing so partially in Chinese. Prince accuses the Chinese government of human rights abuses and, for the millionth time this season, leaves Wags genuinely confused.
The only thing left for Prince to do is have a quick chat with Andy about sex practicalities — in short, they both agree to keep any future affairs discreet — and to give John Heilemann a juicy exclusive about how he insulted several Chinese officials to their faces.
As Chuck and Dave read Heilemann’s Recount article, which suggests Prince’s gumption in telling off the Chinese government would be well-suited to the American political sphere, a light bulb goes off in Chuck’s head. At the same time, a fed-up Wags storms into Stately Prince Manor, demanding answers. Like, why is he turning down multi-billion-dollar opportunities only to leak it to the press? And how poetic that just as Prince’s two potential successors reach a détente after fighting over literally everything, even alternative milk, Philip (Team Oat) and Taylor (Team Soy) put two and two together as well.
Philip reveals to Taylor that Prince has suspiciously never formed a succession committee at any of his dozens of companies before now. While Chuck, flipping through the binder of Prince’s holdings, is curious why all the states where Prince has companies are also ones that were “pivotal in the last four national elections.”
Just as Chuck says the words “Michael Fucking Prince is running for president” out loud, a smug Prince lets a simple, red, white, and blue bumper sticker emblazoned with the “I Like Mike” slogan answer Wags’ earlier question.
If we thought Chuck Rhoades was fired up at the end of last week’s episode, well, he was just getting warmed up. Likening Prince to Martin Sheen’s demagogue character from The Dead Zone, Chuck is about to enter the righteous fight he’s been preparing for his whole life: He’s going to save his beloved country from the king “who ain’t satisfied till he rules everything.”
• The “Succession” episode title feels like one big troll, doesn’t it?
• Now that she’s put her congressional run indefinitely on hold, is Kate Sacker destined to do nothing more now than haunt her former employers’ offices with tired intimidation tactics?