Billions bosses open up about major character exit in season 5 finale

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Photo credit: Showtime
Photo credit: Showtime

Billions spoilers follow.

Billions' season 5 finale aired in the US on Sunday (October 3), and shocked fans by saying goodbye to Damian Lewis' character Bobby 'Axe' Axelrod.

Now, creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien have opened up about the character's exit, while teasing that "nothing is etched in stone" when it comes to ruling out a potential return later down the line.

In the last chapter's final episode, Axe called time on his romance with Wendy (Maggie Siff) and fled to Switzerland, after Paul Giamatti's Chuck set his plan to have Axe arrested in motion.

Photo credit: Showtime
Photo credit: Showtime

Little did the latter know, though, Michael Prince (Corey Stoll) had recently struck a deal to buy Axe Cap (the bank) and Taylor Mason Carbon, leaving Wendy, Taylor (Asia Kate Dillon) and Wags (David Costabile) stuck working for him as Axe's successor. (Dollar Bill, played by Kelly AuCoin, and Dan Soder's Mafee walked out when he took over).

Assuring fans that "hellos and goodbyes" on Billions are "never permanent", Koppelman and Levien confirmed to Entertainment Weekly that Lewis' time as a regular on the show "has come to an end."

"The guy delivered for us in such an incredible way. What he did in making Bobby Axelrod an icon is really remarkable," Koppelman continued. "Knowing the conditions in which he performed, traveling back and forth to England for years to be with his family, it's impossible to imagine just how hard and focused that guy worked.

"We feel really honored and lucky to have had five years of being able to know that Damian Lewis was Bobby Axelrod."

Photo credit: David M. Benett - Getty Images
Photo credit: David M. Benett - Getty Images

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They touched on the fact that Lewis lost his wife, Peaky Blinders actor Helen McCrory, in April of this year, and how his personal life was partly what prompted them to start plotting his departure almost three years ago now.

"He expressed the thought that, in all likelihood, he would want to be spending more time with his family and really be more in England at the end of a certain period of time, and could we start planning Axe's departure from being a regular on the show," explained Koppelman.

"It was amazing that he came to us that far in advance and trusted us with what was going on in his life and with what his thinking was, so that we could do things like bring Mike Prince in and be really aware in the plotting and planning of season 5.

Photo credit: JoJo Whilden
Photo credit: JoJo Whilden

"It also made us know, okay, here's where season 4 needs to go to set up the events of season 5 so that we could do this at the end of it."

The twosome went on to say how certain plot points were inspired by audience theories and expectations, but the way the narrative ended up was largely inspired by real-life trends within well-off communities too.

"Axe sprang of a time when there was a huge amount of privacy around these hedge fund billionaires, because they recognize how the culture could look at their wealth," Levien noted. "But over the years, there became a new version of it that was much more public and interested in trying to express that they were creating a positive change in the world that went along with their wealth. We were able to jump on that and the show evolved."

Billions airs on Showtime in the US, while UK viewers can watch it on Sky Atlantic, NOW TV and Amazon Prime Video.

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