Image: Billions / Stan
Android: Netrunner isn’t the kind of activity, or card game, people use as a pretext for hooking up. But curiously enough in the latest episode of Billions, the cyberpunk LCG helped for some slightly weird, but kind of sweet, sexual banter.
There’s a few moving parts in the latest episode, “Flaw in the Death Star”. Most of it revolves around the drama enveloping the attorney general’s office, and Connerty’s (Toby Leonard Moore) attempts to unravel the abuse of power by his boss, Chuck (Paul Giamatti), and Chuck’s dealmaking to gain the evidence necessary to convict Axe (Damian Lewis).
But a fun sideplot, which has been brewing for a couple of episodes now, is the romance between tech philanthropist Oscar Langstraat (Mike Birbiglia) and Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillion).
It’s fun in all sorts of ways: Taylor is in the precarious position of having to “run” Axe Capital after Axe forfeited his trading license, while still quietly at Axe’s beck and call. The episode kicks off with one such demand: Axe has to blow off hearing a bunch of pitches from Oscar’s associates to deal with his increasing legal claustrophobia, and asks Taylor to go in his stead.
Taylor isn’t interested in the journey, but goes along anyway. After hanging around for a second pitch, Taylor and Oscar quickly trade references about the Death Star, which leads to something I’d never thought would be a first date option: a Netrunner tournament. Some users uploaded a two minute clip of the scene on Vimeo, which you can check out below.
While the two minutes of gameplay is really just a subtext for what later becomes the first on-screen love scene with a gender non-binary character (who is also played by a gender non-binary actor), it’s actually worth pointing out that the Netrunner play is pretty on point.
Long-time Kotaku contributor Adam Wells, who’s played a ton of competitive Netrunner himself, pointed out that Billions actually held a casting call late last year for Netrunner players “with REAL EXPERIENCE” to work on the show:
The Billions producers also consulted with Netrunner world champion Dan D’Argenio. According to Adam, the way Taylor and Oscar use poker chips in the game was the same style that D’Argenio uses while playing. (You can rewatch a match of D’Argenio from the 2016 GenCon finals here.)
Most importantly: the episode didn’t make a huge deal out of Taylor and Oscar’s romance. That will probably develop towards the end of the season or next year, if Oscar can reset Taylor’s moral compass from all the damage Axe Capital has done. Either way, it was a neat little moment, and Netrunner got to play a part.