This week’s Swagger finds Jace, Ike, Jenna and Crystal at crossroads. The Apple TV+ basketball drama is all business this episode, showing us what the raised profile of their activism has done for the kids on Swagger, good and ill.
Jenna feels like coach Ike is letting her son down — and takes some drastic measures to try and take him off the pedestal on which Jace has placed him. But at what cost?
Swagger recap: Episode 8, ‘Still I Rise’
Jace (played by Isaiah R. Hill) and his team are now living with the aftermath of their big game against Dominion. Some people say they’re disgraces to the game, while others call them heroes. They’ve got a raised profile, and people are shouting them out all over social media. Even Ike (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) is getting recognized at work. All this extra ego isn’t good for anyone’s focus, though. Ike’s up against it getting the team to do their best without distractions.
Jenna Carson (Shinelle Azoroh) chews out Ike for not pulling the kids out of the game after the protestations of the crowd. She does some investigation into Ike with the help of coach Max (William Stanford Davis), head of the junior leagues, because she’s starting to seriously question his judgment. Also, you get the sense that she’s jealous that Jace likes Ike so much. Shame, too, because you start to like her again when she makes up with Jackie (Jordan Rice) a scene later after missing her big step recital.
Crystal eyes Swagger
Crystal (Quvenzhané Wallis) gives her deposition about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her basketball coach, who has been fired. She’s shaken by it. While Jace is getting a higher profile for his actions, she also is getting recognized for her courage in stepping up. She suggests that she and Jace not pursue their romantic interest in each other. Jace agrees, but he’s a bad poker player. He clearly does want them to be together. But he doesn’t want to interfere with her healing process.
Crystal decides that the best thing for her is to start playing seriously on a new team and she chooses Swagger. Ike isn’t convinced, but Meg (Tessa Ferrer) likes the idea. Crystal makes Ike a deal: If she can score on five of his players, she gets to join the team. She dunks on Nick (Jason Rivera), Drew (James Bingham), Phil (Solomon Irama) and Royale (Ozie Nzeribe) before it’s Jace’s turn. She ultimately beats him on a technicality. They kiss afterward. They’re too cute.
Go out there focused
Phil’s dad (Michael Beasley) puts in a surprise appearance to try and tell his son he’s learning how to be a better father. Neither Phil nor Ike is convinced, though, and the drop-in doesn’t exactly make them think he’s being serious. They want him to start showing that he can be reliable and do more than just talk about how he wants to be a better father.
When Jace finds out that his mom is looking into Ike’s past, he hits her with some knowledge she’s not in a place to hear. Turns out she hasn’t liked any of Jace’s coaches and Jace knows why: She keeps turning them into his absent dad in her head. No one will ever be good enough to coach her son.
And speaking of old coaches, Jace and Swagger square off against his old team, run by vindictive coach Harrison (Jonas Chaka). Harrison still believes Ike poached Jace, and he isn’t in a forgiving mood. It is thus super-satisfying watching them lay a beatdown on the other team. Alonzo (Tristan Mack Wilds) also comes around and starts giving the team money on the sly. He can’t publicly support both Dominion and Swagger, but he felt bad after having given them a hard time before he saw the video of them being harassed at the diner.
Jake and Ike need to work things out
Jace finally decides to ask Ike himself about his huge public defeat at the championship game when he was a teenager because he and his mom won’t be able to talk to each other until they settle this. So they drive over to his house and Jace asks him point blank.
Ike doesn’t say what Jace wants to hear, feeling his pride injured at being called a cheater on his front porch. So they leave on terrible terms. They have to be in dutch in order to get to the championship, and this throws a monkey wrench into their camaraderie.
Jace thinks Ike isn’t trustworthy any longer. Ike feels betrayed by his star player, who he’s been mentoring nonstop for the last several months. They’re going to have to fix this if they have any prayer of making the finals.
Watch Swagger on Apple TV+
New episodes of Swagger arrive every Friday.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.