Team Swagger goes to the nationals in the stunning finale of Apple TV+’s incredible show about a basketball team and its players and satellites. Reggie Rock Bythewood and the incredible team of Swagger writers are prepared to send Ike, Jace, Jenna, Crystal and the rest of the team out with a bang.
A season’s worth of innuendo and tension is about to be unearthed and made real.
Swagger recap: Episode 10, ‘Florida’
Jace (played by Isaiah R. Hill) can’t walk yet and the nationals are around the corner. The team is having a block party before they go. And watching everyone dancing isn’t exactly raising his spirits. He, Jackie (Jordan Rice) and their mom haven’t quite repaired their relationship after they revealed they’d tracked down their absentee father. However, she finally agrees they deserve the opportunity to meet him. So she will supports them when they say they want to see him during their trip down south.
Alonzo (Tristan Mack Wilds), meanwhile, has been transformed by his time on the sidelines of Swagger’s games. He gives a presentation to the board and reveals he won’t stay with the company unless it supports Swagger and Jace. He wants the board to publicly state that it’s on the side of the people protesting police brutality and not being silent.
It’s a radical presentation, with Alonzo’s corporate shell cracking to reveal the human underneath his slickness. Wilds has been sort of a cryptic presence on the show — heel one minute, hero the next — and I like that the showrunners let him be who he’s been screaming (silently) to be from the start. His boss is pissed, but agrees on certain terms.
Isaac misses the plane to Florida because he and Tonya’s (Christina Jackson) baby has a fever that won’t come down. That means it’s up to Naim (Sean Baker) and Meg (Tessa Ferrer) to handle coaching duties. Naim’s got his hands full helping Musa (Caleel Harris) with his romantic issues. Naim’s such a good-hearted character, and seeing him interact with his son is fantastic.
Naim doesn’t get nearly enough time each week on Swagger. (I understand the show doesn’t quite support it.) So the moments with him and Musa are treasures, as when he explains the difference between a “player” and a “playa” to his bewildered progeny.
Also on the dad front, Jace and Jackie finally meet their dad, Grant Carson (Demetrius Grosse). His answers about abandoning them don’t sit well with either kid. Jackie rushes back to apologize to her mom, and Jace calls Ike (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) to tearfully apologize for holding a grudge. He confesses that Ike’s been more of a father figure to him than his own dad ever was.
We knew this moment was coming, but it’s still stirring when it happens. As a token of good will, Ike finally sends Jace the tape of his final game where he supposedly blew it. Turns out he was helping Lester Davis (Deric Augustine), who got in deep to some local hoods who said that if they lost by 10 they could win some easy money. His father found out and never spoke to him again. With that cleared up, all that’s left is for Jace to get back on the court and play this last game.
Swagger is, as of this writing, one of the two or three best shows Apple TV+ has yet produced. It started strong and got better, as deft with its handling of the energy of basketball games as the political horrors undergirding everyday life in Baltimore (and America in general).
The series was always going to go toe-to-toe with shows like The Wire and Friday Night Lights, and it’s a huge feat that it can stand with them. Maybe no series will ever top the highs of The Wire‘s fourth season, but Swagger was easily as good as that show’s first two seasons.
If allowed to continue, I think Swagger could continue to be a strong look at what the hunger for an American identity does to people young and old. This is a beautifully acted, dynamically shot, fiercely edited and sharply written show. I’ve enjoyed every second of it.
Watch Swagger on Apple TV+
You can watch the entire first season of Swagger on Apple TV+.
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.