He and Crystal spend an eventful, meaningful day together, while higher-ups decide what to do with the divisive athlete. Ike, Tonya and Emery must work through the Jace situation, while he needs to deal with his own confidence issues. Entitled “Jace + Crystal,” it’s a very fine episode of an Apple TV+ sports drama that produces little else.
Swagger recap: ‘Jace + Crystal’
Season 2, episode 6: Dozens, maybe hundreds, of people have gathered at the Maryland Unified Athletic Council for the apology that Jace (played by Isaiah R. Hill), Musa (Caleel Harris), Phil (Solomon Irama) and Drew (James Bingham) have to give for the beating they gave coach Warrick (Al Mitchell).
Jace gets up first, and in front of his mother Jenna (Shinelle Azoroh), his sponsor Alonzo Powers (Tristan Mack Wilds), his coach Ike Edwards (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and his athletic director Emory Price (Orlando Jones) he says, “What we did wasn’t right … but I don’t know if it was wrong.”
Jace throws blame on the court. Why weren’t systems in place to better protect the girls Warrick was abusing, like Jace’s best friend and one-time girlfriend, Crystal (Quvenzhané Wallis)? Drew, Phil and Musa back his play. A teary-eyed Jace appreciates his friends standing up for him like he tried to do with Crystal.
Ike finds out that Price is telling colleges that Jace isn’t worth the trouble anymore, and that sets him off. Tonya (Christina Jackson) tries to calm Ike down, saying she’ll meet with Price and talk it through. Price doesn’t budge on the subject of Jace. However, Tonya ends the meeting with something that sticks with him.
“It’s been a pleasure getting to know you,” Price says, concluding their talk.
“Glad to hear that,” Tonya replies. “It’ll be even better when you get to know yourself.”
Secrets can get you in trouble
Jace, feeling like he screwed himself by standing up for himself, takes the day off from school. Crystal gets a call saying she’s been named one of the McDonald’s All American basketball stars of the year. She goes right to Jace to celebrate, but she learns he was also up for the honor, so she doesn’t tell him to ruin his mood.
Instead, they go roller-skating, and it’s adorable. Crystal confesses that part of the reason she broke up with her boyfriend was because he wasn’t as good a listener or friend as Jace was. They seem ready to kiss, but Jenna calls. She’s going out of town for business — does Jace wanna go? No … he’d rather stay home.
Things go well until Jace finds out Crystal kept her big news from him to spare his feelings. He freaks out, and she gets furious at him all over. Then Ike calls him to tell him he’s been reinstated, but Jace is still so upset he can’t enjoy the victory.
Speaking of trust, Naim (Sean Baker) and Meg (Tessa Ferrer) find out Ike knew Jace wasn’t going to apologize for the beating and are rightly very upset at him for keeping that a secret. Since Meg told Alonzo they’d be on their best behavior, she looked like a fool. Plus, Naim didn’t know his own son was about to jeopardize his future … not a great way to keep the faith.
Ike talks some sense into Jace
Ike gives Jace a patented talking to that makes him see that sometimes life isn’t always about your perspective — that you have to see things the way other people might. Afterward, Jace calls Crystal and apologizes.
Ike cries when Jace gets back on the court — what a show this is. I know the number of TV seasons you can organically squeeze out of Swagger’s scenario is limited, but these guys deserve to write their own ticket after this one goes off the air (hopefully an awfully long time from now).
When Jenna wins a coveted sales award, she very movingly sits in her car in her gown and tiara, watching a live stream of her son’s first game back. His team wins, and while he’s at home celebrating with a bowl of cereal, there’s a knock at the door. It’s Crystal.
Swagger handles this perfectly. The awkwardness, the close angles, the music fittingly and not obtrusively scoring their furtiveness. Just A+ work all around. This show is too good.
Watch Swagger on Apple TV+
New episodes of Swagger season two arrive Fridays 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 and But God Made Him A Poet: Watching John Ford in the 21st Century, 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.