With so little left of the sports drama’s extremely strong second season, how will the building pressure come between the players and their goals? Entitled “Homecoming,” this week’s stirring and strong episode hits hard as we prepare to wrap up season two of this outstanding Apple TV+ show.
Swagger recap: ‘Homecoming’
Season 2, episode 7: We begin with a flashback to the childhood of Nick Mendez (played by Jason Rivera). As a boy, he and his mom Teresa (Misha Gonz-Cirkl) fled Hurricane Maria, which all but destroyed Puerto Rico.
Back in the present, we’re at Nick’s 18th birthday party, and his mom couldn’t be more proud of what the young man’s become in the few short years since they lost everything. She makes the dramatic announcement that she’ll be going back to Puerto Rico after Nick goes to college.
That isn’t the extent of the drama going on, though. Jace (Isaiah R. Hill) and Crystal (played by Quvenzhané Wallis) go public with their relationship. And Jace’s mom Jenna (Shinelle Azoroh) introduces him to her new boyfriend, Mekhi (Ali Amin Carter).
Three generations of emotions and secrets
Meanwhile, Camden Ryder (Christopher B. Duncan) needs to take his son C.J. (Shannon Brown) to meet his granddad (Gerard Catus). The old man is dying, and Camden’s got something to say to him. CJ’s never met his granddad, which was his dad’s plan, because he was a distant and unlikable guy and he didn’t want that presence in his son’s life.
CJ calls Meg (Tessa Ferrer) to ask her opinion. He too has something he’d like to tell his father, but he isn’t sure if this is the right time, what with his dad in a sensitive place. Camden breaks down almost immediately upon seeing his dad, telling him that his life lessons pushed him to make it to the NBA.
CJ has never seen his dad so open and emotional. He decides that the day after his granddad passes is the time to tell Camden his own secret: He’s gay. Camden is flabbergasted and doesn’t take it very well. CJ half expected such a reaction, but it still breaks his heart. When CJ starts crying, Camden realizes he’s blowing the moment, so he quickly tells his son he’s proud of him, which clears the air a little.
This is tough because you do suspect an old-fashioned guy like Camden, raised by an emotionally stunted guy just like him, would not take this kind of news well. So it’s realistic but it hurts to watch all the same. Good stuff from the writers and, of course, actors Duncan and Brown perform the scene very honorably.
Ike has a Jace problem
Ike Edwards (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) recognizes he’s not been the favorite in the locker room ever since he withheld crucial information from Meg and Naim (Sean Baker). That was before Jace, Musa (Caleel Harris), Phil (Solomon Irama) and Drew (James Bingham) refused to apologize for the violence they committed against Crystal’s abuser, coach Warrick (Al Mitchell).
Naim hits Ike with some pretty stark knowledge — he’s too focused on Jace. When Jace tells him to keep a secret, he does it, no matter what it means for the other kids and their parents. Ike’s been so squarely focused on Jace, Naim suspects, because it’s a sort of spiritual do-over. Ike’s own father wasn’t there the way Ike is trying to be for Jace, whose own father is also absent. Naim gets it, but Ike’s letting the other kids on the team down. Harsh but fair.
Knowing how right Naim was about him, Ike goes to Emory Price (Orlando Jones) and says that together, they gotta step up. It’s been made clear to Price that, because it was his idea to recruit Jace and his pals, if they don’t start winning, their controversies are going to reflect poorly on him.
Now both Ike and Price are on the chopping block unless the team pulls through and proves the two men were right to trust the players in the first place.
CJ comes out, and this is why Swagger is better than Ted Lasso
The next day, CJ tells the whole team that he’s gay (his dad comes in for moral support), and his teammates all act with the positivity you expect them to. It blows my mind that a show this good handles this kind of issue better than Ted Lasso and I’ve seen basically next to no online fan base for Swagger the way Ted got memefied to death.
Swagger is the real deal. Everyone, burdens having been lifted, weaknesses being addressed, plays their heart out. Jace understands he’s still in trouble; recruiters aren’t looking at him like the sure thing he once was. (Crystal’s helping him practice his shooting — their scene together is one of the highlights of a jam-packed episode — but he’s still missing clutch shots.)
Ike tries to thank Naim for bringing his deficiencies to his attention but it’s too late. Naim quits. What a cliffhanger … and we’ve only got one episode of Swagger left.
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.