Swagger dazzles with a flawless season 2 finale [Apple TV+ recap]


Isaiah Hill in ★★★★★
Swagger goes for broke in its outstanding season two finale.
Photo: Apple TV+

TV+ ReviewSwagger closes out its brilliant second season in style this week, as the young basketball players prep for their futures and their most important game yet.

Jace needs to play his best to regain his sterling reputation in time to win over college recruiters — and that’s not all he’s worried about. Plus, Ike and Naim must patch things up in order to be there for the team ahead of a very important game. Entitled “Journey and Destination,” the Swagger season two finale is a very moving sendoff that only this team could provide.

Swagger recap: ‘Journey and Destination’

Season 2, episode 8: As the Cedar Cove/Swagger Mustangs near the end of their season, star player Jace (played by Isaiah R. Hill) is a long way from figuring out his college track. While his girlfriend Crystal (Quvenzhané Wallis) is being courted left and right, Jace is rudderless and panicking. (There’s an amazing scene where Alonzo Powers [Tristan Mack Wilds] shows up to one of Crystal’s games and she tells a reporter he’s planning on rebuilding her high school’s gym. “New gym…that’s a nice touch,” Alonzo whispers during the subsequent photo op.)

That disparity about their futures is not all that’s plaguing the two young lovers. Crystal’s missed her period. When they try to buy a pregnancy test, they both get recognized by fans. (That’s another amazing scene, especially Jace grabbing the test from behind Crystal’s back as she talks to a fan.) So Jace asks his sister Jackie (Jordan Rice) to do it for them. The test turns out negative, but it’s a rude awakening all the same.

Ike and Naim patch things up

Ike Edwards (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and Tonya (Christina Jackson) have their own rude awakening when their daughter talks about how she thinks a white doll is prettier than a black doll. Trying to talk to the daycare service about the situation gets them nowhere. Ike tries to talk to Naim (Sean Baker) about it, and also to apologize for the way his coaching style lately has isolated Naim to the point that he quit.

Naim was upset because Ike wasn’t playing Naim’s son Musa (Caleel Harris), but Ike tries to get him to see that it wasn’t Musa’s playing but Ike’s own frustration at his coaching strategy. They patch things up and Naim agrees to return for the Mustangs’ next game in Los Angeles.

With the eyes of the world on them, their game against Hillside in LA gets off to a rocky start. Hillside gets almost 20 on the Mustangs before Musa reorients them and they start fighting back. In the blink of an eye, the score goes to 67-68.

Then, a last-minute play puts Hillside over the top, devastating the Cedar Cove team and their cheering section. It blocks the Mustangs from a national victory. Ike’s speech at the team dinner later throws credit to an amazing season to everyone. It’s very moving.

Swagger season 2 finale scores, but what about season 3?

Caleel Harris, O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Isaiah Hill in "Swagger," now streaming on Apple TV+.
O’Shea Jackson Jr., center, gets one last chance to shine as Coach Ike in the Swagger season two finale.
Photo: Apple TV+

I like that the game only takes up about eight or 10 minutes of screen time in the Swagger season two finale. More of the episode is given over to Ike paying tribute to Naim and Meg (Tessa Ferrer), and later Phil (Solomon Irama), Drew (James Bingham), Royale (Ozie Nzeribe), Nick Mendez (Jason Rivera), Musa and Jace. Excellent, heart-warming speeches — and earned. O’Shea Jackson Jr. gives this his all.

It would be truly crazy not to re-up Swagger, or let the team do whatever they want if not, in whatever form that takes. Because this is, pound for pound, one of the best shows on any network, and certainly one of the best shows on Apple TV+. Everything you can do right, these guys do right.

Throughout its first two seasons, Swagger served up an unflinching view of life with insurmountable pressure, life coming out of poverty, the hard road from nothing to something, and knowing your worth when no one else does. What an achievement. What a feat. I hope there’s a third season of Swagger in the works.


Watch Swagger on Apple TV+

You can now watch the first two seasons of Swagger on Apple TV+.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch 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.


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