Swagger – Season 1 Episode 3 “Mano a Mano” Recap & Review

Mano a Mano

Episode 3 of Swagger begins with the focusing shifting to Ike, at least to begin with. As he preps for work, glimmers of the past shine through, including his failed state championship run. Now, Ike’s online videos have done the rounds, even grabbing the attention of an old face from the past. Lester Davis is his name, and he gets in touch to meet with Ike and Jace.

Lester wants to sponsor the team and take them both under his wings. He wants to bring in another coach to take over Ike, with him stepping up to be Lester’s assistant instead. Both of them have history, which isn’t full revealed in this episode, but Lester is confident that Ike will take this lucrative deal. Just to sweeten things up, if Jace and Swagger win their next game, they can sign the forms and come aboard.

Jace, fresh off an earlier car accident where he may have injured his hand (especially with the way he hangs it in his pocket) rings Crystals excitedly, taking in Lester’s lavish lifestyle. He even has how own personal basketball court too. Crystal, still annoyed by Jace’s attitude the previous evening, hangs up.

While all this is going on, the team over at Gladiator sneaks in Washington have an ulterior motive. The name of the game is money, and they’re intending to target 8th graders and snatch them up early, get them on special sponsorship deals while convincing them with additional perks.

These “shoe pushers” are wanting to get in touch with Ike but between that and his Lester situation, coach is stressed. However, he’s not alone with his stress.

Following her car accident earlier in the episode, Jenna finds out her repairs are going to cost a lot of money. However, she does manage to strike a deal and get the repairs done.

Back with Ike and the gang, with the auditorium currently being used by a dance group, he instead takes them down to the pool, which is currently out of use for repairs. He drills the kids hard, teaching them to work harder than their opponents to win the day.

Now, their opponent is obviously the very talented Mendez, who has his own game-plan and work ethic. Who will come out on top? Jace or Mendez?

Just before we see the match play out, we catch up with Jack, who finds her coach getting a little too hands-on with her. It stated last episode with an awkward leg massage and it continues this episode too, with him holding her shoulder and lingering a little too much for her liking.

The big Swagger match begins and this time we see the team passing it around properly. Mendez is a big talent and scores some great solo baskets. Remember when we mentioned Jace hurting his arm earlier in the episode? Well, it comes back to haunt him in a big way. He’s clearly in pain and a big shove sees Jace ditch the original plan of playing as a team and turning this into a 1 VS 1 instead.

The match ends and Jace and Swagger prevail. There’s a bit of a stand-off between Mendez and Jace but there’s bigger problems afoot. Part of Swagger’s game-plan involved helping Musa impress his crush. Jace’s fourth-quarter solo play alienates the rest of the team who refuse to congratulate him for his one man show.

When the team walk out, Ike shows and encourages Jace to look out for the team or they’ll stop trusting him.

That evening, Ike heads over to see Lester again but there’s a catch to signing on following this win. He needs to apologize. That’s one step too far for Ike, who bitterly retorts that the only person he needs to say sorry to is the person buried in the ground.

As the episode comes to a close, Jace’s post with Lester starts to blow up. Only, given Ike has already rejected the deal, that’s going to cause a lot of drama going forward.


The Episode Review

That’s better! With no covid and racist cop subplots, Swagger doubles down on its basketball storyline and it’s all the stronger for it. This show does a great job depicting the trials and tribulations of youth basketball, wrapped up in a lovely third chapter showcase of rich VS poor.

This 50 minute episode is much better at highlighting that inequality too, with Lester working as the middle-man of sorts to show off where these two worlds collide. Now that Ike has snubbed the deal on the table, how will Jace react to that? And what does it mean for his social media post blowing up?

There’s also a good amount of motivational chatter here about working as a team, which is a great message to portray – especially in a sport like basketball. It’s been done before in other mediums (like Coach Carter for example) but the execution in this episode is much stronger – especially given the great work done on the basketball courts.

The ending hints that we’ve got plenty more drama to come though, leaving things wide open for the rest of the show.

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