Episode 7 of Swagger begins 8 months later. We’re in full-on COVID territory, with masks compulsory and the gang heading aboard the bus to their game. In case you weren’t aware, this episode is here to remind us that we’re in the midst of a pandemic.
Anyway, Jace joins his teammates on the bus as Crystal rings. She’s going to testify against coach after hearing that Michelle and another girl he’s abused are also speaking up. Crystal is also going to tell her mum too after church.
On the road, the gang head to a local diner but run into trouble when two police officers show up. They’re responding to a disturbance and believe Swagger are responsible. They rest their hands over their handguns, demanding the kids and adults hand over their IDs.
Although every licence comes back clean, the officers demand that the kids leave. They’re not exactly happy about it, but Ike convinces Jace to settle down as they continue on the road.
When they finally make it to their destination though, Ike calls out Jace for questioning his authority. Given he’s supposed to be the leader, Ike calls out the racism in the US and implores him to work and pull the team together despite adversity.
Jace refuses to give in and during the national anthem, decided to drop a knee. He wants to be heard. The rest of the team follow suit – minus Royale and Nick Mendez – but that only riles up the crowd, who begin cussing them out and booing.
Crystal does eventually tell her mum about the abuse but it comes with an ill-fitting choice of music and in the middle of a basketball montage. We’ll have more to say about that decision in the review part of this recap.
Anyway, the team are all over the place on the court, struggling to concentrate as the crowd begin chanting “ICE.” The group decide to take a time-out to decide what to do.
A heated chat with the team eventually sees them in solidarity with one another, working hard to overcome the deficit and win the game. Drew decides to sub himself out for Royale, after hearing how technically proficient he is, while Jace works to encourage Nick to block out the noise and focus on his game.
Swagger make the final basket in time but the ref throws the game, making a bad call and claiming it’s not a basket. Everyone watches this on TV (because I guess high school basketball is broadcast across America?) but the damage is done.
On the way back home, protestors in the streets chant “I can’t breathe.” Ike stops the bus and encourages the team to head out and join them. Swagger are trending on Instagram after taking the knee too, and after a quick word with Ike, the gang get involved in the protesting too.
The Episode Review
Here’s my problem with Swagger. I’m fine with the mask wearing, the covid stuff and the very important racism angle that’s prominent to this day. The problems however, stems from the characters and the ill-choices made with each of these different characters.
In a bid to be so socially relevant and so politically on-topic, the characters come up second best. Crystal, for example, is reduced to a montage when she tells her mum the heartbreaking news she’s been abused. Why? This could have been a really solid and heart wrenching moment, allowing both actresses to flourish and really lean into the shock and horror from this incident. Instead, they get 5 minutes screen-time in the middle of a basketball game.
Likewise, Jace and Nick’s estranged relationship gets very little screen-time either, beyond a bit of a pep talk behind the scenes and on the court. This could have been a great episode to depict the contrasting fortunes for Nick and Jace at the diner. These little moments really miss out on strong characterization, instead leaning into the wider plot with a bunch of characters that, quite frankly, aren’t that interesting.
Hopefully this changes going forward but given there’s still three more episodes of this, it seems unlikely.