BALLERS Review: “Game Day”

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Season two of finally came to a close last night, with some of the show’s darker elements finally paying off. In a show that’s often struggled with really teasing out and mining conflict, this week’s “Game Day” really brought it. Spencer’s position in the football world dangles by a thread. His bad hip barely hangs on, too.

We open on Spencer returning to ASM to talk to Anderson again. Did Spencer get the funds required to buy ASM? Well, he did. But he had to borrow a lot of money to do it. Anderson, much like Andre last week, is much softer here and provides a counteroffer. If Spencer gets his registration reinstated, Anderson says he’ll let Spencer return to ASM with a stake in the company to boot. Easier said than done.

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Spencer goes to get a shot in the hip by a new medical pal. Spencer is still in full denial that he needs a hip replacement. This time, we get a look at Spencer’s inflamed thigh as another needle goes through it to numb the pain. As Spencer’s being tended to, he gets a call from the players association, who explains that former player and Heisman winner Eddie George filed a complaint against him.

Spencer hitches a flight to confront Eddie in the Midwest. Don’t look now but Joe appears and slides into a nearby seat just before the plane pushes back. The band is back together for one final go at it. When they arrive, Spencer tracks down Eddie in his hotel room. Eddie wants nothing to do with him and tries to slam the door shut, but Spencer keeps his foot in the door, eventually barging in.

On the one hand, I like the physicality involved here, two former star athletes (and former friends) going at it. As their past bubbles up, we discover that Eddie took one of the biggest hits in Spencer’s bad real estate deal, and will stop at nothing to make sure Spencer gets punished for it. On the other hand, where is Andre in this episode? For much of the season, Andre was Spencer’s primary antagonist, and someone who had much history with Spencer. Now all of a sudden there’s a new guy who appears out of nowhere in the 11th hour and serves a similar role.

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In any case, Spencer fails to convince Eddie to back down his position, and Spencer and Joe look finished. They hit the club and make plenty of bad decisions.  When the dust settles in the morning, Spencer and Joe (now with a nipple ring) are about to return to Miami in defeat. Joe disappears for a moment and tracks down Eddie to make a final plea. What Eddie really seems to want is a genuine apology.

In one of the more nuanced moments on the show so far, Spencer appears in front of a group of rookies and Eddie. Spencer makes a passionate apology to Eddie, but more than that, talks about the risks of being an player and the bad decisions one can make. As a long time sports fan, it really resonated when Spencer warned that the biggest potential risks as a young player don’t come from agents or management, but from people close to athletes like friends and family. Spencer walks off. Maybe he’s convinced Eddie, maybe not.

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Other subplots include Ricky, flanked by his father and best friend, getting a $1.5 million offer from the Patriots. Quite a departure from the tens of millions he was offered in earlier episodes. Disappointingly, though, the show doesn’t resolve this storyline. Charles also gets a promotion from Seifert, which is sure to clash with an already tense situation going on at home. I’m eager to see how this resolves.

Season two ends with Spencer checking himself into a hospital, finally accepting of the fact that he needs a hip replacement. Not considering that he’ll be unable to drive after the operation, he begrudgingly says he’ll call an Uber. Yep, Ballers brings us really low here, but provides a strong cliffhanger for next season.

TB-TV-Grade-B+
Season 2, Episode 10 (S02E10)
Ballers airs Sundays at 10PM on HBO

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writes about the philanthropy of billionaires and millionaires by day, and writes screenplays by night.
Twitter: @derekadeniji

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