Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 18, 2017)
Newly-minted “Sexiest Man Alive” Dwayne Johnson returns for Season Two of the HBO series Ballers, a program about sports agents and the athletes they represent. The Blu-ray includes all of Season Two’s 10 episodes across two discs. The plot synopses come straight from the Blu-rays’ menus.
Face of the Franchise: “An on-camera scuffle leaves sports agent Spencer Strasmore’s (Johnson) company in jeopardy. Ricky’s (John David Washington) new attitude is threatened before his birthday.”
While I found Season One of Ballers to offer decent entertainment, it didn’t really connect with me. Still, I liked it enough to give S2 a shot, and I hoped the second year would improve on its predecessor.
And perhaps it will, but “Face” offers a lackluster launch to the year. Maybe that’s unavoidable, as the premiere episode needs to re-establish characters and situations. Still, “Face” doesn’t do a lot to make me dying to see what else will happen.
Enter the Temple: “Spencer tries to poach a client. Ricky considers the next move. Reggie (London Brown) fights for what he thinks he’s worth. Tracy (Arielle Kebbel) takes a stand at work.”
“Temple” broadens S2 in a fairly satisfying manner. With the preliminaries of the season premiere out of the way, it manages to develop characters and situations pretty well, factors that allow it to give me hope S2 will work for the best.
Elidee: “The truth behind Vernon’s (Donovan W. Carter) injury endangers his career. Spencer and Joe (Rob Corddry) butt heads. Ricky tours a potential new home.”
One problem with Ballers comes from the characters, as many of them lack a lot of charisma or spark. Ricky offers an exception to that rule, as Washington plays the part of the diva receiver well. His moments mark the best parts of “Elidee”.
World of Hurt: “Spencer and Joe search from Andre’s (Andy Garcia) weakness. Vernon awaits his fate. Jason (Troy Garity) makes a play for a fresh talent. Ricky tries to understand his dad (Robert Wisdom).”
After the rising arc of the last couple of shows, “Hurt” feels less engaging. This doesn’t make it a bad episode, but it lacks the strong forward momentum and seems a bit blah.
Most Guys: “Spencer looks to mentor Travis (Adam Aalderks). Reggie and Joe get a wild gift for Vernon. Ricky runs into a face from his past.”
Ballers tends to take itself too seriously, so I like it when the series points out some of the absurdities of pro athlete life – such as when players opt for bizarre choices as pets. That side of “Guys” amuses, and other parts manage to develop the narrative well.
Saturdaze: “Spencer tries to broker peace. Charles (Omar Benson Miller) struggles to deliver bad news. Joe attends a party at Andre’s. Ricky is thrown for a loop by his dad.”
For the most part, “Saturdaze” offers an episode that thickens the plot without much real forward momentum. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the series needs the occasional “prime the pump” program. Still, it means “Saturdaze” feels a bit dull.
Everybody Knows: “Spencer scrambles to stay ahead. Joe learns some truths. Charles plots to keep Ricky around.”
While some of Ballers’ main characters never become very interesting, I do like the supporting parts – especially Dolphins executive Larry Seifert, a ruthless personality brought to vivid life by Dule Hill. I wish we got more of Seifert, so his semi-prominent position in “Knows” adds zest. Other machinations help turn this into a solid show.
Laying in the Weeds: “Spencer tries to move forward. Charles and Ricky clash. Travis (Adam Aalderks) worries about his prospects.”
With “Weeds”, some plot threads complete but others intensify. With a bit more humor than usual, the episode pushes along events well.
Million Bucks in a Bag: “Andre makes Spencer an offer. Ricky considers his legacy. Vernon tries to get back on his feet. Charles struggles to balance his work and home life.”
With one episode to go in S2, “Bucks” does what it needs to do. It percolates various issues and points us toward their possible resolution in the finale.
Game Day: “Spencer makes a last-ditch effort to get back what he’s lost. Vernon takes a road trip. Charles eyes a big opportunity.”
S2 ends with a somewhat sentimental show, and that makes it a disappointment – not a terrible letdown, but a less than stellar conclusion nonetheless. I’m glad it wraps up various threads but I wish it’d done so in a less goopy manner.
Still, even with a lackluster finale, S2 works pretty well. The year provides a stronger overall narrative and delivers a more entertaining experience than S1 did. This sends the series out with momentum and gets me to look forward to Season Three.