Avoiding the mistakes of past finales, Ballers produces a surprising, worthwhile season ender.
I’ve previously noted that Ballers tends to have weak finales mostly due to wrapping things up too neatly too quickly, leaving the viewer wondering, “So what?” With this in mind, it was with trepidation I hit play on the season 4 finale “There’s No Place Like Home, Baby”, particularly since it has been an uneven season full of distractions and weak storytelling.
Spencer visits his brother’s grave, but this time it isn’t a dream (or as cheesy thanks to the soundtrack). His plan to take the fight to the NCAA includes a lawsuit. Kudos to the young man serving legal papers with a side of gourmet coffee. Super classy.
Just as Joe is closing on a great deal that may save SportsX, he gets word of Spencer’s lawsuit via a threat from the NFL. These two haven’t been in the same room for weeks–their reunion is certainly not a happy one. Joe rightly calls out Spencer’s ego and his really stupid network plan. I have never appreciated Joe more than in this moment he challenges Spencer. That Spencer pushes him away does not bode well. From a narrative perspective, it is murky if the writers side with Spencer in this scene.
It becomes clear a few minutes later when Spencer gives an interview about the corruption in the NCAA which feeds the wealth of the program while young athletes are exploited and tossed away. Inspired, Joe launches a social media campaign to support Spencer’s cause. It’s a problematic moment because though the message is well-delivered, it doesn’t negate Joe’s previous points.
Ricky finds himself facing an intervention after the discovery that he is injecting steroids. Even his father, the hanger-on, questions how he could betray Charles’ trust. Perhaps this is what leads Ricky to turn himself in to Charles. This is a great scene where we see Charles as a leader, having Ricky sign his contract but making clear his disappointment. The contract, as it turns out, is meaningless when Charles makes the smart decision to cut Ricky.
The NCAA offers to reinstate Q’s eligibility to make the Spencer problem disappear. Spencer counters with that, plus players being paid. They refuse. Defeated, Spencer returns to SportsX and promptly resigns, despite Joe’s protests. It’s worth noting that Joe is solely responsible for reinvigorating the business, so it’s not technically that big a hit to lose Spencer at this moment. But that, of course, is beside the point. We also see Joe turn up at Lance’s house in the post-credit scene that indicates that we aren’t quite done with Russell Brand. I’ll also nominate Rob Corddry for the season’s MVP. For the first time, I liked Joe and actually cared about his plot lines.
In a bar, Spencer listens to the news that Q’s eligibility has been reinstated before the young player reveals he’s signed with USC. Q thanks his mom and ends by sending a signal, from The Sting, to Spencer. Spencer smiles as he begins to explain The Sting to the curious bartender.
A note to the producers for next season: no one cares about Jason’s crazy girlfriend. At all. Just stop with her on the show. Forever. Thanks.
This is perhaps the first season of Ballers that has ended on a down note. We’ve haven’t really ever seen him lose like this, nor so without direction. Never mind that there are about five plots that never got resolved in season 4. None of them was really that interesting anyway. This final beat with Spencer is an exciting moment because it means there are questions to be answered come season 5. And that’s worth tuning in for next year’s season.
Amber is a doctoral candidate in Language, Diversity, and Literacy at Texas Tech. She holds an MA in Literature and History and a BFA in Theatre. A Texas-based mother of two, she is an Associate Professor of English and History at Howard College.