“Still I Rise” tests the relationship between Jace and Ike just as things are looking up for Swagger.
This recap of Swagger season 1, episode 8, “Still I Rise”, contains spoilers.
Every action has consequences, which is something that Swagger have to find out in “Still I Rise” after their ad-hoc activism in the game against Dominion greatly increases the profile of the team and players – for better and worse. While some of the drama here feels like a smart and logical evolution of what came before, it’s hamstrung a little by Jenna’s bizarre crusade against Ike, which even in the context of Jace’s later accusation that she can’t help but view all men through the lens of Jace’s absent father, feels too contrived to really ring true. Still, Swagger’s blend of sports drama with current affairs commentary continues to work, and the sense that it’s building towards a considerable payoff is felt strongly here, despite the episode’s flaws.
Swagger season 1, episode 8 recap
We’ve already seen the potential upsides and downsides of social media throughout the season, especially how viral fame affects the psyches of young men, but the whole issue is exacerbated here thanks to Swagger having achieved a new level of public profile after taking the knee and playing on in front of a hostile crowd baying for their blood. Even Ike is getting recognized, and in some cases blamed, even though he deliberately allowed the kids to make the decision of whether to play on or not for themselves. That judgment call is what compels Jenna, with the help of junior league coach Max, to look more deeply into his background, but one gets the sense that she would have found an excuse anyway. For someone who claims to have Jace’s best interests at heart, she seems determined to sabotage his time at Swagger despite the obvious improvements he has made in both his overall game and his leadership qualities specifically.
Crystal’s character arc begins to intersect with Jace’s more meaningfully in “Still I Rise”, as testifying against her coach’s abuse has elevated her reputation too, and she decides the best way of getting a fresh start is to join Swagger, a position she earns by dunking on five of the players, including Jace. The two kiss afterward, briefly, despite having decided to keep their romantic relationship on hold somewhat to better focus on balling.
And Crystal fits right into Swagger during their next game against Jace’s old team, where his old coach Harrison tries to shut him out and the entire team rallies to let Jace prove a point. This game, unlike some of the others in the season, is pure catharsis; the team is all on the same page, and it’s a dominant performance designed to show everyone, including Ike, operating like a well-oiled machine. Even Alonzo has begun to slyly provide Swagger with expensive equipment despite Gladiator Sneakers officially sponsoring Dominion. Everything is looking up for the young men.
This, I think, is why Jenna’s behavior rings so false. She doesn’t attend this game or stream it from home, which seems like a childish move, and when she sees how proud of himself Jace is, she lays out everything she has learned about Ike, which includes a suspicion that he deliberately threw a championship game to cash out on bets for the team to lose. This isn’t something Jace can stand the thought of, so he confronts Ike about it directly, and doesn’t get the answer he wants. He doesn’t get any answer at all, really. Ike is so offended by the accusation, not to mention the implications it has for his own relationship with his late father, that he tells Jace to leave. Jace takes that more seriously than Ike expects. When he says they’re “done”, does he mean him and Ike, or him and Swagger as a whole? Can there be a Swagger without Ike? With the championships and the end of the season looming, we’ll just have to see.