“Follow-Through” deals heavily with the relationships between fathers and their children as Nationals loom large for Swagger.
This recap of Swagger season 1, episode 9, “Follow-Through”, contains spoilers.
I’ve never met my father — he left before I was born. But I received a letter from him once similar to the one that Jace and Jackie receive in “Follow-Through”, full mostly of excuses, platitudes, and an admission that he made a second attempt at parenthood and decided to stick with it. That kind of thing changes you and how you see the world; it’s a unique sense of inadequacy, believing you weren’t good enough before you’d even grown into a person. A lot of what works about Swagger is bundled up in this scene, such as the way Jace instinctively folds the letter to protect Jackie’s feelings when he gets to the part about the daughter. Jace has spent the entire season angry, at himself, at Crystal’s coach, at the world. This is just another thing to add to the pile.
Swagger season 1, episode 9 recap
The difference now, though, is that Jace knows how to manage his feelings. He learned that from Ike, not that he’d admit it at this point. The two of them play an impromptu game of HORSE while discussing what they fell out about in the previous episode, and Ike realizes too late that the master has become the student. Jace can compose himself. He can stick with the team, despite no longer having any respect for Ike, who it’s worth mentioning hasn’t actually admitted to any wrongdoing yet. By the time that game has finished, the question has become whether Ike can stick with him — can he put his pride aside for the sake of the team the way Jace is willing to?
Judging by how Swagger performs against Lil Pip’s G-Dubs, maybe. But it isn’t just the court they’ve got to worry about. Musa is now dating Tamika, whose father is investigating the assault on Crystal’s ex-coach. When Jace, Phil, and Drew huddle up to warn Musa away, Royale is obviously eavesdropping. There’s also Jace’s new obsession, which he explains to Crystal, of making sure Swagger succeeds so that his father can see him play all the way in Florida and realize what he walked away from. That’s enough to energize Jace’s training, but it’s not enough to get him on the same page as Ike when it comes to diversifying offense. Something has to give.
In the rematch with Dominion, people start to notice that Jace doesn’t dap up Ike during the time-out, but luckily Phil’s newfound drive takes the attention away from the subject. After seeing his mother in prison, he’s inspired to dedicate every game to her, and he takes that promise seriously, stepping up for the team and leading them to success against Dominion. But the matter of Musa’s new relationship continues to loom. Tamika’s father, after streaming the game, starts asking questions about Crystal, and Royale and Nick ask the others outright what all the secrecy is about. Again, something has to give.
Swagger’s next game is against the Maryland Prodigies, who’re coached by Deandre Wilson, the same coach who antagonized Jace in his first game for Swagger (who Ike laid out after the fact). The championships mean a lot to Ike, as he explains to Jenna, at least in part because winning would mean him being able to quit the hardware store. But winning requires Jace to keep his head even under a barrage of personal attacks and insults. As it turns out, he’s much more able to do that than he was the first time. But he’s not quite ready to shove aside abuse directed at Crystal, which Deandre picks up on quickly. So, too, does Ike, who takes Jace aside to clue him into what’s going on. He reminds him that this is his moment, and Crystal assures him she can handle herself. So the Prodigies blatantly foul Jace instead, taking him off the court with a knee injury and putting Royale in his place. Royale, luckily, plays an exceptional game, and in the closing seconds, he comes in clutch having tightened up the follow-through on his three-pointer, validating one of Ike’s new offensive plays. Swagger makes the Nationals.
Alonzo gets Jace an appointment with a high-level orthopedist, who suspects he’s suffering from an MCL sprain and will need at least six weeks of rehab — with the Nationals in just three weeks, that’s not good news, but she has seen some athletes recover faster. She has also seen plenty come back too soon and do more damage. Still, though, this is the least heartbreaking hospital scene of “Follow-Through”. In the other, Meg’s father dies, and when she leaves the ICU she finds the entirety of Swagger waiting for her in the lobby, just to show support. It’s a very touching scene, and even with everyone wearing masks, the emotion is palpable in the eyes of Tessa Ferrer, who is the episode’s clear MVP.
But the loss of Meg’s father reminds Ike of the loss of his own, which pushes him to tell Meg about what happened in his final high-school game. He’s still vague, but he confesses that it wasn’t just an “off game”, and that’s enough to validate the tension between him and Jace. But, given the results of Jace’s MRI, it seems like he isn’t going to be on the court for the nationals anyway. Can Swagger still perform without him? I guess we’ll find out in the finale.