Apple TV’s latest release is, in the words of one of its own characters (Ike the coach, played by O’Shea Jackson Jr), “explosive as hell”. The story centres around Jace Carson (Isiah Hill), a talented young basketball prodigy, aiming for the top and navigating through the many different obstacles on the way. More than just the team’s name, Swagger encompasses themes of how far one can make it on talent alone, relationship dynamics between mother and son and mentor and mentee, as well as actual lessons on the game of basketball.
The build-up of tension is one of the many elements that make this drama series such a fascinating watch. It hooks viewers into the story, piquing curiosity to invest in the characters. It also helps that not every struggle has its rewards, with some even resulting in losses – a grounded and very realistic approach. The pacing is decent; every scene is significant in the grand scheme of the story. While there’s a little bit of waiting, there’s also a lot of pay-off later down the line. However, the tight structure of each episode leaves no room for relationship building.
While simple, the use of editing techniques such as cuts and crossfades is very clever, with social media pop-ups elevating the stakes. In training and sport sequences, the camerawork is quick and unsteady, with smooth flow and transitions, emulating the constant movement of the ball. Warm filters and rough colour contrasts help set tone alongside a fantastic soundtrack. Not only does the music define the atmosphere for each scene, it also conveys characters’ emotions with relevant lyricism.
Overall, the series’s best feat is undoubtedly the way it explores all the external aspects that affect the sport, whether they be the road to achieving one’s dream or the formation of bonds and loss of friendship. Tackling heavier subject matters, including slivers about systemic racism and police brutality, it creates further nuance to an already multilayered story. One of the key lines from Jace is, “I don’t want to end up in some museum because of something like that, I want to be there because I’m great”.
Swagger is released on Apple TV+ on 29th October 2021.
Watch the trailer for Swagger here: