HBO’s Ballers series finale wrapped everything up with a crisp red bow on top when a season 6 focusing on Spencer vs the other NFL owners would have been a surefire hit.
This article contains spoilers to HBO’s Ballers Season 5 Episode 8 (“Players Only”).
Do you recall when Tom Cruise once made the term “Delayed gratification” famous in the film Vanilla Sky? Well, Ballers’ Season 5 Finale was the opposite of that notion, it was too much, too soon. From the inorganic way Joe Krutel and Spencer Strasmore have more or less completely made up, bros for life, to the NFL caving in with just the threat of a players’ strike. Even Vernon going back to the NFL after all his bravado about eSports and League of Legends, commenting that it was all some masterplan to motivate Reggie… Felt entirely like a Hollywood by the numbers affair. Miles away from the Kisan Teague death scene that left viewers with their jaws on the floor at the absolute raw nature of it all.
Ballers obviously concluded with the intention of making their viewers feel good but it went a bit overboard. It was too storybook, like an ’80s movie just missing a training montage. The picture perfect Happy Ending. Borderline sappy and candy coated, when greatness in the narrative was just around the corner. Creatively speaking, they should have let it play out on the field instead of throwing a Hail Mary.
Picture an entire Season 6 of the NFL pushing to destroy Spencer’s reputation into the ground in the media for going against them. Spencer trying to lobby other owners to chin up and break away, mostly to no avail, on the brink of losing it all. It’s practically a House of Cards style ready-made season. Just as Kisan Teague’s situation eerily mirrored Antonio Brown’s real life Patriots release, a season of Spencer vs the NFL could have paced rarely treaded ground. ESPN discussions examining how the show intruded on reality, the works. Now, we’ll never know what could have been as Ballers is officially over, curtains down. Last bow to the audience as every cast and crew member moves on to other projects.
All this being said, Ricky Jerret and TTD being behind Spencer’s monologues that overlay the show was an eloquent touch to end the series. A twist that if the series had to see its final season, should have ended with. In Spencer’s words, “Thanks for always being an original!” The message of helping players in the NFL after their bodies have been wrecked, instead of leaving them to the wolves as new pups arrive was a good one. The retired are more than just trading cards, stats, and highlights. Their lives continue even when the lights are gone, sometimes when the money is gone.
In essence, the plot just felt rushed after such a slow burn of a buildup. Kate’s sudden renewed interest in dating Joe. Reggie getting an investment just like that after one tournament from those that looked down at him and Vernon. No real prolonged, substantial conflict between Charles and his wife about health… Lest he continue his work with the Rams. Even the possibilities of Ricky rebelling against the ‘no dirt against the league on air’ policy. These are all lengthy stories that couldn’t see their day basking in the sun because it was the show’s last hoorah. They hurdled right over their obstacles with a 500 ft leap in the air to a storybook ending.
Perhaps, much like The Sopranos’ unexpected abrupt ending it had to be this way. We were in these characters lives for years and just like that, we’re not. As in life, people come and go with or without a credit roll. Usually without.