‘Ballers’ Tries, and Fails, to Be Something Greater (TV Review)

[rating=4.00] “Ends”

Starting off with an urn being delivered with all the delicate care of your average script for Ballers, “Ends” begins profoundly on the wrong foot, assuming that anyone in the audience would remember Roddney, one of two characters who died a couple minutes into the pilot. Appropriately, and what’s probably too clever to be self-referential, the kid picks up the box, and seeing what it is yells “MOM! Dad’s home.”

At this point, the show is finally trying to come back around to what it thought it wanted to be in the first place. The problem is trying to zero in on some semblance of a feasible direction is futile when the five episodes that separated the pilot from this week’s has had the consistency of character and thoughtful plot development of some kind of word salad purchased at a discount buffet and prepared by a meth-addled Tasmanian Devil.

Without any consistency with these characters (or likability, for that matter), watching them sit around, reminisce about the loss of their friend or their love for the game just seems like another episode-long pitfall that will be completely undone or disregarded by next week. Speaking of…

Spencer and Joe deliver the news that they got the lawyer down from $500,000 to a mere $150,000 for the pictures of Vernon. Given that the only trait the show’s given his is a naive immaturity, he sulks, complains about losing his “hard-earned money” before Spencer agrees to pay (remember he’s ALREADY owed $300,000 by Vernon so could pay for the lifestyle of his hangers-on), before Vernon drives off in a six-figure sports car.

Ricky, meanwhile, all but collapses the crayon-etched outline of a third dimension he’d spent the last two weeks the show had begun to forge. He calmly tells himself he’ll call his girlfriend, Bella, then freaks out on her voicemail. Possibly worrying that this wouldn’t revert him back to his tantrum-prone character clearly enough, he barges into another woman’s apartment, refusing to leave until she shows back up.

Once he enlists Charles’ help, who for some fucking reason the writer saw fit to revert him into an advice giving role about his girlfriend just one episode after Charles’ own wife finds him partying at Ricky’s secret mansion. So, they storm into the club, Ricky makes a scene. Incidentally, Charles’ wife, Julie, is there, which would’ve been a perfect time to catch us up on exactly where their storyline was at given it wasn’t exactly resolved last week. So of course it’s never brought up.

Also sandwiched in is a subplot involving Jason, the agent, who in his 45 seconds of screentime has been unable to close on a contract for Vernon, suddenly gets a subplot involving his mother dating a much younger guy. While it does nothing to advance the story, it could be argued as a moment of levity if it happened to a character who’s had more than a handful of lines. (I’d say a character the audience is invested in, but there isn’t one.) Oh, and later he walks in on them fucking.

Spencer inevitably shows up to attempt to calm him down, repeat the same warmed-over lines about “growing up” and “acting professional” he’s been spoon-feeding him since the pilot. Which comes up again when Spencer invites him along to spread Roddney’s ashes. “You remember Rod, right?” he asks Ricky, who seemed to have as much emotional connection to the character as the audience.

The closing scene finally wraps up this driveway-length stroll down memory lane, as Spencer and Charles lament (AGAIN) about the game, being on a team, et cetera. Then the dump his ashes in a pile on the 27 yard line. How moving.

Noteworthy line:

“I’m done worth being your cheerleader. AND your doormat!” – Bella, ensuring that this episode actually scores a negative number on the Bechdel Test.

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