Ballers is an American sports comedy-drama series following a retired NFL player who pursues a career as a financial manager of various sports stars. The series stars Dwayne Johnson, Rob Corddry, John David Washington, Omar Miller and Troy Garity. Check out my review of Season 3 here.
After the major change in direction from Season 2 to Season 3, Ballers yet again shifts its storyline in Season 4. The change of narrative in Season 3 was much appreciated after a rather stale narrative to the second series of the show, but the decision to pivot direction for another season felt a little unexpected and unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong, Season 4 of Ballers is actually my favourite season since the first season, but the constant chopping and changing of the storyline is evidence of the shows lack of a long-term plan.
Unlike Season 3 of Ballers which split its time between the east coast of the US and the west coast, Season 4 follows Spencer and Joe solely in their time on the west coast. Again, this change of direction is a welcome change but does feel a little unnecessary in relation to the storyline. Likewise, the way in which all of the main cast conveniently move across to the west coast in tow of Spencer and Joe just feels like lazy writing, very much forcing the issue.
My biggest gripe with Ballers as a whole is its lack of explanation on proceedings which go on between each season. As each season essentially takes place in the off-season of the NFL, there’s a substantial time gap between each season. Be it major changes to the storyline or characters disappearing without a trace, it seems like each season has a major issue with continuity. If we look back at the end of Season 3, Spencer and Joe pull out on the Las Vegas stadium deal right at the last minute, leaving the Anderson brothers in disarray – something which I considered to be a major development within the series, yet it wasn’t even addressed in Season 4.
Nevertheless, thanks to the shows easy watch nature, it doesn’t take long for Season 4 to find its rhythm. Arguably the biggest change to Season 4 is Spencer and Joe’s acquisition of an extreme-sports agency (SportsX), owned by none other than Lance Klians, played by Russell Brand. As always, Russell Brand is absolutely fantastic as the flamboyant Lance and his rocky relationship with Spencer and Joe makes him one of the better antagonists we’ve seen in the series so far. Like the majority of characters in the show, Russell Brand’s performance as Lance is authentic and convincing.
Season 4 is also the first time we really see Spencer and Joe focus on their own separate projects, with Joe focusing on managing SportsX and Spencer attempting to secure a huge TV deal at the expense of a college quarterback. Of the two storylines, I definitely enjoyed Joe’s more, whilst it wasn’t quite as dramatic and theatrical as Spencer’s, I found the immersion into the world of extreme sports to be great fun. Spencer’s storyline certainly provides the substance to the series, but his constant selfish outlook on life really do question your opinions of the character.
Ballers has never been afraid to tackle real world problems and there is a notable concerted effort from the show in Season 4. Tackling issues of racism, mental health and the structure of institutional organizations, I can’t help but commend the show for its approach. I was particularly impressed with how the series managed to integrate the U.S. national anthem protests and the taking of the knee through the storylines of supporting characters Ricky Jerret and Charles Greane. These issues are not shoehorned into the show and are covered with a great deal of respect which I feel only raises their awareness.
All in all, Season 4 is a bit of a strange one! It fails to plug the gaps from Season 3 and shifts the narrative into yet another direction, however its vibrant change of location and immersion into the world of extreme sports make it the most entertaining season since Season 1.
Despite failing to bridge the gap from the end of Season 3, Season 4 of Ballers immerses itself into the world of extreme sports and tackles a variety of real-world issues, making it one of the best seasons to date.