‘Ballers’ series finale synopsis/review: ‘It was a magical run while it lasted’
After five seasons, we’ve officially reached the end for “Ballers” on HBO. As Lance said in the show’s series finale, “it was a magical run while it lasted.”
As much flack as the show has caught over the last few years, the series provided some great moments and a solid football show in a world where fictional sports programming doesn’t tend to work well.
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The series finale snuck up on a lot of people with the show’s fifth season only running for eight episodes, and many may have missed the last episode as they tuned into Sunday Night Football or the extra innings action in Game 2 of the ALCS.
If that was the case for you, you’re in luck. As has been the tradition through the first seven weeks of season five, we’ve got you covered with a full recap and review for the show’s series finale. In this case, we’re going all out with an even more in-depth review than usual, wrapping everything up on a high note.
After our final “Right Above It” intro in the show’s illustrious history, the episode starts with audio from what appears to be owners and/or media commenting on Spencer’s press conference from last week’s episode, with displeasure being spread around about the Chiefs owner’s comments.
“Took 100 years to build this system, and Strasmore’s dismantling it with one contract,” one person says.
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Looking to fix the issue, Candace is on the phone with the Boss Man to try and determine all of the choices the owners have in order to take care of the Spencer issue.
“I’m looking at all options,” Candace says.
“There’s only one that’s going to make the fellas happy,” Boss Man replies.
Candace says, “Killing Spencer Strasmore,” with Boss Man saying they chould “in a metaphorical sense.”
“This is on us, Candace,” Boss Man says. You and me. But only one person is going to take a fall. Tell the big guy to sell his interest in the team or we destroy his life. I suggest option number one.”
At the Sports X campus construction site, Joe and Spencer are back to their joking ways, with Joe explaining how the project ended up being more expensive than originally thought.
Meanwhile, Spencer says he got a call from the league with an offer he can’t refuse: 100 million over what he paid for the Chiefs, just for him to get lost.
“Good thing you’re not barefoot, because as usual, you stepped in s—,” Joe says.
Spencer says the money could help pay for the campus, but Joe says the players and league need Spencer more than Joe needs the money.
“You’re going to save their asses, but more importantly, you’re going to do right by the players, and the players that came before them,” Joe says.
The duo discusses why others don’t see eye-to-eye with Spencer, and Joe starts to channel his inner Spencer as he mimics some of the season-long narration from Spencer.
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“Greed, selfishness, good old fashioned complacency. Everyone wants to be liked, but you my friend…” Joe says.
“Love to be hated,” Spencer interrupts.
We get the first of our Spencer narration in this series finale, discussing some of Spencer’s thoughts when it comes to the league.
“I’ve been to a lot of cities and worn a lot of collars,” Spencer says. “They try to convince you that it’s about the name on the front, but they pay you for the name on the back. People need to get real, the players are the league.”
Spencer pulls into the NFLPA’s offices, “secretly” meeting with DeMaurice Smith and their negotiating team.
Elsewhere, we get some more insight into the other storylines of the show, starting with Ricky.
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Ricky and TTD meet with the Hollywood executive from last week, but the meeting goes from good to bad as the executive talks about his company’s connections to the league.
As he mentions that they can’t have Ricky trashing on the league that helps pay the bills, Ricky and TTD decide to start their own business, with Quavo making a cameo and showing interest in talking to Ricky.
Next up, we head to the esports tournament that Reggie, Vernon and Lance were at last week, with the “Levitating Rhinos” pushing through the competition en route to the event’s semifinals against Vernon’s rivals, Team Splyce.
Back at home for Charles, we see the Rams general manager at a children’s soccer game, talking to a former player about his current situation and his proposed contract extension/promotion.
When asked about heading back to Los Angeles, Charles says he may be sticking around for a while. If so, then the former NFL player and new soccer coach hopes Charles “keeps his mouth shut and his Super Bowl loss off the pitch.”
Back at the tournament, Rhinos meet up with Splyce in semifinals, and the team steamrolls Vernon’s rivals en route to finals to take on the “Faceless Five.” However, the squad can’t come up clutch when it counts, falling in the finals to come in second in the tournament.
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“It was a magical run while it lasted, mate,” Lance says.
Lance mentions the $750,000 in prize money to Reggie, but Reggie says the money won’t even cover their entree fee (I’m unsure how an entrance fee would exceed a second place prize, but I digress).
“F— these moral victories,” Reggie says.
As Reggie leaves, the Splyce owner wants to talk about an “investment at a significant valuation,” offering Reggie an offer of his own that he can’t refuse.
“How many zeros we talking?” Reggie asks.
Back in Spencer’s story, he heads to the Andersons’ home, where he gets some bad news: he’s suspended for colluding with NFLPA, with his ownership suspended indefinitely.
“This is your Guantanamo Bay moment, you’re a f—ing masochist,” Mr. Anderson says.
“I’m a player and a veteran, and I know exactly where the fuck I stand, and that’s all that matters,” Spencer fires back with. “Question is, what side of the line are you guys on?”
In the esports world, Reggie and Lance meet up with Joe at SportsX, and Reggie has some big news for his boss of the last few years.
Reggie shows Joe a check for $2.5 million after the tournament, while Joe says to keep money and says he believes in them and their endeavors.
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“I want to apologize to you, my past behavior had less to do with you and more to do with my own misery,” Joe says as his showcase of his changes continues to grow throughout the series finale. “You’re a valuable member of this team.”
Reggie and Lance mention how they accepted an offer to become higher management in the esports world, leaving Sports X and saying the “check settles it out.”
“It was good doing business with you, Mr. Krutel,” Reggie says.
“You’re your own man now, mate,” Lance says.
“I might actually miss you,” Reggie adds.
Spencer bursts into the NFL offices to find Candace, providing one of the best lines in the show’s entire history as he rushes past the receptionist.
“Someone call security,” the receptionist says.
“You better tell them to bring everyone,” Spencer says.
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“How could you let this happen?” Spencer then tells Candace.
“I didn’t let anything happen, the owners want you and any memory of you gone,” Candace replies.
“I’m not going away,” Spencer fires back with.
Candace brings up the fact that the owners didn’t expect him to leave without a fight, and says how they launched a media offensive about him being a “a pill-popping drug addict, a deceitful liar, a dishonorable partner to the other owners.”
Spencer mentions that they’re doing all of this because he’s trying to do right by the players.
“You’re not a player anymore, time has moved on,” Candace says. “You have a responsibility to the shield”
“F— the shield,” Spencer says. “I have a moral one to the players.”
Candace says the owners are meeting to force a sale of the Chiefs, and says it’s over for Spencer.
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Spencer, however, says it’s just beginning, and says how he told the players to strike as a response.
“When you spend your entire life trucking guys, curbing that instinct doesn’t come easy,” Spencer narrates. “Each game is different, every opponent has a weakness. You have to know your enemy, the landscape and adjust your game accordingly.”
Kate sees Joe stressing after the deal with Lance and Reggie, and mentions how Nike just called, wanting to buy into the municipal. The offer includes Nike buying 50 percent with the option to buy other 50, and Kate mentions how she was out late with Odell and an acquisitions member for Nike to hammer out the details.
“Congrats to both of us,” Joe says. “But this thing is all you.”
Kate begins to pepper Joe with questions about the deal, and Joe handles it all positively. As she senses his changes, Kate praises Joe for “evolving,” eliciting a great response and explanation from one of Ballers’ best characters.
“I’m just finally comfortable in my own skin,” Joe says. “This whole Spencer thing really f—ed me up, and now that that’s resolved, I can finally move on.”
As Kate asks what’s next, Joe mentions how Nike’s marketing dollars and distribution could take them to the next level. However, Kate was asking about the two of them, leading to a nice moment before we head off to the Charles storyline.
Charles has dinner with Julie and his kid, talking about the Rams offer and his kid. As Charles mentions how nothing would matter if his health takes his life, he brings up the possibility of turning down the offer from the Rams.
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However, Julie asks if he’ll be able to live with himself if he doesn’t avenge the Super Bowl loss, leading to Charles having a change of heart about his career direction.
Spencer then launches his next move, starting with an interview for a feature in the New York Times. He then calls all of his player connections including Vernon, Von Miller, Melvin Gordon, Deacon Eller, and many more familiar faces as he assembles his troops for a big drop at the owners meeting.
“We’re at the point of no return,” Spencer says.
He then calls Ricky, and the two make peace as each ask the other for a favor for the big drop coming the next day.
Vernon and Reggie then meet while Vernon plays games at his house.
Reggie says the investment from Splyce is massive, and Vernon pulls an “I told you so” as he says he told him it was all going to work out.
However, Vernon has news, and a new deal of his own: Jason came through with the Cowboys for a deal worth $90 million, which Vernon intends to take.
“Every dollar counts,” Vernon says, going against what he said at the beginning of the esports venture.
Reggie then realizes he had been played by Vernon this whole time, with simple reasoning for the deceit from his friend.
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“You weren’t fulfilling your potential,” Vernon says.
“When did you become the smartest guy in the room?” Reggie asks.
“When I started pretending to be the dumbest,” Vernon replies.
We then see Charles on a flight to Los Angeles, signaling what his final decision was there as he makes his next career move.
Speaking of career moves, we head to the owners meeting, as Boss Man reads the article in the New York Times entitled: “A Player’s Owner: Spencer Strasmore refuses to fall in line.”
Spencer rolls up to the packed meeting as all of the pieces fall into place, and the action really kicks off.
“I’ve come to save your asses,” Spencer says as everyone’s phones start to blow up with notifications from their respective players.
Spencer’s master plan comes to fruition: he had every player he talked to post about the devastating injuries NFL players face, catching the attention of the teams’ owners.
“Pain, most of you have probably experienced some. Stub your toe on a coffee table, maybe you’ve hurt your back playing golf, maybe you’ve been in a car wreck. But, have you ever been run over by a car?” Spencer asks. “Had 13 surgeries? Eight months of rehab? Debilitating headaches? For most of our guys, that’s just part of their daily life.”
“In case there was any doubt, you’re days away from a strike, and the season is upon us,” Spencer continues. “And let me tell you something, you’ve got way more to lose from a strike than you’d lose providing healthcare. Do yourselves a favor, for once in your life, do the smart f—ing thing, if not the right thing.”
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Candace says the league and its owners won’t be ambushed, but Spencer says he won’t take no for an answer. An owner say he’s out of line, and Candace says they should put it to a vote, “for the sake of democracy.”
“Sure, f— it,” Spencer says. “Let’s vote.”
Boss Man asks if he can live with the results, and Spencer says he guesses he’s going to have to. We then reach the pivotal moment of the season, as Candace asks for a vote to implement lifetime health care to all players with three years of service.
As Spencer shows his agreement, it appears as if no one will be joining him. A second owner joins the fray, followed by numerous others. However, the group is one vote short, and Spencer then turns to Boss Man to try to get the Cowboys owner’s approval to finish the job.
“It’s not too late to clear your conscience,” Spencer says. “Save your soul.”
“Of course it is,” Boss Man says.
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Following up on his deal with Spencer from a few weeks back, Boss Man says his answer is still a “yes.” An owner asks what the “yes” means, and we get the deciding moment in a massive vote in this fictional NFL history.
“Yes as in Strasmore has the right idea,” Boss Man says. “Now let’s go get this CBA done and take this league to an even higher level.”
Back at the complex construction site, Vernon, Reggie, Jason, Lance and Joe all meet up with a ton of others at the site’s groundbreaking.
Joe thanks everyone for coming, and “Ballers” fans get some heartfelt moments from the SportsX star to wrap up the show and his character arc.
“Today we pour the foundation for our future,” Joe says. “I feel so lucky to be surrounded by my closest friends, my family. You are my family. You have all, every single one of you, killed it in your own individual special ways.”
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Joe then goes one-by-one to thank the key players in attendance and highlighting their respective accomplishments: Kate and her municipal deal, Lance and his constant steadying hand, Jason and his work on Vernon and Patrick’s deal.
“Best agent in the f—ing business and I’m so proud to be your f—ing boss,” Joe says about Jason, as his friend replies with a subtle “Partner.”
To Reggie, Joe mentions the growth he’s seen from his young pupil over the course of the show’s tenure.
“To think of where you started and where you’re going, it’s mind blowing,” Joe says. “Kudos, brother.”
For Vernon, Joe says, “The heart you show on the field and in life will be infused in the walls of this complex. And, also, your commissions as well.”
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Last, but certainly not least, we get to hear Joe’s comments on a late-to-the-party Spencer, with the brotherhood shining once more.
“You big-balled motherf—er,” Joe says. “I want you to know something. Wherever we may roam for the rest of our lives, when I see you, I’m home. Brothers for life.”
As Spencer salutes, we then learn about this season-long interview and who was conducting it this whole time.
We head to the studio, as Ricky asks Spencer during their one-on-one conversation about what he learned in the end about everything.
“Sometimes it’s about the journey, and sometimes it’s about the result,” Spencer says. “Sometimes it’s about none of the above. And it never ends, until you’re dead.”
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TTD and Ricky are watching the interview back to end the show, with Ricky praising TTD’s editing.
“We may be pretty good at this Hollywood thing,” the duo says.
We then wrap things up with the end of Spencer’s interview, reflecting on the Chiefs owner’s journey throughout “Ballers.”
“I thought I’d always be known as a player, but identity is a funny thing,” Spencer says. “Just when you think you’ve defined yourself or life has defined you. There’s always another chapter, another challenge, it’s all about getting outside your comfort zone. Until you do, you’ll never know what you’re capable of.”
Ricky mentions that the group got all they needed from Spencer during the interview, and the duo hugs it out as Spencer thanks Ricky “for always being an original.”
Spencer then hands the microphone off, walks off set and out of an exit door into the light as the show ends for good.
After trashing some of the moments throughout the show’s final season, I want to give props to the “Ballers” crew to top this whole journey off.
This show, for all of its shortcomings and poor storyline moments at times, provided some great drama and entertainment over its five-year tenure on HBO.
Sure, there were a lot of plot holes in its final season, and I still get questions on Twitter about where Spencer’s money to buy the Chiefs actually came from. We don’t know what happened with the NCAA lawsuit, and who knows how we got to where we did from season four to season five.
But, this show ended on a high note in my book, and that’s all that matters to me. We got closure on Joe’s situation, and he got his own when it came to almost every element of his life. He got his friends, his family and a successful business venture, all on his own.
Spencer pulls off another ambitious move to end a season, which is a fitting ending given how the last four seasons ended over the last few years. And, in the process, he finds his own identity, and learns how to deal with conflict and use the fire in his mind and heart for good.
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Vernon sparks his friend to bring out his full potential, Charles finds his true path, and everyone ends up where they’re supposed to be to end the season. If you are looking for anything else, I don’t know what the crew could’ve possibly put together to make you happy.
In the end, I want to give massive props to the “Ballers” crew for everything over the last few years. The show kept my attention through the good and the bad, and it was a unique look at the football world with some major players when it comes to casting to help tell the story. It was a favorite of mine to follow along with, and good for them for going out with a bang to leave a good taste in your mouth.
Cheers to those involved with “Ballers,” and thanks for reminding me how great “Right Above It” was when it first came out.
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