Different in many ways, Ballers and Insecure are back for their fourth and third seasons, respectively, this Sunday on HBO, and Dwayne Johnson’s and Issa Rae’s series are both on top of their considerable games. With strong support from Rob Corddry and Yvonne Orji, the new cycles of the once fumbling Ballers and always fierce and fun Insecure are living their best lives in what may sometimes seem like the worst way.
Having literally and figuratively become more seasoned, the duo are now drinking the often hard tonic of change, as I say in my video review above. It’s a quenching change for both that strips away a lot of what Ballers and Insecure were to reveal that self-awareness and friendship are the final bulwarks in a world of hurt, disappointment, Russell Brand, responding mirror bitches, debt, Lyft driving, the X-Games, and NFL players protesting against social injustice.
Well moved on from her tortured relationship with fan fave Lawrence, played by an absent Jay Ellis, deservedly Emmy nominated Rae’s on-screen Issa Dee has transformed from primarily being a work in progress. From the Rae-penned Season 3 opener, the series and its main character has now become an excellent portrait of an exercise in frustration. Taking willing and unwilling self-sabotage deep down, the anxiety rises as Rae’s Dee tries to extricate herself from the often racially insensitive so-called progressive nonprofit where she works and the passive aggressive slow lane her emotional life has crashed into – and you can’t look away.
Whereas Ballers once crashed into very different obstacles over and over with the same result, the series has now strikingly shifted from endurance to navigation for both its narrative and its star. One of the biggest stars in the world on the big screen with The Fast and The Furious franchise and the Jumanji flicks, Johnson has long had charm to burn, he also has true talent beyond those arched eyebrows.
As former NFL player and full-on sport management pitchman Spencer Strasmore in Ballers, this season the man once known as The Rock starts flexing some new dramatic muscles. That’s a new kind of ripped for Johnson that tosses out seeds as to where the next level for him (POTUS run?) and Ballers could be in an as-yet unannounced Season 5 and even beyond if he were to work with likes of an Ava DuVernay or HBO crossover with Rae in the future.
Check out more of my take on the new seasons of Ballers and Insecure in my video review above. I will say that if you are looking for a fine hour of television, you should click on to HBO at 10 PM on August 12 for the two premieres — they are top notch.
This review originally ran on August 10