The finale for the first season of A League of Their Own is exactly what you’d want it to be. It’s exciting and cathartic, with just enough to leave fans wanting more. And I definitely do. To be honest, if baseball was as exciting to watch as this finale, I’d be a fan. (I’ve been to several games, and in my experience, it is not.
Honor and Glory
The whole season has been leading to the championship game for the Rockford Peaches. And let’s be honest; we know they’d get there. This is television, after all. But the stakes in this game were considerably higher than fans might have initially predicted. The Peaches weren’t just facing off against another team. They were facing off against the South Bend Blue Socks. Which now has Jo as a star hitter. Friend against friend? How very Shakespearean.
Before the game even starts, Shaw admits that the Blue Socks are better than they are. Which doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily win. But admitting it takes the fear out of it, so they face it head-on. The situation isn’t improved by the fact that Jo knows all the Peaches’ tricks, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. So the game could have turned into an all-out rout.
Surprisingly, however, it doesn’t. The Peaches hold their own until the end, when a knockout hit by Jo. As she rounds the basis, that should be it. Except she’s still injured from her altercation at the bar, leading her to collapse, unable to stand. Her teammates aren’t allowed to help, according to the rules. So that could be it. The Blue Socks would have to forfeit, and the Peaches would take the title.
Not on Shaw’s watch. Or Greta’s for that matter. Or the rest of the Peaches. They could take the victory-in-name-only, but where would be the honor in that? Plus, this isn’t just any other player. This is their friend. So instead, they take her in their arms and carry her around the field until she takes home the well-deserved win.
I have to admit, it was a ridiculously moving moment that really brought home how much we’ve come to care about all these characters over the span of eight short episodes. They aren’t just a team. They’re a family. Win or lose, they love each other and make each other better. Even Shirley (Kate Berlant) learns to embrace life, thanks to the team. And possibly botulism. And Shaw, as a test-run, though only to decide nope. She is definitely not gay. They’re a family, and Beverly (Dale Dickey) is their house mom, who’s been watching out for them all this time.
I couldn’t be happier that Jo won the championship. She deserved a major win this season. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be okay if she’s not back in a major way next year.
Over the course of the season, we’ve seen Shaw come into her own and find her own voice. She almost loses it in the finale, Charlie’s words echoing in her head over her own. Which brings her to ask Charlie to leave, leading up to the big game. Not just leave the boarding house. Leave the entire freaking state. Listen, feelings for Greta aside, if you need your spouse to get several time zones away from you in order to embrace who you are (and thus have them nowhere near to help you celebrate your victories or lament your defeats), you should probably just call a coroner on your marriage. Not that being caught kissing Greta at the end of the episode will in any way keep the Shaw/Charlie relationship on life support.
While Shaw deals with – or avoids dealing with – her family issues, Max has problems of her own. She’s about to set off with the team, but her mother just can’t seem to get on board. At least, not until Uncle Bernie comes and tells her a few simple truths. The worst thing she can do to her daughter is to demand that she put away a part of herself to make life easier. And there’s a point at which holding on tight is only going to push Max away, to the point she might never return.
I’m glad her mother came around, but I have to commend Saidah Arrika Ekulona for her portrayal this season. It would have been easy to play Toni with disappointment and resentment for Max’s choices. But Ekulona layered in love and fear and even hope. She genuinely wants what’s best for Max, and it’s hard for her to accept that what’s best for Max isn’t necessarily the safe choice.
I suspect we’ll get to see more of her protective side in the second season, assuming we get one. With Clance pregnant, Max on the road, and her husband at war, I have no doubt she’ll be relying heavily on Toni’s support.
And Max will be back soon enough to reunite with her bestie. After all, the All Stars are how she gets to play baseball. Clance is her team. And we could all use a team like that.
A League of Their Own is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.