21 Thunder goes to war

Episode 6 of 21 Thunder opened on Monday night with action that set the tone for the next 44 minutes. If I were to describe the episode with one word: angst, and lots of it!

“War” focused on Junior Lolo (Emmanuel Kabongo), Nolan (RJ Fetherstonhaugh) and Lara (Eileen Li). And right off the top these three actors turned out fantastic performances. I was grieving with Junior, I was fearing for Lara and I was just as furious with Declan (Colm Feore) as Nolan was. 21 Thunder just keeps on getting better and better!

Last week, we saw Fatima (Gabrielle Graham) return from her visit with Gregoire, her face covered in bruises. This week we opened with Junior, intent on seeing Gregoire and was immediately attacked by Isaac Boka (Ryan Allen) who we now know was impersonating Gregoire. Junior learned from his brother’s imposter that his brother is dead, supposedly he succumbed to pneumonia—however, a quick look on IMDb shows Gregoire (Kareem Tristan Alleyne) appears for one episode. IF Gregoire is dead, then his identity and his belongings are nothing now, but for Isaac Boka they could be a life saver—but why then if he is in so much danger was his apartment unlocked when Junior arrived? I have to wonder then, who attacked Fatima and Sly (Thamela Mpumlwana) when Junior was playing in Boston? Why start a fire threatening Fatima?  Something still does not add up here.

Lara, charged by Declan to ensure the Thunder makes it to the European tournament, paid Desjardins (Trevor Hayes) his first installment to fix the upcoming road game against Boston. But Desjardin failed to show.  We saw Lara’s fear; Eileen Li’s portrayal made it palpable for viewers. The moment she contemplated pulling the fire alarm, you could sense the knot of dread coiling in her gut. Meanwhile, the effects of Lara’s  game fixing were felt far wider than she herself was aware. John Mangano Jr. (Bruce Ramsay) was seen squeezing Declan for a cut of the profits. As punishment for not ensuring the game’s outcome, Lara had to see to Desjardin’s punishment and she paid a visit to Desjardins accompanied by two of K’s (Kyle Mac) thugs.

Upon the team’s return to Montreal following their victory in Boston, Kevin greeted the team bus, under instruction to take Nolan to his father. This capitulation by Nolan, it seemed, was the last straw for Emma (Clark Backo) and she declared she was done with him. Nolan met with Declan, who then invoked his parental  influence over Nolan, and ordered him to toss the upcoming match against London. Nolan wanted no part of his father, but Declan played his trump card: he still has the video on K’s phone proving Nolan was present when Kevin took down the dealer in a deal gone bad.

Side stories updated this week: Davey Gunn (Ryan Pierce) found himself in serious financial straits due to his salary cut. Because of his injury, Davey was unable to fulfill his contractual obligations. Alex (Andres Joseph) was called up to Utah’s first team which means Nolan has lost an instrument of positive influence from his childhood. Albert (Conrad Pla) upon returning home, found out his wife Renata (Paula Rivera) had left him. Coach Christy Cook (Stephanie Bennett) began to carve a place for herself with the team, earning praise from a stoic Coach Rocas. Finally, Grace Cook, with help from her new friend Davey Gunn, changed her mind and did not enter the rehab facility. Instead, she agreed to fully commit herself to home therapy. I am really loving the interaction between Davey and Grace. Here Davey can be himself and Grace is treated with integrity rather than as an inconvenience.

Things to watch for next week:

  1. Will Nolan be Declan’s inside man on the field, tossing the game against London and his big chance in front of international scouts?
  2. Will we learn who started the fire at Fatima’s apartment?
  3. We are still waiting to see if anyone goes to police about the murder Kevin and Nolan are involved in.
  4. Will Coach Davey Gunn’s serious financial difficulties mean he will be the coach Lara targets to help fix the London match?

As an aside, much has been said about 21 Thunder‘s message of diversity and this episode takes racism head-on. During the match this week we saw Tran (Jonathan Kim) fouled and a Boston player telling the “Gook” to stay down. Following the match, this same player from Boston started a fight in the hallway, tossing more racial slurs at Tran. This was the first time the show overtly tackled racism and it was done seamlessly within the plotlines.

I do have to mention just one minor complaint. Why on earth would Lara be seen around Desjardins’ in her team warm ups? For a bright girl, that is not so bright.

“War” was an outstanding buildup for what I am sure will be explosive action in the final two episodes.

Related: Read our interview with RJ Fetherstonhaugh!

21 Thunder airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.