Is it possible to cram any more anxiety-riddled storylines into one show? Sure, if you toss in loads of special effects with million-dollar budgets perhaps. But 21 Thunder series writer Riley Adams outdid himself with the season finale. Most loose ends were satisfactorily tied up in very plausible ways and yet questions remained open, leaving an opportunity for the show to grow should the series be picked up for Season 2. More on that later.
I saw this episode broken down into three distinct sections: the lead-up to the match, the match itself and the aftermath. With that in mind, let’s dig in.
Everyone was feeling the pressure from the upcoming U-21 friendly between the Thunder and London. And then several of our favourites had additional pressures to contend with. Principally, Junior (Emmanuel Kabongo), Nolan (RJ Fetherstonhaugh) and Christy (Stephanie Bennett).
We opened with the police as they took Junior in to be questioned in connection to the Isaac Boka (Ryan Allen) murder. The police accused Junior of hiring Bamba (Clauter Alexandre) to kill Boka. Before they could press for more answers including those regarding Gregoire’s ring, the Thunder’s attorney arrived and escorted Junior out because the police had no immediate intention to arrest him.
Meanwhile, Nolan, still feeling pressured by Declan (Colm Feore) to throw the match against London, seized an opportunity to confide in Coach Davey (Ryan Pierce) only to learn he too is in on the match fixing. This only added to Davey’s own grief, rendering him useless when Christy sought him out for coaching advice. Her questions falling on deaf ears with Davey sent Christy to her mother, former coach Grace (Susan Bain). This nicely set up a reconciliation between these two strong willed women—cue a tear or two. They used the moment to bridge the chasm that had existed between the two for years, and ultimately Grace advised her daughter: “You take the fight to them.”
In the meantime, Emma (Clark Backo) was left waiting in the departure lounge at the Montreal airport, having taken Nolan’s parting advice to heart. She was off to Dublin to attend medical school. That was until she ran into Alex (Andres Joseph) at the airport—how about THAT tender moment between those two? Flight delay after delay left them time to talk through Nolan’s behaviour of late, piecing his inconsistencies together until they realized Nolan’s deceit was only a guise to protect Emma. Screw Dublin, it was back to the football pitch for these two.
That brought us to Lara (Eileen Li), who was entirely fed up with being under the thumb of Mangano (Bruce Ramsay) and his boys. Clearly a woman of higher intelligence, she was busily crafting a new plan. And, how much did we love that Russian roulette scene with Kevin (Kyle Mac)? Holy cojones, Batman!
Dawn on game day arrived complete with a threat of violence against Davey and Nolan should they fail to perform for Mangano. Then Christy gave a nice little pep talk to her team that effectively ran down the season’s events as she prepared us as viewers for the coming climax: the match we have all waited for.
Game time arrived with Fatima and Sly (Themala Mpumlwana), Grace, Emma, Alex and Mangano’s hit man all in the stands. Anyone unable to attend were glued to their sets watching as referee Desjardins (Trevor Hayes), Assistant Coach Davey Gunn and Nolan were all working against a win for Thunder. Frustrations mounted amongst the team. Upset by a lousy call from Desjardins, “Snacks” (Kevin Claydon) sacrificed his troublesome knee and took him out of play. Then Christy put two and two together, realized Davey was undermining her and ordered him off the field. That left Nolan, faced with a game deciding free kick in extra time and all too aware that he alone was the only man able to swing the game for London. “We win or we lose with you Nolan.” Since he had nothing left to lose he responded with “What the hell?” After all, he believed Emma was safely on her way to Dublin.
With that, the Thunder won. Pandemonium broke out in the stands, at Lara’s and in the prison. A double-crossed Mangano was left without his winnings and a victorious Declan pronounced, “Did you really think my boy would kneel to you?”
The final four minutes were a flurry: a shiv fight between Declan and Mangano in the prison left Declan bleeding out, the hit man’s attempt to hunt down Nolan was effectively waylaid by Davey, and a lost Sly in a crowd of celebrating fans.
The season closed with a happy, albeit suspicious, ending. Gregoire (Kareem Tristain Alleyne) conveniently returned from the dead and obviously wearing his ring; the very ring that was removed from Boka when he died. And finally, Emma ran into Nolan’s arms as they enjoyed this double-edged victory together.
As I mentioned at the top, we are left wondering if there will be a Season 2, and there are threads that writers have left dangling that leave that possibility open:
- How will Lara and Kevin’s new money making scam pan out?
- Is Declan dead?
- What now for Coach Davey Gunn?
- Was Gregoire somehow involved in Boka’s death?
- Can Emma and Nolan’s relationship survive any fallout from Mangano et al?
I reached out to series writer Riley Adams on the occasion of the season finale for some parting comments and he had this to share:
“We are so proud to have created a show that embraces the Canadian values of diversity and opportunity while reflecting the highest international standards of craft in acting, direction, photography and design. And we are thrilled the international marketplace has responded so enthusiastically. We will be announcing in upcoming weeks our international partners for Season 1 and seasons to come.”
There you have it Thunder fans! I guess we wait for news about a possible Season 2. Congratulations to the 21 Thunder team for producing a superb program that reflects Canadian diversity and inclusion. A great metaphor for the beautiful game. I for one enjoyed tagging along for the ride.