Lost The Plot
Episode 5 of The English Game begins with Jimmy recovering nicely from his injury but receiving the horrid news that he’ll never play football again. To make matters worse, Cartwright and Walsh come to blows over the fight as the press catch wind of the riot that took place.
At the FA Headquarters, the names are pulled out of the hat for the two semi-final matches – Notts County VS Old Etonians and Old Carthusians VS Blackburn. As the Etonians learn of their opponents and begin training, Francis implores them to start stamping down on their game and stop the working class no matter what.
Cartwright leads the Blackburn players and tells them a portion of the semi-final gate will go to Jimmy’s recovery. Afterward, he takes Fergus aside and asks about Martha. Only, Mrs. Cartwright heads into Martha’s house and speaks to her about taking Jeni away and staying with Cartwright.
Arthur is called into seeing his Father who tells him he needs to grow up and become a serious individual. Holding back his disdain, Arthur tells his Papa he’ll sort out the bank business later on in the day.
Tommy arrives at Jimmy’s house to apologize and things unsurprisingly become awkward when Fergus arrives. However, they manage to patch things up together, before the latter leaves and finds out that Jenie is Cartwright’s child.
At the same time, Arthur comes under fire from his teammates as they question his commitment to the team, telling him he doesn’t deserve to play given he didn’t actually get them to the semi final. This is made even worse in the morning too, as he comes under fire from his Father again. Arthur holds his own though and eventually his Father caves, allowing him to continue investing with Stokes’ shirt business. He pleads with his father to accept him before showing how good he actually is by suggesting something to help their investment.
Meanwhile, Jimmy’s spirits dwindle as Fergus wheels him on a makeshift wheelbarrow across to the pub, where they drink together. When Tommy and the others show up, Fergus heads over to Martha’s after their earlier fight to patch things up.
Walsh and Cartwright come to an understanding, prompting him to proposition Tommy into joining Blackburn. Given they’ve turned this into the North VS South, there’s more at stake here than simple team rivalries. Walsh tells the other players that this is his decision and on the pitch, Fergus is taken aside and thanked by Cartwright for bringing Tommy to them, going on to mention he’ll make Fergus captain if they do win.
Mrs Cartwright gives Martha a job, for the sake of her child, and she gladly accepts while Fergus and the rest of the team leave for the semi-finals. With a lot to play for, Alfred and Francis contemplate usurping Arthur out of the club.
As the episode closes, we cut forward 2 days later and the FA Board join in Arthur’s absence, deciding to hold a meeting without him. Thanks to the riot, they sit around and contemplate whether to expel Blackburn and Darwen from the competition permanently.
With barely any football and a whole lot of soapy melodrama instead, the decision to exclude the entirety of the two semi-final matches in favour of the Martha/Mrs Cartwright sub-plot is testament to the direction this series has now moved. After so much build-up to these two matches, the decision not to show either of them is a bit of a kick in the teeth.
This is especially evident given Tommy’s defection and subsequent move to Blackburn. How did the crowd react to him? How do the other players feel about Tommy joining their ranks? How will the crowds react in the wake of the riot last time out? These are all questions that don’t get answered here and after several episodes of solid build up and everything being held together, it’s this episode where things begin to spiral out of control.
It’s a shame too because there’s certainly enjoyable elements but at times The English Game feels like there’s no consequences or long-lasting impact to any of the drama shown up until this point. Hopefully the finale can turn things around but this is undoubtedly the weakest episode so far.