An Obvious But Flawed Finale
The season finale of The English Game begins with the group updating Arthur on what’s happened regarding the Board meeting. Down in Lancashire, Jimmy greets Fergus’ family who move down to live with him. Only, the happy tidings are cut short by Tommy, who comes rushing down and informs them what’s happened; the team have been kicked out of the FA Cup.
In the aftermath of this, Arthur does his best to keep his cool during dinner with his friends. Alma tells them they should be ashamed of themselves but Francis speaks up, telling the group they needed to stop the riots and prevent their game from turning into a savage act. Unfortunately everything turns sour and Arthur and Alma are left to collect their thoughts.
Meanwhile, Fergus and the others greet Cartwright and Monkey, discussing just whether there’s any way they can change the FA’s mind. They decide that Arthur is the key to all of this and Fergus prepares to head down to talk to them.
Martha starts her job studying but heads outside to see Fergus off as he makes his way down to London. As they do, back up in Lancashire Fergus’ alcoholic Father heads down and goes on the rampage.
Fergus meets with Arthur in London and they head off alone to discuss the FA appeal over a game of billiard. They bond over the enthusiasm and passion in football, mentioning the heart and soul of the game; fodder to use during the real meeting which Fergus pours his heart into. It’s not enough though and the group refuse to accept his proposition. Walsh however, hands in his letter of resignation to withdraw all the Lancashire teams from next year’s tournament.
Arthur has the last word though and manages to convince the others to reinstate Fergus and the others into the match. Back home, Fergus confronts his Father, subsequently smacking him in the face an telling him to leave. Storming out of his house, Martha follows Fergus and gives him words of encouragement to take with him in the upcoming match.
The match itself takes place and Blackburn win, despite Arthur being one of the best players on the match. With the match over, Fergus lifts the trophy for his team alongside Walsh and the others as they cheer and applaud their victory – with Arthur leading the way. His Father comes out from the shadows and admits how proud he is of his son regarding his sportsmanship and as the episode closes out, Fergus returns home with the trophy.
Aside from the questionable inclusion of Fergus’ Father coming down and causing unnecessary mischief in town, the episode itself does a pretty good job wrapping up the loose ends. The final does feel a bit rushed though and some of the sub-plots really have gone nowhere this series. The entire Alba/baby episode feels like padding and while it’s understandable that her crusade to help Betsy is to try and help her own healing, it still didn’t have that much pay-off.
The same can be said for the riots early and late on in the series, which have little consequence (if you conclude that the FA overturning the decision has no ramifications on those fans involved). On top of that, the Martha/Cartwright sub-plot felt a little tacked on with little in the way of emotional pay-off and overall the entire series has felt like two period pieces thrown into one for much of the second half of this show’s run-time.
It’s a shame too because there’s plenty to like about this and the feel-good ending is enough to make for a decent enough watch. In the end though, the show fails to live up to its hype and while there are stand-out moments and some of the early drama is actually pretty good, the end-result is something that feels like a dull rain-soaked draw than a sunny rival-thumping victory.