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"The Dynasty" ratchets up the drama with spectacular Spygate episode

Sports Final: Jeff Benedict, author of The Dynasty, talks about his book and new series on Patriots
Sports Final: Jeff Benedict, author of The Dynasty, talks about his book and new series on Patriots 09:34

BOSTON -- The fourth episode of "The Dynasty" is spectacular. A masterpiece. A triumph. Whatever you want to call it, the episode delivers.

Clearly, the docuseries -- which debuted on Apple TV+ on Friday with the first two episodes hitting the streaming platform -- intends to focus on drama, friction, and controversy. And the fourth episode, simply titled "Spygate," has no problem finding plenty of it.

After three episodes that start to drag a bit while setting up the foundation of the dynasty, the series hits the gas for the fourth installment. Between the drama involved with the Sypgate scandal itself, the present-day interviews with the players and parties involved, all building toward the historic upset in Super Bowl XLII, the tension builds throughout this 48-minute pressure cooker of an episode.

At one point, Robyn Glaser, senior VP of business affairs for the Kraft Group, walks a Gillette Stadium hallway while wielding a hammer, recreating the day when the NFL ordered the destruction of the Spygate tapes after the league's punishment had been handed down to Bill Belichick and the Patriots. That scene precedes a dramatic recreation of that tape-smashing also occurs, but it's just about the only artificial part of the entire episode. Even after all these years, the emotions tied to this era are real.

The compiled file footage properly captures the media hysteria that surrounded the team after Eric Mangini caught Patriots staffers red-handed on the sideline at Giants Stadium on Sept. 9, 2007, a day that just about everything changed in terms of the way the Patriots were viewed nationally. Mangini ratted out his old boss, igniting what turned into an international firestorm. From that point forward, nobody hesitated to cast everyone involved in the organization with the letter "C" for cheater.

Much of that focus, we know, centers on Belichick. Unfortunately, neither he nor Ernie Adams opted to drudge up any thoughts, feelings, or memories related to the Spygate chaos during their interviews for the documentary. Yet some locker room footage (from what appears to be a postgame speech after the Patriots' Week 2 victory over the Chargers) properly captures how Belichick kept his team focused on winning -- and winning big -- amid all the controversy.

"All right now look. I don't want to say anything about this Jet thing, OK?" Belichick addressed the team. "Just shut the f--- up. Just worry about ourselves, our team. Everybody else is gonna say what they wanna say. We can't control that. But we can control what we're talking about and what we're doing, OK? We've got a lot of work to do."

The team's collective response to the Spygate scandal dropping was, as we know, relentless. The Patriots won by an average of 26 points for seven weeks after the scandal broke, capped off by a brutal 52-7 beatdown of the Washington Redskins in Week 8.

"All right, congratulations, men. That shut 'em the f--- up," Belichick said in the celebratory locker room with a wide grin on his face. "Let's handle this one the way we always do. It's not the first time we've won a game. We've got a long way to go, all right?"

You certainly know the story of how the rest of the 2007 season went -- finishing undefeated, losing to the 14-point underdog Giants in the Super Bowl -- yet it's all retold in a way that's riveting. The second movement of Verdi's "Messa da Requiem" serving as the score for Super Bowl XLII footage helps greatly in that department as well.

Patriots fans may not have been blown away by the opening two episodes, and with the third episode continuing to tell the tale of the 2001 Patriots for a third hour, there may be a temptation next week to click around elsewhere on the streamosphere. But the fourth episode runs at a million miles per hour and clearly marks the real start of the series.

The third and fourth episodes of "The Dynasty" will debut on Apple TV+ on Feb. 23.

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