If anything, “The Signal” shows that Ted Lasso can handle dramatic turns as well as it can the comedic moments.
It can be troubling when a sitcom tries to take itself too seriously and tackles weightier subjects, especially earlier in its run. But when you have a steady hand behind the scenes like Bill Lawrence, who’s perfected the art of dramatic comedies over the years, you know you’re in for a treat. If anything, “The Signal” shows that Ted Lasso can handle dramatic turns as well as it can the comedic moments. And what’s most refreshing is that the episode doesn’t take any dramatic turns until the final third, where all the setup from the earlier portions gets paid off.
I had missed Nate’s understated but seething response at the end of last week’s episode when Roy returned to coach, but noticed it on re-watch. The show doesn’t overtly show it this week, but drops plenty of hints that Nate fears he’s being overshadowed (and Nick Mohammed again does a fine job of showing the gears turning in his head). It doesn’t appear that there will be an expected showdown between Nate and Roy just yet, although with Nate’s late-game heroics on the sideline, we may see a more inflated ego from Nate going forward. Roy’s got another fish to fry anyway, this time coming from his long-standing distaste for Jamie, who seems to be assimilating nicely to the team, but can’t seem to translate that into more goals.
We had to know that it would only be a matter of time before Ted Lasso started to treat Coach Beard as more than a one-liner machine. All season, Beard’s on again-off again relationship with the mysterious Jane has been treated as little more than a punchline, but in “The Signal,” it’s clear that Beard’s in over his head. Higgins convenes an impromptu meeting of the Diamond Dogs and the group votes against voicing his concerns, opting to keep Beard’s personal life separate from the business of the club. But Higgins overhears Beard’s call with Jane, and wants to look out for his best interests. This fuels an ongoing debate, which spills over to Rebecca and Keeley, about when we should or should not step in to voice our opinions about our friend’s problematic dating choices. I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing more from Beard’s life outside of work, but it feels like tricky ground to navigate, as Beard may be the least defined member of the main cast.
If there’s any recurring theme to “The Signal,” it’s the long-lasting effects that a toxic relationship can have on someone. We’re introduced to Rebecca’s mother, Debra, after running into the former’s newest fling, as she announces that she’s leaving her father. To Ted’s dismay, Rebecca later reveals that this behavior is par for the course for them: she leaves him, stays somewhere until they cool down, he buys her something extravagant, and she returns. Given this history, it’s understandable that Rebecca’s love life has played out how we’ve seen, and her general distrust of a good thing in the long run.
We haven’t had too many developments, dramatically speaking, of Ted this year; his ex-wife and son haven’t made any appearances outside of the Christmas episode, and the conflict with Dr. Sharon has been fairly light so far. But all that changes when Ted experiences another panic attack near the end of a crucial match (I know as a pseudo-TV critic, I’m supposed to have every moment memorized from the show, but I can only vaguely recall if this has happened before) and has to leave the sidelines. Sudeikis nails Ted’s inner turmoil, as always, and the remainder of the episode sees the rest of the cast concerned about his whereabouts – though, notably, only Rebecca puts forth any effort to look for or contact him.
It felt like Ted’s simmering avoidance of Dr. Sharon would last throughout the entire season, but Bill Lawrence and the writing team seem to have other plans for the second half. We still – remarkably – haven’t heard or seen any fallout from the Dubai Air protest, much less Sam’s mental state about it, but, as the episode finale teases, the show has more coming down the pike for him. Regardless, I’m in for whatever ride the show takes us on, as it still hasn’t lost sight of what it does best.
About the Writer: Ben Sears is a life-long Indianapolis resident, husband, and father of two boys, as well as a contributing writer on ObsessiveViewer.com and a recurring co-host on The Obsessive Viewer Podcast, and a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. Aside from watching movies and television, Ben enjoys photography and running marathons, but never at the same time. That would be difficult.