Ted Lasso

I had a conversation with a friend recently over Ted Lasso and the direction the show has taken in season two so far, and the public’s reaction to it. We both are still fervent defenders of the show and season two, while still acknowledging that it could be better (yes, we do exist). The show needed a solid bounce back after last week’s forgettable offering, and “No Weddings and a Funeral” mostly delivers, continuing to focus on everyone’s personal issues and avoiding any drama on the pitch.

The funeral in the title refers to Rebecca’s father, who we never met in episode six but passes away off-screen. Rebecca’s mother, Debra, walks in on her and her lover in the kitchen – for the second time this season – and the remainder of the episode deals with Rebecca’s lingering trauma from her relationship with her father. I had speculated that Rebecca and Sam’s secret relationship would be revealed in the season finale, but the show must have bigger plans for the two, as Keeley and Flo all seem to suspect something fairly quickly and, soon after, Rebecca spills the beans. I remember marveling while watching season one at how quickly the show could cycle through plot lines that most shows would try to stretch out for most of a season, and that’s largely been the case this season as well. That’s not to say that the show doesn’t give proper weight to certain storylines; I surely would have grown tired of the show teasing the secret getting out, only to find a way around it for another two or three episodes.

Part of my discussion with my friend also revolved around Rebecca and her role this year. Whereas season one presented her as a badass businesswoman whose hard outer shell was slowly whittled away by Ted, season two has almost exclusively portrayed her as a lovesick puppy, desperate for affection and barely preoccupied with the club she runs. “No Weddings and a Funeral” doesn’t entirely absolve the show of this criticism, but it’s the best episode for her so far this year. It turns out that Rebecca is largely unaffected by her father’s untimely passing because of her lingering resentment towards him – which helps explain why she’s never brought him up in the past. Her scene with Debra as she chastises her for sticking with him after all his misdeeds is heartbreaking and the best of the episode (more on that in a bit).

I won’t be surprised if the internet will seize on Rebecca’s eulogy as evidence that the show has jumped the shark, willing to forsake any narrative coherence and give way to whimsy at all costs. Unable to find the right words to memorialize a man she despised for most of her life, Rebecca resorts to singing one of his favorite songs, Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” The show even goes a step further to have select members of the congregation to pick up her slack when she falters, though it is telling that Ted is the first to step up. While I’m not going to give the show a free pass for using such a schmaltzy, overused trope, I don’t think it’s a signal that the show wants to take the easy way out – or worse, that it has run out of ideas. I’m not sure yet how I feel about Rebecca abruptly dumping Sam because he’s “too perfect,” and not because of the ethics of it all or the age differences or because they jumped into a relationship too quickly. Do I think the show is banking on our collective hope that they’ll reunite someday after seeing them work so perfectly together? Or, that the show is paving the way for a crises of conscience as she realizes her feelings for Ted? Yes, but Ted Lasso has been known to pull plenty of narrative surprises so far, so I remain excited to see where it takes us.

“No Weddings and a Funeral” continues the trend of sidelining Ted throughout the bulk of the episode, but this week’s storyline doesn’t pull any punches. As he prepares to get ready for the funeral, Ted has another panic attack and immediately calls Dr. Sharon. I found it interesting that, after “Man City,” the internet writ-large seized on the revelation that Ted’s father committed suicide – an indication that Ted, and Sudeikis, will always get the headlines first and foremost. As Dr. Sharon sits down with Ted to get to the root of the panic attack, he really digs into his relationship with his father and how it all came flooding back with a close friend’s father’s sudden passing. I feel naïve to have predicted that Dr. Sharon’s introduction at the outset of the season would bring about a clash of conflicting motivations, but I’m very glad to be proven wrong (hey, I admitted I wasn’t great at those kinds of things). Instead, the show wants to deeply explore Ted’s mental state to show that people can hide their mental struggles in plain sight simply by putting on a smile and saying some catchy quips. I can’t remember another show being able to unlock its main character’s complete ethos with one line, but Ted’s lingering anger towards his father because he “quit” makes all the sense in the world. Here’s a character who’s defined by his inability to give up on someone’s potential – as a coach, as a father figure, as a friend – and it can all be traced back to his father’s suicide. And when you cross-cut this scene with Rebecca’s as she re-tells the day she found her father cheating, you have an indelible moment of television that most series can only hope to achieve.

As much as I loved the collective material between Ted and Rebecca, the episode isn’t perfect. Roy and Keeley spend most of the episode arguing after Roy mocks her for wanting to be buried as tree food. The argument at its heart makes sense on a human level (as someone who deals on a daily basis with couples’ often-conflicting views on their end-of-life plans, I can attest that the subject could absolutely spark a fight) but it doesn’t feel meaty enough to sew doubt about Roy and Keeley’s sturdy relationship. Not helping the matter is Jamie, who finally confesses that his return to Richmond was partially to be closer to her. “No Weddings and a Funeral” is now officially the show’s longest episode, at one minute longer than “Man City.” Could Roy and Keeley’s subplot have been taken out and perhaps saved for a different episode? While the dialogue is expertly written and is consistent with their characters, it’s hard to feel like the show isn’t simply introducing drama for the sake of it. Yes, Jamie has improved as a person since season one, but does the show actually expect me be conflicted over my feelings of who Keeley should end up with? While I liked the episode overall, it’s developments like this, and the aforementioned Rick Astley interlude, that makes me worried that the public will take as further evidence that the show is trying too hard to win us over to its charm. The comedic elements were largely sidestepped this week, but “No Weddings and a Funeral” shows that Ted Lasso can do drama and character development better than most shows on TV today.


Ben headshotAbout 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.

 

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