Ted’s and Rebecca’s parallel breakthroughs set the stakes for the rest of Ted Lasso’s season – The A.V. Club

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Picking up a few weeks after Richmond’s loss to Man City, “No Weddings and a Funeral” wastes no time clarifying its emotional purpose. After opening on Sam and Rebecca musing about whether to take their relationship public, Rebecca’s mother arrives with the news that her husband has died, and all of the show’s narrative energy converges on his funeral.

After Beard’s divisive detour into the streets of London, the choice to once again largely ignore the on-field dimensions of Richmond’s season is a bit of a surprising one, with only two episodes left to go in the season. But what becomes clear is that for the show’s writers, whatever ending the season is building to cannot happen until Ted and Rebecca achieve a sense of clarity about how they intend to approach those circumstances, based on what they’ve experienced in the season thus far. For Ted, that means confronting the core emotions about his father’s death which were inevitably brought to the surface by someone else losing their own father. For Rebecca, this means confronting her mother about how she could be romanticizing the cheating, gaslighting man she kept letting back into her life, and what her understanding of this means for her own relationships.

The climax of “No Weddings and a Funeral” is a cross-cut between Ted’s house call therapy session with Sharon—who he called after he had a panic attack putting on his tie to head to the funeral—and Rebecca confronting her mother with the truth about her father’s behavior. For Ted, this is the culmination of the season’s strongest storytelling, gradually allowing us to understand how Ted’s philosophy is founded on his grief and anger over his father’s suicide. It isn’t as simple as the idea that Ted is compensating for his sense of loss. It’s that his entire personality has become about simultaneously working to help everyone in the way he wishes he could have helped his father, and also doing everything in his power to not show his pain and become a burden on them. It’s Rebecca’s mother who says that “once I love something, I love it forever” when defending her choice to stay with her husband, but in many ways Ted’s stubbornness about his coping mechanisms was equally absolute, up until his divorce shattered the equilibrium he had managed to attain. And so not only is Ted feeling that he’s quitting on his family like his father quit on him, but he’s also trained himself never to let anyone else share his pain, trapping him in a toxic cycle.

Based on what Sharon says to Ted over the phone about breathing exercises, this is not their first session since the phone call after the Man City game, but it’s their breakthrough moment. Jason Sudeikis has always been at his best when the show asks him to strip down to Ted’s deep well of sadness, and he’s excellent here as Sharon flips a switch in his brain about how he thinks about his father. It’s important for his therapy that he details the day he found his father’s body, and the hatred he felt for what his father did to his wife and son, but it’s more important that he understands the love he feels for his father in relation to that. The Johnny Tremain story is a core memory for Ted, but one that he had pushed aside, even as it informs the responsibility he feels for his players and his family. And his wish that his father could have known how good he was at being a father is hopefully the permission he needs to let himself accept that he is a good father, friend, and coach, even if he isn’t able to solve all their problems (and even if things like the Nate situation might reveal ways in which he’s failed in those roles at times).

It’s a powerful and important scene, and one that has clear reverberations through all of Ted’s relationships both personal and professional as we head into the rest of the season. The choice to cross-cut it with Rebecca’s conversation with her mother, though, is where things start to get more muddled. To start, Emmy winner Hannah Waddingham is tremendous throughout the scene, matching Sudeikis’ energy and reminding us how well she taps into Rebecca’s vulnerabilities. It’s a tall order to match up something as dark as Ted discovering his father’s body to her finding her father cheating when she was a teenager, but Waddingham sells it, and fully anchors us in Rebecca’s struggle to understand her mother’s choice to act as though this funeral isn’t celebrating a man who did them wrong. And ostensibly, the choice to run the scenes in parallel makes the case that even if it may not have been traumatic to the same degree, Rebecca’s life philosophy has been similarly shaped by her father’s cheating: it informs her approach to romantic relationships, whether it’s her divorce from Rupert or her anxiety over her relationship with Sam.

Except, try as Waddingham might, I struggled to find a coherent narrative in Rebecca’s storyline here, mainly because her arc in the season has been so opaque. As I’ve explored previously, the show entirely lost the character’s work-life balance this season, pivoting exclusively to the bantr storyline outside of the Cerithium Oil situation in “Do The Right-est Thing” that ended up being part of the bantr storyline anyway (which Nora cements by reprising the “Boss Ass Bitch” line to describe Rebecca shagging Sam). What “No Weddings And A Funeral” does is make the argument that her narrow focus on finding love this season is a symptom of her own pathology: whereas the first season saw her come to terms with how her unhealthy desire to hurt Rupert was blinding her to the relationships she was building with her co-workers and her investment in the team she vowed to destroy, that realization didn’t suddenly mean that she knew how to be in a healthy relationship, or that she necessarily knew how to run a football club.

In writing that out, I’m starting to better understand the writers’ goal for Rebecca’s story, but placing it in such close proximity to the subtle yet purposeful setup for Ted’s breakthrough underlines how there wasn’t enough work done early in the season for this to fully register. If you have Hannah Waddingham, giving her a lengthy monologue at her father’s funeral is going to solve some of that problem, but there needed to be more evidence in the season that Rebecca was neglecting parts of her work, and that she was doing more than scrolling through dating apps. The season started with the goal of being promoted, but Rebecca didn’t seem to have internalized that goal, and seemingly didn’t have a professional priority heading into the year. I’m glad that Rebecca still has things to figure out about herself, as the whole message of the show is that personal growth is a process that never ends and can often feel tremendously isolating, but her story just has too many mixed signals for this not to register as an overreach.

While this retcon isn’t entirely successful at justifying her storylines this season, it does at least create a clearer path forward in terms of where the consequences of her and Ted’s actions will complicate Richmond’s future. Although Rebecca weirdly never brings up the power dynamics of her relationship with Sam as a point of anxiety when she decides to break things off, the choice to reintroduce Rupert is indeed conspicuous, and lines up with some discussion in the comments about how the Sam relationship could be used to undermine her leadership given the —fittingly clunky, given the joke earlier in the episode—exposition reminding us about Becks’ shares in the team. And it’s no mistake that Rupert whispers sweet nothings into Nate’s ear on his way out the door, making it increasingly likely that he stages a coup of both Ted and Rebecca in one fell swoop. While my concerns about some of the lack of immediate consequences for past storylines remain, I will be more than happy if the show takes the accumulating neglect from all these storylines into a finale cliffhanger.

However, I am less happy with the clunkiest part of this episode, which was the reintroduction of Jamie into Keeley’s romantic life. I was going to write that it was the return of the Keeley/Roy/Jamie love triangle, but to be honest the show never actually told that story: Keeley had dumped Jamie on her own accord before she really started connecting with Roy, and by the time Jamie returned to the picture Roy and Keeley were already settling into their relationship. Jamie’s return has featured a few moments between him and Keeley, like when he went to her looking for advice on connecting with the team and she took him to Sharon, but those were all fairly minor. Concurrently, the show has never really given us much reason to doubt Roy and Keeley’s relationship, especially given how—as Alan Sepinwall said when I was discussing this episode with him—every fight they have seems to only bring them closer together. And so it was deeply perplexing to watch an episode where Roy picks a dumb fight without a lot of reason, Keeley seems overly impressed that Jamie was willing to wear a normal suit, and they kept stealing glances until Jamie reveals that one of the reasons he came back to Richmond was because he loves her and wants her back.

I just don’t understand the logic of this eleventh hour story. It seems unfathomable to me that anyone in the show’s audience is rooting against Roy and Kelley based on the stories that have been told, and nothing about his minor teasing about her desire to fertilize a tree after she died would have impacted that. And while Jamie has indeed done a lot to fuel his redemption arc, we haven’t been given enough of his point-of-view for him to be an equal rooting interest to Roy, even if Roy had been taken down a peg here. If the show wants this to feel consequential or suspenseful, they needed to have approached the resolution to Roy and Kelley’s past conflicts differently, leaving meaningful wiggle room for it to seem like a legitimate competition. As it stands, it reads as writerly intervention to fuel late-season conflict, without the textual evidence necessary to make it an organic part of the story being told.

With the entirety of the team ditching their trainers—poor Dani might never recover—for the occasion, and Sassy and Nora returning to the fold, “No Weddings And A Funeral” uses its longer running time to deliver lots of small moments of joy, in addition to Rebecca’s Rickroll eulogy serving as an emotional anchor for the funeral itself. And while I do think that this much time spent away from the pitch reinforces the risks associated with Beard’s detour last week, there’s enough fuel in those small moments here to generate momentum, and hopefully bring us a step or two closer to pulling the season’s various threads together. What’s clear here, though, is that the writers may have overreached on how some of these arcs are meant to converge, which is going to create some hurdles to bringing everything full circle by the time Richmond’s do-or-die moment comes at season’s end.

Stray observations

  • To our back-and-forth discussion last week about how narratively significant “Beard After Hours” would be, he Facetimes Jane into the funeral like it’s a concert, without any delving into the unhealthy dimensions of that relationship. For me, it’s still a misstep, although I was happy to continue the dialogue we started about it here in the comments last week with the good folks at Lasso Cast.
  • In addition to his little moment with Rupert, Nate’s super villain arc was also fueled once more by Jan, who notes the infantilizing detail that Nate’s only suit came via Ted. At this point, I don’t see how he turns away from the dark side, given how much someone like Rupert validating him and giving him authority would fuel his ego.
  • After this week’s Emmys—where, if you missed it, the show won Outstanding Comedy Series, Actor, and Supporting Actor (Brett Goldstein) and Actress (Waddingham)—and the number of times they played the beginning of the show’s theme song, it stood out how when the episode awkwardly transitioned from “He died” to “Yeahhhhhh.” Definitely intentional, I thought, given the way they didn’t try to fit in any dialogue in between.
  • Rebecca’s mother made a joke about how Sam’s boxer briefs left little to the imagination but if the writers really wanted that joke to land they would have chosen a lighter color (although it’s possible the black was a standards and practices note).
  • I appreciate the show’s follow through on throwaway jokes, like Ted getting ready for the funeral to “Easy Lover” as he explained earlier in the season. It’s the kind of attention to detail that makes it harder for me when the show contorts itself to make things like the love triangle materialize.
  • As his panic attack comes on, Ted sees the army man his son sent to protect him, his son’s visit last season, and then finally a dart hitting a board.
  • After I watched this episode, I had a conversation with a friend about “Never Gonna Give You Up” where he also brought up the fact that everyone initially presumed Rick Astley was black, so I appreciated that Rebecca’s mother still believed this was true decades later. (Also, while I know that the song has become infamous due to Rickrolling, for me as an older millennial it is instead a definitive “Song I Learned About Due To Pop-Up Video”).
  • I thought Jane Facetiming into a funeral was creepy, but I did appreciate that you could see her on the screen singing along to “Amazing Grace.”
  • I’ve never fully understood shipping Ted and Rebecca, to be honest, and a big part of that is because I find Ted and Sassy’s whole dynamic far more compelling. I’ll ship that.
  • Although he started the season as its first case study, Dani has largely faded into the background, so his little runner about the shoes was fun here.
  • Did anyone get really distracted by how small the doors in Rebecca’s house were, given that she towered over them? How many times did she hit her forehead as a teenager?!
  • Not that I’m entirely hung up on that Grindr joke from Colin earlier in the season, but it’s Bi Visibility Day as I’m writing this, so I’m just going to note we’re still waiting for any other piece of evidence to go along with it. His weirdness that Becks was breastfeeding her baby during the funeral and his ignorance to the fact that not all shoes require you to stand in line and wait for them were both unhelpful in this regard.
  • I’ve been told I am not appreciating Higgins enough, so while it probably wasn’t an expressly necessary scene narratively to see the coaches all debriefing after learning Rebecca’s father died, I appreciated it for Higgins’ belief that in heaven animals are in charge and humans are the pets. I look forward to fan art of him curled up in front of Cindy Clawford.

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