At the halfway point, several points of contention are made clear in a heartbreaking episode.
- ⚽️ The way several threads are coming together and callbacks to a pivotal Season 1 moment.
- ⚽️ Roy's coaching style.
- ⚽️ Guest star Harriet Walter.
- ⚽️ Roy and Jamie together again.
- ⚽️ The fact that Ted is only just finding out what the FA Cup is in the quarter-final.
This post contains spoilers for Ted Lasso "The Signal.”
Read our latest review here.
Being a skilled tactician is a vital part of a sports coach, but this is far from the only attribute required to lead a winning team. Tension that has been bubbling within the backroom at AFC Richmond comes to a head when Ted (Jason Sudeikis) departs the important FA Cup fixture 10 minutes before the end of the match in “The Signal.” This propels Nate (Nick Mohammed) to hero status, while simultaneously underscoring the role mental health is playing this season.
Knowing when to put your foot on the pedal or park the bus as Nate orders late in the game are real-life tactics applied to the Ted Lasso narrative. However, there is also strategizing when it comes to streaming release roll-outs, and sometimes what seems like a good plan causes a stumble. The reason I bring this up is that Apple TV+ deciding to forgo their usual three-episode premiere for this season of Ted Lasso has potentially caused some consternation — or at least contributed to the discourse. Because the first season was such a slow burn, the rise in popularity came after the whole season was available to watch and therefore a lot of viewers binged the first 10 episodes. There are pros and cons for weekly and an all-at-once release, which is why I personally prefer the model favored by Hulu and Apple TV+ (and what Amazon Prime did with the second season of The Boys) that gives viewers three episodes to start with followed by weekly installments. In a Goldilocks situation, this is just right for me.
Several things changed regarding the Ted Lasso second season scheduling from the one-episode premiere to two episodes getting added to the initial 10-episode order — the standalone Christmas outing came from this — which has no doubt impacted the pacing of the main threads. As we hit the halfway mark it becomes clear how all those pieces are falling into place, which began when Higgins hired sports psychologist Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles) after Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernández) after the tragic incident with Earl. Ted has made his feeling about therapy quite clear, and at the start of “The Signal” he once again brushes off Sharon’s suggestion to make an appointment. The cheery and personable demeanor we have come to expect from the titular character is on display as he interacts with every Richmond employee he comes into contact with, but he cannot keep up the facade. By the end of the episode, he sits alone in Sharon’s dark office. This is the one room he has avoided, however, a panic attack during the climax of a crucial game ends with Ted reaching out for help.
The first time Ted had a panic attack was after last season’s pivotal win away from home against Everton. This occurred during the celebratory night out and his divorce was weighing heavily on his mind. As soon as the crowd sounds become distorted and his hands began to clench it was clear this was going to recur. The only person who didn’t buy the food poisoning excuse is Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) and that is because she recognizes this as a repeat of what happened during karaoke in Liverpool. When she goes to find him, a discarded coat in the locker room does not placate her worries and she leaves him a voicemail disguised as asking for a pep talk. She knows that Ted is great at dishing out advice, but doesn’t like to burden others with his pain. It is why she made sure he didn’t spend Christmas alone and this deep connection made it seem like he might be her mystery man on the Bantr dating app. The latter is a curveball because it has been none other than Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) sending his thoughts about guardian angels (he believes in them) and remarks about being a spy — yes, Rebecca’s amazing fedora feels like a nod to this comment.
Ted made sense as a potential will-they-won’t-they (although I prefer the platonic version of what they have going on) and Sam has come out of leftfield because he is her employee (so is Ted) and he is also a lot younger. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but for now, Rebecca is falling back into old patterns by hooking up with Luca (Oliver Savile). This is definitely not a long-term relationship option and no feelings will be hurt. After Rupert, Rebecca is protecting her heart, and the introduction of her mother Deborah (Harriet Walter) is incredibly revealing.
Rather than a product of divorce, Rebecca’s parents are still together, although they probably shouldn’t be. When her mum turns up unannounced she isn’t surprised by the news that she has left her father because she has been doing this routine since Rebecca was at university. This storyline not only fuels a conversation with Ted about divorce but also gives Rebecca the chance to impart some wisdom on Higgins (Jeremey Swift). At lunch, Ted remarks it is best to “leave people well,” but is foiled when Deborah comments that he wasn’t the one who left his wife. She isn’t trying to be savage, though it does feel like a slight burn. Harriet Walter guest-starring as Rebecca’s mother is dream casting and she is so good in this kind of parent role (or any role) and it turns out there is nothing more heartwarming than the way Walter affectionately calls Rebecca “Sausage.” Ted’s distance from home has already been emphasized earlier in the episode and rather than one thing leading to the panic attack it is a slow build to crisis point — which feels more authentic.
“I just think it is bad business to get in anyone else’s business,” is Ted’s reason for not voicing his concerns to Beard (Brendan Hunt) regarding his relationship with Jane (Phoebe Walsh). Higgins physically cannot hide his feelings — Rebecca also clocks his tell-tale throat sound — and Rebecca uses her mother’s non-divorce from her father as a reason why you shouldn’t tell people the truth. We have all been there when a friend breaks up with someone and you unleash everything you hate about that person only for them to get back together a few weeks (or days) later. The elephant in the room leads to discomfort and in Rebecca’s case her mum didn’t talk to her for nine months. Higgins can’t let it go though and tells Beard that Jane is not good for him. Instead of banishing his fellow Diamond Dog, Beard pulls him in for an embrace while noting they will never speak of this again. He is clearly aware that this relationship is toxic but cannot stop himself from being caught in Jane’s orbit. Again, this feels like a thread that will get picked up. Seeing this unfold, Rebecca decides to confront her mother but by the time she gets home she has already gone back to her husband. Patterns are hard to break and this is one of the major themes of Season 2.
However, Richmond has broken their terrible streak of results, and the sports media is referring to as the “Roy Kent Effect. The fact they have got to the FA Cup quarter-final is a testament to this coaching input. Now, what happened to the previous games in this competition you might ask? And why is Ted only getting details about its history when they have already played three games (Premier League and Championship clubs enter in the third round)? This is one of those occasions where I have to suspend disbelief and remember that not all viewers will be aware of what the FA Cup is or at what stage in the season it takes place. Brett Goldstein (who wrote this episode) does a good job of summing it up in terms a US audience will understand while also highlighting that a top-flight club hasn’t won this hallowed trophy in over 40 years. Richmond is close to getting knocked out but progress to the semi-finals, and this will take place at the national England stadium, Wembley. After much heartbreak, it feels good to see the team clicking and experiencing a victory of this size. It is also worth noting that barring extenuating circumstances (for example, a pandemic) the FA Cup quarter-finals typically take place mid-March, so Season 2 has covered a lot of time since Sam’s pre-Christmas protest. The actual cast went to the 2021 FA Cup final where they stayed in character while being interviewed by an unsuspecting reporter.
The return of Roy has seen an uptick in victories but not everyone is pleased with his input or in the case of Jamie (Phil Dunster), his lack of input. Roy refuses to coach his old nemesis and the two come to blows in the locker room after Jamie strikes out using Keeley’s (Juno Temple) suggested technique. She has told him the best way to take the wind out of Roy’s anger sails is to simply agree with him, but Roy also sees straight through this too. It is very fun having this pair bouncing insults off each other again, and Ted has to step in to tell Roy is being immature. “It’s true. I’m being super mature, you big, dumb, hairy, baby twat,” is Jamie’s response and Roy finally relents. He surmises that Ted broke Jamie by making him a team player and that he needs to be a prick to avoid becoming average. This isn’t permission for Jamie to go back to his old ways and instead Roy tells him to look out for a signal during the big match. Flipping the bird is the unorthodox sign for Jamie to dial it up and this plan works beautifully.
When Ted semi-pushes Nate out of the way to celebrate Roy’s genius plan it points to Nate’s flash of jealousy that Roy is now the golden boy of the coaching team. The seeds were planted last week and the spitting technique delivers Nate’s assertive moment, and he comes up with the winning move. While this moment of glory feels like it might temper his villain arc, there is a small moment of humiliation when he is corrected about his use of “wonder kid” as the term is actually “wunderkind.” It is a common error but not one most make on TV and this undermines this celebration — and feels like something Nate’s father would do. Roy has zero clues that Nate feels any animosity toward him and gives all credit to his colleague. Darkness is bubbling for more than just Nate and “The Signal” emphasizes that Ted Lasso isn’t simply a fish-out-of-water tale depicting a happy-go-lucky guy.
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