- *It is about time we got a closer look at Coach Beard and Brendan Hunt rises to the occasion.
- *The many movie references and a strong script from Brett Goldstein and Joe Kelly.
- *Several incredible needle-drops.
- *The choice of striped pants.
- *The list of real-life figures grows with two great choices.
- *If you aren't a Beard fan (why not?) then this might be an unwelcoming diversion.
This post contains spoilers for Ted Lasso "Beard After Hours.”
Read our latest review here.
When Apple TV+ expanded Ted Lasso’s second season from 10 to 12 episodes the creative team chose two very different standalone options to accommodate the extra installments. The first is the divisive Christmas outing (I was a fan) and the second is a character study that peels back the layers on the stoic Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) in the wake of the FA Cup semi-final defeat. Unlike the festive affair, this is a darker tale that takes a journey through London’s pubs, elitist private members’ clubs, and alleyways reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. As the title suggests, “Beard After Hours” follows the least chatty coach (well, before Roy showed up) as he grapples with AFC Richmond’s loss, insecurities, and his on-again-off-again relationship with Jane Payne (Phoebe Walsh). Certain images and actions repeat, which suggests that maybe what we are watching unfold isn’t quite as it seems and it leads to one of the best episodes of 2021.
Last week, I noted that Ted’s parting words to Coach Beard were unusual and potentially a warning to the audience that something unfortunate was going to happen to Beard on his way home. But when he gets on the tube at Wembley Park, the long ride home is uneventful other than having to share this public transport with jovial Man City fans and a little girl he unnecessarily stares out. Recurring motifs follow Beard as he traverses the capital city, which includes the blue moon — Manchester City’s signature anthem is “Blue Moon” — and the set of house keys he nearly loses multiple times throughout the night. This only adds to the heightened mood and at varying points of the episode, I was convinced Beard was passed out on the tube and that everything, after he got off, was a dream.
This episode isn’t a version of the JR getting shot solution in Dallas or even Inception but there is an element of looping that dials up the off-kilter aesthetic. Co-written by Brett Goldstein (with Joe Kelly), the references to movies from the last 50 years are overt and subtle and will come as no surprise to anyone who listens to Goldstein’s podcast Films to be Buried With. This episode doesn’t require an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema to enjoy it, but there are plenty of Easter Eggs scattered throughout this mini odyssey. The title is a play on Martin Scorsese’s 1985 dark comedy After Hours that follows Griffin Dunne as a computer data entry employee trying to make it home after a post-work night out in SoHo, New York. At every turn, he is met with obstacles whether not having enough money for the subway or getting into escalating scrapes that prolong his adventure. There is even a subplot about keys and this ties into Beard’s Herculean task. A lost wallet and phone followed by Beard’s smartphone battery dying — a quick shot of his screen earlier show his battery is low — are just two of the challenges he must surmount before he begins his day anew, but this isn’t simply a case of getting wasted to forget the pain of losing, and this quest has a goal that ends with Jane.
At home, he is tormented by the post-match analysis with Gary Lineker and Thierry Henry playing themselves on a panel show that is pretty much Match of the Day without calling it such. The choice of IRL former players and pundits continues to add texture to this world and this occasion also cranks up the blurred reality lines. The pair directly reference Beard’s poor performance on the touchline and then call out his home decor. It is during the repeat visits from Lineker and Henry that I began to question the veracity of the events unfolding, but they merely represent Beard’s self-loathing. To escape their comments, he heads to The Crown & Anchor to drown his sorrows and ends up drinking with Baz (Adam Colborne), Jeremy (Bronson Webb), and Paul (Kevin ‘KG’ Garry) after they return his dropped keys. The one condition is he doesn’t want to talk about the game and they oblige.
When Mae (Annette Badland) calls closing time, Beard wants to continue the night out at an exclusive members’ only bar that even Cher had a hard time getting into. None of them have dressed appropriately for this escapade, but Mae is on hand with a lost and found box of clothes. Check and velvet blazers paired with flat caps over their Richmond apparel give them the air of a Guy Ritchie movie aesthetic, which feels right for the venue they want to gain entry to. When they do eventually get into the bar, the guys end up in a pool game against three Oxford graduates who start an academic dick-measuring contest that Beard and his fake Irish accent are more than prepared for. The reason he knows so much about the ins and outs of Oxford’s colleges? He dated a professor and he talks more than he listens.
In the bar, Beard spots a woman in a red dress who catches his eye but she keeps on disappearing prompting the question of whether she is a simulated character like in The Matrix. He ends up in a room full of TV screens that start to play the 5-0 drubbing by Man City and when he rips his pants on a table he alerts a bouncer to his location and he gets thrown out for not being a member. The woman in red (credited as Red and played by Charlotte Spencer) also happens to be outside and offers to sew up his trousers. Red has long been a siren call or harbinger of doom in movies, and while the Matrix homage is the most likely as he falls down the rabbit hole, there is also an element of Don’t Look Know threaded through Beard’s journey. He isn’t grieving the death of a child, nor is he in Venice but the twisty streets of London do end up resembling this iconic love story wrapped in horror. This movie is also one of Goldstein’s all-time favorites and when a despairing Beard ends up in the church near the end of the episode it has a distinct Don’t Look Now mood before he finds Jane in the club with its neon light cross energy straight out of Romeo + Juliet.
The love story at the center of this episode is one that has previously held the audience at a distance, and our time with Jane has been either combative or through the grumblings of Higgins about this toxic pairing. When Beard tells Mae he has split up with Jane, she doesn’t even feign her surprise, however, “Beard After Hours” highlights how Beard’s flaws (including his roving eye) have contributed. At Red’s spacious apartment, she offers him a pair of trousers from her collection of memories — each has belonged to a man she loved. The striped glam rock pants she selects fit him perfectly and he looks ready to appear in the Elton John biopic Rocket Man — shout out to costume designer Jacky Levy for this visual. She notes her happiest times are during romances and Beard’s response is the opposite. Regardless, he wants to be with Jane all of the time, and this conversation is interrupted but the arrival of her very jealous and angry boyfriend. A chase ensues and Beard leaps from the roof into a dumpster below before hitching a ride on a bus. He quickly discovers his wallet and keys are in the other pants back at Red’s apartment (he pointedly picked up his keys) and he gets booted off.
With no money and no phone, he stops at a hotel to make a call but is denied there too and he then encounters another group of foes appearing like Droogs on the prowl. James Tartt (Kieran O’Brien) and his mates corner him — this is when it feels very A Clockwork Orange — and James gets his revenge for the way Beard threw him out of the locker room. He is miraculously rescued by the guy who was only moments before trying to kill him, whereas he is now trying to return his phone and wallet. No, it doesn’t make sense how he would find Beard but this only adds to the bizarro world mood. He apologizes and mentions his jealousy is tied to his own misdeeds in the past, which mirrors Beard’s behavior. As “Alone Again (Naturally)” by Gilbert O’Sullivan kicks in, he sees an endless scroll of 52 messages and 72 missed calls from Jane but his battery dies before he can respond. Her messages finally declare her love for him, however, she flips to anger when he doesn’t respond and now he can’t follow up.
The screens in Picadilly Circus all play the defeat and he is haunted by these images before the lads from the pub pick him up in a limo they paid for with the winnings from their pool game. Beard gifts them with a secret trip to the AFC Richmond ground while he heads home once more — the number 237 on the door is a nod to The Shining. The keys he has spent the whole evening losing end up breaking in the lock and a downpour begins.
Taking refuge in a nearby church with a neon cross outside, he asks for God’s help to find Jane — “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret’s little boy” is my favorite line of the episode — and his request is quickly answered. The music alerts him to the nightclub next door and Beard’s half Richmond/half ‘70s styling works surprisingly well in this location. Gary Lineker and Thierry Henry are at the bar, which again adds to the dreamlike scenario, but Jane is tangible in this space. Beard enthusiastically and without pretense dances to “Hello” by Martin Solveig & Dragonette and it is an incredibly exhilarating sequence that briefly exorcises the match and his mistakes.
As night cuts to the regularity of the next day, Beard’s cuts and his striped pants reinforce that what we have witnessed really happened. It is another day and Blur’s “End of the Century” closes out the episode with one final great needle drop. Beard and Jane keep finding each other and this messier depiction of love is a change of pace while still fitting the rom-com narrative this show espouses — albeit one with thorns. In a season that features characters reluctantly facing their past, Beard is another person reflecting on aspects of his personality and actions he dislikes. Self-improvement comes in many different forms and this detour fits this pattern in an extraordinary fashion. The final references to Earth’s natural satellite deviates from the Man City anthem and instead speaks to the idiom, and this once in a blue moon examination into Beard’s personal life emphasizes what Ted Lasso is capable of when thrown an extra episode curveball.
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