“The Signal” Spoilers Ahead
Welcome to the smack dab middle of Ted Lasso’s second season, folks—”The Signal”—the impending darkness manifests itself in the form of an incoming hurricane following a gorgeous rainbow. Written by Brett Goldstein, “The Signal” is a spectacularly balanced dark forest swarming with fireflies in the form of humor. That is until the paths that are taken lead deeper into the darkness.
As what I firmly believe was a conversation happening with the audience as well as the team, Ted’s “rom-communism” speech will be coming into play a lot during the rest of the season.
“The Signal” is full of revelations, an unlikely reunion of sorts, distress in the form of a panic attack, and a few wins as well. Where the world has indeed made tremendous progress in understanding the importance of mental health care, there are still great bridges to be crossed, and Ted Lasso, at the very least, is choosing to center its second season around closely examining what this looks like in verity.
The Signal or in Other Words, the Roy Kent Effect
I tragically don’t think we’ll ever live in a world where Roy Kent and Jamie Tartt become best friends in this lifetime, but at the very least, I’m happy to see a world where, however, begrudgingly, they’re fighting on the same side. When Jamie returned to the team in “Do the Right-est Thing,” he started proving that he’s actually trying. It’s not all talk with him (thank heavens because his words literally say the polar opposite of what he wants). Jamie is trying to break bridges with Roy and respecting the matter that he belongs on the coaching staff.
And this is something that works better with the men because, as we learned in “For the Children,” Jamie Tartt’s respect for Roy Kent goes further beyond what he’s shown when they were both players. Jamie has admired Roy, and ultimately, Jamie’s been a fan of his when he was younger. As he mentioned then, Roy just wasn’t playing the way he should have, but as a coach and as a professional who understands every detail pertaining to the game, Roy Kent as a coach is probably a dream come true for Jamie.
However, before they make any sort of progress, they’re going to be children about it first, mostly Roy. (And I’ll admit, sometimes, Petty Roy Kent and Vulnerable Roy Kent compete for favorites in my heart. One is stupidly hilarious, the other makes me weep.) Roy is making progress on the coaching staff but neglecting Jamie isn’t working, so when Jamie finally approaches the other Diamond Dogs asking them to talk to Roy, it doesn’t work in his favor, and he’s got to do it himself. Though in different circumstances, it’s an excellent callback to Roy approaching the coaches in “Trent Crimm, The Independent” and asking them to talk to Jamie about his bullying habits, only to have Ted state that it’s his job as Captain to do it instead. It’s time to woman up.
After Jamie talks to Roy and right as a fight somewhat breaks out, in attempting to stop it, Ted learns that Roy believes his tactic has made Jamie soft. (He also admits that Jamie is being the mature one right now because we’re looking at a full-blown petty Roy Kent right now.) And in hindsight, Roy Kent’s advice to Jamie is surprisingly right as well. He states that Jamie is a prick deep down and while passing the ball is great to a degree, sometimes, he needs to go back to being selfish because that’s how they’ll score goals. And then comes the confusion about how Jamie will know it’s time to be a prick, which Ted doesn’t understand either—but the signal. The signal will be clear.
The signal is the middle finger. It’s brilliant, entirely petty, and yet somehow, nothing would have been more appropriate for this show. The music, the cinematography, and the scrupulously heart-pounding goal was such a treat to watch. And it was made all the more exquisite with Roy believing with full conviction that Jamie is going to make it right from where he is. What a scene serving as yet another intricate comeback for both Jamie and Roy.
Brett Goldstein and Phil Dunster are so wonderfully enticing on screen when they aren’t attempting to dismantle each other. The back and forth with Jamie agreeing to his every insult and Roy continuing to pile on after realizing what was happening was just delicious to watch. Then there’s the scene in the locker room when Roy lays it all down, though not moving or warm, it was so amusing to watch as a viewer—wonderfully balanced with the right amount of chaos is the right dose for these two. And Ted’s apprehension with what the signal would be then pointing to the believe sign felt oddly appropriate for an episode that was going to focus on the real return of Jamie Tartt, along with the return of Ted’s panic attacks.
As foils of one another, it is going to be so intriguing to watch how this altered relationship between Roy and Jamie plays out. What does it mean now that Roy won’t have 4% of his paycheck deducted and some sort of a language established with Jamie? How will the men impact the other? Will they start to woman up more often?
A thrilling win equates to a solid team effort, and though the Roy Kent effect applies to four winning streaks plus Jamie Tartt’s goal, the Nathan Shelly effect is responsible for this particular game’s win.
The Nathan Shelley Effect
There’s something so heartbreaking about how much the last mistake during the press conference with “wunderkind” vs. “wonder kid” changed so much of Nate’s attitude within moments. And it’s likely something that could come back around because, in the words of Higgins, “the goddamn internet.”
Typos, slip-ups, or even just mishearing a common phrase and mispronouncing it before someone corrects you can be so embarrassing when it isn’t done with kindness. Many people mispronounce and write “for all intents and purposes” among countless phrases that can be misheard in the English language (and likely others). It happens—we all make typos and have moments when we’re wrong. Heck, Jamie Tartt literally said: “I’m trying to build bridges here!” when he probably meant he’s trying to burn or cross bridges. And well, wonder kid makes a whole lot of sense; just think of it in terms of a superhero identity.
But it’s on camera, and you could see Nick Mohammed slowly showcase Nate’s crumbling at the humiliation he feels. As noted in “Rainbow,” my best guess for what Nate must be going through alongside understandable insecurities is imposter syndrome. As of right now and ultimately from the beginning, Ted was the only male figure he’s connected most closely with, the one whose praise and attention matters most to him, and the one he’s clearly trying to impress.
There’s a deep admiration here, and for Nathan Shelley, Ted Lasso is certainly on a pedestal.
When Ted leaves and Nate watches Beard confide initially in Roy instead of the two of them, he channels what Rebecca taught him about making himself big to make the call. There is clearly a deep-seated fear of not being good enough and not being confident in where he stands because he isn’t being confided in as closely. Roy Kent’s return is a significant moment because he was one of the game’s strongest players. While Nate was always on the inside as well, Nate never played the game (or at least that we know); thereby, it’s natural that the coaches would turn to Roy for calls a little more than Nate, which isn’t by any means intentional, but rather almost natural.
However, more than anything, this seems to be something internal for Nate and there’s an entire discussion that can be had about how we’re each responsible for our feelings. No, the coaching staff isn’t perfect, but they acknowledge Nate, Roy especially, once to his face, and the second time to Rebecca. Although again, there is a lot that can be said about how insecurities manifest themselves even while praise is involved. As much as the players are one team when it comes to celebrating each other’s victories, the coaching staff needs to take the same approach as well. They each bring a unique form of leadership onto the field, and we’re seeing that brought to life while simultaneously watching what could be a tumultuous downfall.
Again, there is still so much here we don’t know the root of. We don’t know a lot about Nate’s father other than the detail that he’s difficult to satisfy and blunt. We don’t know how his mother and father both shaped his childhood. We don’t know where this will lead him or how he’ll react. By the end of “The Signal,” the tweets put a smile on his face and actual wonder his eyes. But in the 21st century, we all know that while the internet can be a great place at times, it can also be deeply unkind. While one minute your words and actions will gain positive reception, in another instance, negativity can follow. (Look no further than the fans praising Ted one minute and insulting him the next when he walked off the field.) Nothing is personal, but sometimes in the world of social media, everything can be made into a persona problem.
The voices in Ted’s head before the brimming downfall towards the panic attack were so harrowing to hear, it broke me. Between Jamie’s father yelling at him and Henry’s excitement, it made for one heck of a moment that can be excavated in a plethora of ways. (Look no further than the number of parallels that can be drawn to “Tan Lines,” another exceptional episode written by Goldstein.)
That said, Jason Sudeikis showed us a small glimpse into the aches within when Henry’s school called, but you could start to see the bouts of isolation kick in following. You could immediately tell that Ted was now off his game, trying desperately to hold on even while at lunch, even after the win.
He was with the team physically, but his mind was on a different path, geared towards the dark forest he very clearly was trying to avoid.
Ted Lasso as a series is admirable for a number of reasons, but I’m especially grateful that they continue to show us Ted’s point of view during the panic attacks. The world around you stops, the voices in your head grow louder, the tremors arise differently in all of us, the inability to see straight to breathe normally, it’s all so notably well done, it’s difficult to watch. And I’m grateful, at the very least, that maybe, just maybe, someone will be able to recognize patterns in the real world and offer another help when needed. (In the same, beautiful way that Rebecca notices immediately from afar and runs after him to make sure he isn’t alone.)
It also makes for such an agonizing parallel to last week’s episode where one member of the coaching staff made a grand, emotionally cathartic entrance, and this week, another’s exit stirred an uproar of conflicting uncertainties.
But this series also tells us through this moment that Rebecca is a mere human being too, and while jumping to Ted’s aid says more about her than it does about her ability to help him, it’s a gorgeous showcase that therapy is really for everyone. As we learn by the end of “The Signal,” and as the very first episode, “Goodbye, Earl” forewarned, Ted is ready to make an appointment. How his therapy sessions will go is a discussion for another day. Still, it’s crucial to mention that, especially with what’s happening with Nate as well, “The Signal” serves as the episode to remind us all that the ones people often depend on are the ones who need help the most. Heavy is the head that wears the visor, Coach Lasso.
Ted is everyone’s go-to man, but Ted Lasso needs more help than they know. He’s a reminder of the fact that belief is a choice, not a genetic personality trait some are gifted with while others aren’t. Ted makes the decision to believe every single day even when it’s difficult for him to, and right now, the waves have fully consumed him; he’s in his hurricane, belief comes in the form of seeking help.
Ted is the person everyone relies on, but Ted needs to rely on someone else most right now. And again, it’s beautiful to see Rebecca quite boldly jump to be there for him even while she admits to him on the phone that she could also use him too. They are kindred spirits in this way, and in later episodes, I imagine we’ll dig further into just what it means to be the person everyone presumes to be invincible.
The image of Ted rising from Dr. Fieldstone’s couch might just be the scene that haunts me the most thus far. Sudeikis brought to life such harrowing desolation through both his physicality and expressiveness it was almost difficult to watch. Ted Lasso, the man who’s often talking with his hands, boldly emphasizing everything with an infectious smile on his face, is now entirely recoiled and trying desperately to fight through.
A Mother’s Decision and the Bantr Reveal
There’s a lot to breakdown with Rebecca in “The Signal,” but there is also a lot to breakdown next. But first, in an episode where it was painfully obvious just how much people rely on Ted, Rebecca needed him as much as she needed Keeley. And it’s lovely to know that contrary to Richard believing she’d be alone, she’s now surrounded by multiple people she could rely on. She’s surrounded by friends for whom she’d do anything for, and in the same way, they’d come to her rescue and change their plans as well. And yet, there is still so much to learn through all this.
When her mother, Deborah (Harriet Walter), returns to reveal that she has split up from her father again, Rebecca knows it’s part of a pattern that will essentially rectify itself. A pattern that could have indeed shaped her perceptions of love. What she hopes for by the end however is that perhaps this time, difficult conversations can be had and changes can be made. Instead of a cheesy Shepherd’s pie in the company of her mother and a difficult conversation she was ready to have, she’s got a microwave and a tryst with hunky Luca. Her mother proves that Rebecca was right all along, but that’s not the way she wanted it, and by the end, we could see just how alone she truly feels.
And then there’s the matter of the Bantr reveal. As last week the camera panning to Ted could have served as classic move, instead (and as imagined), it proved to be a red herring. But here’s the thing, while we’ll get into this topic much more when there’s tangible content in front of us, Sam Obisanya is very much the kind of person you’d expect to be LDN152. He’s absolutely the guy who’d quote poets and partake in the kind of warm conversations they’d been having, and while it’s unexpected, it’s not entirely out of the blue. There’s a lot to be said about age and power imbalances, but more on that later.
“The Signal” ultimately reveals, through every character, that they are in desperate need of another’s admiration and companionship. It serves as the criteria of camaraderie, and the detail that as human beings, we were not designed to be alone. We will all, at some point, need another person’s hand to guide us through the turmoils, and no matter how different it looks for everybody, there’s nothing about this fact that should be a stigma.
While the rest of the Diamond Dogs can keep quiet about their feelings towards Beard and Jane’s toxic relationship, Higgins is having a hard time with it. Higgins is also looking for his own version of the signal. He even calls out the Diamond Dogs when they don’t back him up. And though both Ted and later Rebecca tell him not to interfere, Higgins does because he believes with complete conviction that if you care about someone, you have to keep trying. (I have a feeling this is also something that’s going to reveal a lot for most characters.)
Because he’s the one person who’s in a healthy marriage and understands what a healthy relationship should be like, Higgins today has a hard time staying silent when he understands that his friend isn’t inspired or made better in the relationship, instead, his light is dimmed. And I love that he doesn’t insult or belittle Jane to Beard, but rather he asks the simple question of: “You’re a great man, does she make you greater?”
And Beard hugging him at that moment could not have been more incredible to watch because we know he hears him, we know he understands, and we realize it’s something he clearly needed. Beard doesn’t show a lot of his pain as evidently as others do, but we are now getting glimpses of just how much he is carrying as well. I will never not commend this series for allowing men moments of vulnerability like this because it touches brilliantly on the fact that “manning up” gets one nowhere.
Women talk to each other. We tell each other when someone’s wrong for them or when we’re worried about our friends. I genuinely don’t know how often men do this (it’s certainly not been in the media we consume as methodically as it is in on this show). Still, this scene is a testament to the detail that if it happened more frequently, men would be in a better headspace more often. But ultimately, it’s the showcase that vulnerability knows no gender. It knows no prestigious position or career. As human beings, everyone is capable of feeling, and everyone is deserving of a safe space to have those feelings heard.
“The Signal” is our entrance into the dark forest. It leaves us with a lot more questions than answers. It’s likely the beginning of things getting a lot worse before they get better, and it’s the revelation that exhibits just how important it is to talk to people when something continues to gnaw at us.
Ted Talks and Further Thoughts
- No ship wars in the comments section please. Let’s discuss everything that’s happening with an open mind and the decision to be mature adults about it.
- Beard immediately noticing that something’s wrong with Ted broke me.
- What is running charades?
- Jane was even jealous of Ted’s relationship with Beard? Oof, bad form.
- “I will channel my raging enthusiasm to help my community.” Okay, Baz.
- I might never stop laughing at “Philistines! I’m asking for help here” followed by Beard saying you might want to look up Philistines after Jamie admits he has no idea how to talk to him.
- “Get together and woman up” YES. Someone make these into t-shirts.
- Higgins trying to climb over the window instead of going around.
- “I love meeting people’s moms. It’s like reading an instruction manual as to why they’re nuts.”
- Beard’s mom being full blown QAnon is an actual tragedy. Does this man have any positive females in his life?
- “Stupid barking means it’s over, right?” Roy to the Diamond Dogs. Do we want to start guessing when he’ll join them? 10 years from now? 20? Never? But wait, what was that barking we got at the end of the episode? Does this mean he’s in now? 😉
- “I’m shipping the heck out of you two!” Ted to Roy and Keeley is actual footage of me every time those two are on screen together.
- We got to meet laughing Liam and hear his laugh!
- “I’m a strong and capable man. I’m not a piece of sh!t” is Colin’s new mantra. Therapy is going great for him.
- That image of Rebecca standing alone in the locker room, in front of the believe sign, holding Ted’s jacket while the game plays on the speakers and the team rushes in was masterful in so many ways, it’s worthy of an entire scene breakdown.
- Sam jumping in celebration on both Jamie and Dani in the beginning after their win now lives rent free in my mind to the end of time. What a scene. THE THREE ACES.
- Higgins listening to Beard’s breathing. I just. Heavy breathing, what a scene.
- “I talk all the time, Doc. Just let me follow you around for 10 minutes and After 5, you’ll want me to hush my butt.” Oh, the tears. I cannot with this scene because of just how much it shows about Ted.
- The team’s happiness at the end was so infectious!
What are your thoughts on Ted Lasso’s “The Signal?” Let us know in the comments below.
Gissane (pronounced Geese-enny) — or, as people often call her, "Goose" — is a romance aficionado who's taken her Master's in English and love for essays into writing lengthy analyses about pop culture. She's the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Marvelous Geeks Media and the co-host of Lady Geeks Podcast. She drinks too much coffee, wants to live in a forest, and cries a lot because of her favorite characters.