“The Signal” | Ted Lasso
Jason Sudeikis has tethered himself onto Ted Lasso with such admirable devotion, it has resulted in the kind of embodiment that can function as a masterclass for performances. There have been a surfeit of emotions rustling within the character that audiences have gotten subtle glimpses of, and the culmination has led to yet another, harrowing and achingly realistic display of a panic attack on television. (The first for this series being in “Make Rebecca Great Again.”)
And while anxiety or mental health isn’t necessarily new in the world of television, to dig deep into emotional turmoil and marinate in it in order to realistically overcome as so is still much rarer—especially for male characters. Ted Lasso has gained itself reputable praise around its wholesome content, but beyond that trajectory, the series is about broken people searching for healing and ways to feel less alone. It’s a series that won’t be glossing over the ascend into the dark forest, but one that’ll consciously spend time examining all that is critical to overcoming hurdles.
Where Ted Lasso exceeds as a series is with this innate form of spotlighting mental health and in the “The Signal,” it’s doing so with its nominal character, Sudeikis’ Ted.
In a moment of sincerity during “Goodbye, Earl” Ted tells Beard that he doesn’t trust therapy because his initial experience with it led him to believe he was at fault for everything that he and his now ex-wife Michelle went through. However, starting from “Rainbow” and leading into the conclusion of “The Signal” Sudeikis tackles subtly showcasing the immense pressure Ted is under, which when going unchecked, leads to the kind of panic attack we all expected would happen by the end.
But Jason Sudeikis’ strength as an actor is illuminated not only through his comedic timing that easily serves as the subtle dismantling of Ted’s state of mind, but in the acute embodiment that reveals the intricacies behind the struggles people go through in their everyday lives. This innate balance cannot be overlooked and it’s largely why the series (and the character) are so relatable.
Anyone who’s had a panic attack or anxiety knows certain patterns, if no one else’s, you know how that darkness manifests within in your own body. You see the signs, you recognize the tremors, and though it doesn’t look the same for us all, Sudeikis has masterfully brought a form of it to life with estimable authenticity.
In the hands of someone who perhaps hasn’t researched enough or hasn’t experienced it, this is something that could have lost its value if it were even the slightest bit overdone. But before we get into the actual panic attack and how the directing, cinematography, sound editing/mixing, and writing stich themselves onto the performance, it’s key to mention just how much Sudeikis shows the audience even while Ted masks the glut of his darkness.
You can start to see the imperceptibly evident change in Ted’s demeanor the moment Henry’s school calls. Once he hangs up the phone call, he is no longer fully present. When you look into his eyes at any given moment throughout the episode, Sudeikis is showcasing that what’s in front of Ted, isn’t what’s inside of him. Physically he is here, but mentally he is at a war with himself that he’s desperately trying not to pay attention to.
Jason Sudeikis shows us that Ted is constantly fighting through demons within, and he does so entirely with this expressions first before it manifests into something more physical and bare. As mentioned in our full episode review for “The Signal”: 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.”
This deliberate choice to highlight his point of view, the specific voices he hears in the midst of it (and why), the lighting, the editing, it’s all leading to an exploration that is bound to be a cathartic experience for those of watching on screen as well.
And to finally see him rising from the couch, clenching his backpack almost like a child would was so harrowing because it was poignantly obvious in that very moment, Ted’s been trying to talk himself through inexplicable pain.
Where he previously had Rebecca to help him, in this moment, all he has had until Dr. Fieldstone shows up was himself. And thus, what we see in that final scene is a man who is at wits’ end—broken and in dire need of something healing or someone to keep him afloat.
It’s a start, but more than that, it’s the showcase of cracks after another, and the aftermath of the bridge’s collapse. It’s the innate showcase of what rising from a panic attack can look like for all of us who have experienced it, along with what it is like in the face of those who come to us in savior form—the believers, the cheerful leaders. It’s the heartbreaking reminder that the ones we often turn to in our darkness, are the ones constantly fighting demons of their own.
And undoubtedly, this isn’t the first or last exemplary performance we’ll see from Jason Sudeikis because as the series digs further into Ted’s darkness, it’ll give the actor more opportunities to bring to the surface what’s hidden deep within the character.