Between 1985 and 1990, the British songwriting/producing team of Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, and Peter Waterman — collectively known as SAW — turned out a steady stream of inescapable worldwide hits. Sometimes likened to an assembly line, SAW scored their greatest successes with acts like Kylie Minogue, Bananarama, and Rick Astley, turning out bouncy, synth-driven songs performed by video-friendly singers that many dismissed as disposable at the time. But disposable products tend not to endure as long as SAW’s hits, including Astley’s 1987 chart-topper “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Though its visibility has been extended, to the annoyance of many and the delight of others, by a decade-plus of rickrolling, “Never Gonna Give You Up” never really went away even before it became a meme. And things that stick around have a way of getting tangled up in our memories and the people with which we share them.
“No Weddings and a Funeral,” the tenth episode of Ted Lasso’s second season, gets a lot right about loss, including the way seemingly frivolous bits of the past take on new meaning with the passing of time. Astley’s weightless song takes on new gravity by association. Rebecca hears it when she wakes up in her childhood bedroom on the day of her father’s funeral, and its lyrics stick with her. At the funeral itself, she turns fluff into an elegy for her family’s loss, one that somehow captures all the mixed feelings she still has about her father; his betrayals of her mother, Deborah; and the burden that’s placed on both of them over the years. By the end of the day, the song has receded again, becoming a kitschy time capsule she can enjoy with Deborah while delighting in her mother’s surprise that Astley looks like that. Songs can be a lot of things at once.
So can sitcoms. Ted Lasso is an often silly show about an occasionally ridiculously upbeat man who has no business coaching a Premier League team in the U.K. But it’s also a show that understands how to use that premise to talk about depression, disappointment, and unresolved parental issues. If this season has been light on conflict between characters, it hasn’t wanted for other sorts of conflict, mostly of the internal kind. Both Ted and Rebecca have been heading toward personal crises of one kind or another all season, Ted with his crippling anxiety — an unpredictable and paralyzing condition that can arrive seemingly out of nowhere, even when jamming out to Phil Collins and Philip Bailey’s “Easy Lover” — and Rebecca with continuing struggle to figure out who she is on the other side of her divorce.
As the episode opens, it looks like she’s started to figure that out. Sam has long been defined by his youth and earnestness, qualities that don’t necessarily seem likely to make him a good match for Rebecca. But, as the episode opens, they seem to have settled into a nice coupledom, the kind in which contrasting personalities complement rather than clash with one another. The big question, however: What should they do next? Sam wants to go public. Rebecca does not, claiming she finds the secrecy sexy, though that seems like a dodge. But the answer will have to wait when Deborah shows up with the news of Rebecca’s father’s death.
This stirs reflection and conflicted emotions, not just for Rebecca but for everyone in the Richmond organization. While the team reflects on what’s happened in the locker room, Higgins offers a sunny vision of heaven in which “animals are in charge and humans are pets.” Nate imagines being reborn as a revenge-seeking tiger, a fantasy that causes Ted to raise his eyebrows. Beard offers a bit of pseudoscience about the weight of the soul, which prompts Roy to growl, “You live, you die, you’re done.”
Roy’s attitude is going to be a problem for Keeley, who’s made increasingly uncomfortable by her boyfriend’s dark humor and scoffing attitude toward her desire to be buried in a biodegradable fashion beneath a fruit tree. Roy’s often curt, but he’s rarely a jerk. And, frankly, Roy has chosen the wrong episode to try out being a jerk, the one in which the solemnity and permanence of the occasion prompt Jamie to confess to Keeley he’s still in love with her. There have been hints that something remained between them all season — mainly extended glances — but the news shocks Keeley, and she’s still processing it when Roy arrives with an apology. His timing is good, for once, but this triangular subplot clearly isn’t over.
It only gets a little space in an episode that mostly divides its time between Rebecca and Ted. However, some other characters get some nice moments, particularly in a scene in which they prepare for the funeral itself. Isaac, again showing why he’s team captain, enforces the dress code (no sneakers). Dani Rojas fights a losing battle with dress shoes that’s resolved only when he’s allowed to trade them in for slippers. Colin is baffled at the concept of not having to line up at midnight to buy shoes.
But it’s the twin crises faced by Ted and Rebecca that provide the episode with its focus. Eventually, they converge in an unusual sequence that cross-cuts and finds coincidences and rhymes between the traumatic moments that have in many ways defined both characters.
For Ted, we learn what he considers the source of his emotional problems: When Ted was a teenager, he heard the gunshot and found his father’s body after his dad took his own life. Though paralyzed with anxiety, he manages to reach out to Sharon, who shows up for a house call — a call that’s difficult to imagine him making in earlier episodes. Even now, it takes Sharon admitting she hates tea — or pretending to for Ted’s benefit — to get him to lower his last defenses. Once done, and once he recalls a story that reminds him of why he loved his father, he finds the courage to show up for the funeral just as Rebecca launches into her teary song.
In some ways, Ted’s journey to that moment is more straightforward than Rebecca’s. She also has complicated feelings for her father, including the awful sense that Deborah’s life will improve with his absence. The memory of walking in on him cheating on her mother ties up anger with her mother for not standing up for herself and anger with her own broken marriage. That Rupert (Anthony Head) shows up for the funeral with his new wife and child in tow doesn’t help. These feelings have begun bleeding into her thoughts about Sam. He’s almost too good to be true, which makes her worried about getting her heart broken should he ever let her down. She ends the episode asking to take a break from their relationship, but this doesn’t seem like the end of the story. (The hurt-but-undeterred look on Sam’s face alone says as much.)
In fact, “No Weddings and a Funeral” leaves a bunch of threads dangling. Rebecca and Sam, Jamie/Keeley/Roy, but also Ted and Sassy. Sassy seems quite interested in Ted’s whereabouts pre-funeral and leaves with him, her “wounded bird,” post-funeral. (It’s a contrast to their last encounter, which was perfectly pleasant but seemingly free of spark apart from a memory of their first-season hookup.)
There’s also the matter of Nate. We haven’t seen that much of him since he chewed out Will a few episodes back, but the new, meaner Nate still seems to be just beneath the surface. Beyond the tiger-reincarnation fantasy, there’s the simmering look that crosses his face when others mock his clothes. He also shares an unheard exchange with Rupert, which can only be trouble. (He must have an ulterior motive gifting the Richmond shares, right?)
All that will have to wait, however. The episode ends with Rebecca and Deborah sharing pleasant memories mined from an often unpleasant past. Then, thanks to a teenaged Rebecca’s habit of taping over home movies, they get rickrolled by a disposable but indestructible and now strangely poignant pop hit from decades past.
• It’s always nice to see Nora, who has her own bit of heartbreak when she realizes Rebecca has landed the man of her dreams, then almost immediately shifts into cheering her own.
• Jane also makes an appearance, if remotely. She seems like the type that never wants to miss a funeral.
• Roy’s not correct that the person who settled on 21 grams as the measurement of the soul murdered to get those results, but the real story of the 1907 experiments from which it sprang and the scientist behind them is kind of bizarre. Though disputed at the time (and obviously silly) the claim has proven weirdly enduring, in part because the New York Times treated it as a legitimate news story.