Keeley and Rebecca have one of the most touching connections on Ted Lasso, which is saying something, considering how many heartwarming relationships are featured on the show. A lesser series might have pitted these two fierce, sweet and complicated women against each other, but the writers of Ted Lasso are smarter and more ambitious than that.
Throughout the show's two seasons, Keeley and Rebecca have supported, mentored and uplifted each other, modeling a beautiful and healthy friendship that enriches both of their character arcs. The depiction of their relationship is a feminist triumph and a jewel in the show's crown.
When Ted Lasso begins, both Rebecca and Keeley are entangled with toxic men who are holding them back from being their best selves. Rebecca, angry and bitter after divorcing her cheating husband Rupert, is consumed by her desire for petty revenge, allowing it to shape her decisions and actions. She's embattled by the sexist cruelty of the press, who glorify Rupert's philandering with younger women while branding her old and washed-up. Left broken in the wake of her isolating, unhealthy marriage, she has no one to truly confide in.
Meanwhile, Keeley is first introduced as the girlfriend of AFC Richmond's egotistical and selfish star player, Jamie Tartt. Given little respect for her career as a B-tier model -- as she wryly notes, she's "famous for almost being famous" -- she's largely dismissed by others. This includes Rebecca, at first; in one of her early attempts to get back at Rupert by destroying Richmond, she capitalizes on sexist perceptions of Keeley, arranging for pictures of her innocently spending time with Ted to be salaciously leaked to tabloids.
What she doesn't count on is Keeley's generous, accepting heart. The young model breaks Rebecca out of her shell, bringing her a cactus she says reminds her of Rebecca's "strong and prickly" nature -- a gift that positively frames qualities others might deem off-putting. She also offers advice on how to pose confidently for the red carpet, previously a discomfiting ordeal for Rebecca. Their friendship slowly grows as the season progresses. A crucial turning point happens in the fourth episode titled "For the Children," when Rebecca has a conversation with Keeley about the need for accountability in relationships. This insight pushes Keeley to finally end her unhealthy relationship with Jamie. The episode's closing shot of Keeley and Rebecca sipping champagne and enjoying a rickshaw ride together remains one of Ted Lasso's most indelible and touching images.
The tension of Rebecca's deception warring with this growing friendship is a rich storyline throughout season 1, but the chickens eventually come home to roost in one of the show's most saddening and important moments. After several episodes of them growing close, Keeley finds out that Rebecca was the orchestrator behind the pictures, and Rebecca is forced to confess her whole scheme in order to explain her actions to her friend. Keeley then demands that Rebecca tell Ted everything. Rebecca wonders if it's too late to say anything, as it won't change things, but Keeley is clear that it would change how she feels about Rebecca. Keeley's opinion of Rebecca matters to her, and that pushes her to do the right thing. Just as Rebecca steered Keeley into facing a difficult reality earlier in the season, Keeley holds Rebecca accountable here and helps her grow.
Keeley and Rebecca's mutual love of Rebecca's childhood best friend Sassy is also incredibly refreshing. Once again, the show has an opportunity to introduce cheap conflict with the introduction of this character, and instead bypasses it to build something much more tender, nuanced and constructive. In fact, Rebecca's growing friendship with Keeley helps her repair her damaged relationships with Sassy and her daughter, Nora. At one point, Sassy, just like Keeley, gives Rebecca the tough love she needs to face hard truths about herself -- namely, that she holds responsibility for choosing to be complacent in her marriage and estranging herself from Sassy and Nora.
This web of female friendship and support across generations is a cornerstone of the show's innovative approach. Keeley and Rebecca are the latest in a growing trend of heartwarming female friendships on television; fan favorite relationships like Leslie and Ann's on Parks and Recreation are an obvious comparison. But one thing that sets them apart is their age difference. The tired narrative of older women feeling hatred and jealousy towards younger women is beautifully disrupted in their dynamic.
In fact, their age gap helps them become closer and support each other more effectively. Rebecca is more experienced in the world of business and self-advancement, and she uses this to help Keeley realize her own professional potential. Meanwhile, Keeley encourages Rebecca to open up and embrace her own romantic and sexual freedom. Given the reality of the struggles faced by women in the workplace due to sexism, it's crucial to depict this type of cross-generational mentorship and connection in media.
Ted Lasso’s second season is wobblier than its first in a number of ways; some fans feel that both Keeley and Rebecca’s storylines have grown too focused on their love lives. Nonetheless, their friendship has continued to be a bright spot, with Keeley's career as a PR executive growing in leaps and bounds thanks to Rebecca's sponsorship and guidance. By the end of season 2, Keeley has earned the opportunity to leave her post as Richmond's Head of Marketing and become the CEO of her own PR firm. When they tearfully embrace in the finale as Keeley tells Rebecca the big news, it's a truly affirming and emotional moment.
Rebecca tells Keeley that she only has one piece of advice for being a boss -- “hire your best friend” -- and it’s like a clarion call to women in the workplace everywhere. Men have always opened doors and provided opportunities for each other; it's high time women started using their power to build each other up the same way. The result, as shown by Keeley and Rebecca, can be a lifelong, lasting bond that pays dividends for all involved.
If there's any doubt that depictions of healthy, loving female friendships in media have positive effects in reality, one need only look to the real-life love between the actresses who play Rebecca and Keeley. Hannah Waddingham and Juno Temple have gushed at length about the chemistry they shared from the moment they met and how this strong relationship has informed their work on the show together. It's hard to imagine anyone watching Waddingham's emotional Emmy acceptance speech and not being moved by her lingering hug with Temple, or her emphatic statement that "there's no Rebecca without Keeley."
In a show full of men, the sweet, heartfelt connection between these two women is a balm and an oasis. Keeley and Rebecca’s support and love for each other is unconditional, non-judgmental and all-encompassing. There's never any hint of competition or jealousy between the two, only a deep mutual respect. And while they bring real positivity to each others' lives, they also hold each other accountable and provide the tough love that is occasionally needed -- without overdoing it on the "tough" part of the equation.
KEEP READING: Ted Lasso: 10 Ways AFC Richmond Has Changed Since The Start Of Season 1
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