God, I’m so happy this show is back.

Ted Lasso was arguably the best piece of media in any category to emerge during the worst of the pandemic (although I unfortunately may be speaking too soon here, thanks to Ms. Delta Variant – please get vaccinated, everyone!). Jason Sudeikis forges ahead as Ted Lasso himself, an American football coach who accepts a job at the helm of the Premier League’s fictional AFC Richmond… without knowing a thing about soccer. The comedy in its first season was adequately funny, but surprisingly heartwarming and powerfully addictive, leaving me breathing in the episodes like air. Its only shortcoming was the low episode count, which made the series go by all too quickly before the horrible reality of the year 2020 settled back in.

“Goodbye Earl”

After the second season premiere, it’s clear that the show’s writers deserve every ounce of trust they earned from their audience over the course of season 1. We kick off quite literally in the middle of a high-stakes Richmond match, as Dani Rojas prepares to take a penalty kick that will make or break the team’s 7-game tie streak. It looks like the shot he’s taken is right on target, until Earl, the team’s adorable Greyhound mascot, falls prey to the soccer ball’s trajectory and doesn’t live to see his next match.

It’s a bold move for a television series to open with the death of a dog, and it’s even more telling that Ted Lasso‘s fanbase, though shaken and shocked, doesn’t suffer for it. Almost immediately after the offending incident, Lasso makes up for any inspired trauma with a tear-jerking monologue about the neighbor’s dog he looked after as a young human, and I forgave Ted and his writers immediately for any emotional misery I was briefly put through. Dani Rojas, however, didn’t make it out quite as unscathed. Heavily disturbed and guilt-ridden, Richmond’s star player is dealing with the yips, and that could have been a series-long plot in itself, but was instead a mere episodic arc meant to introduce a new character, the only possible foil for Ted’s never-ending well of compassion and empathy: a therapist.

Sports psychologist, actually. Sharon, played by Sarah Niles, does not take well to Ted, nor he to her. You would think that someone as in touch with human emotions as Ted is would welcome Sharon to the team with open arms, but despite his best attempts to do so, his recent divorce has gotten into his head. I expect Sharon and her introduction to Richmond to grow into a season-long rift between her and Ted, especially as it becomes more and more apparent that everyone else, player and club professional alike, fully supports Sharon’s presence.

Meanwhile, there’s a new man in Rebecca’s life. The first of the core group to meet him are Roy and Keeley, who have the (dis)pleasure of a double date with the new couple. Predictably, he is obnoxious, and also predictably, Roy has the least restraint when it comes to showing his reluctance at being on the date in the first place, let alone remaining in his seat. But afterwards, as Keeley and Rebecca are gossiping about the potential match, we are treated to one of the moments that makes Ted Lasso as touching as it is. A typically abrasive Roy Kent rant flows into a moving display of love for his friend:

“Come on, tell the truth. He’s fine, that’s it. Nothing wrong with that, most people are fine, it’s not about him. It’s about why the f*ck you think he deserves you. You deserve someone who makes you feel like you’ve been struck by f*cking lightning. Don’t you dare settle for fine.”

Not crying.

And of course, Roy and Keeley are two people who have absolutely not settled for “fine” as they continue to exemplify the healthiest relationship on the show. Their most recent argument, involving Keeley’s push to get Roy involved in a post-retirement career as a pundit, doesn’t sit well with Roy, who has recently delivered a mysterious speech that is apparently either the best or worst thing to ever have been uploaded to YouTube. Roy is perfectly content, he claims, to coach his young niece’s football team and drink wine with his cohort of yoga moms. Until Jamie Tartt, of course, comes back to haunt him in the form of a bachelor-esque reality show contestant, leaving the yoga moms to swoon and Roy to brood.

I’m curious as to why Roy seems to be avoiding Ted and all things Richmond like the plague, while Keeley clearly covers for him. Roy and Ted’s interactions across season one were some of my all-time favorites, and there must be more to explore there. As much as I love Coach Roy, he clearly has some unresolved issues surrounding the way he left the game. And Keeley, always a master of recognizing and owning up to her faults, apologizes to her boyfriend for attempting to manipulate him into doing something he didn’t want to do (pundit). It’s obvious, however, that neither conversation is over. Keeley has a point: who wouldn’t like to see the filterless Roy mercilessly demolish the sport he so loves on national television? As for Ted and Roy, when has Coach Lasso ever been known to give up on someone he believes in?

“Goodbye Earl” presented us with a very solid setup for season 2, and sure enough, the next installment led us to some answers about the only character we haven’t fully caught up by the end of episode 1.

“Lavender” 

“Ja…mie… Tartt doot doo doo doot doot do Jamie Tartt doot doo….”

I hear you cry.

But not really, because it was extraordinarily easy to hate Jamie by the end of season 1, and now the fictional AFC Richmond, Man City, and reality TV fans across England agree. Jamie’s new status, or lack of one, has flipped his world upside down and completely thrown him off his game, especially after his post-Richmond club Man City rejects his talents as a footballer for fear of bad press. I don’t blame them, given what we’ve seen from The Independent‘s Trent Crimm in both seasons so far. Jamie flounders, going so far as to track down Keeley for help, before finally turning to Ted and begging for another chance with Richmond.

Ted refuses, but holds no personal grudge, unsurprisingly. Jamie is more human in this single episode than he has been across all his previous appearances to date, opening up surprisingly honestly to Ted about his poor relationship with his father. Which, it turns out, is what led him to quit Man City and become a reality TV contestant in the first place. Strangely enough, a conversation with Sam leads Ted to change his mind, not because Sam wanted Jamie back in any way shape or form, but because Sam proved himself to be a reminder that not everyone is lucky enough to maintain a good relationship with their parents. I may not have taken pity on Jamie, but eventually Ted does, and by the end of episode 2 Tartt is back in a Richmond uniform. Ted Lasso‘s attitude toward Jamie here had a very “explain, but not excuse” vibe to it, not attempting to redeem the character but providing a valid explanation for his behavior up to this point. I do not see that behavior changing, however, and while this will undoubtedly lead to – at the very least – some major tension on the team, I wonder if we will see Richmond lose Sam as a result down the line. The seed has been planted early enough to make it a very real possibility.

One of the few notable non-Jamie related moments in this episode takes us back to Keeley and Roy: he gives in on the pundit idea, and he’s great. He’s not just great – he loves it. And we find out what it is about the infamous retirement speech that has everyone so up in arms: Roy Kent, the abrasive, rough-around-the-edges star footballer, sat in front of a room full of press and wept uncontrollably upon announcing his retirement. No wonder the pundit gig went well. It’s hard to disguise a love of the game in a player, just as a love for the fame and fortune of it all is just as easy to spot in others.

I also wonder what Sharon’s thoughts will be on Jamie’s grand return to Richmond, which left us hanging in the final moments of the episode. Ted seemed to be making at least slight progress in welcoming her to the team, but I imagine she has her work cut out when she and Jamie inevitably connect. Not to mention the other players’ feelings about public enemy #1’s unwelcome homecoming. The wedge that is about to be driven straight into the heart of Richmond will no doubt manifest onscreen as a palpable strain on Ted and Sharon’s already tentative working relationship. Once again, we are set up tremendously well for episode 3 and beyond. Have I mentioned I love this show?

Special Shoutout to…

Nathan, whose fanboy-esque demeanor never fails to inspire genuine laughter. Far and away Ted Lasso‘s most relatable character, it’s hard not to appreciate the situation he finds himself in – that is, the same situation football fans around the world would kill for. (For those who don’t remember, Ted promoted Nate to assistant coach at the end of season 1, acknowledging the merit of fans who live and breathe the game). I’d like to say Nate the Great could take it a little easier on Will, poor guy. Except – I’m terrible – it gets a huge laugh out of me every time.

Verdict 

A’s all around. Keep it coming.

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