There were a lot of complaints, somehow, following season 1 of Ted Lasso that the show didn’t have enough conflict. That it was simply too… happy. After sitting through Ted and Michelle’s breakup scene, it astounds me that this was ever a critique in the first place.
Regardless, a lack of conflict certainly isn’t the case anymore.
Ted Lasso, both the show and the man, have grown immensely over the course of three episodes in season 2. All the characters, actually, are on some pretty impressive journeys. Instead of recapping episode by episode, this week I’m going to follow that model and check out what must be going on in their heads.
Roy & Jamie
Roy has settled in rather nicely to his role as AFC Richmond’s new coach. Clearly, it was the move he was meant to make, and it has paid off for everyone… except Jamie, who he refuses to mentor. Jamie, for his part, is trying to forge ahead with a tentative connection, but the history between the two is too much for Roy, who would rather take a pay cut than increase the amount of face time he’s forced to spend with the player he hopes “dies of the incurable condition of being a little b*tch.” Eventually, the coach in Roy wins out, and though the team’s record is in much better shape, he cracks their last remaining issue wide open: Ted has turned Jamie into a team player, in turn sacrificing the goals he’d selfishly score, one after another. Jamie, it turns out, needs to go back to being a little b*tch – at certain moments, and this is key – or the team will suffer the consequences of losing their top goal scorer. The signal for this transformation, gloriously, can only be described with a visual:
(A nod to Ted’s other hand giving a simultaneous thumbs-up, which is just such a perfect acting choice from Sudeikis I have no words.)
The end of the above-mentioned episode (aptly titled “The Signal”) triggers a few plotlines for various characters – Ted’s panic attack and plea for help to Sharon, Roy’s effect on the team and uptick in Richmond’s wins, Jamie’s reconnection with his golden foot. Roy’s decision to offer Jamie even a tiny piece of advice may not seem like much in the moment, but it plants a tiny moment of… not quite reconciliation, but common ground between the long-standing enemies. And this common ground turns into something far more heart-wrenching in the latest episode. Jamie, humiliated time and time again by his father, is forced to confront him unpleasantly in front of his teammates, who clearly have no idea what to say or do until Roy crosses the room in typical Roy fashion and wordlessly pulls Jamie into a hug. This is one of the only moments on the show to date we’ve ever seen Jamie let his guard down, and though I don’t see it magically changing things between the two young men, no words can quite do the scene justice. Truly touching.
Rebecca & Sam
Rebecca has thrown herself headfirst into the world of online dating, which is refreshingly portrayed on Ted Lasso as a natural & normal, “barely give it a second thought” aspect of modern life instead of something one needs to justify with some sort of “oh, my friend signed me up, ha ha” disclaimer. Perhaps time spent with her goddaughter, her “tough love” pep talk from Roy earlier this season or her experience watching her mother leave her father on the nth occasion persuaded her to once again pursue something more long lasting. Perhaps a combination of all three, but whatever her reasons, it’s a satisfactory rollercoaster to watch her fluctuate between more typical, surface level relationships and the mystery Bantr man she clearly is developing feelings for. Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us have been in this situation and struggled with the question of how into someone you met online you really can be, and it’s interesting to see Rebecca explore that… until that someone turns out to be the 21-year-old Sam Obisanya.
Sam, for his part, is over the moon every time he receives a message back from the woman who has stolen his heart, though he has no clue as to her identity, nor she him. Distraught every time three dots appear and disappear on his Bantr app, when he finally gets a date he cashes in on the one haircut per season each teammate gets from Richmond Captain (and barber extraordinaire) Isaac McAdoo. The haircut scene is portrayed humorously – reverently, in fact, as 99% of the team stands in awe of Isaac’s artistry – but it’s also very worth noting the portrayal of Black men taking care of each other through simple gestures, the only gestures available to them for centuries. The series of events that took place after the unlikely Bantr pairing realized their situation upon arriving at the same restaurant at the same time would probably have been better placed in the rom-communism episode, but nevertheless the connection is extraordinarily well played by Waddingham’s Rebecca, who struggles with her attraction to someone so many years younger than her, and who is also technically one of her employees. Sam smile is downright swoon-worthy as Rebecca opens her front door to find him waiting for her, and Rebecca’s arms are the stuff of legend. Who could blame either of them?
Roy & Keeley
Roy and Keeley, even when they’re not perfect, are perfect. They hit their first actual relationship speed bump in “Headspace” when Roy fails to recognize Keeley’s need to occasionally spend time alone. They pulled a This Is Us moment on me when it seemed like Roy was packing a bag, but of course he remained the perfect man and had put together a thoughtful, loving oasis for his girlfriend to relax in without him “for at least three hours.” We concurrently explore Rebecca’s dating life on Bantr in this episode, discovering hills and valleys in each type of relationship, which I thought was a neat parallel.
Ted & Sharon
Our dear Coach Lasso, meanwhile, is having a rough go of it. This was easy to see coming, what with his constant, too-insistent claims to Sharon over the course of the season that he’s doing just fine, through a variety of cute Ted-isms that would drive any self-respecting English person insane. And Sharon, a study in self respect, is no exception. Her frustration with Ted is driven further when he leaves a big match in a panic and hides in her office, covering his last-minute exit with a flimsy food poisoning excuse and succumbing to a therapy session. But, upon arriving at the session itself, he becomes antagonistic, insulting Sharon and her profession and storming out multiple times to avoid having to open up. At the end of episode 8, we know where a lot of his issues stem from – his father committed suicide when Ted was 16, bringing a whole new meaning to the tear-jerking dart scene from season 1. Ted’s distrust of therapists I had thought stemmed directly from his experience with his ex-wife, but it seems to run on a far deeper level than that – perhaps he had a less than ideal encounter with a therapist after losing his father, and couples therapy later in life was the final straw for him. It seems very out of character for Ted not to give a second chance, so this scenario would make sense to me. But his breakdowns seem out of character for him regardless, which I have no doubt it the point.
As unexpected as Ted’s childhood revelation was the biking accident Sharon experiences. I sat, shocked, for at least three minutes thinking Ted Lasso had actually killed someone off. But thankfully, Sharon recovers and is still fully capable of Annoyance by Ted. His insistence on making sure she was safe was consistent with the Ted we know, but upon learning about his past with his father, his excessively caring nature here and everywhere becomes bittersweet. No wonder Ted is so afraid of the loss of anyone in his direct circle, of anyone he knows, even remotely, feeling alone. Jamie’s return after Sam reminds Ted that not everyone has a good relationship with their parents clicks into place. No wonder all that emotion Coach Lasso shares so widely causes his panic attacks. It’s far too much for one person to hold.
A last note to mention the portrayal of a therapist with a therapist. That’s something most people only think about in passing, with maybe a light chuckle. But man, did I appreciate the callout.
Coach Beard & Higgins
A strange friendship, but a cute one, Higgins is in a difficult situation with Coach Beard, believing him (accurately) to be in a toxic relationship with longtime girlfriend Jane. Yet another example of the show’s commitment to touching tales of all sorts of loving relationships, Higgins adamantly searches for a way to bring this to Beard’s attention, despite the other members of the Diamond Dogs’ warnings that his best intentions won’t work out the way he wants them to. Once he finally works up the courage to do so anyway, Coach Beard hugs him, though he doesn’t take the advice. At least, he hasn’t yet.
I love the amount of hugs on this show.
Nate the Not-So-Great is the only character with whose plotline I’m less than thrilled with. Part of what made him so captivating to watch through the first season and a half was what he represented, not only as a BIPOC actor in a refreshingly complex role, but as a football superfan who turned the dream of all football superfans into a reality. In a show made up of countless lovely, charming, heartwarming moments, Nate’s promotion from kit man to coach was perhaps one of the most significant, as well as the most underrated. But ever since his “wunderkid” interview, combined with Rebecca’s lesson in self-confidence (which was a very sweet episode for her, on Hannah Waddingham’s part), Nate has become a case study in arrogant, stereotypical, macho-masculine behavior. That’s disappointing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is Ted Lasso‘s easy success thus far at breaking those stereotypes – and forcing its characters to constantly transform for the better through the difficult decisions they have to make. Nate is the first so far to fail this test, even taking season 1 Jamie Tartt into account. Though his desperation to please his impossible father explains the change in him at work, it doesn’t excuse, and it’s only a matter of time before Ted finds out about the shift in his favorite protégée. Even more than Ted, though, I’m looking forward to Coach Beard’s reaction to Nate’s treatment of the less experienced team members – his ruthless tirade on Will after the latter very kindly gifted him a “Wunder Kid” Richmond jersey will undoubtedly not go over well.
The relationship between parents and children is a big theme this season. Nearly every major character – Ted, Rebecca, Jamie, Nate, even Roy and Higgins to some extent – has been affected by their relationship to a mom or dad, and it’s clearly going to be a big driving motivator for the rest of the season. As (I assume) we explore Ted’s childhood experience with his father, and how that might be affecting his guilt toward not being there in person for Henry, we’ll probably concurrently see Ted open up in therapy. This physical distance disconnect between father and son, I’m guessing, is the root trigger of Ted’s panic attacks. It’s an interesting angle, especially since it acts as a through line, weaving every character together but defining them by their reactions to it. That’s something I would have explored as a member of the writing staff, as well, but I trust this capable group’s ability to do so far more than my own.
Friday’s episode 9 already has a lot on its plate, but whether or not it’s too much to handle remains to be seen.