The last episode of Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso, finally released on the streaming platform this Friday, ends this Season 2 which has not felt quite on a par with the first season. If you haven’t watched the series, the following may have spoilers.
Ted Lasso is Apple TV’s most hyped popular TV show, ranked as one of its most-watched series back in July 2021. Its season one was critically acclaimed, leading the series to score a history-making win at the 2021 Emmy Awards as it received seven awards, out of the twenty the series was nominated for, including the award for Outstanding Comedy Series, Best Actor in a Comedy Series for Jason Sudeikis, Best Supporting Actress for Hannah Waddingham, and Best Supporting Actor for Brett Goldstein.
This Season 2 of Ted Lasso has felt like a very different series from the one we were introduced to during the pandemic with Season 1. In Season 2, the ten 30-minute-long episodes that introduced us to the story of an American football coach named Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) who was hired to manage a British Premier League
Ted Lasso’s success has been attributed to its comforting tone and its lead character offering compassion and humility in the face of hostility. What I particularly liked about Season 1 was the contrast the show highlighted between American and British humor, with Ted struggling with British sarcasm and cynicism, and Ted’s references to American culture always falling flat to a British audience. This aspect of Ted Lasso though almost completely disappears in Season 2. Instead, the series shows how Ted Lasso’s “kill them with kindness” attitude affects the people around him, encouraging them to create a more wholesome environment. Well, not exactly everyone around him, as the final episode shows.
Ted Lasso suffers from the same problem all “fish out of water” stories eventually face: once the “fish” has somewhat acclimatized to its new surroundings, where is the conflict? Now that Rebecca is no longer the show’s antagonist, who is? In a way, Season 2 unfolds as if searching for that conflict, developing subplots, expanding the stories of secondary characters, that is, in this case, anyone who isn’t Ted Lasso, until it (the conflict, or would-be antagonist) finally sneaks up as a big reveal.
One way to remedy this “fish out of water” dilemma is for the protagonist to no longer find conflict with others, but rather within themselves. This is exactly what Season 2 does. A psychiatrist is hired. The first few episodes install a mini-conflict between Ted and Dr. Sharon (played by Sarah Niles), only to suggest Ted’s own fears and insecurities. Ted is forced to confront his own past, and in so doing we, the audience, get to understand a little better Ted’s “over-the-top kind” character. The series suggests that there is an explanation to Ted’s kindness, its roots firmly established in a past trauma.
The series though does not stop with Ted’s inner conflict, but expands to show other characters’ own personal crises. Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) is no longer captain of the Richmond team, and struggles to find his place as a retired footballer. Much of the second season is dedicated to the development of Roy’s relationship with Keeley (Juno Temple). Meanwhile, Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham), now a friend and ally to Ted, searches for love. Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) is confronted with his father’s toxicity and becomes a team player. Sam (a great Toheeb Jimoh) learns to stand up for his convictions. And Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) becomes a fully-fledge character, not just Ted’s sounding board.
While every character is absorbed with their personal crises, the series sneakily sets up the major conflict that will certainly govern Season 3: Nate (a chilling gradual character turn for Nick Mohammed). Season 2 thus feels in a way like exposition for the next season to come, deepening our understanding of each character, so that we may fully grasp what will be at stake in the next big conflict to come. The trajectory Ted Lasso is on thus only becomes clear with the Season 2 finale—what looks like an all too familiar good vs. evil, or rather kind vs. mean, storyline—, and I cannot wait to see what happens in Season 3.