[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Ted Lasso” Season 2, Episode 12, “Inverting the Pyramid of Success.”]
After all those ties to start the season, it took one more for Richmond AFC to make its way back into the Premier League. Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernández) made up for the opening episode’s mascot manslaughter by kicking the game-tying goal in the finale (without harming the club’s new pupper, Macy Grayhound); Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), whose selfish tendencies left him off the pitch to start the season, learned when to turn on the star power and when to step aside for the right reasons; even the team they tied in the Season 2 finale, Brentford FC, was the same one that mocked their winless streak in the premiere by sending over a giant order of Thai food.
Callbacks aside, Season 2 ultimately felt like the very thing non-soccer-loving Americans have trouble wrapping their heads around (including Ted): a winning tie. What makes it a tie is both obvious and complicated. The team ended up back in the same league as Season 1. On the romantic front, there were no huge couplings or break-ups — unless you count Keeley (Juno Temple) quitting Rebecca’s (Hannah Waddingham) club to start her own firm. As for Ted, the verdict’s still out on his big move to “leave my family and take a job halfway around the world.” (Oof, those texts with his ex hurt to watch.)
Season 3 may provide a more definitive answer. Ted now has a proper rival, and even if the bitterness is one-sided, Nate’s grayscale transformation into the head coach of West Ham should, at least, alleviate the vocal minority’s anger over Season 2’s lack of (external) conflict. “Coming next season: Ted vs. Nate! And in the undercard, Rebecca vs. Rupert!” Apple TV+ is presumably mocking up fight-night posters already.
For as well as the finale sets up next year’s revenge arcs, what made Season 2 a victory overall is that it focused on internal struggles, sans second-party opposition. The team’s success or failure played out in the background, as the players, coaches, and staff’s mental health took priority. The arrival of Dr. Sharon (Sarah Niles) forced Ted to confront long-dormant feelings about his father, and how his parent’s suicide changed the coach’s outlook on life. (Perhaps even more substantial: The revelation made him question the benefits of unrelenting optimism, which resolved itself nicely in the Diamond Dogs’ final meeting. Instead of telling Roy what to do about his relationship or even encouraging him to look at the bright side, Ted took a lesson from his “girl talk” with Rebecca in the premiere. Sometimes you can just blab away about stuff and nothing has to change, and no one has to solve anything. Listening and sharing: That is cool.)
Rebecca, meanwhile, took Roy’s advice to heart and didn’t settle for a suitor who’s just “fine”; she and Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) may not be back together, but there’s clearly a spark there, and Rebecca has enough confidence in herself to chase that feeling, wherever it may lead. (Also, the end-of-episode time jumps were a bit much, but I love the inclusion of Sam opening that restaurant — his personal journey is on an excellent track.) Similarly, I have great respect for the writers recognizing that Roy and Keeley are on separate paths without breaking them up or even turning them against each other. Yes, he’s taking some long-awaited me time after a life filled with training, competition, and the public spotlight, while she’s focusing on her career as it really starts to take off — but that doesn’t mean their love for each other evaporates. It just means they have to respect each other’s needs and see where they lead.
Toss in the aforementioned arcs for the players and “Ted Lasso” Season 2 successfully tracked significant emotional growth by honestly addressing the hurdles to getting there. By the time Ted sat down for his season-ending press conference and said, “I want to share with y’all the truth about my recent struggles with anxiety, and my overall concern about the way we discuss and deal with mental health in athletics” — nothing more needed to be said. The season made his, and the show’s, position quite clear, and Season 2’s efforts to destigmatize prioritizing mental health is one of the most admirable thematic pivots made by a hit series in recent memory. After watching Season 1, it’s not hard to imagine “Ted Lasso” championing its characters’ emotional well-being, but it would’ve been far simpler for Apple’s first outright success to lean into its on-the-field underdog story, romantic subplots, and goofy charm than to challenge viewers’ presumptions about therapy and wellness.
Courtesy of Apple
Jason Sudeikis has repeatedly said that his original vision for “Ted Lasso” was a three-season arc. So if Season 1 was about convincing everyone to believe in his person-first approach to coaching, and Season 2 tackled the inner struggle restricting that individual growth, then Season 3 leaves one big rock unturned: results. With Nate playing taskmaster for an owner who only cares about wins, expectations for Ted and AFC Richmond are going to shift. They made it back to the Premier League and they became better people in the process, but what does that mean in the business of sports? Will Nate’s hard-edged strategizing and win-at-all-costs attitude best Ted’s gentler, empathetic way of coaching? Can Ted’s coaching style sustain itself in a job where success is ultimately measured in wins and losses?
Maybe, maybe not — or maybe it’s simply not for everyone. While certain aspects of Nate’s turn to the dark side were hard to justify (that ego is a real monster, huh?), he’s been genuinely hurt by Ted’s treatment. “You made me feel like I was the most important person in the whole world, and then you abandoned me,” Nate says. “Like to switch off a light, just like that.” From an objective standpoint, that doesn’t appear to be what happened — Ted brought in Roy to improve the team (and to help Roy), but he kept listening to his youngest coach — nor is Nate on his best personal journey. (Unlike Sam, he’s consumed by what others think of him.) But who’s to say those feelings of being dismissed and passed over aren’t Nate’s authentic experience? You could see how hurt he was when Roy treated Nate kissing Keeley as a cute trifle instead of an enraging betrayal (which, obviously, was a major overstep by Nate); it’s the same pain Nate felt when Ted laughed at him in Episode 5, “Rainbow,” when he volunteered to be the “big dog” Isaac (Kola Bokinni) needed for proper motivation.
Nate spent all those years being the invisible kit man, and even then he was protective of what little authority he had. (Remember in the pilot, when he yelled at Ted and Coach Beard to get off the grass before realizing they were his new bosses?) It’s as understandable that he’s this distraught over feeling relegated yet again as it is unfortunate that this is how he’s dealt with those feelings. (Wait! Dr. Sharon! There’s one more patient you need to see!) At the end of the day, Nate believes he’s the one who’s been betrayed. He thought Ted was the real deal, and now he can only see a swindler.
In a way, Nate represents the disillusioned viewership that made their feelings heard midseason. Frustrated by what they perceived as a false idol, they lashed out a person (read: show) that most could only see as pure and good. But the conflict they were missing is coming, courtesy of Nate and Rupert’s new team. The saccharine storytelling they couldn’t stomach is sure to have more of an edge, so long as Nate stays angry (and remains a series regular). Now the question becomes: Does “Ted Lasso” need to adjust further? Does it need to change, either back toward its tighter, more focused first-season self, or evolve into something a little different yet again?
The latter is certainly the preferred option for anyone who appreciates TV as ambitious as “Ted Lasso” has proven to be. Whether you loved or were let down by Season 2, the tactic was sound — the progression and purpose were there. Maybe the pieces didn’t fit together as you’d hoped, but there’s no reason to quit when they were placed with clear intention.
Sometimes a tie is just a tie. You accept it and look to what’s next. But when a tie feels like a win, don’t doubt it — you did the work to earn that victory. And so did “Ted.”
Colin Hutton / Apple TV+
– The end of Episode 11, “Midnight Train to Royston,” featured the song “Karma Police” by Radiohead, which is exactly the phrase Ted used in the premiere episode when he was frustrated by all those ties — he said it was “the karma police” coming back on him for wanting a tie so badly at the end of Season 1. Now, after bemoaning his fate earlier this season, he got exactly what he didn’t know he wanted at the end of Season 2.
– More premiere-to-finale tie-ins:
⋅ After the death of their mascot, Earl, in the first episode, Rebecca became the benefactor to Richmond’s largest dog shelter. Barkingham Palace then returned for the finale, offering Higgins the chance to pick the team’s new mascot.
⋅ In the premiere, Coach Beard and Ted met over beers, and the former gave the latter key advice about his aversion to therapy. In the finale, Coach Beard again gave Ted sound advice over two pints, this time over needing to talk to Nate — for Ted’s own good. (That talk, it seems, is still coming.)
⋅ Technically, both episodes ended with the team celebrating after Dani makes a goal. The finale saw him nail a penalty kick that earned the team a promotion, while the premiere saw him overcome the
yips by netting a corner kick (in practice).
⋅ Not to harp too much on Roy and Keeley, but I also admired the way Ms. Bowen (Ruth Bradley) was sprinkled in throughout Season 2. She pops up in the premiere after the girls’ soccer match to rib Roy for calling the kids “little pricks” — “even when they’re being little pricks” — and she shows up again soon after to enlist his help in getting Phoebe to stop swearing. Her brief interactions with Roy illustrate a common attitude toward children, and she quickly establishes herself as the “cool teacher” any eligible bachelor would fall for (but only an equally cool one could actually date). It would’ve been very, very easy to use her as a way to break up Keeley and Roy, and I’m very, very glad that didn’t happen — even if Roy leaving both tickets behind might mean spending some of his vacation time in Ms. Bowen’s classroom.
– Listen closely during the Diamond Dogs chat and you’ll hear Roy say that his exclusion from Keeley’s magazine story hurt his feeling — not feelings, but the singular feeling. Roy is only willing to admit to one, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
– I like that Higgins struggles so much while listening to Keeley share her concerns about leaving the team. Not only is it a nice juxtaposition to the typically sound advice and quick understanding seen in so many other scenes, but it provides ample space for Jeremy Swift to transition oh-so-smoothly from flustered friend to sound mentor — which he does so well, so often.
– I know this has been broken down ad nauseam on Twitter, but Trent Crimm (James Lance) really did deserve to be fired. Not only did he burn his source in last week’s episode, but he also asked Ted for comment after the story already ran online — you always ask for comment before publishing. Good luck and godspeed, Trent, but stay out of the papers.
– Call me overly anxious, but as soon as Ted called attention to Rebecca’s “habit” of “dropping truth bombs” in each season’s penultimate episode, I started worrying that next year’s won’t be so easy to hear. In Season 1, Rebecca told Ted that she’d only hired him to ruin the team and get revenge on her ex-husband. He took that confession in stride. In Season 2, she came to him for advice on her relationship with Sam. He delivered. What’s to come in Season 3? I’ll be eager to find out, even if I’m already worried this one might knock Ted back a bit.
“Ted Lasso” Seasons 1-2 are available to stream on Apple TV+. The series has already been renewed for Season 3.