Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Ted Lasso season 2 takes creative risks while maintaining its winning optimism

The Apple TV+ comedy challenges itself and consequently improves in season 2

Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, Nick Mohammed in Ted Lasso season two
Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, Nick Mohammed in Ted Lasso season two
Photo: Apple TV+

The opening scene of Ted Lasso’s season-two premiere is a doozy. For a show that thrives on its feel-good factor, the Apple TV+ comedy certainly takes creative risks upon its return—luckily, they pay off. Led by Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso transcended its humble launch to become the most collectively beloved TV program of the last year, earning 20 Emmy nominations. Yes, the writing and performances really are that phenomenal, but the show also arrived at a pivotal time.

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The emotional toll of a global pandemic and a turbulent election was briefly alleviated by the show’s energy-boosting 10 episodes. It was a rush to witness Sudeikis’ Kansas-based Coach Lasso impart inspiring speeches and colorful anecdotes while striving to learn football rules after being hired to train a middling Premier League team, AFC Richmond, in London. The biggest concern picking up with Ted Lasso is hoping it lives up to its wildly successful debut.

It might take the show a minute to find its flow again, but Ted Lasso returns with optimism and warmth (and biscuits), qualities mined from Ted’s and his friends’ unpredictable challenges. It turns out, season two has plenty of them. Take that opening scene—while the exhaustive embargo on spoilers means it cannot be discussed in detail, suffice to say it’s a tantalizing setup for how the rest of the episodes will play out. It’s also instrumental in the introduction of a new character who shapes Ted’s arc, Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles).

Dr. Sharon Fieldstone is a sports therapist who comes aboard to help Richmond’s players dealing with anxiety—the team hasn’t had any wins or losses since being relegated, just straight-up seven draws—and trauma. Unlike the rest of his newfound group, she is unaffected by Ted’s folksy charm. In turn, Ted doesn’t have the easiest time with his team looking elsewhere for comfort. Our fondness for Ted only grows as Ted Lasso peels back his history and inner battles. After all, he might have formed a found family, but he is a stranger in a strange land, recently divorced, away from his young son, and prone to panic attacks, as seen in season one’s “Make Rebecca Great Again.”

Ted Lasso’s appeal lies in depicting the perseverance needed to remain kind and calm—and its costs. It’s impossible for anyone, even Coach Lasso, to be cheerful all the time. Season two slowly lets him confront underlying insecurities, and his entire arc bolsters the show’s thesis: You can’t avoid shitty or challenging situations, but it’s possible to try to overcome them while still being a good person. The series digs into the gravity of prioritizing mental health, especially when the whole world is watching and vocally complaining about you. If Ted’s character was aspirational in season one, he becomes far more relatable in season two. Sudeikis entrenches himself deeper into his character’s sunny persona and he finds greater emotional depths as well, especially in the second half.

As Ted grapples with maintaining team morale amidst various tribulations—a task he is still wonderful at it—Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) gets to shine in a wholly different way. Now she’s confessed that she originally hired him to destroy the club, Rebecca is free of the burden of lying to Ted. It strengthens her friendship with him, as well as Director of Operations Leslie Higgins (Jeremy Swift) and Brand Manager Keeley Jones (Juno Temple). She is now fully committed to Richmond, and to finding the right partner for herself. Without a slightly villainous streak, Rebecca blooms into a disarming, extremely fun version of herself. Waddingham takes her already confident performance a notch higher as Rebecca lets her guard down.

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Hannah Waddingham in Ted Lasso season two
Hannah Waddingham in Ted Lasso season two
Photo: Apple TV+

As a workplace comedy, Ted Lasso is about forming serendipitous connections. There is no better example for it than Rebecca and Keeley. Their friendship got a little rocky in season one after Keeley learned Rebecca’s true intentions, but that’s all in the past now. Their relationship lights up the show, depicting the value of female friendships in a male-dominated industry. The bond among the football players is a delightful treat, but Rebecca and Keeley’s dynamic is exceptionally natural, probably in part due to Waddingham and Temple’s real-life friendship. Temple brings a congenial vibe to Keeley in every scene, especially with her romantic partner, Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), who is suffering from a career crisis of sorts. They share an electric chemistry; as weird as the storylines may get (watch out for episode four’s unexpected Love Actually tribute), they can pull off anything.

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Ted Lasso’s entire ensemble is in top shape for season two, including Brendan Hunt as the dependable Coach Beard. Nick Mohammed’s newly minted Coach Nathan Shelly swerves from being soft-spoken to more assertive. Well, kind of. Mohammed rises to the challenge of bringing a new, possibly controversial dimension of Nate to life. He maintains an aura of shy nervousness, which he balances with freshly discovered ego. It’s an intriguing journey, and without giving away too much, his difficulties are grounded with an emotional backstory that is reminiscent of Jamie Tartt’s (Phil Dunster). Speaking of Jamie, the cocky Richmond-turned-Man City player has the most entertaining job when the new season kicks off. Once again, the writers and Dunster gradually elevate his character without losing any of Jamie’s trademark notorious charm. The biggest but most welcome surprise is an expanded focus on supporting players like Toheeb Jimoh’s Sam Obisanya and Cristo Fernández’s Dani Rojas. Jimoh is a total revelation as Sam’s arc begins to take center stage. It’s good to see Ted Lasso live up to its premise of giving underdogs the chance to break through.

The show isn’t without its curveballs this season. Certain storylines and directions might raise a few eyebrows, but trust the exceptional cast and crew, who come back fully swinging. Ted Lasso transcends the current TV landscape, where the definition of a comedy gets more and more nebulous everyday. There will always be a need for heartwarming heroes onscreen; not the super-powered kind, but the undeniably human.

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