After months of generating more discourse than a class of Ph.D.s, Ted Lasso has wrapped its second season. The series’ sophomore outing featured an expanded episode count—12 to season one’s 10—and ever more ambitious storytelling. Some of those gambles paid off, while others have remained as hotly contested as matters of domestic policy. Skeptics and believers alike looked to the finale, “Inverting The Pyramid Of Success,” to resolve the issues and/or prove them right.
For our reviewer Myles McNutt, the season closer came up short: “I know Game Of Thrones has become something of a joke after the response to the final season, but one thing it modeled very effectively was using the penultimate episode of each season as a climax, allowing for a finale that would simultaneously reflect on the season that came before it and gesture toward the future. And that’s what Ted Lasso really needed, because across the board the actual resolution that comes after Richmond’s promotion is rushed and frankly confounding.”
The A.V. Club staff is divided on the season overall, so we gathered (virtually) once more to review the game tape. Here, our writers and editors discuss season two’s biggest strengths—and flaws—and wonder where Nate, Ted, Roy, and Keeley should go from here.
Well, every protagonist needs an antagonist, and this season ended with the definitive introduction of one who’s been slowly changing sides (and hair color) over the course of the season. When the finale ended, my partner turned to me and said, “I hate that they’ve made us hate him,” and honestly, that’s an understandable reaction. Watching Nate go from under-appreciated guy finally getting his first taste of authority to vindictive, ego-obsessed monster has been the definition of car-crash-in-slow-motion drama, but I also think it’s one of the season’s biggest strengths.
In a year that often struggled to fill in the connective tissue between character beats (Dani, Jamie) and storylines (sponsorship being the most glaring), Nate’s steady progression to the dark side has been one of the few organically and smartly plotted arcs of season two. It’s not “fun” to watch the formerly meek and mild-mannered guy get drunk on power, but it felt wholly honest in a way that the show couldn’t always match with its other subplots.
Roy and Keeley, by contrast, were rock-solid throughout—which, of course, meant the show just had to throw in that last little scene where she sends him off on vacation alone. I think I know what that means—next season will test their relationship by throwing her into the deep end of a busy new career path, with little time for her boyfriend—but I hope I’m wrong. Roy and Keeley are two of the more consistent characters on the show; please, Ted Lasso, surprise me by letting them continue to grow their relationship in a mature way, rather than “Ross and Rachel in season 3 of Friends”-ing their romance. No breaks!
It saddens me to say this, but: my confidence in Ted Lasso has really been shaken. For me, the strongest stuff this season was Ted dealing with his emotional baggage. The episode where he and Rebecca both confront their issues with their respective fathers was well done. When Ted addresses the pressroom in the finale to talk about mental health in sports, even though we didn’t get to see the full speech, it felt like a full circle moment.
Nate’s character arc, although chilling to watch, was another definite strength. However, as a whole, this season was incredibly confusing. So many loose ends and so many bizarre storylines that ended without a resolution. The single biggest weakness for me this season, though, was Beard’s solo episode.
Look, Beard’s a nice enough character, but I don’t get why we had to spend an entire hour watching him running around London. Back in the pre-streaming days, when network shows had 22-episode seasons, I get why quirky stand-alone episodes were popular. But season two only had 12 episodes, and I cannot understand why the hell we wasted one on Beard instead of tying up loose ends.
Keeley and Roy’s relationship is another sore spot for me. I get that, presumably, the writers wanted to drum up a little Conflict™. But so much of their relationship drama felt forced. Why even add the storylines with Jamie and the schoolteacher, and hint at a love triangle (or love rectangle) if those storylines weren’t going anywhere? Keeley and Roy’s relationship is one of my favorite parts of the show, and I really hope they stay together instead of devolving into some on-again, off-couple nightmare couple.
I’ve quite enjoyed Ted Lasso moving from a feel-good, half-hour comedy into, ultimately, an existential dramedy with almost 50-minute long episodes. I think the switch has unnerved most people, but the writers and cast are capable of rising to the challenge they’ve given themselves.
The biggest strength of the second season was tapping deep into the characters—Ted’s trauma with his father, Roy feeling like he isn’t “enough” for Keeley, Rebecca longing for companionship, etc.—to help pull the rug from under us after what everyone expected from the show after the first. The execution was messy in some ways, but also absolutely riveting and real. For me, the series successfully maintained the humor, and added to it by fleshing out the characters with mostly believable drama.
The downside of juggling all these storylines is they’re going to remain incomplete. Jamie’s arc with his father doesn’t go anywhere; Sharon is just gone; Higgins was chilling all season long. A glaring error was no one questioning the power dynamics or consequences of Rebecca dating her employee. The least they could do was mention it as the potential HR nightmare it is instead of only romanticizing it.
As for Roy and Keeley, I loved their dynamic in season one. Early season-two episodes fortified them as a couple worth rooting for, but the last few episodes established that they are weak at communicating with one another, like when she felt he was clingy but couldn’t tell him about it. Don’t hate me, but I wouldn’t mind if they take a break to figure themselves out. Keeley has a promising new job, Roy will possibly take on a larger role with coaching now that Nate’s gone, and hopefully both can see their self-worth before getting back together. I’m hoping Ted Lasso shows a mature resolution to this conflict.
Shows like Ted Lasso require a deft hand. Throughout this second season, I kept thinking about Parks And Recreation’s first two. Parks had magic from the beginning. It just needed some finessing. Ted Lasso came fully formed. It’s so rare for a show to be this confident out the gate that the second season had to be a letdown.
My preconceived notions of how these shows work hurt my enjoyment—that’s on me. So I kept waiting for Ted to step in it. What kept Ted Lasso on track was that it is still very, very funny. The comedy is so disarming, and the writing staff worked through many tough situations that would overpower a weaker show. For example, a boss-employee romance is so unpalatable, but Hannah Waddingham and Toheeb Jimoh added just enough seasoning to make it work.
The weaknesses came from a missing center. Ted Lasso, the character, got sidelined a lot for his therapy, and “character goes to therapy” is such a boring shortcut. Of course, there are exceptions, as my Sopranos fandom can attest. But this felt manufactured in a way that butted up against the rest of the series. Nevertheless, like Rebecca and Sam, they pulled through thanks to the show’s humor and cast. Jason Sudeikis and Sarah Niles are gunning to keep Lasso’s Emmy streak going.
But the real weakness of the season was that atrocious Coach Beard episode. A little bit goes a long way; this episode felt like bonus content for a credit card company website. And the irony that Ted Lasso is produced by a credit card company and streams on its website isn’t lost on me.
Roy and Keeley were the heart and soul of season two, but they’re dangerously close to Jim and Pam territory. Still (water), Ted Lasso continues to challenge my—let’s say it together—preconceived notions of what this show should be. So I don’t know where they should go, but I trust the production to get us there safely.
The first season of Ted Lasso was fun to watch because it was a fish-out-of-water story: Ted coached a sport in which he had no experience, in a foreign country, while in the midst of a divorce. His vulnerable moments showing his mental health struggles made him so relatable and likable. So, I feel that the best moments in the second season come when Ted confronts issues he buried deep down. When I watched the episode where Ted accepts the weight that his dad’s death by suicide left on him, it made me think, “Okay, the show’s back on track.”
But the main issue with this season is that there’s been a lot of exploring in the writers room to see what sticks, and the risks don’t pay off much. As Saloni said, it feels like many of the storylines presented didn’t quite go anywhere. There was seemingly no point in introducing Sam and Rebecca’s brief romance. Jamie was also teased to have a bigger arc, confronting his issues with his dad and processing how his actions affected his teammates and Keeley, but that’s barely explored on a deeper level.
The Dubai Air protest led by Sam didn’t have true consequences; the situation would’ve likely played out differently in real life. And the Coach Beard standalone episode didn’t work at all. It showed fans nothing new about a character that fans are eager to learn more about.
When we last had a Ted Lasso roundtable, we talked about how there wasn’t enough conflict this season. By the finale, there was, with Nate becoming the villain. But he doesn’t make a fun villain. If anything, it turns a wholesome character into an extremely annoying asshole. It’s not an engaging conflict; it’s just painful to watch.
And when it comes to Roy and Keeley, it’s also irritating that the show’s teasing there’s any chance their relationship won’t work. Every issue they’ve had so far isn’t any different from any relationship, so why would they not be able to stay together while tackling small issues nearly every couple faces? I hope the show doesn’t break them off and instead continues to show how they learn to communicate better and support each other.