At the start of the season, two Ted Lasso grappled with something of an identity crisis. We were all so utterly charmed by the debut season that we instantly compared the two and, if season two was trying to recapture that same magical concoction of sincere sweetness then showrunners were accomplishing it but this time with more of an aware edge. There were moments, particularly in the first four episodes, where scenes of the characters re-building bridges or coming together to face stacked odds (such as Sam’s protest in wearing his jersey and the team rallying behind him with little fallout—despite the fact that we’ve seen only recently how Britain treats its football players—especially non-white players) that now felt calculated. The showrunners and the writers know what we want, so they were trying to deliver it but this time with noticeable inauthenticity, right?
Unfortunately for those watching on a week-by-week basis and fortunately for the narrative integrity itself, Ted Lasso’s self-awareness runs deep. The show isn’t so much trying to recreate the spark of what had fans and critics celebrating it last year but challenging what we thought we knew about the characters and the general tone of the show. Played this year with a quiet, thrumming mania, Jason Sudeikis’s Ted is still undoubtedly kind and he still wishes to promote a positive atmosphere on the team which fosters trusting relationships, but we begin to see the cracks of such an approach. It’s not that being kind is tiring, it’s that trying to only see the good while burying the negative only manages to feed a pervasive, toxic positivity that does more damage than not. As we see with characters like Ted, Jamie, Nate, and, to an extent this episode, Beard, reliance on unrelenting positivity and never giving up attitude has consequences.
Beard, needing a moment to himself to walk off his agitation in the last moments of the eighth episode perfectly sums up what the second season has been saying all along. It’s fine to be wary of indulging our need to win versus losing and learning the lesson that winning isn’t everything is important, but this is also a show about a competitive sport and, as we’ve seen, these ties and losses have ripple effects in the careers of all of the characters we’ve come to know. Ted has been preaching the idea of being kind over all else when he should have been leading them to be kind no matter the outcome, but be competitive in the moment.
Before that final scene, however, where the friction between Ted and the rest of the team—while not addressed—is pointedly present in how he doesn’t intervene in the locker room and Beard’s walking away from Ted later—we are delivered one heartbreak after another, all of which take place in an episode with some of the most wholesome scenes to date—in particular the entire Richmond team circled as Sam gets his haircut to ready himself for his date.
It’s that date, however, that presents the only drawback this week as there’s still a level of uncertainty about the Sam and Rebecca pairing. It’s not just the age gap but the fact that she is in a position of power over him that automatically makes things dicey. Toheeb Jimoh and Hannah Waddingham share considerable chemistry and they’ve certainly hinted at a potential attraction for a while now but even still seeing it take place is jarring. Presumably, this is all a direct reflection on Rebecca finally recognizing her worth and in the meantime it allows Jimoh to play the romantic lead with disarming amounts of charisma, but we’ll need to wait and see how the storyline wraps itself up to see if the pieces set in place were enough to justify the result.
However, the major drama I’ve alluded to comes in the form of Richmond’s humbling face-off with Man City. After suffering a loss, Jamie is confronted by his drunken, abusive father in the locker room in front of the entire team where he’s belittled and degraded and rather than continuing to take it, Jamie, in a fit of rage, punches him in the face, knocking him down and stunning himself. Beard jumps to action to drag his father out of the room while Roy, in one of the more heartfelt and surprisingly earned moments of the series, walks to embrace Jamie as he cries. It’s a tender moment between two characters who can’t typically stand one another but it’s a reminder both that Jamie mentioned looking up to him last year and a direct follow up to Roy realizing his influence on his niece. What he does matters, so he puts that into action.
Ted, who has been noticeably silent, walks out and calls Dr. Fieldstone. After last week’s tense conversations, this week allows us greater insight into their relationship after she gets into an accident and he is the one to take her home. We learn through her teletherapy that the two are more alike than they realize and while it would’ve been nice to be given more one on one time with her, especially with as good as Sarah Niles has been in the role, it sets up for Ted’s ability to reveal a darker element of his past to her by the episode’s end. He tells her that when he was 16, his father committed suicide. He doesn’t elaborate but it’s a sobering moment that the entire season has been working through. Season one delivered on the qualities of politeness and the idea of killing them with kindness. Season two looks to investigate what happens when someone covers pain with forced smiles.
If the superb “Man City” is anything to go by, what happens is you simply get by, and sometimes, a tie isn’t enough