The final episode of Apple TV’s breakout hit Ted Lasso premiered last Friday to surprisingly positive reviews. This would not be shocking considering the immense support the first season gradually earned, though fans of the series began to question their love of the show throughout the second season.
There are many possible reasons for this lack of support, though I believe the main one to be the new style of episode rollout Apple TV implemented for the show. When the show first premiered, three episodes were immediately uploaded to the platform and the rest of the season was uploaded weekly. Each episode was around thirty minutes long, and the season was composed of 10 episodes. Seeing how successful the show had become before its season two release date, Apple decided to only dole out an episode per week and extend the episodes to around 40 minutes long. There was also a call for two new episodes in the midst of production, which explains the viewer sentiment that some episodes feel out of place and uncorrelated to the direct plot of the show. This weekly rollout technique, critic Alison Herman states, allows for “more time to pick apart perceived flaws, or just sit with nagging concerns.” This proved true as criticisms arose throughout the second season surrounding the series’s lack of antagonistic characters and direction.
The show, however, seems to answer many of these critiques in a more nuanced way than the seemingly always happy first season. The addition of Sarah Niles’s Dr. Sharon creates a host of fascinating tension for the overly optimistic Ted Lasso as he is forced to grapple with why his outlook is possibly warped at times. This leads into important and necessary conversations surrounding mental health in sports and in general. Dr. Sharon is not the antagonist but a foil, creating the needed perspective of a character being adverse to Ted’s overly positive outlook while not being anti-Ted. This season also contains an unexpected storyline involving Nate, lovable kitman turned coaching staff, which may respond to those who are searching for the show’s next villain.
As an extremely character driven show, Ted Lasso thrives off of the endearing relationships Ted forms with those around him and how other characters have grown because of his presence. With Ted ending season one at peace with most every player in the series, season two allows Ted to explore his relationship with himself. His panic attacks are not explained away but instead thoroughly delved into, allowing his character to become much more relatable to audiences, as his overwhelming optimism slowly falls away and the man underneath becomes visible. Jason Sudeikis gives an incredible performance as Coach Lasso, proving that he can bring much more to the role than a Kansas accent and countless references. This breakdown of Ted’s arc throughout the season seems directed at critiques that Lasso’s positivity, while comforting, was unsustainable.
Sudeikis is not the only cast member whose craft deserves recognition. Brendan Hunt as Coach Beard generates laughs in scene after scene even without speaking a word. Brett Goldstein, who portrays fan favorite Roy Kent, brings as much foul language and heart to the character as he did in the show’s first season. It is not surprising, considering the revolutionary acting and writing found within the series, that Ted Lasso was nominated for twenty Emmys and went on to win seven of them, including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, and Outstanding Comedy Series. For all the detours season two managed to take, the characters are still the same ones viewers fell in love with, now a bit more fleshed out and relatable.
This season also deals with many hard hitting topics while still returning to the feel-good core of the show which put it on the map. The complexities of duty to one’s country, regret and forgiveness after the death of a loved one, negative self-fulfilling prophecies, and corporate action in the public eye are all explored against the backdrop of Rebecca and Keely’s friendship, Ted and Beard’s unrelenting understanding of each other, endearing storylines from beloved players Sam Obisanya and Dani Rojas, and Roy and Keely’s relationship.
Even with the technical aspects of a longer runtime and two new episodes to fill stacked against it, Ted Lasso continues to be a much-needed show with an incredible cast of characters and an even bigger heart. Its writing still allows audiences to be sure they can laugh and cry all in the span of one episode. The Lasso team listened to its critics and made a great show somehow better as it tackles real life issues rather than smothering everything in cheer.
“If that’s a joke, I love it. If not, can’t wait to unpack that with you later.”
This memorable quote from the show’s first season offers a bit of foreshadowing into how Ted’s character and others have played out thus far. Instead of being able to joke his way through his own life, Ted suffers greatly from anxiety surrounding his past due to the stress of his divorce and new job. While audiences have loved joking with Ted, there is something to be said about finally being able to unpack the full image of a character so many have come to love.