The final episode of Apple TV’s breakout hit Ted Lasso premiered last Friday to surprisingly positive reviews. This acclaim should not be shocking considering the immense praise the first season earned, yet the first few episodes of Lasso’s second season had fans wondering how long the show’s extreme optimism could go on.
There are many possible reasons for the show’s seemingly abrupt change in tone, though the primary one may be the new style of episode rollout Apple TV implemented. 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 contained 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 viewer sentiment that some installments 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,” and pick apart audiences did.
Criticisms arose throughout the second season surrounding the series’s lack of antagonistic characters and direction. The second season, however, seems to answer many of these critiques as it branches away from the seemingly eternally-happy first season.
The addition of Sarah Niles’s Dr. Sharon creates a host of fascinating tension for the overly optimistic Lasso as he is forced to grapple with why his outlook is sometimes warped. This leads to important and necessary conversations surrounding mental health in sports as well as in general. Dr. Sharon is not the villain, as many viewers believed, but a foil, providing the missing perspective of a character adverse to Ted’s overly positive outlook though not anti-Ted. The new season also explores the dangerous undercurrents of loveable Nate, bumbling kitman turned coaching staff, a response to those searching for the show’s inevitable antagonist.
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 through his influence. With Ted ending season one at peace with most every major 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 Midwest references. The breakdown of Ted’s arc seems directed at jabs that Lasso’s undying 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 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 then, 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.
This season also deals with many hard-hitting topics while still returning to the feel-good core of the show that put it on the map. The complexities of duty to one’s country, regret and forgiveness after the death of a loved one, self-destructive tendencies, 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, Roy and Keely’s relationship, and endearing storylines from beloved players Sam Obisanya and Dani Rojas.
Even with the technical aspects of a longer runtime and two unexpected episodes stacked against it, Ted Lasso continues to be a much-needed show with an incredible cast of characters and an even bigger heart. It's writing still guarantees both laughter and tears in the span of an episode. The Lasso team listened to its critics and made a great show 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 developed. 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 a 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 and understand that happiness and despair can be felt in equal measure.