TL;DR – Builds upon everything that made the first season great by focussing on the character development of every kind
Disclosure – I paid for the Apple TV+ service that viewed this episode
Ted Lasso Review –
When I came into the first season of Ted Lasso, there was so much praise and hype around the show that there was no way it could ever live up to those expectations. But not only did the show live up to them, but it also exceeded them. However, surely now with its sophomore season, it can’t strike lightning twice? Well, can I just say, in the echoes of T2: Judgement Day or Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the second helping is even better than the first.
So to set the scene, at the end of Season One, things were not looking great for the English Premier League team, AFC Richmond. After a gruelling season under new coach Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis), the team was moments away from saving themselves from relegation when a play from ex-teammate Jamie Tartt (Jeremy Swift) sealed their fate. Relegated, the team tries to fight back to the Premier League only to start their season with seven tied matches. But just when it looks like they will turn a corner, the win is stolen from them when the penalty Dani (Cristo Fernández) kicked accidentally kills the team mascot. Now we will be looking at the season as a whole, so there may be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
Most of the groundwork of what makes this show so good has not changed, so you can have a look at my Season One review to cover all that. I want to look at how the show takes all that good work and then builds and experiments with it. To do that, we will start with the only major nitpick that I had with the whole first season, and that was that it was clear that some of the supporting characters needed some fleshing out of their characters. Well, we get just all of that. We see the struggles that Colin Hughes (Billy Harris) goes through to find who he is as a person, we see Dani’s crisis of faith and how he comes back from the brink, and also how Isaac (Kola Bokinni) finds his feet as captain and demonstrates a unique talent. I mean, even Tartt goes from this one-dimensional arse to being a human being.
Indeed, if there was one calling card for this season, it was character growth and the reminder that not all change is positive. After a season of finding his feet, this is the season where Ted has to face parts of his life that he does not want to talk about. So much of his personality stems from one incident in his youth. It is what gives him his radiant positivity and sincerity. But it also filled his life with an unhealthy need not to quit anything. After what we saw with Ted in Season One, it was an excellent choice to introduce ‘Doc’ Dr Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles) to the show. They both care deeply, but they have completely different energies which could have been used for conflict but were instead used for growth. Yes, there is still some conflict there, given Ted’s inherent distrust of psychologists, but there is also a professional bond that grows throughout the season. Without this, I am not sure the show would have had the right energy to make it to the end of the season.
In Season One, Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) was understandably bitter with the world and had one mission, to cause it all to burn down, which once you met her ex-husband Rupert Mannion (Anthony Head), you 100% get why. Well, if she found a new purpose last season, here in Season Two, we see her make amends for past mistakes and charting a new future. I liked this because it meant we got one of the best new additions to the show Nora (Kiki May) and Rebecca’s mother, Deborah (Harriet Walter). This all culminates in what I feel was the show’s best episode, No Weddings and a Funeral. It is an episode that is equal parts funny and effecting, and yes, I did cry. So many aspects of her life get reassessed on that day, and getting the whole congregation to sing Never Gonna Give You Up is a move that would have only worked if we cared about her and her journey. Also, every moment with her and Keeley (Juno Temple) is gold.
We also get moments of sheer wonderfulness in Leslie Higgins (Jeremy Swift) and the sheer oddness of Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt). This season, the show got two episodes added to its runtime, so they had to develop two compelling stories that could sit in the already established narrative. Not an easy task. One of the stories in Carol of the Bells is how Leslie invites all those who can’t go home to their families at Christmas over to his house for dinner/family. There is a love between him and Julie (Mary Roscoe), and also you get to see he cares for everyone in the team. Leslie has had to role of popping up at any point throughout the season to offer advice, and he is a joy every time he is on the screen. The other episode, Beard After Hours, follows the life of Beard one night as he is walking off the defeat at Wembley Stadium. This is a fever dream episode as Beard goes from one weird scenario to the next trying to find his on-again, off-again girlfriend Jane (Phoebe Walsh). Every part of this episode feels like they took a risk, and it was a ride. Beard has been a bit of an enigma in the show thus far … and continues to be even when there is a whole episode focused on him.
At the start of this review, I mentioned that this season focused on character growth, but not all change is positive. Well, this brings us to the portion of the review where we discuss Nathan ‘Nate’ Shelley (Nick Mohammed). While a lot is focused on the betrayal, rightly so, this was a season where you saw first-hand when someone struggles with their world and does not find a healthy way to deal with that. Nate had a difficult life, and Ted might have been the first positive role model in his life. Throughout this season, there have been red flags everywhere that something is wrong with Nate. His behaviour was shifting, and he was taking the worst possible advice from everyone trying to help. But there was a tipping point when Ted brought Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) into the coaching staff. Ted does not realise what he has done, mainly because he was dealing with his own stuff. This season, there were moments when many characters had the chance to stop Nate from walking down this path. Still, they couldn’t see what twas happening or assumed one intervention was enough. This means that when Nate calls Ted out in the season finale Inverting the Pyramid of Success, there is a seed of actual righteous fury that you can sympathise with. But while Nate is blaming everyone else, his choices walk him down the wrong path. He treats Will (Charlie Hiscock) appallingly, and he is rude and aggressive to other players. Is it a sad case of the dangers of social media, or another case of the legacy of the past and fathers working themselves out in their sons? Whatever the case, what is not up for debate is how great Nick Mohammed’s acting is this season, for what must have been a demanding role.
In the end, do we recommend Ted Lasso Season 2? Yes, absolutely. They took what was already a fantastic show, and they improved it in almost every way. A true achievement in cinema.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Ted Lasso
Directed by – Declan Lowney, Ezra Edelman, Erica Dunton, Matt Lipsey, Sam Jones & MJ Delaney
Written by – Brendan Hunt, Leann Bowen, Ashley Nicole Black, Joe Kelly, Bill Wrubel, Brett Goldstein, Phoebe Walsh, Jamie Lee, Jane Becker, Sasha Garron & Jason Sudeikis
Developed by – Jason Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, Brendan Hunt & Joe Kelly
Based On – Format and characters from NBC Sports
Production/Distribution Companies – Ruby’s Tuna Inc., Doozer, Universal Television, Warner Bros. Television Studios & Apple TV+
Starring – Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham, Jeremy Swift, Phil Dunster, Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt, Nick Mohammed, Sarah Niles & Juno Temple with Toheeb Jimoh, James Lance, Kiki May, Harriet Walter, Annette Badland, Adam Colborne, Bronson Webb, David Elsendoorn, Kevin Garry, Stephen Manas, Kieran O’Brien, Billy Harris, Kola Bokinni, Moe Jeudy-Lamour, Jimmy Akingbola, Mary Roscoe, Anthony Head, Sam Richardson, Keeley Hazell, Phoebe Walsh, Andrea Anders, Ellie Taylor, Elodie Blomfield, Charlie Hiscock, Arlo White & Chris Powell
Episodes Covered – Goodbye Earl, Lavender, Do the Right-est Thing, Carol of the Bells, Rainbow, The Signal, Headspace, Man City, Beard After Hours, No Weddings and a Funeral, Midnight Train to Royston & Inverting the Pyramid of Success