I need to make a couple of things clear upfront: 1) Ted Lasso season two is great, and 2) I was unsettled by the first episode that aired last Friday. If you haven’t watched the sophomore season premiere yet, you really should. Or at least read this brilliant recap because it’s a joy. But once you have, we should talk about the ways that the episode seemed… different, and how the second episode completely brought me back.
To start, I’m not sure how to explain the disturbance from the season premiere other than the episode tickled my spidey senses in a way they haven’t been set off since I watched the first season and fell helplessly in love. Yet here I am trying to quantify why, even though it felt the same, things seemed off.
Let’s start with a list of things that gave me pause:
- During the press conference, Trent Crimm started his signature introduction of “Trent Crimm” only to have the rest of the room reply “The Independent.” It was cute and fun, but why did it happen? Trent Crimm has presumably been announcing himself the same way for decades. Why did his colleagues start teasing him now? Does the fact that it felt slightly sitcom-y impact my interpretation of it? You betcha.
- How come Ted wasn’t able to help Dani recover from his mistake the same way that he helped Sam recover in the first episode of the first season? I get that accidentally killing your team mascot during a home game is different from missing a block during practice, but then where’s Ted’s additional advice and reassurance for the larger of the issues? Was Ted right in saying what Dani needed at that moment was space?
- What’s up with the “TED!” reaction everyone in Rebecca’s office gives the coach when he shows up? I’m not saying they should be giving him the cold shoulder, but is he regularly getting the “NORM!” treatment? (Although since Norm from Cheers was played by Jason Sudeikis’s real-life uncle, George Wendt, this might be cute enough to let slide.) It’s not just that it felt repetitious after the call and response with Trent Crimm; it’s also that Ted’s two biggest critics from season one, Trent Crimm and Rebecca, are both now completely won over by him. Where does the Lasso Method go once you’ve gotten everyone on board?
- Did the Greyhounds really kick the other team’s “butts from soup to nuts,” Ted? Because it was a tie, so the score would indicate otherwise.
- Why was Ted so bad at connecting with Dr. Sharon Fieldstone? Not only did his initial hesitancy to therapy seem odd for an otherwise enlightened guy (his personal experience with it notwithstanding), but nearly every interaction after that did, too. The “Nice to Meet You” song flopped as did the attempts to endear by calling her “Doc.” Is Dr. Fieldstone the one person in the world immune to Ted’s charms, or is he off his game?
- Everything with Nate. Telling Will he can’t leave early for his mom’s fiftieth birthday? Saying that if Dani needs motivation to move on from the deeply scarring experience he had on the pitch, they should just “show him his paycheck”? Ted and Coach Beard helped Nate learn to believe in himself so he could turn into this? Really?
Again, to be clear, this doesn’t mean the episode was bad (it wasn’t), but that in very small, almost indecipherable, definitely inexplicable ways, something is different. It might be the timing or the musical score or that the cast knows the whole arc of the season and is playing it in ways that don’t make sense now but will by the end, but something feels *off*. My best guess?
And by which I further mean:
What, Higgins? No. This isn’t a thing that makes sense. In Empire, Luke and Leia do kiss (“make out” is a bit of a stretch), but we don’t find out they’re siblings until Return of the Jedi. Meaning that in order for the boys (let’s say ages 8 to 29-ish) to be upset about Leia introducing her entire tongue to Luke’s whole mouth, they would need to know enough about Star Wars to know they’re related, but not enough to know about the infamous plot hole. Who has that specific information? I’ll allow for the possibility that the boys saw the sequels before seeing the original trilogy, but Julie and Leslie Higgins don’t seem like abusive parents, right?
So why shoehorn in a Star Wars reference in such a ham-fisted way? (Yes, illustrative verbs and adjectives were half off this week!) Especially on a show that’s renowned for never having a wasted line? My guess is because they want to prepare us for an unusually dark season. “Empire” has become shorthand for the darkest, although usually best, installment in a series, and if reports are to be believed, Ted Lasso‘s only got one season after this. Meaning despite Ted’s prediction at the end of last season, I don’t think they’re going to get a promotion before coming back to “win the whole f*cking thing.” At least not broken up nicely between the seasons. If they do manage to get promoted this season, it’s going to be ugly and it’s going to be rough. Ted has his teams’ backing, but that isn’t translating into wins. Worse, he’s missing things about his team. Dani needed more help than he can give, Thierry and Colin both needed help Ted wasn’t even aware of, and he’s somehow blowing it with the one person who can help all of them. Not to mention, again, Nate is turning into a colossal prick, even though he never has been, and it’s not even on Ted’s radar.
All of which feels OK for one specific reason from the second episode.
And you know what? I couldn’t even stop to enjoy the Ted Danson Cheers shout-out, because YOU ARE A LIAR, Jamie Tartt. You did not name him Ted after Ted Danson. You named him Ted after Theodore Lasso because you have feelings. And I have feelings! And we all have feelings!
To be real for a second, though, I sobbed for five straight minutes after I realized that Jamie had hung onto the solider that Beard delivered to him after the last game of last season. In large part because Jamie adds an element to the show that is very needed in order to be as effective as it should be: darkness. Ted Lasso believes in the power of believing you can become a better person, and, as much as Ted might believe that, telling people they can overcome adversity when you’ve never had to is the quickest way to convince people you’re full of shit. Not to say that nothing sad has ever happened to Ted (we witnessed the kindest, nicest divorce ever in the first season, but it was still a divorce), but definitely that most of the things that happened on the show aren’t dark. Michelle and Ted cared about and for each other too much to ever let their break-up get nasty. Richmond got relegated, but the team is still together. Beard and Ted had to fight, but it was fair and honest and over quickly. The show dealt with conflict, but mostly it dealt with healthy, functional conflict.
Until Jamie’s dad whipped a shoe at his son’s head.
The flip side of Ted’s touching season one speech about not being sad and alone was that at that moment, Jamie was sad and alone. His willingness to try to change and embrace the Lasso Method isn’t just hard, it would have been actually dangerous for him at times during his childhood. I don’t want to get hyperbolic or flowery, but his willingness to hold onto the gift from Ted and allow it to remind him that he’s capable of change is the kind of exhausting self-improvement that impacts the way people behave for generations. He’s working on dysfunctions that started three, maybe four generations ago. The kind of all-consuming destruction that people die from. I mean, Jamie is a prick, but he’s got a reason to be.
All of which is really positive. Believing that things can be good isn’t a feat if you don’t acknowledge the fact that things can be bad, too. People who are relentlessly happy because they ignore bad things in the world aren’t optimists; they’re in denial. And Ted Lasso the character? He’s straddling the hell out of that line right now. He might have hinted at some darkness with his father (which I have additional, unfounded theories on, but will save for another time), but based on his conversation with Rebecca, he’s not interested in delving into any of the deeper reasons why the team has eight straight ties. Or why he has occasional panic attacks. Or why his marriage failed. Seriously, Ted, your dad died when you were sixteen, and you never went to therapy? Not even in college? I get it’s the Midwest, but come on, man. You know better than that.
So, yes, I think this season will be dark, and I’m here for it. I want Jamie to accept the Lasso Method and become a better teammate. I want Ted to acknowledge that the Lasso Method isn’t perfect and embrace the darkness. I want Beard to take his shirt off more, I want Roy to grow his beard back, and I want the inevitable Keeley wedding dress, but mostly I want Ted Lasso to tell us that darkness doesn’t extinguish the light, it can only make it brighter. He deserves to know that.
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