To start, I need to make clear I’m in almost exactly the same position on Ted Lasso as Thor is. I want to love it as much as I once did, and I’m going to keep trying so hard, I might as well legally change my name to Michelle. Still, there’s something off for me. I’m missing the stakes. The show is nice, but I’m not here for nice. I want this show to destroy me, and it won’t. But mostly, I’m missing the emotional foreplay. If a show wants me to cry I’ll sob buckets, but only if you prime the pump. I’m more than happy to become overly invested once a show has established that it is interested in satisfying my plot needs. Putting out is always an option if a show is smart and funny enough, and willing to prove both those things. Have I taken this sex joke a step too far? Probably.
My point is, the issue with season two of Ted Lasso is that it’s moving too quickly without covering any ground. I’m getting emotional whiplash from having storylines introduced and resolved before anyone’s explained why I should care if John is fine or not. Or worse, plotlines that are started, abandoned, and then picked up again episodes later without an explanation. What’s missing is the feeling of layering the plot over and over until you know what the show’s doing, why they’re doing it, and what’s going to happen once that’s done.
Consider how Keeley and Roy were treated in the first season. How many different times did we see them interact in meaningful ways before they finally got together in episode 7? There was the bar scene with the “Keeley” “Roy” exchange, the fake walk through the park where they discussed Roy’s biography, Roy startling Keeley in the parking lot that doomed Beard’s relationship. It had enough touches to make it understandable and was written well enough to make it effective (whatever happens with me and this show in the future, “Because I like you more than I hate him” will probably be in my wedding vows). Now compare that with something as small as seeing Dr. Fieldstone’s house.
We learn later in the episode that Dr. Fieldstone enjoys a drink, or at the very least really hates tidying up after a drink. So why do we see her place spotless when Ted isn’t with her? What’s the point in not letting us in on that secret? If this is going to be a plot point, why not touch on it every available opportunity?
Pictured: A missed chance at easy character development
In one of the following scenes in the workout room, they do a great job of layering the interactions between Player and Dad. Or in Jamie’s case, “Dad.” The parallels are obvious, but they work. Jamie doesn’t want to talk to his dad because his dad’s a prick; Sam is eager to talk to his father because his dad is kind. It’s the phone call itself I couldn’t buy into. (Also, on speaker, Sam? Speaker?!) Hey, you know that major plot point from five episodes ago about the oil drilling in Nigeria? That presumably kicked off a lot of major issues for Rebecca because it cost them their sponsor? The sponsor who already wasn’t willing to pay to cover the costs of a Premier League team playing in Championship League games? It’s been fixed! Entirely off-screen, with no additional action on behalf of Sam or his teammates and without any major conflict, it seems! It’s literally unbelievable!
It’s not that I don’t understand what they’re going for. They wanted a win, especially in a season where they know a lot of dark shit is going to happen. But what good is a win that doesn’t require anything from you? I whoop my nieces’ asses routinely in hide-and-seek, but they’re children. Do you think I feel accomplished because I’m better at concealing myself than a seven-year-old is? I mean, I do, but I’m a bad person.
Only the show isn’t a bad person. And more importantly, because there’s a major difference between giving us a win that’s been earned and giving us a win because we like them. Which is why the climactic scene after the devastating loss at Wembley fell flat for me. I didn’t understand the lack of motion both in the plot and physically among the players. A room full of professional athletes witness a guy harassing his son, provoking an actual physical encounter, and no one moves? Really? Because we saw how a locker room reacts to a scuffle in the last season when Jamie and Roy squared off. I understand that maybe no one besides Roy would get that Jamie needed a hug, but no one besides Coach Beard thought to remove the dickless wonder so he could no longer abuse Jamie directly to his face?
Now, I’ve given up on fan editing the season (because I still believe that there’s a good season somewhere in here), but I can’t help but imagine if the scene had played out slightly differently. As soon as Tartt Sr. entered the locker room, you could tell things weren’t right. What if instead of the starkness of Jamie facing down his father alone, he had the physical and emotional backing of his team? The scene playing out with some yelling from both Tartts, Isaac, and Colin standing up for him, and eventually, a pushing match involving most of the team that goes nowhere. In the middle of that mayhem, with the noise and movement and violence, while someone pulls Senior out of the room, Roy, who doesn’t see so well at night anymore, looks at Jamie and goes to hug him. Given that setting, surrounded by the team he’s finally been accepted into, there’s absolutely no reason Jamie should have punched his dad in the face.
Ted should have.
What was missing most for me in this scene is something that would have shaken every person in that room. Something that would have justified Beard needing to take the night to work it out. Something that would have prompted Ted to finally admit to Dr. Fieldstone what’s going on with him. Something like Mr. Nice Guy himself absolutely losing his shit on someone’s dad and punching the hell out of him. We’ve seen flashes of Ted’s rage before when he yelled at Jamie during his “practice” speech (deserved), but also when he was just pissed and yelled at Nate in Liverpool (undeserved then, but maybe Nate needs a sterner talking to now). We know that Ted is angry, we now know why, and we can see the gaps in the philosophy that’s gotten him this far. Ted is a good man. He’s kind and caring and wants everyone he meets to be the best version of themselves. But wanting things to be better doesn’t make them so. Having that rage boil over should have been the thing that finally convinces Ted that while everything might be nice, everything is not good. That’s the scene he deserved.
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