So recently, I was listening to a podcast, and Ted Lasso came up, and most of the people on the podcast took a pretty negative stance in regards to this show. It’s not an uncommon take. From the outside, Ted Lasso looks like an overly positive show where a good attitude is what saves the day. Heck, even in my own Impressions of the first season, I think I missed a lot of the other themes (not all, but some). So I wanted to do a quick review of the second season as well as talk about the misreading of this show, both from people who dislike as well as fans.
The second season opens after the team has been downgraded due to their losses last season. In real life, this will often end up with a club being broken up. Rebecca decides to stick with them, possibly due to her own guilt over her hand in what had happened. Then Danny accidentally kills the team’s mascot dog with a penalty kick. Yes, Ted Lasso starts off with them killing a dog, wow. Because they are having such issues reaching Danny, they decide to bring in a sports therapist. Ted is resistant to this because he felt like the therapist he and his ex-wife would see attacked him and believes in solving things themselves. Dr. Sharon Fieldstone is able to help Danny, though and in a way see through Ted setting up an interesting dynamic between the two that plays out throughout the season.
You also have Nate struggling to find his place as a coach and being a bit of a bully both to the new kit man as well as some of the players. While he seems to be trying to find “confidence,” what he actually finds is a bit of arrogance and cruelty.
Jamie quit the team he was moved to last season, later we find out as a fuck you to his dad (pardon my colorful language), and he wants to come back. Ted is torn between wanting to help Jamie and wanting to help his team, who, while not thriving, does seem to be doing better without Jamie, a divisive force on the team.
Rebecca is still dealing with the fallout from Rupert, and then there is also a lot of side conflicts that come up. From Sam’s family being ashamed of his promoting an oil company that has caused environmental harm in Nigeria. Keely and Roy’s relationship having some ups and downs. And various other conflicts that arise, a lot of it is settled, some of it rushed, some of it a bit forgettable.
The biggest things that are happening this season, though, are people’s relationships with their fathers. Rebecca, Ted, and Jamie, and a lot of other teammates, even in passing, all have to face various things about their father in different ways, and how they disappointed them to outright hurt them or the positive guiding hand, they played in their lives. We find a lot more about who Ted’s dad was and how he shaped Ted’s attitude but also the darkness hiding behind that. Without giving too much away, Ted’s father was depressed, and Ted was forced to confront the very attitude his father had, that he has, was a mask for a lot of inner torment. This is something we see in real life, the comedians or personalities that make us all smile and show a lot of love to the world but are depressed and even suicidal. I am thinking of a few in particular that had the most impact on me, but you can probably think of your own.
Ted’s father was a positive man but not a happy one. Ted is a positive man, but…
The other main thing is, as I said, Nate. Nate slowly starts to devolve into a bully and someone that is hateful, jealous, and selfish. More than that, though, it starts to re-frame some of his past behaviors for the viewer. I didn’t really think of it myself at first, but people started talking about things like Nate’s speech where he picks on each of the players. Last season watching that, I took it as him motivating them, this season and after seeing other people’s takes, I realized he did actually like the cruelty of that moment.
Nate showed us hints of his worst self, but they were easy to brush off. This season though, as he is slowly driven deeper into them. It paints a picture of how easily people can be swayed in one direction or another. He starts to resent Ted’s positive outlook rather than growing and learning from it. It is powerful, sad, and it left me with difficult feelings about his character and confusion over what I would like to see in season 3.
So, all in all, season 2, I think, did a slightly better job tackling different themes and pushing the core of the show. That being said, there are a lot of episodes and moments where even I am starting to get a bit over it. Sam’s pushing back on the oil company is not really fleshed out, and it is far too easily resolved. It is a bit of a “positive attitude can change things” moment, which no. They aren’t all this season is, but there are a few plotlines and even just moments like that. And it’s a bit “okay, I see why people get annoyed with all the positivity of this show.”
I still think that season 2 is more good than bad at the end of the day, though, and an improvement over 1. I really think this show is developing itself rather well, and I am curious to see where they take these themes and how they develop them. I am also glad that a show about “positive attitude” is also so much about mental health. Again being positive often goes hand in hand with some form of internal suffering. I also think, as someone who struggles personally, that it’s good to put out there that you can be both. Positive and want to help people and find the joy in life, and also depressed and unable to handle your mental state some days.
As far as the broader implications of the show, it is, in fact, not a show all about positivity. Ted’s attitude in the first season does help the team improve, however that is also the nature of coaching. The show was pretty clear that their former coach was uninspiring and seemed to only coach as “pass to Jamie.” Ted doesn’t just bring a positive attitude to the team; he brings inspiration and a drive in each of them. This is something that can actually improve a team. Sometimes a switch in coaching style is what is needed; we have seen it in real life. The show also makes a strong point that a positive attitude alone is not enough. Remember, they finish the first season losing and dropping down in their ranking, which is a big deal. The drive that Ted brings helps them, but it alone is not enough. They need more skill, more training, and even some more luck.
The opening credits alone should tell people this is not just about “be happy and it all works out.” It shows Ted having a positive influence on the environment around him while sitting there alone and depressed looking. Which is something season 2 I think does a much better job tackling. Ted is clearly not as happy as he presents. We get clips of it in season 1, but it’s a major theme in season 2. The people who try the hardest to bring joy to those around them are often suffering. We found out in season 1 that Ted’s father is a major influence on Ted’s attitude. We find out in season 2 that that came with extreme darkness in Ted’s father, and Ted resents his father for part of that and likely shares some of the exact same demons.
The less positive themes are also easier to see in the “bad guys.” Rebecca is sympathetic. She is motivated by a deep hurt, and while it does not excuse her actions, it is hard to hate her, especially as we see more and more who Rupert was. Nate is motivated by jealousy, ego, and seemingly deep-seated anger that we had an easier time ignoring in season 1. He is much harder to feel sympathy towards, and he leaves without redeeming himself and in betraying Ted greatly.
All of this is to say that Ted Lasso is not, nor was it ever, a show that was all about the positive message. The positive message is there and is the main theme, which by the way, is not a bad thing, but there is more happening that a lot of people miss. Again, I missed a lot of what the first season was saying. It is easy to do so and just enjoy the happy parts. However, there is a lot more happening that is also important. Not everybody can and will be redeemed by Ted’s attitude. Positivity alone is not all you need to succeed. Positivity can often hide a lot of hurt.
I am not trying to make a case for most people to watch it. At this point, I think most people have decided whether or not it’s for them, and that’s fine. I also think a lot of “fans” miss this and that they should watch it with a more critical eye. Also, that people who don’t care for the show should be careful that they assume that those claiming it’s all about a positive attitude are automatically right. I mean… people thought the wealthy family were the heroes of Parasite.
So bottom line? Season 2 was pretty solid, and I think in a lot of ways more successful than season 1. It didn’t ditch the happy messaging and delivery, to the point that it even was a bit annoying at times, as I said, but also was blunter about the darker, more serious themes. I think people who are on the fence should finally give this show a chance. If you liked season 1, season 2 should please you. If you felt season 1 was a little flat for the most part, I think this one was an improvement.