Ted Lasso Season Two: A Criticism of Relentless Optimism


Mason Glod, Associate Producer, Beat Reporter

Starring Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham, Brett Goldstein

Airing on Apple TV+

Rating 4.5/5

By Mason Glod

The following review contains spoilers for Ted Lasso season two.

The first season of Ted Lasso was universally praised for its positive tone and unrelenting optimism, even earning itself seven Emmy awards last month. For season two, the writers decided to go forth in the only logical manner: provide a thorough critique of the tone that made season one so special.

Despite this different approach, Ted Lasso season two is still high-quality entertainment and just as engaging as season one. The first few episodes of the season heavily reflect the optimistic tone from season one. While Dani Rojas’ unfortunate canine-related incident in the first episode does not seem very Ted Lasso-like, it provides an excellent setup for this season’s main new character, Dr. Sharon Fieldstone played by Sarah Niles.

Episode five, “Carol of the Bells”, and episode six, “Rainbow”, are the peak of Ted Lasso idealism. “Carol of the Bells” plays out as a classic Christmas episode, with emphasis placed on themes of family, togetherness, and joy. While the episode does not serve to further the plot, it provides a nice, fun relief and further demonstrates the themes of the show, perhaps in a little too on-the-nose and cheesy way. “Rainbow” cleverly weaves three separate storylines together under the theme of romantic comedies, creating one of the season’s most fun episodes (with a montage at the end that provides some of the best Roy Kent moments).

While the positivity of the show was still enjoyable, at this point in the season coverage and discussion shifted from universal praise to a quiet skepticism. Is this positivity realistic? Can the season’s current lack of conflict sustain a long-running show? The creators of the show assured fans to “keep watching” on Twitter.

Episodes six, seven, and eight hit as a gut-punch to fans of the show, showing a deterioration of Ted’s mental health, revealing the first cracks in the foundation of Roy and Keely’s relationship, and showing the dark side of Nate. Episode eight, “Man City”, is a true high point for the show. Ted’s revelation about his father is truly unexpected and entirely believable, thanks to the writer’s subtle setup. All this is to say that the writers acknowledge and criticize the show and Ted’s optimism, elevating the program to a new level of sophistication. Roy and Jamie’s hug is emotionally resonant and touching, showing that the writers can retain the heart of the show despite this shift.

Episodes 10, 11, and 12 raise the stakes and continue to paint a bleak picture. Episode 12, “Inverting the Pyramid of Success”, really pushes the boundaries and cements the show in a new direction. Keely is well set up for next season, as her character gains some much-needed authority, and Sam rightfully decides that Richmond is his home. Dani received redemption and Trent Crimm is fired from his publication, likely returning to Richmond in season three in some capacity, The most dramatic development is Nate’s turn to the dark side; as tension brews to the ultimate height, Nate yells at Ted during their final game and rips up the now-famous “Believe” sign hanging over his office.

The whole theme of the season relies on the success of Nate’s dark turn. Thankfully, Nate’s storyline is the one best executed this season. While Nate’s tantrum is uncalled for, it is not hard to empathize with his viewpoint that Ted’s positive mindset may not be nuanced enough to address all of his personal relationships. Nate’s attitude change was subtly set up by the writers the whole season: Nate does not receive an espresso machine, Roy is not bothered by Nate kissing Keely, Nate and Ted do not have any scenes one-on-one until episode 12. Perhaps the writers may be too clever for their own good and the setup may be too subtle, but there are still enough hints that the payoff works. The main thing that makes the reveal work is Nick Mohammed’s masterful performance.

All performances this season continue to be excellent. Jason Sudekis anchors the show confidently and handles an extremely difficult subject matter with respect and nuance. Ted’s storylines are less in the spotlight this season, leading Sudekis relegated to more of an ensemble member than lead. Because of this, many other cast members really get their turn in the spotlight. Co-creator Brendan Hunt, who plays the mysterious Coach Beard, really gets a chance to shine this season. Hunt is always funny in his small moments, but this season he anchors his own episode “Beard After Dark” (episode nine). This one-off episode plays like a short film, demonstrating the themes of the show in a new, unique way. Hunt’s performance is incredible and the writing in this episode is especially impressive. Other cast standouts this season include Sarah Niles’ Dr. Sharon Fieldstone and Toheeb Jimoh’s Sam Obisanya.

Hannah Waddingham’s Rebecca continues to be a solid lead for the show, demonstrating confidence and poise (especially in an impressive monologue in episode 10). However, her relationship with Sam does not work and seems pointless. Brett Goldstein as Roy Kent and Juno Temple as Keely Jones continues to be excellent, but once Roy gains his rightful spot on the coaching staff, their storylines become much less interesting. Phil Dunster’s Jamie Tartt gets severely downgraded this season, with far less storyline and screen time. Still, he performs well and has some stand-out moments.

Overall, this season of Ted Lasso clearly and confidently builds on the foundation laid in season one, while boldly maturing the themes and tone. While this maturity may be necessary, it provides a completely different viewing experience, one that makes the Ted Lasso world way less idealistic. While that may be a turn-off for some, it creates a more engaging and stimulating show. Because of this, it is ultimately successful. Rating: 4.5/5