In episode 5 of season 2 of Ted Lasso, “Rainbow”, the eponymous coach tries to cheer up the losing team of AFC Richmond by describing the philosophy of “Roma communism”. You have to trust, Ted tells his team, that things will work out, as they always do in romantic comedies – maybe not the way you want, maybe not the way you hoped, but they do. will work, in fact.
At the time, it seemed strange to me that the coach of a losing football club would tell his struggling team. I understand what Ted was looking for – it’s a philosophy to avoid the frustration and despair about things out of your control, and to believe that too will pass. For a guy whose great central principle is “Believe”, outwardly, it’s an idea that follows.
But something in the whole speech seemed wrong, one way or another. Ted’s job is to motivate players to win, and his philosophy of believing in people is one active approach, pushing them to do better, to do more. Roma communism is a passive ideal, and ill-suited to a situation in which the team is struggling. “Don’t worry about the losses” is good advice – “trust that everything will work out.” himself, ” However? It’s not coaching, it’s wishful thinking, and it seems like something that doesn’t match what we’ve seen of Ted’s personality before.
In fact, a lot of things about Ted have felt “out of place” this season, and not just in his last episode. The season has been criticized by some as having reached a “sophomore meltdown,” largely because there doesn’t seem to be much overall conflict going on, and because some of the humor is weaker. than in the beloved first season. Most episodes, including “Rainbow,” seem to close interpersonal conflicts with a nice bow in about 40 minutes. Despite Richmond’s struggles, everyone seems to be doing well on a personal level. The characters are happy, or get there, and they help each other, or try to do it. Things at AFC Richmond generally seem pretty easy going, aside from the constant losses.
It’s possible that Ted Lasso really suffers from a slowdown after a first hit, but I don’t think that’s the case. On the contrary, the changes between season 1 and season 2 – the more contained episodes, the issues carefully resolved, the generally cheerful cast of the characters – belies the real upheaval of season 2. This is because the overall conflict has been, so far, almost completely subtext. Everyone might be doing pretty well, but Ted is falling apart.
While we saw some outward signs of Ted’s struggles in Season 1, including difficulty dealing with his divorce and a total panic attack, the signs were much more subtle in Season 2. As mentioned above, Ted just looks a little different. It is something that plays out through his interactions with people and that is evidenced in the growing desperation of his “Ted-isms”.
Good example: Ted was walking to the field before the game at the end of “Rainbow”, when Dr. Sharon Fieldstone called out her name as she came out of her office behind him. Ted turned and responded by calling the doctor back, then just shouting out random words, naming the things he could see around him – “ceiling, floor, trash”. At the time, it was weird. Ted throws his folk jokes all the time, but he knows when someone is trying to get his attention, and yelling random words at them has almost become rude. Moreover, it was not especially funny, and part of what made Ted Lasso a star in Season 1 was how often Ted’s unexpected and reference-laden pop culture jokes got people laughing.
It is also a common thread of the season. While other characters were very humorous – looking at you, Roy Kent – Ted’s jokes were strained. Where he dropped gags and made references as a matter of relating to people in season 1, in season 2 the punchlines take on more configuration and leave less of an impact. Ted was funny in season 1. In season 2 he’s a little boring.
We saw it when Ted chased Roy down to his favorite “Rainbow” kebab spot. Ted appears and when Roy makes a casual comment that the restaurant is “like my church,” Ted runs in the gag throughout the encounter. “Who knew transubstantiation could happen with a pita?” He jokes, a gag that only plays because of Roy’s still annoyed reaction, not because of the strength of the line itself. Even Ted’s call for his former player to join the coaching staff seems timid.
In general, so many of Ted’s interactions this season seem strength. His jokes come fast and loud, and he often speaks almost too fast to be understood. Moments like the interaction in the hallway with Dr. Fieldstone are tense, as if Ted is playing the part of himself, but many of his other characters leave the other characters in awe, until he finally explains the punchline. Although he’s still smiling, that smile seems stuck. There is tension in his eyes.
It’s a testament to Jason Sudeikis’ talent that it’s possible to spot these subtle differences in Ted, but it is possible to recover them. Ted in Season 2 barely seems to hold on, fighting extremely hard just to maintain his own personality. In a real sense, that’s all he has, but being himself, exuding Ted Lasso’s personality, has stopped happening naturally. His busy and hyper-intense interaction with Fieldstone when she first appeared in the office – an amplified version of how he first met and fell in love with Rebecca – was not the light way to establish a friendship and common ground with someone new, but seemed fueled by desperation. Most of the time in season 2, Ted being Ted looks like job.
In my opinion, he is struggling to cope. He’s a guy whose life was torn apart in the first season and hasn’t really gone through so much personal trauma before now. His family is both physically and emotionally distant, and he is not tied down. And to a large extent, his positive influence on the people around him had a negative influence on Ted himself. More runtime, each episode is dedicated to the rest of the cast which is good – they’re awesome. But like in “Rainbow” or the Christmas episode, “Carol of Bells”, we spend more time with everyone and less with Ted. When Nate has a problem in “Rainbow,” he goes to see Rebecca and Keeley, who help him solve it. Ted has helped create a community where the people around him are positive and enthusiastic about uplifting each other, but we are seeing a feedback loop where Ted has started to obsolete. This reinforces his isolation.
And we see more and more this isolation. Ted’s intention during “Carol of Bells” was to spend Christmas alone, repeatedly committing to It’s a Wonderful Life, an uplifting film that also carries darker tones and is about suicide. As mentioned, he seems distracted and indifferent to Richmond’s struggles in general. He has no idea Nate’s apprehension about Roy joining the coaching staff, and earlier in the episode openly mocks Nate when the young trainer suggests he’s the “big dog.” Who should tell Isaac about his attitude as captain. Ted belatedly realizes that Nate was serious, and that laughing could have hurt his feelings, and we see Coach Beard claim that the understood what Nate was writing – but Ted, always listening to how everyone was feeling, missed it.
And then there’s Ted’s general aversion to therapy and his apparent distrust of Fieldstone. His interactions with her are particularly strained, and she slides her mask off a few times – on their first meeting and she ends her dating routine please like me, and again in “Rainbow”, when he quotes the lyrics to “Under Pressure” to explain with her, but that just sound a little too sharp to drive the eventual stress joke. “I’m just terrified of what this world is all about,” Ted said, the still grin fading a bit.
Yes, eventually Ted will end up in therapy with Dr Fieldstone; it is a point of intrigue which is inevitable. How he gets there, however, is an open question, and it looks like things will get worse for Ted before they get better. His effervescent personality, his constant need to care for and help others, and his inability to cope with what he really feels, even as early as Season 1, are boiling over.
These things about Ted have so far kept people around him from realizing how bad things are for him. But we are starting to see cracks on the facade. Coach Beard seems to be taking note of what’s going on with Ted, and Dr. Fieldstone is certainly aware that something is wrong with him. But Ted is clearly closed, to his friends and his feelings, about what has happened in his life. And that’s the conflict this season, overturning everything that built up in the first. Season 2 is not about a big bad guy that Ted has to use his unwavering kindness to stand up against. It’s about the internal struggle of life for others, dealing with trauma, and the ways that depression can alter life in all its aspects. It’s about how pain can hide behind a smile, how difficult it can be to ask for help, and how the feeling of being unable to get out of that pain can amplify it. Ted Lasso is building at a climax, and the fact that it isn’t obvious is the point – we don’t always know when a loved one is in pain.