Reviews · TV

‘Ted Lasso’ is Not Trying to Be Your Comfort Show

The beloved show’s second season is slightly darker and more complicated, questioning its own central conceit but still delivering laughs and great performances.
Ted Lasso Season 2 Episode 2
Apple TV+
By  · Published on July 21st, 2021

Welcome to Previously On, a column that gives you the rundown on the latest TV. This week, Valerie Ettenhofer reviews Ted Lasso Season 2.

For the better part of the past year, audiences have been talking about Ted Lasso with the kind of reverence reserved only for the best that humanity has to offer. Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) is the hero we need right now. Ted Lasso is the kind-hearted cure to our times. From my own review of Season 1: “It’s impossible not to smile when watching Ted Lasso.”

The sophomore season of the Apple TV+ series brings some of that lofty talk back to earth by reminding us that it ain’t easy being Ted. The eight episodes of Ted Lasson Season 2 available for review (out of twelve in total) favor moral complexity over tidy narrative arcs and present several new challenges to the affable football coach’s almost mythical good nature.

With a slew of awards and the most important praise already under its belt, the show makes a brave choice by going introspective when it could have stayed broader. Ted Lasson Season 2 puts its characters in situations that can’t simply be solved by kindness and cookies. And for the most part, it’s a gamble that pays off.

Ted’s most notable roadblock comes in the form of sports psychologist Sharon (Sarah Niles), who is initially hired to get a key player out of a mental rut but stays on and quickly becomes a sore point for Coach Lasso. At a certain point, the season’s overarching plot seems to be less about whether or not the new AFC Richmond will be successful, and more about whether this beloved figure will be willing to dig beyond his impulse towards the silly and the sweet to what lies beneath.

Ted Lasson Season 2 also gives its large ensemble room to grow in satisfying and surprising ways. In one of the best sub-plots, Nigerian player Sam (Toheeb Jimoh, who shines now with his expanded screen time) grapples with an ethical decision that could impact the entire team. And newly promoted Coach Nate (Nick Mohammed) begins gauging his self-worth against his social media image, with sure-to-be-polarizing results.

Meanwhile, Roy (Brett Goldstein) and Keeley (Juno Temple) grow into their serious relationship, facing personal and professional trials along the way. Every character, from team owner Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) to Diamond Dog Higgins (Jeremy Swift), is given ample screen time, albeit in disparate plots that rarely see them all in the same place.

A season-long attempt to humanize saint-like Ted and question his methods may sound like a drag, but rest assured, Season 2 of Ted Lasso isn’t just here to bum you out. The show’s comedy is still firing on all cylinders. When Rebecca tells Ted she’s dating a man named John, he exclaims, “STAMOS?!” with a near-jump-scare level of fervor. Later on, we’re introduced to his coaching alter ego, “Led Tasso,” whose attempts to be a hardass are more hilarious than intimidating.

Pop culture bits between Ted and quippy Coach Bearde (Brendan Hunt) are cleverer than ever, with the two riffing on everything from Tom Cruise’s tiny ponytails to the climax of The Shining. In the tradition of Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town) sitcoms, several of the most laugh-out-loud moments are too intricate in their silliness to easily describe here.

Sudeikis’ performance is the glue that holds the series together. When he’s serious, imbuing folksy monologues with restrained emotion, he’ll make you cry. Ted often looks as if he could cry himself, his open-heartedness physically manifested in the form of eyes that are always half-brimming with tears.

Yet when he’s funny, as when he spends an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how to sit on a couch while nervous, Sudeikis can deliver physical comedy and babbling witticisms with just as much enthusiasm. This season, he unearths a fine line between the two, and we see — through psychologist Sharon’s eyes — when Ted’s jokes become defense mechanisms.

Ted Lasso Season 2 (so far, through the first eight episodes) doesn’t quite reach the perfection of its first. But its imperfection is admirable because it clearly comes from an urge to push past its initial conceit. Having sold us completely on the concept of a Mr. Rogers-like football coach who can single-handedly dismantle toxic masculinity, the folks behind Ted Lasso seem compelled to acknowledge — perhaps in the wake of 2020 — that real life is often more complicated than that.

The result is a funny, sweet, and, yes, challenging batch of episodes that builds on a larger-than-life first season in compelling, surprising ways.

Ted Lasson Season 2 begins dropping weekly on Apple TV+ on July 23rd.

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Valerie Ettenhofer is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, TV-lover, and mac and cheese enthusiast. As a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects, she covers television through regular reviews and her recurring column, Episodes. She is also a voting member of the Critics Choice Association's television and documentary branches. Twitter: @aandeandval (She/her)