When you have a debut season as universally beloved as Ted Lasso, the expectations are high to make magic happen twice. You don’t want to mess with the formula too much, but at the same time, the pressure to make season two bigger and better is unbelievable. Many shows overthink it and end up veering away from what made them so special in the first place. But Ted Lasso, despite everything, manages to bring back the overwhelmingly positive energy for a second season. It seems to acknowledge that we don’t need the characters we love to suffer and tear our hearts in two to be emotionally invested in the arcs. At the end of the day, all we really want is the opportunity to spend more time with them, to be fully immersed in their world for a few short hours. Here, Ted Lasso delivers, exploring the next logical step in the lives of each of our lead characters with rare depth and understanding.
After AFC Richmond was relegated to the Championship division at the end of the first season, the players find themselves bereft. The team is in the midst of a long run of ties, playing well but seemingly unable to hang on long enough to garner an elusive win. A sports psychologist (Sarah Niles) is brought in to help the team, which shakes Ted’s (Jason Sudeikis) confidence because it exposes his inability to nurture AFC Richmond’s mental wellbeing on his own. The recently retired Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) is undecided on what to do with the rest of his life, waffling around with his group of middle-aged yoga moms and coaching his nine-year-old niece Phoebe’s football team.
Resident bad-boy-with-daddy-issues Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) has gone completely off the rails, suddenly leaving Manchester City to participate in a tacky reality show. Poor sweet Nate (Nick Mohammed) is terrified of not living up to his recent promotion to the coaching staff and is taking his anxiety out on both the players and the new kit man. Even Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) shows an uncharacteristic lack of confidence, engaging in a toxic on-again-off-again relationship with the controlling Jane. Yes, the entirety of AFC Richmond is most definitely out of sorts.
Ted Lasso, on the other hand, suffers from no such crisis of confidence. Capitalizing on the natural uncertainty of relegation at the end of the previous season, Ted Lasso finds in it an opportunity to challenge each of the characters and explore them in greater depth. Rather than devolving into caricatures of themselves, boiled down to their most essential qualities as so often happens on popular television shows, they’re broadened as we learn more about them. And most importantly, they’re given room to grow and change along the way. Particularly compelling so far is the relationship between Roy and Keeley (Juno Temple), the show’s premier couple, as he attempts to find purpose in his post-football career. (His niece Phoebe, played by Elodie Blomfield, takes on a greatly expanded role this season, which is an utter delight.)
They say that you should always be putting obstacles in your characters’ way to tell an engaging story. Every time they seem to be getting their bearings, you should throw a complicating factor at them. But while Ted Lasso and company have their fair share of struggles, there’s a refreshing lack of heavy interpersonal drama that can so often derail an otherwise feel-good comedy. There isn’t really much of a villain this season. No one person or thing represents a conflict for the entire group. It’s just a bunch of flawed individuals working to be better, more emotionally healthy versions of themselves. And after the eighteen months, we’ve all just gone through, this focus on personal growth and improved mental health is as cathartic to watch as any petty shenanigans between players. If Ted Lasso is part of a larger trend of sitcoms with a genuinely positive atmosphere that we’ve seen in recent years, rather than the mean-spirited cynicism that so often abounds in comedy television, it will be a welcome change. The warm and loving friendships the characters have with one another continue to be a balm for a weary soul.