This review does not contain spoilers for Season 2 of “Ted Lasso.”
The final episode of 2020’s surprise television sensation delivered a damning catchphrase known throughout English football: “It’s the hope that kills you.” After a magical first season, it was impossible for hopes of an equally-stellar second season of “Ted Lasso” to be anything but high. Luckily for Ted Heads everywhere, through six episodes Season 2 brings just as much joy, positivity and quality television as its predecessor, taking the show into completely new directions while still maintaining the same familiar charm.
It would be easy for “Ted Lasso” to fall into a sophomore slump, simply checking all the same enjoyable boxes as last season and calling it a day, but instead Jason Sudeikis and Co. boldly push forward into uncharted territory – and it starts off right away. The season premiere may worry fans no less than two minutes in, with a surprisingly dark – yet comical – twist to immediately stage a bit of conflict. While the event itself is far too shocking to spoil here, it wasn’t what caused the most panic in the premiere. Instead, that was a result of the episode’s overall tone.
For a show that so easily and instantly won over countless fans, the second season starts with a bit too much throat clearing as it kicks off a new era at AFC Richmond. With American football coach Ted Lasso (Sudeikis) having now gone from zero to hero coaching the British football club, the antagonists in the building, like team owner Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) or cranky veteran Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) have all been won over by that midwestern twang. Despite the club’s relegation at the end of last season, it feels as if the mission is already accomplished now that everyone is on the same page internally. After easing into the episode, though, the new vibe for this season within the stadium becomes quite enjoyable, as it allows for a number of new characters to take centerstage.
The titular mustached man is still front and center, of course, but without his overarching goal of bringing unity to the club there to bind the season together, the show has a more episodic feel rather than having one continuous through-line leading from week to week. As a result, lovable supporting characters from Season 1, like players Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernández) and Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh), as well as new team psychologist Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles), get the chance to shine.
In these stories, “Lasso” explores the darker side of sport and life – well, as dark as this show can get, which means viewers will still be grinning ear to ear. The show has always been grounded in reality, presenting multi-layered characters who go far deeper than their happy-go-lucky exteriors may seem. Yes, football is life, but as Dani Rojas so astutely points out in the season premiere, football is death, too. This season challenges characters in new ways that Season 1 didn’t come close to broaching – from facing literal death, to venturing into the politics of sport, and more.
Through six episodes, the highlight of the show is its third entry, which sees Jimoh’s character Sam question his morals and use his platform to take a political stance. As sport and politics become more and more intertwined in the real world, seeing a show like “Lasso” directly address what is most certainly a touchy subject for some in a way that feels graceful and genuine came as an extremely pleasant surprise.
Other highlights of the season include Season 1 regulars, of course, like Roy Kent, as he handles aging about as gracefully as you’d expect the brash footballer to, Keeley Jones (Juno Temple) starting to flourish as the team’s marketing head, and Nathan Shelley (Nick Mohammed) who is still finding his voice as a new assistant coach. While the trailers may have forgotten Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), the season itself has not. The star player’s fate is too hilariously juicy to spoil here, but the reveal is well worth the mysterious wait. The fourth episode delivers the show’s highly-anticipated Christmas episode, and it does not disappoint, instantly becoming a holiday classic. Now, if only it was airing in December, rather than August 13 – looks like a rewatch will be in order.
With expectations through the roof for “Ted Lasso,” the risk of an underwhelming follow up was all too real. In all honesty, even if Season 2 was just average at best, fans would likely still praise it simply because of the goodwill it has earned. Luckily, the new season is far from average, delivering another downright delightful season of television that richly expands on the characters and stories fans have come to love.
Season Rating (Episodes 1-6):
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Raleigh, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.