Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Season 2 finale of “Ted Lasso.”
After cementing himself as a fan favorite throughout Season 1 of the Apple TV+ hit comedy “Ted Lasso,” Nathan Shelley has had quite the fall from grace.
The once-humble kit man, played by Nick Mohammed, began Season 2 on an earnest quest to develop more confidence, but around the halfway mark it became clear that Nate the Great wasn’t the same character fans had grown to love. Nate’s bad behavior came to a peak in Friday’s season finale, in which he curses out Ted Lasso himself, and abandons AFC Richmond to manage rival club West Ham United under the villainous Rupert. If that wasn’t enough, Nate’s most shocking transgression came when he ripped the hallowed locker room “Believe” sign in half upon his exit.
“When I heard about that, Brendan [Hunt] told me,” Mohammed said. “They were tweaking the script and he said, ‘Oh, we’re thinking about having Nate rip the believe sign,’ and I was like, ‘What?!’ When Brendan told me that that was what they were thinking, I just fell on the floor. It’s horrible.”
While it’s reassuring to hear that Mohammed was as heartbroken by Nate’s actions as the fans were, he’s certainly not making any excuses for his turn to the dark side.
“I get that there’s been a bit of a strong reaction to certain things, but I guess that means the writers have done their jobs,” Mohammed said. “They’ve told the story they want to tell, because that’s how people should be feeling. No one is condoning Nate’s behavior. They should be hating on Nate, so that [reaction] is correct.”
But as shocking as the transformation may seem for some fans, Mohammed has known that Evil Nate was in the works for quite some time.
“I knew broadly that that was what they were thinking, from very early on,” Mohammed said. “I remember Jason [Sudeikis] talking about his plans and he outlined roughly this being an ‘Empire Strikes Back’ thing for Nate, and they’ve absolutely stuck with that. I didn’t know all the details, but that dark, downward spiral that he’s gone on, that was there from the start.”
Nate may have seemed like a noble, timid hero in Season 1, Mohammed said, but as “Ted Lasso” tends to do, there were seeds planted long ago that a twist like this was coming. For example, the actor cited Nate shouting at Ted to get off the pitch in the show’s premiere, as well as his enthusiasm during the player roast (S1, Ep. 7) and his readiness to tell of Rebecca (S1, Ep. 10). It’s clear nothing in “Ted Lasso” is ever a coincidence, and Nathan’s character arc is just the latest example.
“The writers were so bold with that and it’s brilliant,” Mohammed said of the twists and turns in Season 2. “They could have easily gone, ‘Season 1 did well, we can rest on our laurels, basically do the same thing again because everyone likes it,’ but they absolutely didn’t. They completely tested and manipulated the audience in a brilliant, brilliant way this season. It absolutely took a darker turn.”
So, with Season 2 wrapping up, where does that leave Nate the Not-So-Great? As manager of fellow Premier League club West Ham United, it’s safe to say Nate, Rupert and the Hammerheads are on a collision course with AFC Richmond. But could redemption still be in the cards for Nathan?
“If I had my pick, because I’m quite romantic, I’d obviously redeem him. It would be great if it was a redemptive arc,” Mohammed said. “Whether Nate has done too much to really redeem himself, I wouldn’t put it past the writers to have one character that they never redeem.”
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.