By now, everyone knows the score. Thanks to the seemingly never-ending glut of platitudes from friends and family, we’re all firmly aware that Ted Lasso is better than it has any right to be and is what we all need right now. It’s chicken soup for the soul, all wrapped up in an energetic, Midwestern ball with a penchant for pop culture references and pullovers. To put your fears to rest, the second season is still all those things – and more.
But Ted Lasso finds itself in an interesting position in its sophomore year on Apple TV Plus. Not only has AFC Richmond tasted the bitter disappointment of relegation, the Jason Sudeikis-led show has already sidestepped the difficult debut season that blotches the ledger of comedy classics such as Parks and Recreation and The Office.
But any doubts that the season two premiere would lose momentum having found its feet far quicker than most is unfounded – even if it doesn’t look that way at first.
A tough start to the season
Early signs from the first whistle of Ted Lasso season 2 are, surprisingly, unpromising. Gone is Ted Lasso’s folksy, razor-sharp humor. In its place, a more cynical brand of comedy that doesn’t quite gel with the series’ smile-first approach that melted our hearts last year.
But with that signature warmth, Ted Lasso again wins us over with its relentless positivity. That’s bookended by a pair of Sudeikis’ performances in the premiere. In the first beat, he delivers one of Ted Lasso’s iconic speeches (the series’ best to date, no less) that will have you running through brick walls for the one-time coach of the Wichita State Shockers. Later, a narrative wrinkle at the episode’s end throws some heftier material Sudeikis’ way that should propel the show onto new, braver heights.
Without diving into spoilers – and, intriguingly, there’s actually plenty to spoil in the season 2 premiere so start setting up social media filters now – Ted Lasso is no longer the fix-it-all guru we witnessed in the first season. A fresh dynamic is introduced midway through the premiere, one which forces the coach to question himself for the first time in the series. That, when coupled with a certain beloved AFC Richmond player’s struggles, makes for far more compelling viewing than anything found in the first season.
But fret not, it’s not all drama and hand-wringing. The jokes, most certainly, still remain. It’s a testament to the writing staff and crew behind the show that two viewers – one from the US, one from the UK – could watch the season premiere and find it wildly hilarious for completely different reasons. Transplanting British humour across the pond and vice-versa has, ironically, never translated well. Ted Lasso finds the sweet spot, a middle ground with a comedic language that prides itself on universality first, but adds a little something extra, something deeper, for those in the know.
Football is life
It’s that desire to go deeper that has strengthened its wider cast, too. The last time we saw Roy Kent, AFC Richmond’s tough-tackling midfielder, he was dealing with a serious knee injury in the game against Manchester City. That event has opened the doors for Brett Goldstein’s gruff gem to shine more in the premiere as his relationship with Juno Temple’s Keely begins to evolve. What could have been a foul-mouthed caricature is imbued by Goldstein’s warmth – and his performance is a step up from even last year’s significant efforts. Whisper it, he might just be my new favorite character on the basis of the premiere alone. Don’t tell Ted.
There are some drawbacks to Ted Lasso. Much like the moustachioed maestro, it’s not perfect – as much as it wants to be. The action scenes – that is, the football – are still awkward CGI affairs. One could argue Ted Lasso is not about the football, but those watching for the tension the beautiful game brings might be left disappointed by the cleats-on-the-ground sequences and the bafflingly low-energy ‘commentary’ from Chris Powell and Arlo White. Much like the opening scene, former kitman Nate (Nick Mohammed) is also oddly mean-spirited at parts during the episode, and there is also a danger of some members of the cast speeding through their season arcs if the premiere’s lightning-fast pace is anything to go by.
Yet, as Ted says in the premiere (via Keeley): don’t fret, Boba Fett. Ted Lasso is still as life-affirming, sweet, and funny as ever, now with the added confidence that the whirlwind first season has rightly given everyone involved in the Apple series.
Last year, we quickly learned to love these characters. This season, if the premiere is any indication, we’ll begin to understand them a little more – with a smile on our face the entire time. Coach Lasso would approve.