Last week's penultimate episode "reminded me what exactly has been missing: soccer. Or, well, 'football,' if you're being British about it," says Esther Zuckerman. "Since Episode 8, which charted AFC Richmond's brutal loss to Manchester City at Wembley, footie has been absolutely ancillary to the plot. We spent a night out on the town with Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) and caught up with the gang at a funeral. When we finally get out on the pitch again in Episode 11, it appears that Richmond has been doing great, Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh) has turned into a star, and the club has almost made it back into the Premier League. Wait! When did that happen? As far as us viewers know, Richmond has been playing at best OK and, at worst, very badly all season. Suddenly, the team is on the precipice of overturning the setback that was supposed to be the very conflict driving the entire season. Only, that never seemed to be much of a concern at all. The first season ended with Richmond being relegated to the Championship League, stripped of its status as one of the top clubs in the UK because of poor performance. It offered an easy path for the narrative moving forward. Whereas the first season was about owner Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) deliberately trying to sabotage the team with her hire of the gregarious but clueless Ted, the second would be about everyone, now friends, trying to rebuild. Except that hasn't really been the case. The Ted Lasso writers have largely ignored what seemed like a crucial obstacle for its protagonists in favor of a stranger, more freeform path full of experiments (like Beard's wild night), romance (Rebecca and Sam's tryst), and emotional growth (Ted's breakthrough with Dr. Sharon, played by Sarah Niles). And yet that looseness has also made for a disjointed series that could use the oomph of a high intensity soccer match. It's almost as if the Lasso team took the 'it's not really about sports' too far, forgetting that there was innate drama in the trials of the team on the field."
Ted Lasso co-creator Bill Lawrence discusses the Season 2 finale, the backlash over this season and being at "the midway point of the show": "The toughest thing about this show, is it is always a week to week release but we got lucky that so many people found the show when it was all done last year and were like, my gosh, I watched the whole season in three days and it’s awesome," says Lawrence in an interview with Deadline. "Watching people process on a week-to-week basis this year has been incredibly interesting. Even right now, there is Twitter discourse on many things. Jason (Sudeikis) was very candid about this being The Empire Strikes Back, where everybody has to make some decisions about how they are going to move forward in the last year. Key is, none of these decisions are really the end of a story.....What’s tough to process for me as a writer who is used to writing network comedy, is, this was the end of the season, but the midway point of the show." He adds: "When we first pitched this particular story, we said this series was only going to be three seasons. And I would probably stay clean and say that even if Ted Lasso goes on, the story the writing staff has been telling had a beginning, middle and end for the first three seasons. And then it might veer off from that."
Brendan Hunt tried to warn Ted Lasso fans that this is not a feel-good show: “There’s this narrative now that we are this inspirational, feel-good show. And it’s an honor to be thought of in that way, but that was never our goal," Hunt told Decider last summer. "You know, we’re a comedy show. And, if we are a feel-good show, Season 1 wasn’t always about people in happy situations. It wasn’t Teletubbies. People were going through things. One thing that starting the season that way does do is it reminds people that, ‘Hey, we’re a comedy and you’re going to go through some things.'”
Nate Shelley's arc is a reminder that companies like sports teams that purport to be "families" are often anything but: "Nate knows soccer; he doesn't know coaching or managing," says Kylie Cheung of Nick Mohammed's character. "Therefore he doesn't recognize that he and the team are the beneficiaries of Ted Lasso's interpersonal skills if not his knowledge of the game. It's why he's angry every time someone points out his grey suit as the one Ted gave him; in Nate's mind, he owes Ted nothing. At the same time, Ted has been so caught up in his own issues that he doesn't see he's imperfectly prepared Nate for his new bump in status. Ted doesn't check in on anyone unless a performances on the pitch are affected. This man, who's more cheerleader and philosopher than strategic mastermind, has betrayed his responsibilities to Nate. Nate's dark turn also speaks to a bigger issue with how Ted Lasso has thus far treated its relatively few characters of color — primarily as vehicles to advance white characters' stories and development. Richmond's beloved Sam (Toheeb Jimoh), a Black man, has a romantic relationship with Rebecca, which allows her to find a sense of identity after her disastrous marriage. And more recently, Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles), a Black therapist, moves Ted's character forward from his unresolved grief. Meanwhile, Nate started off as a shy, bumbling background character with self-esteem issues, frequently pulled in for comedic relief. Now, as of the end of (this season's penultimate) episode, he still has self-esteem issues, but they've twisted so that he's decisively become the show's villain as the instrument to knock Ted Lasso down."