It’s actually pretty hard for Ted Lasso to surprise me. I’m perfectly okay with that, for the record. I do not believe that rug-yanking twists are a sign of good television. I don’t like the argument that a story being “predictable” makes it lacking or lesser, and the best thing about Ted Lasso season 2 was its subtle predictability.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of creators literally changing their story plans just because fans guessed where the show was going too early, resulting in season arcs that end up feeling messy and unrewarding. (I’ll name one that went public about this: Westworld. There are others.)
And while sure, some shows that cleverly and carefully aim to surprise the audience with mysteries and clues and twists are exciting, I prefer a foreshadowing-based viewing experience much more, when alert viewers are able to successfully identify what is being telegraphed and be rewarded for noticing the breadcrumbs placed to build the story.
For me, truly great television is about a show getting their viewers to a place where we really want, crave, anticipate – even dread! – what we suspect is going to happen, because we feel like it’s inevitable, because the show has lead us there by the hand, painting the truth of their aims into every atom of their story from day one. There’s no greater feeling than the moment when I know what is about to happen before it happens. That’s the peak experience of fiction right there. That’s the moment that feels holy to me, that’s the divinity of sharing stories.
Why any writer would throw away this kind of storytelling in order to prioritize unearned shock value twists that don’t land because they weren’t planned is beyond me, but I firmly believe that fans guessing plot points means that you – to all the writers out there – were doing it right. The fans were picking up what you were putting down, so to speak. It’s so much more cathartic and fulfilling for viewers to see the characters land where the story has been telling us they must land by way of implication, and I honestly think that throwing out your own ending purely because fans guessed it and you got mad about the fact it was spoiled is a betrayal of both your viewers and your characters.
That isn’t to say shows are better when they hit viewers over the head with a brick – the best of the best manage to manipulate our viewing lens in ways that we notice both consciously and unconsciously, making us understand and anticipate what’s happening even if no one is saying it out loud. For an ending or a turning point or even a twist to feel satisfying, to feel right, even if you – to all the viewers out there – don’t love what’s happening, even if it’s tragic or horrible, you have to have, in some way, seen it coming. It feels right to you specifically because your brain has already built up convictions that this is what must happen.
Of course, people’s opinions and preferences for what they might want to happen are entirely unique and independent, but the best TV shows tell you, on the screen, what you’re going to need the show to do to feel fulfilling. Great storytelling forces you to want what the story already plans to do – it forces you to feel like what ends up happening is the only truly right option for what could potentially happen.
I have never seen a show do this more intricately than Ted Lasso.
If you have a counter offer, I’m always very happy for recommendations via email or social media, especially for shows that take similar care, but it is the most intentional show I can remember following in a very long time. Everything you need to know about it is embedded into it from episode 1 of season 1.
Ted Lasso has had quite the sophomore season, both on screen and off. From the inevitable hot takes of “it isn’t that good, actually” in response to the majority of the world falling loudly in love, the cruel crawl of Nate’s power trip trajectory, the weird early punditry complaining that “nothing dramatic was happening” in the first half of the season, Roy Kent’s rom-com climax moment, Sam Obisanya’s kinesiology tape protest moment, the fan complaints that Ted Lasso season 2 was “too dark” and no longer their fun safe happy place; Dani and the fucking dog, Rebecca and her parents, Keeley’s growing panic, the well-deserved woobification of Jamie Tartt, That Hug, Sam and Rebecca discourse, Emmy glory, the abrupt about-turn in thinkpieces retracting their earlier questions of whether Ted Lasso season 2 was any good when they finally realised what the season was actually doing, some soccer stuff, but most importantly, of course, Ted, Ted and Doctor Sharon, Ted and his panic attacks, Ted and his therapy, Ted and his father’s suicide.
I’ve been paying extra attention lately to the way some viewers (of any media) tend to conflate what they most want to happen with what they expect to happen, to the point of ignoring cues that they should pick up on – that the show, in this case Ted Lasso, really wants you to pick up on. I’ve watched people watch Ted Lasso and get shocked at things I saw coming miles away. A good reveal that the truth is in fact The Truth is still a hugely dramatic landing even if you saw it coming, but I’m talking about a level of disbelief that I… well… have trouble believing.
Of course, I’ve seen plenty of more careful viewers too, but to my earlier point, Ted Lasso season 2 has shocked me more off-screen than it has on, in that I’ve watched in a little dismay as some viewers, fans and critics alike, haven’t really got what was going on when the show was so obviously trying, in very sophisticated ways, to tell them plainly. It was all there, ready to see.
Maybe the disparity is simply the fact that a wider scope of viewers are watching Ted Lasso and casually discussing it online, compared to the shows I usually talk about online – genre shows with intense fandoms where everyone is kind of obsessively Like This – or maybe it’s down to age or experience with media, but sometimes I wonder if this level of automatic close-reading is a queer thing. I’m not saying that the show Ted Lasso is inherently queer-coded – I actually don’t think it is, and for a show that is in many ways about male intimacy, it’s saying something that I personally don’t see it that way.
But I think that my experience watching everything though a queer lens makes me more attuned to embodying metric tons of meaning – be it intended subtext or personal interpretation – onto a momentary eye flicker, hand clench, beat of silence. It is natural to me to take these cues as gospel, to imbue them with meaning. Not queer meaning. Just meaning, intent, truth. Something more. Something deeper than what is being said out loud – something that remains true even if it is never said out loud.
Queer icon John Cameron Mitchell said something of this nature at a show I attended during his Origin of Love tour in 2018. It stuck with me deeply, and made me understand why I think about things – especially stories – in a way that most other people I grew up with simply don’t. He explained, in beautiful terms, that he thinks that queer people are inherently more in tune with art and story, since the days of mythology, because queer people often end up experiencing the world from a place of nuance and metaphor long before other people do – perhaps before they know the meaning of the word. They understand, inherently, often from a young age, that there is a surface, “normal” meaning to things, or a way that things are expected to be perceived day-to-day, and then there’s the true nature which lies beneath, and that sometimes the true nature isn’t spoken aloud, and that these people constantly look at everything in the world that way for the rest of their lives.
I’ve since found a couple of articles where he has given versions of the same statement – it’s clearly an idea that means a lot to him, and it means a lot to me too, now. I’m sharing them in the interest of defending myself to the straight people whose hackles may rise up at interpreting the idea as being told they’re not as good at watching television as us – don’t blame me, blame John Cameron Mitchell. Sorry John.
“A little five-year-old queer kid who feels like he has to hide something about himself knows what metaphor is. It’s the beginning of camp and the beginning of human rights politics. All of these things come out of understanding that there’s surface and then there’s true nature. Which many people who grew up getting everything they needed don’t see.” – June 2019
“When you’re young and you’re judged for how you look or you’re hiding something about yourself, you understand metaphor because you understand that things have a surface and then a deeper meaning. And that’s a gift. You can use it and understand that art and justice are linked because it’s a way of looking at the world that is realistic. When everything is handed to you, metaphor and art don’t make as much sense. You’re literal when you’re in charge: things are what they are. The ruling class never has the opportunity to see nuance, depth, and complexity.” – September 2020
I do think that there is a lot of truth in this idea – it was a real lightbulb moment for me – but I digress. Generalisations aside, I personally do look at most of the media I consume under a microscope, looking to find the true story under the story, the levels of subtext and intent that make the story worthwhile to me (and if I cannot find it, I will create it.) And Ted Lasso has been a one-of-a-kind television experience for me and others like me, because nearly every single molecular moment that has caught my eye has turned out to have pay-off, to have been on purpose, pre-determined.
Sure, a lot of shows have done a lot of subtextual things on purpose that have felt thrilling to see unfold, but with Ted Lasso, it’s everything. Every goddamn breath any character on this show takes. They aren’t making it up as they go along. They know exactly what they’re doing, and I love them because it makes me feel good that I can see exactly what they’re doing and feel fulfilled when it all comes true.
The “lack of major conflict” that some others complained about early Ted Lasso season 2 never made the show feel lighter to me. Conversely, the lack of drama – for Ted himself, specifically – felt on edge, like a sinister, creeping dread. That was on purpose. The team was losing, and as a coach, Ted’s “everything’s okay” ineffectual forced platitudes were clearly becoming manic, which is why the situation was interesting.
And the most important element of Ted Lasso’s intentional storytelling is that – to quote my own tweet that executive producer Bill Lawrence responded to in the affirmative without even being tagged – it really has always been a show primarily about how people respond to trauma.
What makes Ted Lasso “feel-good” to me is that the characters are mostly great people who end up being their best at important moments, not that the circumstances that happen to them are light, fluffy and fun. I’ve been really surprised at how those two things have been misconstrued by some of the audience during Ted Lasso season 2, but I repeat: this is, and always has been a show about trauma, and that’s very much out in the open now, but watching how that manifested into the harsh daylight from the corners of Jason Sudeikis’s mouth or the set of Hannah Waddingham’s glorious shoulders or the depths of Phil Dunster’s huge dark eyes has been almost an honor to perceive. I am in awe of a story simply Going This Hard.
What Ted Lasso season 2 has been doing in terms of unblocking Ted’s latent trauma about his father’s suicide is something I want to write a different article about, because I also lost a parent to suicide as a teenager, over 20 years ago, and began looking into beginning to do the work in therapy to address what happened maybe three days before the premiere of Ted Lasso season 2. It probably goes without saying that I knew in my gut that Ted’s father died by suicide from the moment we heard he’d died at all, back in season 1.
But even before we knew those specifics, it was obvious that Ted was masking issues, which made his radical kindness hit that much more meaningfully. Someone who acts bright and goofy and pushy and encouraging in the way Ted does, is either deeply oblivious to the way people respond to his behavior, or he’s sharply aware and is doing it actively, as a tactic. Before we knew exactly what Ted’s trauma was, we saw him basically infecting himself on everyone he met, eventually making them end up giving into his efforts and accept his support – finding themselves, of course, much improved for doing so. Ted Lasso does everything on purpose, and so does Ted Lasso. As he recently revealed, “I knew right then and there that I was never gonna let anybody get by me without understanding that they might be hurting inside.”
There are a lot of other things about Ted Lasso that I’ve enjoyed finding predictable, like the romances – the very obvious Keeley and Roy in season 1, the less obvious Sam and Rebecca in season 2 (though I, personally, was not shocked by that – he was my first guess re: Bantr and I predicted that they’d have a thing even before the app came into play. I noticed their dynamic in season 1, episode 6, and I know a few other people did too.) I could tell that Phoebe’s teacher was interested in Roy as soon as we met her. The whole Nate situation – well, I can’t say I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s been sort of sickly satisfying to see that they were doing tiny little things on purpose with a specific mindset for the character. More pleasurably, every single thing we’ve seen about how Jamie Tartt is a Good Boy, Really.
However, going into the Ted Lasso season 2 finale, I feel extremely unsure about what is coming. I am, for the first time, in the dark. Despite all my praise for predictability, this isn’t a criticism. I trust Ted Lasso implicitly to do the thing that, in retrospect, I’ll believe is the only thing that makes sense for the story, but at this very second I feel less certain about what that might be, and I’m finding that position interesting, parsing out the difference between what I might want to happen and whether I think it actually is what is going to happen. I’ll admit that I love all these characters so much that I’m at the point where I’m self aware about the fact that what I want to happen might not equal what I think is going to happen, but I’m still at a bit of a loss.
Here’s what I do know. I do not expect the season to end well. I predict that Ted Lasso season 2 will end in a place that leaves us, nine months, in the middle of the dark forest. It’s not rocket surgery to expect that. The second book of the trilogy always ends miserable and unresolved, and while Ted Lasso does often subvert expectations in terms of how characters respond to things, everyone involved with the show’s EP team has said fifty million times that season 2 (of a planned 3 seasons) is their Empire Strikes Back.
Beyond that, I’m really not sure. I’m in the dark forest! But I’ve put together a few ideas, holding myself accountable in terms of separating my predictions for my wishlist. Here’s what I think might happen, what I want to happen, and why I think and/or want it.
‘Ted Lasso’ season 2 finale predictions
What I want to happen: For him to get fired and never forgiven and for Roy and Rebecca to drop kick him off of Tower Bridge into the Thames. I do not think his behavior is forgivable. I think it is inherent to his nature – maybe borne of his own bullying trauma, but sometimes that shit makes the victim into a hardened and irredeemable bully. I think the show will somehow redeem him next season, but I don’t really want them to. It’s not just the leak to the newspaper, it’s the entire issue about power, being belittled and being belittling. His story is one of the most horrific things I’ve seen on TV in years.
What I think will happen: The truth about what he did to Ted will come out, and he actually will get fired from Richmond. Everyone will be very upset at him after all Ted has done for him, but he has already changed allegiances and possibly employment in favor of Rupert Mannion, who clearly spotted Richmond’s weakest link and is looking for a way to ruin Rebecca and get the club back.
What I want to happen: Literally anything that helps me to understand him, and him and Ted’s relationship, better. We got a whole standalone Beard episode and I still feel incredibly at sea about him. I think this is intentional (“Then it’s working.”) But I want to know about his backstory with Ted. I want to know what he knows about Ted’s mental health, and about his father.
I’m still stuck on Beard’s incredulous “No!” when Nate asks if Ted was okay, back in “Tan Lines.” These two men have a deep established relationship and I really want to know more about just how close they are. In a way, I love that it’s unspoken and unexplained – they’re just in sync – but I want to see a big talk conversation between them. It’s time.
What I think will happen: All season I was ready for him to finally snap and possibly quit, over Ted’s vague behavior and lack of dedication to winning, as per their argument last season, and this idea was exacerbated by the bizarre stream of consciousness during “Beard After Hours” (shut up, Thierry Henry!) but given the Nate situation, I now think he will stick by Ted. However I could still see a fight on the horizon instigated by Ted, blaming Beard for not bringing the Nate issues to him, and Beard losing it at Ted’s distance in return. There is a definite chance Ted could lose more than one of his coaches.
Sam and Rebecca
What I want to happen: I want him to stay and for them to be fully endgame together. I like them together and individually so much, and I think Sam is the most mature character on the show, but I seriously can’t tell if the show thinks that this is a good relationship that we are meant to be rooting for or if it’s meant to be a trauma response for Rebecca or what.
This is one of the most frustrating elements of the show currently for me. Everyone who’s found out in-universe has been outwardly supportive, but I feel like it can’t be that easy, given that we are meant to find Rupert preying on younger women disgusting. I do not feel that way about Sam and Rebecca, but I suspect there’s more to it. Which sucks, because I believe that as two humans spinning on this random rock in space, their connection is entirely genuine and transcendent. But I can’t tell what the show wants me to think! It’s the element I trust the least, purely because I love them as a couple and I can’t tell if the show is going to make me feel like an idiot – or worse, morally wrong – for feeling like they are great together. Argh!
What I think will happen: I think there’s a chance that their relationship will be exposed thanks to Nate and Rupert in an attempt to tear Rebecca down. I think Sam will go with the billionaire, but I suspect that he will discover something dodgy is going on there. I also predict that when he returns he and Rebecca will reflect on things and not get back together.
Roy and Keeley
What I want to happen: The pair to enter a committed closed polyamorous triad with Jamie. No further notes.
Okay, just a few further notes. I’m actually fucking pissed off that we haven’t seen any further development between Jamie and Roy, since The Hug. And I don’t mean this in a queer way, either. I feel like we don’t really know what’s been going on with Jamie since Wembley – we haven’t really gone back to his point of view. We don’t know what exactly was triggering him at the funeral. I completely understand why he would still either have feelings, or think he has feelings for Keeley – she’s wonderful, she saw the best in him. The fact that we met Keeley when she was dating Jamie was the first marker to me that Jamie has good qualities, because even the silly reckless Keeley of the pilot wouldn’t have been with someone genuinely shitty at his core.
I have a lot more thoughts about Jamie’s arc this season – it’s been my favorite thing – but, although the Roy moment didn’t NEED explaining – we know where Jamie was at, we know that Roy was both his biggest detractor and his childhood role model, Phil Dunster will win an Emmy next year for that episode, etc etc. We don’t need to be spoon-fed what that moment meant. It was the best moment on 2021 TV, and it spoke for itself, but I do feel like I need more on where the guys are at now? I was expecting episode 10 to pick up the day after Beard’s night out. It didn’t. It was a time jump of weeks. Which is fine, but like… Was that moment of connection a one-off? How do the guys interact at training? I feel short-changed, here. You don’t just do that and then never have the characters connect on screen again, so I feel like something massive is coming between Roy and Jamie.
They clearly mean a lot to each other. And Keeley clearly means a lot to each of them. If Phil Dunster is going to insist on saying that Roy/Jamie is the show’s real love story and that Jamie feels like he finds a safe space and feels at home with Keeley and that he also feels the same way about Roy, I’m not going to apologise for solving for x in which x stands for x-rated threesome. But shipping aside, I really, really want to see more of the complicated intimacy between these three, made even more complicated by the love confession.
What I think will happen: I do think that Roy and Jamie are going to talk about Keeley, and I do think that Ted Lasso will handle it more subversively and calmly than most shows would about a love triangle. And after last week’s situation? Roy will propose or they’ll break up. No in betweens. Maybe both will happen. I don’t think the break up will be permanent, but I think that they’re two people who both have insecurities about their futures individually and are new to serious relationships, and I think they’re freaked out at getting used to the idea of things that are perfectly natural, like being attracted to other people or other people being attracted to you.
They need to learn that it isn’t the end of the world, it’s about what you choose to commit to. I think Roy will handle this by choosing to commit immediately and wholly, and Keeley will need time to think about things. Keeley is a smart and healthy person but I don’t think she’s used to being quite so settled and less impulsive. She seems to be having trouble reconciling her life as it was versus who she is now, even though it’s all good things. She’s quietly been freaking out all season about her life, her space, her image, her career, and now the pressure of the two most perfect boys in south west London both being in love with her.
What I want to happen: He’s got much bigger problems right now, but honestly? For him to chase down Sharon’s train and kiss her goodbye. There is SOMETHING going on there. Obviously inappropriate while they were in a doctor/patient relationship, but it felt like their last night out was a thing – to the point that I suspected she had written something in the letter about having feelings for him. I feel like there is stuff in that letter that is going to be important that we as the audience don’t know yet. But yes. I know a lot of people suspect that Ted and Rebecca will end up together, and I can see the shape of that for sure. In fact, stick that back up under Rebecca predictions – next season, penultimate episode, the bombshell Rebecca will drop on Ted is being in love with him.
I would be okay with them getting together, I’d just prefer Sam/Rebecca, Ted/Sharon. But I feel like all of these characters have a lot more healing to do before commiting to a new permanent life partner, so I don’t think any of these predictions will be relevant to the Ted Lasso season 2 finale.
What I think will happen: I have literally no idea. The way that episode 11 ended was masterful, cutting on him walking off mid-stride after reading the article. Upon viewing, I guessed it could be anything from his own suicide attempt to calling a press conference on his own terms. I do think that there will be some sort of confrontation between all 4 coaches, and I have no idea if Ted will have a break down or be super calm, but I predict that he will go back to America, in a way that he possibly thinks is permanent. Not only is the scandal an issue, the Henry thing is a HUGE issue.
We’ve spent all this time looking at Ted’s trauma thanks to his father, and that has to trickle down to his trauma about being a father, and an absent one at that. I am desperate to know the deeper significance of the army guys, more than just a gift from his son. And let’s not forget what caused Ted to have a panic attack, leave the locker room and call Sharon, revealing the truth about his father. It was watching Jamie’s father berate Jamie after the Man City match. It was watching that horrific father/son scene play out, and feeling helpless. And Ted’s panic attacks this season have been crafted on screen to include some vision flashes of significant imagery and voice clips, including, in some of those moments, Henry calling out. I want the show to lay out those pieces more clearly, but I do feel like Ted Lasso season 2 will end with Ted going back to Kansas. The pinball machine was the freaking Wizard of Oz, people.
Other Stuff: I think Richmond will get promoted again; I think that despite the expose, Trent Crimm will be an ally for Ted and Rebecca in whatever comes next, and I think we’ll find out something about Sharon and alcoholism, due to the very obvious collection of empties that the camera has side-eyed when at her place a couple of times.
Now, this might sound like a lot of predictions for someone who claimed they had no predictions to make. But it’s about the surety. All these things that I think, I have very little conviction. I feel like the show is at a turning point where it could authentically portray a number of options for any of the given circumstances, and they’d do it well no matter which direction they take it. I just cannot bloody work out which way the wind is blowing for the finale in the same way that I felt like I knew things, for sure, from the mildest hints earlier in the season 2 and back in season 1. I’ve been getting good grades in Ted Lasso all year, but for the season 2 finale I feel like I need to pull an all night cram sesh. Study group before Friday?