A cynical but often accurate generalization about blockbuster sequels goes like this: “just do the first one again, only make it bigger this time.” And make no mistake: Ted Lasso is unquestionably a blockbuster. The AppleTV+ drama is arguably among the biggest underdog stories in TV history, rising against all odds to become one of the defining shows of 2020 and scooping up a slew of accolades in the process. Thankfully, the show’s second season doesn’t fall into that cynical description of sequelitis, though I suspect the show’s evolution in its new episodes will catch some off guard.
Don’t get me wrong, the show didn’t suddenly dive into a pool of mediocrity, nor has it changed so drastically that it’s unrecognizable from its beloved first season. It still has kindness baked into its DNA, and star Jason Sudeikis is still aces at delivering rapid-fire jokes that surprise you with their specificity. But the show’s temperature is significantly altered by a pair of developments that happen in season 2’s first episode, and it takes a little while to acclimate to the new conditions.
AppleTV+ is being very strict about spoilers this season, so I’ll tread carefully in this review, which only covers the first three episodes. The song playing in the season 2 trailer is David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure,” which is exactly where Ted (Sudeikis) and AFC Richmond find themselves as the new season begins. The team, which was previously relegated out of the Premiere League, has endured a lengthy streak of tie games, and the club needs a win. Out of desperation, Higgins (Jeremy Swift) hires a sports psychologist (Sarah Niles) to help, and her down-to-business, no-bullshit approach does not mesh with Ted’s folksy style of coaching. I don’t know how this subplot plays out (again, I’ve only seen the first three episodes), but considering Ted went through some pretty significant personal issues in season 1, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up leaning on her for personal help as the season progresses. We’ve already seen how Ted’s unorthodox methods have a way of wearing people down, so I suspect they’ll ultimately come to begrudgingly respect one another by the finale.
In the opening minutes of the season, star player Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernandez) experiences something that totally upends his typically exuberant and joyful persona, and I was personally glad to see Fernandez get the opportunity to add more layers beyond the excited puppy dog schtick that previously defined the Dani character.
Another actor who gets much more to do is Toheeb Jimoh, who plays Sam Obisanya, the heart and soul of the AFC Richmond squad. What happens to him is too spoilery to talk about here, but his arc gives him much more to chew on as a performer and it’s clear that the writers realized Jimoh was up to the task of shouldering a major storyline on his own.
The rest of the supporting cast is just as wonderful as you remember. Keely Jones (Juno Temple) and Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) continue to explore their romantic relationship along with some new professional opportunities, Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) seems to surprise himself with a new approach to life, and Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) seems to have fully freed herself from caring what her ex-husband thinks of her. Whereas the first season spent its first few episodes settling Ted and Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) into their fish-out-of-water scenario, the first three episodes of season 2 have a slightly more scattered table-setting vibe. I was so impressed with the writing in the first season that I trust everything will eventually come together again in a satisfying way here.
But this season is not afraid to challenge your notions of what Ted Lasso can be, and if you’re anticipating settling in for a new dopamine hit like the one that helped you get through 2020, this updated formula will jolt you out of a passive viewing experience. One plot line might even scare off some viewers for good. Personally, I’ll always prefer ambition over complacency, and it looks like the Ted Lasso writers feel the same way.
Ted Lasso season 2 premieres on AppleTV+ on July 23, 2021.
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