‘Ted Lasso’ Season 2 Scores Another Goal With Its Feel-Good Charms

The second season of “Ted Lasso” begins with a rather violent death. Not of a person, but of an unfortunate canine that gets in the way of a soccer ball during an opening match. It’s a deceptively brilliant way to kick off the new season of Apple TV’s surprise hit, whose first season scored 20 Emmy nominations. For most of these new eight episodes, “Ted Lasso” again proves that good comedy doesn’t always lead to cynicism and meanness, even when its characters experience profound disappointments. This season expands the show’s characters, giving them richer depth that makes the comedy work even better. Jason Sudeikis returns in a role that has gained recognition for its own deceptive simplicity. His Coach Ted, an American straddled with getting an English team into shape, is a man who is genuinely friendly to the point of being annoying, yet it could also be a shield against the harshness of reality. 

That opening canine death belongs to Earl Greyhound, the mascot of the AFC Richmond, who under Lasso’s direction continuously plays games that end in draws. Player Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernández) made the kick that could’ve been a goal if poor Greyhound hadn’t leaped into its path. It’s the latest public blow to the team but Lasso tries to keep the enthusiasm going. He has to in order to also keep owner Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham), who despite last season’s scheming, now supports Ted’s coaching. To try and help Dani, as well as the psychology of the overall team, an expert named Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles) is brought in. Serious and the definition of professional, Fieldstone seems closed off to Lasso’s goofy southern jokes and chattermouth ways. But she gets instant results and soon Dani’s confidence returns and the other players form a line to Fieldstone’s office. Lasso is too nice to openly show any hostility to Fieldstone, instead he’s dense to her methods. We then catch up with everyone else, who are also going through major transitions. Former Richmond hothead Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) reluctantly decides to try being a sports analyst on TV, after getting encouragement from girlfriend Keeley (Juno Temple). Another former Richmond star, Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), washes out after a stint on the reality TV show “Lust Conquers All,” and might be tempted to return despite his former teammates hating his insulting guts.

“Ted Lasso” reportedly gained a large viewership thanks to audiences looking for something good to watch during lockdown last year. Its success has much to do with the structure of the episodes. They are easy to follow and have a welcoming style. Showrunner Bill Lawrence and his team deepen and expand the world of the series while keeping the episodes like a series of vignettes. The overall theme this season is AFC Richmond trying to overcome its inability to simply win a game, but each chapter tells a self-contained story, or focuses on a particular character. The original angle of an American football coach trying to adapt to soccer in a London setting takes a backseat. Lasso is comfortable in his role as coach, but now faces more of the kinds of challenges all group leaders need to gear up for. In the season opener Dani falls into despair over accidentally killing Earl Greyhound, in another episode Lasso has to deal with his team’s skeptical hostility at the prospect of bully Jamie coming back. Player Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) remembers all the stress Jamie caused him, and he makes it obvious during practice with a slide that knocks Jamie down.

While the show’s name is taken from its memorable lead, “Ted Lasso” is almost an excellent ensemble production. We end up caring about everyone, because their private selves and lives with the team are so well sketched. Sam has to work up the courage to refuse wearing a DubaiAir endorsement on his uniform, after his father in Nigeria sends him information on the airline’s link to corporate interests exploiting the country. Rebecca Welton is a much more sympathetic character this season as someone searching for genuine love. As the season opens she dates a man whose only pluses seem to be that he is age-appropriate and has money. It takes a brutal assessment from Roy to make Rebecca realize she shouldn’t settle out of convenience. Her storyline leads to the season’s most surprising romantic twist in the finale. But the most endearing side story involves Roy and Keeley. Their relationship is the real deal. Keeley genuinely cares for Roy and pushes him to accept a gig as a TV sports commentator. The result is a hilarious running bit of Kent appearing with other talking heads but unable to control his chronic cursing. This later gets him in trouble This may be a comedy where most dilemmas end happily, but the characters do genuinely grow and learn. Jamie, who was so despicable in the first season, is humbled this time around and works hard to make amends.

Then there’s of course Ted Lasso. Sudeikis initially developed the character from a series of 2013 NBC Sports promos, but in this season he captures the complexity and hidden melancholy of Lasso. He’s everyone’s friend but can get tough when necessary with the team. The presence of Dr. Fieldstone also forces him to do more self-reflection, since she can see through his oddball persona. They develop one of those onscreen work relationships that are endearing and hilarious. Fieldstone is so serious that Lasso’s personality is almost an affront to her. She can only roll her eyes and tolerate him. Yet Lasso can’t smile forever and there’s a moment in the finale where he seems genuinely concerned at a loss for words when his dear comrade, Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt), looks tired and sad of this whole effort they’ve made with AFC Richmond, and walks off to who knows where. 

“Ted Lasso” avoids the symptoms of many a second season and never swerves into exaggerated plot twists or sudden revelations. Returning to its football club and practice fields has a welcome familiarity because instead of changing too much, the show has actually grown. There are no sad endings in its episodes, but simultaneously it does have plenty of empathy. There are no villains here, just people dealing with the complexities of trying to find a good partner, trying to excel at your chosen sport, and trying to prove you’re not the bully they remember you as. And, of course, there’s Ted Lasso, who always drops folky wisdom and is baffled at why Dr. Fieldstone refuses to eat anything with sugar (“I’ve only seen that in the hell that is Santa Monica”). That’s why we like him so much, because he’s a rare breed in a world that is rarely ever fair to nice people.

Ted Lasso” season two begins streaming July 23 with new episodes premiering Fridays on Apple TV+.