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Ignore critics: 'Ted Lasso' season two is totally worth watching

Although season two of Ted Lasso has received mixed reviews, at its core, it serves to be a moving portrayal of mental health and the importance of being present for others. – Photo by Brett Goldstein / Twitter

The “Ted Lasso” craze has been sweeping the internet. And for anyone who’s watched the Apple TV+ show, it’s not hard to guess why — it makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you feel a little bit better about the state of the world. And most importantly, it gets you to actually care about sports.

Season two of “Ted Lasso,” which just finished in early October, was a more than solid second entry for the well-loved show. Despite this, even though there was near-universal praise for the first season, criticism hit the second one hard. But this didn’t seem to dissuade critics in the long run — in fact, the second season has a higher Rotten Tomatoes score than the first.

The complaints of lack of cohesion or conflict in the second season largely came from the fact that most people binged season one post-release. Season two’s week-by-week release schedule made the wholesome, less conflict-ridden episodes feel saccharine with nothing to compare them to, and the nail-biting cliffhangers of the season’s second half feel claustrophobic (which is not necessarily a bad thing to build tension!) 

But, when viewed as one series-long arc, the too soft or too jagged edges of individual episodes come together beautifully.

At its worst — and there are some moments that feel like duds within the context of the season, like an incredibly enjoyable and well-acted but ill-placed solo episode for Coach Beard (played by Brendan Hunt, also on the writing team) — it dips below the quality of season one, but when season two reaches new heights, it soars.

The emotional darkness below the gentle surface of the first season comes to a head successfully and emotionally, especially due to award-worthy acting from everyone involved.

And awarded they were, indeed. Actors Hannah Waddingham (who plays Rebecca Welton), Jason Sudeikis (who plays the titular Ted Lasso and is one of the show's creators and writers) and Brett Goldstein (who plays Roy Kent and is another writer) continue to shine in Emmy nominations and wins, of which the show was nominated for a record-breaking number for a freshman comedy — 20.

But the newfound MVPs of the season are Nick Mohammed (who plays Nathan Shelley) and Phil Dunster (who plays Jamie Tartt), the former of whom was also nominated for an Emmy last season.

Mohammed sells Nathan's descent into villainy in a way that's believable. Watching Nathan turn into everyone's favorite nice guy works to show off his acting chops, and he pulls off the flash in the moments of sympathy just as well he does the more plentiful, detestable ones.

Additionally, Emmy-nominated Juno Temple brightens up every episode as Keeley Jones, and an increased role for the lovely Toheeb Jimoh as soccer star, activist and the season’s second heartthrob (next to Goldstein’s Roy) Sam Obisanya is also a success.

A little bit of a correction on Dunster: He's MVP — not of the season, maybe, but of one episode specifically, in which his contentious relationship with his father hits an ugly peak. Dunster manages to capture the cockiness of Jamie on the field and the uncertainty he now feels off of it with pitch-perfect clarity.

The latter feels all the more impactful when you remember that his confidence is half-facade. The vulnerability is fresh, only really shown in the finale last season, and it's done masterfully.

What worked best was expanding and adapting on what worked last season — Nathan finding himself, for better or for worse, climbing the ladder, building on the relationship between Roy/Keeley and getting to the emotional core of the characters. Finding out why people are the way they are was a major theme this season, and the deeper dive into character backstory and psyche served it well.

Newly added characters were hit-or-miss. Adding Sarah Niles as sports psychologist Dr. Sharon Fieldstone was an excellent choice, and an expanded role for players was always welcome.

A romantic plotline between team owner Rebecca and much younger player Sam was brief but uncomfortable. With the consideration of power dynamic though, there is some faith in the writers to address the concern or potential fallout in the next season.

Two standalone episodes (“Beard After Hours” and “Carol of the Bells” added retroactively when Apple requested a longer season) were great on their own but struggled to integrate themselves into the flow of the series.

Despite these missteps, realistic portrayals of anxiety, empathy and understanding about serious issues like suicide are part of mental health arcs throughout the second season, and they’re done adeptly and with plenty of care.

There’s also a social justice and protesting plotline about a team sponsor causing harm in footballer Sam's country, Nigeria. This adds a real-life dimension to the show, as well as gives another story arc for Jimoh to shine in.

The second season of "Ted Lasso" had a lot to live up to, and in most areas that mattered, it measured up. A few missing beats of story cohesion notwithstanding, the jokes were still tight, the characters still loveable and the performances still great from every member of the cast — and even if you aren’t a sports fan, it remained completely worth a watch.

All of “Ted Lasso” season one and season two are now available to stream on Apple TV+, and the show is preemptively renewed for at least a third season.

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