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Ted Lasso “Inverting the Pyramid of Success” Recap: Season 2 Finale (mostly) nails it

Ted Lasso Season 2 Finale Featured Image

The show’s choices for Roy and Keeley still baffle, but everything else comes together.

Tell the affiliates we’re running long on this Ted Lasso Season 2 Finale Recap!

Ok, that warning out of the way, let’s dig in here.

We essentially had four separate balls in the area coming off last episode: the Greyhounds season, Ted’s (Jason Sudeikis) mental health issues exposed by Nate (Nick Mohammed), Roy (Brett Goldstein) and Keeley (Juno Temple), and Sam’s (Toheeb Jimoh) possible departure. This Sudeikis-written and Declan Lowney-directed episode brings some amount of closure to each, as a good Season finale should.

Let’s start with my least favorite of the four, Roy and Keeley.

First off, the episode seems to suggest the couple quickly brushed past whatever weirdness was going on at Keeley’s Vanity Fair photoshoot. Roy seeks out Jamie (Phil Dunster), presumably to pummel him. Still, Jamie’s quick and earnest apology forces our resident grump coach to, according to him, forgive Jamie, although he never actually tells Tartt that.

Ted Lasso Season 2 Finale confusing couple
Brett Goldstein and Juno Temple work that product placement. (AppleTV+)

Anyway, Jamie isn’t the real problem; Roy is. Or at least seems to be? Roy repeatedly speaks to feeling left out or left behind by Keeley’s success while also indicating how proud of her and impressed by her he remains. After the Vanity Fair article includes none of the couple shots, it upsets Roy so much he actually confesses to the Diamond Dogs it hurt his “feeling.” He simultaneously acknowledging Keeley looked so perfectly captured, it would’ve been bizarre if they had included him.

His insecurity only grows when Keeley, striking out on her with a new VC-funded PR firm, refuses his offer of a six-week beach vacation because she feels like she can’t afford to be that distracted before the launch of her new endeavor. He seemingly opts not to go himself either, but not before asking her if she’s breaking up with him, a thing she immediately denies.

Keeley, for her part, seems unaware of her partner’s fears. She tells him she loves him often throughout the episode, denies the breakup, and tells him to “shut your pretty mouth” when he mentions she’ll be too busy to see him anymore. 

This [Jason] Sudeikis-written and Declan Lowney-directed episode brings some amount of closure to each [subplot], as a good Season Finale should.

Her concerns lie more with telling Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) she’ll be leaving Richmond. She reaches out to Higgins (Jeremy Swift) and the Director of Communications gamely tries to guess why she’s worried. When he repeatedly fails, she eventually just tells him. She doesn’t want her boss and best friend to think her ungrateful. Higgins pulls it together, in the end, to reassure her that Rebecca wants her to blossom on her own. And sure enough, Rebecca is tearful but incredibly supportive when told.

We’ll talk Ted and Nate more below, but the Rebecca-Keeley dynamic is a nice counterbalance. Nate’s anger comes from, at least in part, that Ted believes in Nate’s abilities enough to give him independence. Unfortunately, Nate sees that as abandonment. Keeley, by contrast, is afraid that going on her own is ungrateful, while Rebecca sees it as a sad but ultimately important thing that Keeley gets to soar.

But the relationship piece. I had forgotten that there are several references to how bad Roy’s previous relationships had been last season. Exes stole from him. He had lots of regrettable quick relationships. Generally, he seemed to dodge commitment or get way too committed to bad choices—think Beard (Brendan Hunt) with Jane (Phoebe Walsh). So you could argue that his first taste of a non-codependent, non-Bang, Blame, and Go relationship has him spinning. In another comparison to Nate, Roy’s only known bad. When faced with good, he interprets it as something amiss.

Ted Lasso Season 2 Finale to the dogs
Jeremey Swift is doggone charming! (AppleTV+)

Keeley, by contrast, spent years dating men in their early 20’s as she grew (relatively) older (Her journey is a sort of an inverse of what Rebecca is going through with Sam). Being with Roy is a conscious choice of hers to get serious and find a healthy relationship. Her awareness of what that looks and feels like makes her more secure in this one. However, all of that is me giving the show a VERY wide berth of interpretation. Everything about this relationship trouble feels so pressed and vague that I’m scrambling to fill it in.

Speaking of relationship trouble, Sam makes his call near this episode’s end. It’s a big no to Edwin Akufo (Sam Richardson). After last week’s episode, there were many conspiracy theories about Edwin being a con artist or working with Rupert (Anthony Stewart Head) or that sort of thing. It turns out that Akufo isn’t for real, but in a very different way. He’s a self-entitled billionaire asshole who goes into total meltdown when Sam tells him now. It’s a great not really twist twist that rewards a close reading of the show without going wacky with conspiracy.

Even better is Sam stressing later to Ted, although really talking to the also present Rebecca, that he chose for himself, not them (her, really), and he’s done waiting for outside affirmation. He closes the episode by buying space to open a West African restaurant. 

Everything about this relationship trouble feels so pressed and vague that I’m scrambling to fill it in.

Sam’s journey takes shape with that choice. He wants to be a force for good, including elevating his culture in England in the same way he elevated his cause on the pitch. I know many people found the lack of consequences for standing up to DubaiAir frustrating, but I like where it’s taken Sam.

On the pitch, Richmond is victorious! Sort of. They tie and, by doing so, achieve enough points for promotion back to the Premier League. The symmetry with last season—they needed a draw, couldn’t get it—the start of this season—so many draws and it supposedly being a bad thing—and Ted’s aversion to ties is a good bit of business. It’s a subtle suggestion that Ted loosening his grip on “his way”—whether regarding his mental health or that draws are bad—leads to success.

Also, in the symmetry department, Jamie passes up a chance to kick the final penalty shot. Instead, he gives it to Dani (Cristo Fernández), allowing his fellow ace to overcome the trauma of killing Earl in episode 1 of this season. Last season, of course, Jamie led to Richmond’s defeat by passing to his Man City teammate for the final goal rather than take the shot himself. So Ted’s way brought Richmond defeat last year by teaching Jamie good sportsmanship, but it finds redemption here.

Ted Lasso Season 2 Finale Featured Image
The team ponders their fate. (AppleTV+)

However, early on, the team looks sloppy and confused. Moving to a False Nine in the last game of the season has the team off its game. They’re down by two before the half. Despite the deficit, the team opts to stick with “Nate the Great’s” plan, led by Jan’s (David Elsendoorn) commitment. Led by Isaac (Kola Bokinni), the team brings it in on the “Believe” sign. This bothers Nate to an incredible degree.

So…Nate.

Throughout the episode, Nate is as annoyed and unhappy as we’ve seen him. He rolls his eyes at the Diamond Dogs and offers a very half-hearted single bark. He degrades the players from the sidelines. He’s miffed that Roy doesn’t want to at least headbutt him for when he tried to kiss Keeley.

Part of this is undoubtedly cognitive dissonance. He betrayed Ted. To maintain ego integrity, he has to heighten his disgust for Richmond, its players, and its coaches. Otherwise, he just did a terrible thing to the man who gave him the job he’s wanted his entire life. Plus, if my read is correct, he already knows he’s leaving Richmond for Rupert’s West Ham United team during the final game. That presents the further need for him to justify his behavior retroactively.

Nate’s diatribe against Ted is so hateful and brutal, but [Nick] Mohammed absolutely kills it

Still, Nate isn’t entirely wrong. He knows why Roy doesn’t want to punch him. Jamie isn’t a genuine threat to Roy and Keeley, but he could be. He’s attractive, charismatic, and has a history with her. Nate isn’t at all a threat from Roy’s point of view. That gets to Nate. It’s similar to how, earlier in the season, Nate offers to be the big dog to bring Isaac back on track and Ted reflexively laughs. Nate may be great, but there are certain things he isn’t. He knows it and hates it.

However, a lot of his assessments are wildly off or ill-informed. For example, Ted doesn’t have the picture Nate got him in his office because he keeps it at home on his dresser. Nate thinks Ted doesn’t care, but in reality, Ted cares so much he has Nate in a place of honor next to his son’s photo. That’s why Nate’s worst moment, invoking Ted’s son as to where Ted should be, feels so hurtful. First, Nate is way out on a dangerous limb there. Second, Ted has filed Nate away in his life as “son adjacent.”

The issue for Nate is clear. He received constant disapproval throughout his life from his dad. That made him feel terrible. The team’s treatment of him before Ted only made that worse. The most damaging aspect of it was, though, that it was constant. It taught Nate that states of being were continuous. Disapproval is the norm. If approval doesn’t arrive constantly, well, it isn’t real.

Brendan Hunt, Sudeikis, and Goldstein won’t stop believing. (AppleTV+)

Ted, on the other hand, was operating on the Rebecca-Keeley model mentioned above. He saw potential in Nate and put him in a place to tap that potential. Yes, Ted’s mental health made him look often distracted this season, but the bigger problem was that Ted thought, “he has the job, now I’ll give him space to shine.” Every time Nate “tried for Ted’s attention,” in his words, Ted gave him more space. Ted meant that as a “go young man, seize your freedom.” Nate read it as being abandoned. Ted meant to give him space to achieve individuation and independence. Nate only wanted bigger and more hugs.

That’s why he interprets the team’s choice to stick with the False Nine despite a lousy start not as an acceptance of him but as an attempt to shame him. He’s so poisoned by insecurity and anger, he doesn’t realize the team is expressing confidence in him. They believe in his strategy, so they believe in themselves. He doesn’t believe in himself, despite protests to the contrary, and he thus doesn’t believe in them.

In Ted’s conception of their relationship, I have no doubt he saw Nate moving on to coach his own team someday. In Nate’s concept, moving on is an act of betrayal. Yes, choosing Rupert’s team makes it literally that, especially after outing Ted, but any variety moving on feels that way to Nate. Keeley moves on because she’s ready to achieve, Nate moves on because he wants to hurt Ted.

Ted Lasso Season 2 Darth Nate
Nick Mohammed giving you Darth Nate energy. (AppleTV+)

Post-Game Analysis

  • Speaking as a guy with panic attacks who tried like Hell to hide them, the start of this episode is EXACTLY what I feared. Well, not the TV coverage, but the whispers, the condescension, the disgust. A nightmare.
  • George (Bill Fellows), the Greyhounds’ former coach turned pundit, remains one of the most noxious human beings on Earth. When people tell you everyone’s too nice in Lasso, please show them this guy.
  • If you’ve ever seen me at a convention during a previous freelance life, you’ll recognize Higgins’s head nod as my primary way of interacting with creative types I’ve met or sort of know, but still feel they’re way too important to have to deal with me actually saying hi. I call it my “hey, what’s up?” nod.
  • Beard is so good in his interactions with Nate this episode. “It was awful,” was an excellent line reading. The way he rolls his eyes at Nate’s confession he tried to kiss Keeley, though? Even better.
  • I got such a kick out of Isaac’s knee-jerk argument for copyright laws.
  • I think almost everyone born between, say, 1976 and 1986 has a story about a lost starter jacket. Mine was the Charlotte Hornets. No, they weren’t my favorite team; I’m a Celtic fan. Yes, it was just because I liked the colors.
  • When Ted offers the “To quote the great UCLA basketball coach John Obi-Wan Gandalf…” line, he’s actually quoting Dumbledore. Basically, he’s being a living breathing version of the memes that have a picture of Pickard, a quote from Star Wars, attributed to a character from Babylon 5 who is said to be on Battlestar Galactica
  • The two semifinalists for Richmond’s new mascot are Macy Grayhound and Tina Fayehound. We see later that Macy proved victorious.
  • Suzy Campbell, the breeder from Barkingham Palace, is a HUGE Keeley fan. Almost too big? I don’t know. Temple played it so well where you can believe she might be put off by it or flattered, but that’s two episodes in a row where people readily violate boundaries with Keeley, and she grins and bears it.
  • In real life, West Ham is a mediocre team that has never won a Premier League championship. They’re almost dead center of the league this year. So, in a lot of ways, they’re like Richmond was before Ted arrived. Never really bad, never really good, never tasted a complete victory.
  • Nate’s diatribe against Ted is so hateful and brutal, but Mohammed absolutely kills it. You can still peek the reservoir of hurt underneath it all even as he goes deeper and darker.
  • Does Sam’s dad being into Bitcoin in 2009 make him a bad dad?
  • Coach Beard and Jane Update: They break up and immediately get back together over text. It barely interrupts Beard’s conversation with Ted.
  • Roy and Keeley have ENORMOUS wine glasses.
  • Another thing Temple does really well is her tongue trill and body shake when she recalls the neighbor’s snake as roadkill.
  • Ted and Beard’s excitement about Roy declaring their Diamond Dogs session “cool” is very cute and sweet.
  • Sam Richardson’s physical comedy when he strangles the mannequin is terrific.
  • Bad Nate Watch: I mean, the whole thing. Mostly, I just wanted to use this space to shout out Nate’s all-white hair in the flash-forward. With the black ensemble, it makes him look proper evil.
  • Film reference(s): Ted compares himself, favorably, to Tom Cruise’s Lieutenant McCaffrey from A Few Good Men. Ted says he’d look like Ed Helms in The Hangover without his mustache, but Beard interrupts him to suggest Bradley Cooper instead.
  • Maybe a film reference: It’s difficult for me to say how accurate I’m being here, but I got total “The bad guy team from Mighty Ducks” vibes from West Ham’s all-black clothes look. And before you ask, “Which Mighty Ducks though?” both the Hawks and Iceland pull the “we wear black because we’re EVIL!” thing.
  • Not a film reference but: Edwin calling Sam “a medium talent” seems a pretty clear nod to Bill Murray saying the same to Chevy Chase during a backstage fight at SNL.
Ted Lasso Season 2 Finale Looking onward
Jason Sudeikis keeping his eye on the future. (AppleTV+)

Pre-Season Predictions

  • Trent Crimm will end up taking Keeley’s job as the team’s PR person with AFC Richmond.
  • Keeley will end up unwittingly working for Rupert leading to ultimately resolved tension with Rebecca.
  • The Keeley-Roy stuff will continue to frustrate me significantly.
  • Nate and West Ham will start very strong and then unravel spectacularly as the season progresses.
  • Beard’s finally going to shake Jane after lots of continued emotional strife.
  • West Ham and AFC Richmond will definitely clash in the Season/Series (if they stick to the plan) finale.

Let’s Go To The Tape

  • “Oh shit, that was cool.” “I know right? I saw that in a Denzel Washington movie and thought, ‘Oh, I’m taking that.’”
  • “Ooo, she’s a sneaky, salty bitch.”
  • “Fuck you, Piers Morgan.”
  • “Horticulture, bay-bee!”
  • “A good mentor hopes you will move, a great mentor knows you will.”
  • “Did you murder him?” “No, worse. I fucking forgave him. Disgusting, innit?”
  • “We didn’t open [the champagne] when your mom moved back up north, we didn’t open it when England got zero points in the Eurovision, and we didn’t open it when the neighbor ran over their own snake. So we are drinking it tonight.”
  • “So…you gonna say anything?” “Well I mean eventually, yeah. You may have noticed through the years that I can be quite loquacious.”
  • “I’d be happy to headbutt you Nate.”
  • “So sometimes the fucking Diamond Dogs is just chatting about shit and no one has to fucking solve anything and nothing fucking changes?”
  • “Chris is time running out on Richmond’s chances to control their future?” “Only if you think of time as linear, Arlo.”
  • “It looks like Tartt is giving the ball to Rojas who hasn’t kicked a penalty since…welllll….”
  • “You medium talent piece of shit.”
  • “I will buy your childhood home and I will take a shit in everyone room and then I will burn the place down. Then I will sit there and I will cake and I will poop on the fucking ashes, I promise you that.”
  • “Cause of the hair and the whole vibe?”
  • “Trent Crimm, Independent.”
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Tim Stevens

Tim Stevens is a freelance writer and therapist from the Nutmeg State, hailing from the home of the World’s Smallest Natural Waterfall. In addition to The Spool, you can read his stuff in CC Magazine, Marvel.com, ComicsVerse, and The New Paris Press. His work has been quoted in Psychology Today, The Atlantic, and MSN Ireland. And yes, he is listing all this to try and impress you.