By Allyson Johnson | TV | May 16, 2023 |
By Allyson Johnson | TV | May 16, 2023 |
Despite the valid concerns raised about the inconsistency of season three of Ted Lasso, there has been one enduring bright spot that has mitigated the frustration caused by the rest of the season. Please welcome Jamie Tartt, the reformed bad boy. From his endearing response to the team assuming he’s gay, to his indignation over Roy’s failure to acknowledge icons like Stevie Nicks or Tina Turner, and, of course, their escapades in Amsterdam where he taught Roy how to ride a bike, he has been nothing short of delightful. While in season one he was the designated jerk of the group, the one who clashed with Roy, underappreciated his team and felt threatened by the arrival of a similarly talented player, he has evolved into the epitome of what this series aspires to convey, even if it occasionally stumbles. He serves as proof that people can change.
While the internet embraces him as their collective boyfriend, they are overlooking one fundamental aspect: Jamie has been a joy to watch since day one. Yes, he was a jerk and a rather annoying one at that. He provoked when he didn’t need to, and his main sign of growth didn’t arrive until the final episode of season one when he helped his then-team win the game by making an extra pass. It was also the moment when the audience was provided hints about what—or rather, who—shaped him into the athlete he is.
Irrespective of that context, he was a challenging character to love, particularly in comparison to the rest of the team. Brett Goldstein’s Roy Kent may be gruff, and his initial scenes consisted of him either yelling at other players for their incompetence or threatening violence. However, he, at the very least, exhibits signs of having a conscience. Whether it’s through his defense of Nick Mohammed’s Nate or his nurturing nature toward his niece, he is portrayed as the good guy in contrast to Jamie’s selfish attitude.
Yet, despite complaints about the lack of character growth, Jamie is the only one who, since season one, has been afforded a comprehensive narrative arc and consistent development. From his initial admission in “Two Aces” of toughening himself in rebellion against his father’s taunts about being soft to the season one finale that revealed his father bullying him behind a window, to season three’s “Sunflowers“—which delivers on the enemies-to-friends dynamic between him and Roy—the series has delivered in terms of his characterization. “Man City” served as the turning point, as we finally witnessed the abuse he endured, and Roy took it upon himself to offer comfort, completing a full circle for their relationship.
However, he is now more enjoyable to watch with his cartwheels, accountability, and willingness to fall down with the bike alongside Roy instead of letting the latter fall alone. As someone who has a penchant for loving bratty characters despite how off-putting they may seem to others (see, please, Little Women’s Amy March), I have enjoyed Jamie’s character and all his audacious peacocking from the beginning.
We aren’t supposed to like him as he bullies Toheeb Jimoh’s Sam in season one, but his growth and their friendship don’t so much erase his past errors as they strengthen the current dynamic between the two.
No other character has received the same level of character growth and consistent development. Rebecca opened herself up and was forgiven by the end of season one, and Roy allowed himself to be vulnerable. These aspects didn’t change; they were just given different plot developments that didn’t require them to grow as much as adapt. In Rebecca’s case, Hannah Waddingham is relegated to reductive storylines that reduce her to a romantic partner or return her to her season one goal of tearing down her ex-husband.
The only one with a similar narrative trajectory is Nate. While both characters had story beats in the first two seasons that led them to their current positions, Nate’s arc is too nauseating to fully endorse. His character betrays those who were kind to him, and his redemption story revolves around his basic level of human decency toward a woman he’s dating who conveniently has a name but no personality. Meanwhile, Jamie atones for his misdeeds in season two, is humbled and brought to his lowest point, and subsequently becomes unburdened, lighter, and looser. Both characters receive significant attention to detail in terms of progression, but Jamie is allowed highlights that involve other beloved characters.
Part of why his character works so well, and why arguments can be made that he has been great from the beginning, is how he acts as both the antithesis to the show’s thematic core and the prime example of its outcome. His ego and vanity hinder his ambition in season one and the beginning of season two—he never quite achieves the instant reformation that Ted preaches. However, he remains engaging to watch, proving that favorite characters don’t have to be beloved or kind, as long as we don’t defend their actions. Moreover, he exemplifies the “Ted Lasso way” as he is embraced with kindness and compassion, emerging as a better man and athlete who is allowed to retain his core prickly disposition as long as it benefits the team.
The success of the character is obviously due in large part to the writing team, but Phil Dunster brings a lovable energy and scrappiness to the character, imbuing him with a vulnerability that makes it easy to root for him, or at least want to root for him. We wanted him to change and better himself so that we could cheer him on. Dunster consistently delivers in season three and has been a standout throughout the entire series. People are now taking notice because he is, frankly, becoming more playful and sweet, but he has been a comedic bright spot on Ted Lasso since the beginning.