(mucho, mucho spoilers for the season finale of Ted Lasso)
Welcome, one and all, to the final episode of Ted Lasso season two. Things are picking up soon after the previous episode left off, with the news of Ted’s panic attack breaking wide open, and, as expected, much of the athletic world questioning his ability to do the job. Ted is, for the moment, taking it as well as can be—on the outside, at least—while attempting to eat breakfast as his phone begins to blow up. Rebecca texts with words of support (“F—k the haters”) while Sharon leaves a voice mail (“Remember, the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off”). Even Michelle, Ted’s ex-wife, reaches out to him. Unfortunately, there’s little support outside of the relative peace of his home, what with the paparazzi in his face and the constant stares of passers-by. Thankfully, one small mercy presents itself in the form of Coach Beard offering up a coffee and a brief semblance of normalcy by pretending everything is the same as it ever was.
Pretending everything is fine is old hat for Ted, which is why he even makes a point of bringing Rebecca’s morning biscuits into the office. Too bad he mixed up the salt and the sugar, but Rebecca hilariously goes with it. It provides a nice distraction from speculating about Sam’s possible decision, thanks to the lavish (and smug) flower arrangement that Edwin Akufo sent along. When it comes to the story about Ted’s panic attack, Rebecca is ready to flex her considerable influence to find out who the anonymous source was behind the story, but Ted waves it away. Ted has no intention of exposing Nate, which is a very Ted thing to do, and as he points out, what’s been published is the truth. For now, the focus needs to be on the last match of the season, which is all that stands in their way of making it back into the Premier League.
Down in the locker room, the team prepares for training. Edwin has arranged for another delivery, this time for Sam. It’s a jersey sporting his name in a rich green color reminiscent of the Nigerian flag accompanied with a message from Edwin noting how he already picked Sam’s player number. Speaking of having someone’s number, Beard has certainly got Nate’s. He holds a tabloid up accusingly, while Nate does a piss poor job of feigning innocence. Roy walks in, and with Nate needing to talk to him anyway, he tries to take that moment to dislodge himself from Beard’s attention, but Roy only has eyes for Jamie Tartt. Jamie, numbskull he may be, knows exactly what this is about. When the two men are finally alone in the laundry room, Jamie gets to talking. He immediately lays out what exactly he did (to Keeley) and that he was sorry, adding that he respects both Roy and Keeley with assurances that it won’t happen again. It’s a good apology. There’s only one thing Roy can do, which is shout out his favorite expletive before stomping away, leaving Jamie slightly stunned, though grateful for keeping all of his teeth, while poor Will shudders in the corner like a man who watched someone come face-to-face with death.
Out on the pitch, Ted gets right to business with the team, immediately apologizing for the way they found out about his personal issues and for not being upfront about it in the first place. The team, bless them, shows nothing but enthusiastic support for Ted. So much so that they begin threatening violence against whomever the traitor is within their midst. Nate is squirming like a rat in a trap, which is the least that he deserves. The feeling is likely exacerbated a few moments later, as Ted brings the focus back to training, and how they’re going to work on “Nate the Great’s False Nine.”
In one of the episode’s numerous displays of coming full circle, Leslie is holding auditions for the new AFC Richmond greyhound mascot (“This is Mascot Idol: Semifinals”) to replace the one that, unfortunately, met an untimely end back in episode one’s cold open. Keeley comes to him with news that she has just been offered the chance to start her own PR firm by the same financiers who backed Bantr. She’s thrilled about it, but her joy is tempered by the fact that she now has to tell Rebecca, one of her dearest friends, that she is leaving AFC Richmond. Not only will she not see her best friend every day, but there’s also the guilt that accompanies parting ways with the person who set her on her career path. Leslie has a few false starts at the beginning of their conversation, but, as usual, he nails it in the end: “Keeley, a good mentor hopes you will move on. A great mentor knows you will.”
Sam is still struggling with his decision. He’s told Edwin that he will give him his final decision after the Brentford match, which has bought him a little time. Sam seeks guidance from his father, who doesn’t pressure him one way or another, insisting that he needs to keep an eye out for a sign from the universe. Of course, it’s just then that he sees some people playing football in a nearby park, including one young Black man sporting a Richmond jersey with his name on it. The significance of the moment is not lost on him.
Later that evening, Keeley and Admiral Grunt are home. He tells her how he, incredibly, forgave Jamie, while she informs him of her exciting new opportunity. Roy’s genuinely happy for her, but there’s a wistfulness to it; her star is rising and he’s starting to believe that soon there may be no room for him in her life. It’s made no better with the discovery that Vanity Fair didn’t use any of the pictures that featured Roy in them, choosing only to focus on Keeley. It’s difficult to determine when his feelings of insecurity began, though it explains at least some of the emotion in his eyes in that couch scene. It’s an interesting development for a man who has, until now, seemed completely unflappable.
Now that she’s told Roy, she needs to break the news to the one person she’s most nervous about telling. The next morning, Keeley walks into Rebecca’s office, intent on keeping the conversation breezy. One jump cut later, and the two are crying on the couch together. There’s some sad tears, because change is rarely easy, but they are mostly tears of joy (“You helped this panda become a lion,” Keeley says, a callback to my favorite exchange in season one!). But as the two women hold each other, Rebecca sees a notification on her phone. The big shoe we’ve all been waiting to drop has finally hit the ground: Rupert is back in the football club business and he’s back in a big way, having purchased West Ham United. Rebecca is shocked and a little exasperated with herself for thinking that Rupert had given the Richmond shares out of the goodness of his heart (Rebecca, honey, no). After making Keeley promise she’ll never work with him, they’re quickly back in one another’s arms crying.
Game day. Roy makes his way through the locker room fist-bumping each player. Well, except Jamie. Roy’s come a long way, but the incident with Keeley is just a bit too recent. Between that and his growing insecurity, Roy finally requests a session with The Diamond Dogs. Roy lays out what happened with the photoshoot and how it hurt his “feeling,” along with the fact that Jamie told Keeley he loved her. The Diamond Dogs’ collective sympathy ratchets to shock (“And he’s still alive?!”). Well, all of them except for Nate, who’s spent the entire day in a snit, who now takes the opportunity to confess that he kissed Keeley on their shopping trip. Roy says he knows and forgives him. This is not what Nate wants to hear. He’s irked by the fact that what Jamie did angered Roy almost to violence, while his betrayal evoked nothing but a few soft words. It’s clear that Roy doesn’t see him as a threat, and it offends Nate to his core. “Don’t you at least want to headbutt me or something?” Nate asks. Roy does not, although Beard would be glad to oblige (“I’d be happy to headbutt you, Nate”), which is when Ted brings the discussion to a halt.
The first half of the game is not going well, with Brentford leading 2 nil as they enter halftime. The team already has the wind knocked out of their sails. Ted is trying to determine whether or not they should stick with the False Nine (Nate is being spectacularly unhelpful all the while). After Roy suggests asking the team, Ted does just that. It throws the footballers off a bit, since they’re accustomed to taking orders rather than providing input. Once Jan Maas affirms they can do it, the whole team backs him up. Everyone brings their hand in, all except Isaac McAdoo, who parts the group like water, opting instead to place his hand upon the now-iconic yellow “BELIEVE” sign taped above the door. “Richmond on ‘three.’ One, two, three, RICHMOND!” The men are pumped, and they all head back out to the pitch. All except Nate, who walks the other way towards the office.
Ted follows him. “Everything okay?” he finally asks. Nate is no longer hiding his disdain. No longer able to step around it, Ted opens up the floor to him in order to understand where all of this is coming from. At last, Nate puts into words what’s been brewing in him all season:
“You made me feel like I was the most important person in the world. And then, you abandoned me. Like you switched out a light, just like that. And I worked my ass off, trying to get your attention back. To prove myself to you. To make you like me again. But the more I did, the less you cared. It was like I was f—king invisible.”
He goes on, but now his anger and pain devolves into paranoia. How Ted doesn’t keep the picture he gifted him at Christmas around (the picture that is nowhere to be seen because it has a place on Ted’s dresser at home, next to a picture of Henry), and how Ted is only pushing the False Nine maneuver to make Nate look bad. Nate unleashes on him until Ted responds with compassion. Having had enough, Nate begins to leave (I suspect before even more tears fell) though not before giving a parting, “Just f—k you, Ted,” before making his way out the door.
Second half. Sam Obisanya has just scored Richmond their first goal. They now need one more to tie, which would secure their place back in the Premier League. Everyone is elated, except for Nate, who sulks in a chair. Jamie Tartt gets control of the ball before he gets fouled. Now there’s a penalty kick, their best possible chance to get the goal they need. Jamie gets himself ready but at the last moment decides to have Dani Rojas do it instead. This is an admittedly odd choice since there’s no real basis in reality for it (Jamie hasn’t missed a penalty kick the entire season) though one could argue it’s Jamie yet again embracing being a team player. It also serves to bring the season back to where we started, with Rojas preparing for a penalty kick. Depending on where you stand, this is either the makings of great sports entertainment or utter fantasy. Personally, I had no problem being reminded that “football is life.”
Rojas lands the ball in the net. AFC Richmond has done it. The moment is pure triumph. There’s hugs, jumping, and laughter. Roy even manages to shake Jamie’s hand right before he headbutts him, which allows Roy to do what he really wants, which is hug Jamie and hold one another’s arms so they can squeal while jumping up and down in a circle. Everyone is celebrating. Everyone, that is, except for Nate. In what should be the most joyous moment of Nate’s career, his bitterness and self-loathing don’t allow him a drop of happiness. He walks, hands in pockets, off the pitch. It’s easy to assume he’s simply left. But when the team spills into the locker room, feeling nothing but overjoyed, Ted has to duck into the office for a moment, which is when he sees two large pieces of paper on his desk; it’s the beloved “BELIEVE” sign, viciously torn in half. One simple act says so many things. It’s a rejection of Ted’s ideals. It’s a resignation letter. It’s a slap in the face to Richmond and each individual who Nate has felt slighted by.
As the team celebrates in the locker room, Sam’s called away from the festivities by Leslie. He knows it has to do with Edwin Akufo, since he did promise to give him his answer after the match, yet as he walks away from the locker room with the chant of “We’re Richmond ‘til we die!” echoing behind him, it’s all too easy to imagine the conflict happening within him. Edwin has no doubt in his mind that Sam is more than ready to come join his team, which is why it comes as a complete shock to him when Sam says no. That’s when Edwin’s merry veneer falls apart. He rants and rages at Sam, which he takes in stride (though “medium-talent” landed a bit). In truth, Edwin’s temper tantrum (hilarious work by Sam Richardson) is a gift, as it confirms that Sam absolutely made the right decision to stay with Richmond. He goes to tell Rebecca the news, not realizing that Ted is in the office as well. Sam tells them that he’s staying, and Ted asks him his reasoning for why. Sam gives an honest explanation (unaware that Ted knows about their affair) by using Ted as a stand-in to explain that he didn’t stay for Rebecca, but rather that it’s the best decision for him.
Some things stay the same, and some things change. Trent is no longer a reporter, having been fired over revealing his source, which he admitted due to becoming disillusioned with journalism. There’s a few fantastical things that happen in this episode, but this is the one I find the least believable. With that said, I do hope we see Trent Crimm (Independent) in the future. A short time jump later and Keeley has packed her things, ready for her new chapter. Roy surprises her with a six-week vacation (oof, sweet but presumptuous) which Keeley turns down, on account of her having to get her firm off the ground. Roy is understandably hurt, though his insecurity makes itself known, as he asks if they’re breaking up. Keeley insists that’s not the case and although they’re going to get through the next six weeks, Roy is going to have to address his now-constant suspicion that Keeley is going to be rid of him (which will almost surely be a season three plot point). Several weeks later, we see that Sam has decided to bring a little bit of home to London by buying a piece of property with the intention of turning it into a Nigerian restaurant. One more time jump awaits, months later this time, and we see West Ham United do drills on the pitch. A man in the foreground comes to view. It’s Nathan, entirely grey-haired now, observing the team as Rupert walks up and whispers into his ear, exactly the way he did at the funeral, which is where he undoubtedly first made his devilish offer. The final shot is the same as the opening shot of the season, an extreme close up of Nate, now having firmly embraced the role of bad guy.
Nate’s full descent into villainy has been remarkable to behold. Some refer to it as a villain origin story, but if it is, it’s one of the all-time greats, because it’s so true to life. I know what it is to warm your cold and lonely hands over the fire of hatred rather than do the painful work of excavating the deep-seated source of your ire. Nate has had all the makings of a human time bomb for quite some time now, but it’s the sort of scenario that, unless multiple people compare notes, no one around them can see coming. There’s his demoralizing father and his innate insecurities, but there is also the fact that Nate has indeed been cast aside at times for various reasons. The Nespresso machines. Ted laughing at the idea of him being a “big dog.” Separately, they’re easy to shrug off, but when combined with an already-existing grudge against the world, it turns poisonous. Understandable though it may be, there’s no excuse for any of his terrible actions. Plenty of people who undergo many of these challenges choose better for themselves and the world, even if it is more work. Nate chose the easier route. I don’t know if I want to see him earn a redemption arc. Confident but miserable Nate feels authentic (Nate the Hate?). It also opens up room for Ted to come to grips with the fact that kindness can’t save everyone.
This was a satisfying roller-coaster of a season. There’s plenty of fodder for season three, especially as far as Roy and Keeley go. I’m very glad the writers did away with the possibility of a love triangle. Is there a chance they won’t make it in the long term? Yes, of course, though I believe that even if it ends, their parting will be done in love. We will also surely see a big showdown between Ted and Nate. But all of this is speculation for now, as we sit and wait for next summer to find out what happens to our favorite football club.
It has been a pleasure covering this season of Ted Lasso. Thanks for taking this ride with me. See you next year, Lasso fans.
Best Quotes (extra special indulgent edition):
Keeley: “Oh shit, that was cool.”
Leslie: “I know, right? I saw it in a Denzel Washington movie, and I thought, ‘Ooh, I’m taking that.’”
Ted: “And unlike Lieutenant Kaffee, I can handle the truth.”
Rebecca: “She’s a sneaky, salty bitch.”
Ted: “Like Heather Locklear on Melrose Place, right?”
Keeley: “That’s exactly how you’d describe her.”
Rebecca: “Mm-ohhh, Heather.”
Keeley: “F—k you, Piers Morgan.”
Ted: “Well, you know my philosophy when it comes to cats, babies, and apologies, Coach: you gotta let ‘em come to you.”
Ted: “Then I’ll look like that fella from The Hangover.”
Beard: “Bradley Cooper?”
Ted: “You’re too good to me.”
Beard: “Horticulture, babeh!”
Ted: “I mean, look at it out there. Looks like a Renaissance painting portraying masculine melancholy.”
Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t feeling appreciation and gratitude for all the folks who read her (not brief) recaps, she can be found on Twitter here.
Header Image Source: Apple TV+