NOTE: there are most definitely going to be spoilers in this post, so if you haven’t finished the season yet, you’re better off waiting to read this until after you have.
Denisa and I finished watching the second season of Ted Lasso last night, and naturally I Have Some Thoughts. I know the season has been somewhat divisive with fans of the first season, particularly Nate’s character arc. I’ve read many complaints that “Nate would never act like that” and “it was just too forced.”
Having seen all of it now, I have to say I definitely come down on the side of thinking it’s all too believable for me. In season one, Nate is a victim of bullying. He’s constantly belittled, and Ted takes him under his wing and frees him from all of that. While it’s nice to think that from there on it would be happily ever after for Nate, it’s not very realistic to think that.
First of all, as a victim of abuse, statistics say there’s a significant chance he’ll become an abuser himself. The show is very open about this early on in the season, showing the way Nate treats the new water boy. When given the chance to be free from abuse, Nate begins to do to other people what was done to him. Is it enjoyable to watch? Well, not if you’re a fan of Nate. But I found the arc believable and compelling.
In addition, it’s right in line with the “power corrupts” adage. I’ve seen multiple instances of this in real life, where people are essentially promoted to a place where they stop being the person I knew and turn into someone who’s . . . different. You really don’t know how someone’s going to respond to newfound authority until they have it.
For Nate, his values change. He begins to be much more concerned about his image and how he’s perceived. In many ways, he seems to be overcorrecting for the self-hatred he feels. (Spitting on himself in the mirror as a way to feel better about himself?) He’s constantly insulted that he isn’t automatically more important in everyone else’s eyes. Roy Kent doesn’t see him as a romantic rival. Ted doesn’t see him as the end-all-be-all of coaching wisdom and mentorship. Waitresses ignore him.
When it comes to his big final speech to Ted, detailing all the ways Nate’s been slighted over the course of the year, you can see why he might feel that way, but I also see how he’s chosen to interpret things the worst way possible time after time after time. When you set people up for these unknown tests (“Will Ted put the picture I gave him up in a place of importance?” “Will everyone listen to my latest coaching plan?”), you set everyone around you up for failure. They just don’t realize how important those seemingly random events are to you. Nate should have gone to Ted or Roy or Coach Beard or anyone and talked. Expressed how he’s feeling. Instead, he bottles it up inside and assumes the worst.
That’s not unrealistic. That’s all too believable for me. And by the time Nate actually shares what he thinks, his feelings are set in cement. He’s already made up his mind, and there’s nothing anyone around him can do to change it.
I can understand why some might not like that arc in a show they viewed as a lighthearted comedy. What’s up with this season suddenly bringing in topics like suicide and abusive relationships and affairs and more? But if you look back in the first season, it was doing that then as well. Ted Lasso isn’t just a comedy, and it’s not just a drama. It blends both, playing the whole emotional keyboard. For me, that makes it more powerful, not less.
I thoroughly enjoyed the second season, and I look forward to seeing where it goes from here.
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