Ted Lasso has been the TV show that’s got me and many other poor, downtrodden, locked-down souls through the past 18 months. In fact, I’ve described it to people who haven’t watched as: “Ted Lasso is like a human Spongebob” and “It’s like a wholesome family show, but for adults”.
The Apple TV+ series has grown astronomically in popularity since the first season warmed our cold hearts last year, bringing us the story of a criminally upbeat, excellently-moustached American football coach (played to perfection by now Emmy-winning star Jason Sudeikis) who becomes the unlikely manager of a struggling English premier league soccer team.
One of the most heartwarming stories of Season 1 was the character arc of underdog Nathan Shelley (Nick Mohammed). We first met Nathan — who Ted insisted on calling Nate — when he was working as the long-suffering kit man for Richmond FC, acting as a verbal punching bag for star player Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) and his teammates.
Because Ted is a nice, wholesome person, he was friendly and inclusive to Nate who ended up having some pretty good tactics for the team to use on-field. These plays were so good that nice, wholesome Nate wound up being promoted from man who collects sweaty uniforms to one of the coaching staff. What a nice, wholesome underdog story. It gave everyone the warm and fuzzies. I audibly cheered when he got the gig.
But in Season 2, Nate’s storyline has taken a real… turn. Honestly, it’s actually affected my enjoyment of the second season (which I felt got off to a shaky start anyway), and has taken a bit of a shine off the show for me. But I do understand that every story needs conflict, and if literally everything about Ted Lasso was cute and endearing, our teeth would fall out after each episode from the sheer overdose of sweetness.
I also understand that our main villain from Season 1, Richmond FC boss Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) — who was lying to Ted for most of the first season about her true reasons for hiring him — has now become a protagonist, a character we are all rooting for. We saw the aforementioned antagonist Jamie Tartt also return in the second season in a redemption arc. He’s trying to be a better man! We love that for him!
Hell, you could even argue that fan fave Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) was another Season 1 antagonist to some degree, and he’s also become a Season 2 hero. So the Ted Lasso writers were left with the problem of having rehabilitated all their villains, thus removing the conflict. I get that they needed a new antagonist, but I just don’t understand why it had to be the adorable Nate!
Why couldn’t they just bring in a new character for us to all hate? They teased us a bit by introducing prickly team psychologist Dr Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles), but of course human labrador Ted managed to win her over and she ended up being a legend. The issue is, Ted hasn’t seemed to notice Nate acting like a complete asshole, so hasn’t gone to work fixing the problem.
Until the end of Season 2 Episode 11 that is, which ended with Nate committing the ultimate betrayal by telling Trent Crimm from The Independent (played by James Lance) that Ted had a panic attack in the middle of an important game. Now Ted finally is fully aware that Nate is a dick, but it might be all too late?
During this season we as viewers have also seen Nate overtly bullying the new kit man Will (Charlie Hiscock), despite being all too familiar with being in that rather thankless job. He openly belittled Colin (Billy Harris) so badly that Nate was forced to apologise by Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) who witnessed the incident.
Nate also made unwanted sexual advances to Keeley (Juno Temple) in last week’s episode. It’s just bad, bad, bad — behaviour that you would never have picked from someone as sweet as the Nate we met in Season 1.
The Ted Lasso writers have been careful to paint the picture though — we know that Nate has some serious daddy issues in his never-ending quest to make his cold father proud. Newsflash mate: if your old man can’t even crack a smile when you’re splashed over the papers for your match-winning tactic, nothing is ever going to win him over, and also you don’t need that dickhead’s approval anyway. I’m really hoping that the season finale brings Nate this realisation.
We’ve seen Nate the “Wonder Kid” get a big head after said tactic was lauded by the press, and he goes back and reads positive tweets almost compulsively. Nate, having been an underdog for so long, is addicted to the glory of having his moment in the sun. In fact, in the most recent episode he went on about wanting to “be the boss”, before leaking the story about Ted’s mental health to Trent Crimm.
In Season 2 Episode 10 of Ted Lasso, we saw ex-Richmond owner Rupert Welton (Anthony Head) give his ex-wife Rebecca full ownership of the club and then whisper ~something~ in Nate’s ear. Spitballing here, but it certainly seems Rupert is taking ownership or launching another club and perhaps made Nate a generous offer of a promotion, and Nate is wrestling with that decision.
Sure, the Ted Lasso writers have been careful to explain away Nate’s shit behaviour, but honestly? I still hate it. And I’m not alone — it’s pretty clear that the arc has got most fans offside, so much so that Nick Mohammed felt the need to address it via Twitter last month:
Just a quickie to say I'm aware of the rumbling discourse within the #TedLasso community on Nate's journey this season. It all adds up. Promise to respond once we get to the very end. For now, however, I remain a silly little actor playing a dickhead! ???? pic.twitter.com/uRKi54nH71
— Nick Mohammed (@nickmohammed) September 7, 2021
Ted Lasso has been such an important show for so many of us during this lockdown, the bright spark at the end of every week. So I’m really hoping for the mother of all redemption arcs for Nate this Friday night — otherwise Season 3 is gonna be a tough one to watch.