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Ted Lasso, season 2 review: Spreading the love and shining as bright as ever

The first season of Ted Lasso was a ray of light in the darkness of 2020, delivering a much-needed dose of joy during a depressing year shaped by a deadly pandemic and bitter politics. The story of an irrepressibly optimistic American football coach recruited to lead an English Premier League team, Ted Lasso chipped away at audiences’ skepticism over the course of its first, 10-episode season and made us cheer for its titular, folksy football coach with a tireless faith in human decency.

Series star Jason Sudeikis’ performance turned the Apple TV+ show into one of the year’s surprise hits, and now Ted Lasso returns July 23 with expectations — and anticipation — high for whatever happens next with Ted, his surrounding cast, and the colorful roster of AFC Richmond.

Digital Trends received an early look at the first six episodes of Ted Lasso season 2, and although the series shifts its focus away from Ted in its second story arc, it continues to shine just as bright as it did the first time around.

Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, and Nick Mohammed in season 2 of Ted Lasso.

Life after Ted

The new season of Ted Lasso finds AFC Richmond attempting to earn its way back into the Premier League after being relegated, and dealing with problems both internal and external as they attempt to translate the synergy they have as a team into victories on the field (or in this case, the pitch).

The camaraderie the team developed in the first season by overcoming one obstacle after another — including a former teammate — has only increased over time, and the new episodes find them more united than ever — and fully bought-in to Ted’s feel-good philosophical approach to football and life. That’s important to note, because it helps Ted Lasso season 2 never feel like a rehash of the first season. Where season 1 was all about Ted winning over the team, its supporters, the press, and even the show’s audience, the second season explores how Ted’s presence shapes the lives of everyone around him.

In the first half of the season, supporting cast members Hannah Waddingham, Phil Dunster, Brett Goldstein, and Nick Mohammed each take the spotlight for an episode or in major story arcs that span several episodes. Their growth as characters is as fascinating as it is entertaining, and the series’ willingness to pivot away from its titular character pays off brilliantly, as we not only see Ted through their eyes, but also how his influence has shaped more than just team chemistry. The paths they were on before Ted came into their lives have been erased, and the second season gives us sideline seats as they map out a new trajectory for themselves.

Brett Goldstein as Roy Kent in the Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso.

He’s here, he’s there

While there are memorable moments and performances all around, Goldstein in particular elevates his portrayal of retired Richmond star Roy Kent in the second season.

After the events of season 1, there were some questions about what the future held for Goldstein’s character. By keeping him involved as the series continues, Ted Lasso is able to explore yet another aspect of the world of professional sports: When an athlete who spent his entire life playing a game is forced to figure out what comes afterward.

Although the series tackles Roy’s post-football experiences with its usual mix of humor and heart, Goldstein’s portrayal of Roy strikes the perfect balance between his trademark anger and the emotions he keeps hidden behind that gruff exterior. After season 1 teased something beneath his “mad at the grass” persona, the second season offers a clearer picture of what kind of person Roy really is — and the roles both Ted and Roy’s girlfriend, Keeley Jones (Juno Temple), play in him discovering that person for himself.

Nick Mohammed in season 2 of Ted Lasso.

Believe

As for Ted himself, Sudeikis isn’t asked to carry the series in season 2 to the same level he was in the show’s first season, and he does well with the extra breathing room he’s given in the new season.

Much as he was throughout the first season, Ted is at the center of the first six episodes’ most uplifting moments and their most heart-wrenching. Season 2 paints a fuller picture of Sudeikis’ character, and explores some of the issues that make him more than just a grinning dispenser of inspiration.

As the first six episodes pull back the curtain on more of Ted’s own flaws — both the ones he’s aware of and those he ignores — they offer a reminder of just how human he is. The series is smart to do so, too, as the mainstream popularity of Ted Lasso has made it increasingly common for people to dismiss the character as a naive idealist, detached from the realities of the world around him. The first season spent much of its 10episodes chipping away at that perception of him, and Sudeikis’ performance in the second season hammers home the fact that Ted’s positivity is no bulletproof vest against the bad turns life throws at us.

Not only does Sudeikis take his performance to new levels in season 2, he ventures into new territory with the character, and the show built around him is better for it.

Juno Temple in season 2 of the Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso.

A new holiday classic

Beyond the great performances from the cast of Ted Lasso in season 2, the creative team on the series also deserves plenty of praise for the season’s first six episodes.

The season’s fourth episode, titled Carol of the Bells, might be one of the show’s best so far, delivering a holiday-themed story that succeeds as both an important chapter in the team’s story and a heartwarming dive into what the winter holiday season can mean to different people. The episode shifts between several narratives playing out among the show’s main characters, and each of their stories contains a lesson to learn. While one character is forced to reframe his perspective on the holiday season, another is given the chance to do something extraordinary in pursuit of the perfect gift.

Throughout it all, Ted Lasso never loses the sincerity that supports every emotional beat, and the end result is an episode that checks off all the boxes for a truly memorable — and deserving — entry into the pantheon of very special holiday episodes.

Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt in season 2 of the Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso.

Two-time champion

The first season of Ted Lasso made more than a few critics’ lists of the best shows of 2020, and after watching six episodes of the second season, it won’t come as any surprise at all to see it right near the top of those lists for this year, too.

Season 2 of Ted Lasso loses none of the show’s momentum heading into its next story arc, and builds on the successes of its first season in all the right ways. It continues to be one of the smartest, most entertaining, and most rewarding shows running right now, thanks to a talented cast that remains as invested in the series and its messages as their characters are in the optimistic outlook of the show’s titular coach.

After a year that felt hopelessly dark at times, the real world finally appears to be approaching a light at the end of the tunnel. And much like the first season of Ted Lasso, season 2 of the series offers yet another, much-needed bright point to hold on to.

Season 2 of Ted Lasso premieres July 23 on the Apple TV+ streaming service.

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