Ted Lasso

If there’s one of Ted Lasso‘s tertiary characters that I’m excited to see more of, it’s Sam Obisanya. Toheeb Jimoh did solid work in season one with a limited role as a player in constant competition with Jamie Tartt, and as a homesick native Nigerian. But here, he’s given the spotlight, and the result is unsurprisingly fantastic. The plot thread was seeded earlier this season, but Sam has become the face of Richmond’s primary sponsor DubaiAir, and the new campaign sees its release this week.

Sam beamed with pride last week when speaking about his relationship with his father, which makes the eventual reveal of his father’s disappointment over the campaign all the more heartbreaking. It turns out that DubaiAir is a subsidiary of a giant oil corporation, which has been hurting the Nigerian environment and paying off Nigerian officials to look the other way. The episode culminates with an act of solidarity from all of the Richmond players – which I won’t spoil here – that demonstrates the best aspects of the show coming together: a group of unlikely people working toward a common cause to help each other, regardless of whether the team wins or loses.

It’s also great to see Ted Lasso tackling an issue that reflects the modern relationship that athletes have to social and cultural causes. Though the show could have just as easily waded into the murky waters of England’s notorious undercurrent of occasionally racist fans, this path provides an opportunity to impact everyone on the show, from marketing (Keeley) to ownership (Rebecca), all the way down to Ted and the players, and even Dr. Sharon. Major plot developments tend to come and go rather quickly, but this one has some potential for staying power. (Though nobody should ever take my word as gospel when it comes to predicting how a season of any TV show will play out.)

Meanwhile, the rest of the episode doesn’t necessarily fail, but can’t live up to the high bar set by Sam’s storyline. Ellie Taylor makes a welcome return as Flo, Rebecca’s old friend, who pawns her teenage daughter off on Rebecca while at a conference. The scenes between Rebecca and Nora provide for some nice moments, including a touching and hilarious late-night meet-up with Roy and his niece, regardless of how much it will ultimately play into the rest of the season. Hannah Waddingham plays into Rebecca’s unfamiliarity around teenagers nicely, which makes sense for the character: she was essentially walled off from friends and children during her marriage to Rupert. I’d be fine with the show utilizing Flo and Nora sparingly going forward, but their screen time here was far from wasted.

Unfortunately I can’t say the same for Ted this week. While we’re introduced to Led Tasso, a fun, new iteration of Ted’s persona. As teased at the end of last week’s episode, the return of Jamie has brought some turmoil amongst the rest of the team. Clearly there are still some wounds in need of healing from his teammates. Ted’s attempt to fix it is to bring forth Led – much to coach Beard’s chagrin – as a kind of 180-degree manifestation of everything Ted is known for. The endgame is to divert the team’s anger from Jamie onto himself, which makes sense, given Ted’s emphasis on helping each individual player achieve his full potential, but comes off as bombastic and goofy. So far this season, it feels like the writers are trying to find newer ways to show Ted as lovable and crank it up to 11. Last week saw him gleefully riding on the pitch’s mower, and then subsequently admitting to a video game addiction. None of these are deal-breakers, necessarily, and Sudeikis brings the same amount of energy and love he’s brought to the rest of the series, but it almost feels like the show flying dangerously close to the sun.

We’re now (inexplicably) a quarter of the way into season two, with some larger plot elements already seeming to take shape. It can be all too easy for a show to try to find new storylines for its characters but lose what made them so enjoyable along the way. So far that thankfully doesn’t seem to be the case here, and I’ve still largely enjoyed spending time with everyone on the show and remain invested in their journeys. “Do The Right-est Thing” can be taken as an indication that Lawrence & Co. will be devoting more time and story space to side characters like Sam, and you won’t hear me complaining about that. Ted Lasso‘s bench runs deep, and it barely feels like we’ve scratched the surface of where the show can go from here. And how refreshing is it that an episode of a TV show can still make you smile, in spite of a weak outing for its title character?

Season 2 of Ted Lasso premieres on Apple TV+ on July 23, with subsequent episodes released every Friday.


Ben headshotAbout the Writer: Ben Sears is a life-long Indianapolis resident, husband, and father of two boys, as well as a contributing writer on ObsessiveViewer.com and a recurring co-host on The Obsessive Viewer Podcast, and a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. Aside from watching movies and television, Ben enjoys photography and running marathons, but never at the same time. That would be difficult.

 

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