Welcome to the very first Ted Lasso full episode review. (Did anyone doubt that I’d take up any opportunity to keep writing about this show? No? Okay good.) Because while the Ted Lasso Pilot isn’t a personal favorite of mine, it’s still an incredibly solid episode that sets the stage with excellent humor and performances.
It’s often hard to decipher a theme in Pilot episodes when so much of it is full of world building and introductions, but Ted Lasso easily shows us that this series is all about potential. At this point, by definition, Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) is the only likable character right off the bat, but it’s so remarkably obvious that each and every one of them is going to experience the type of growth that’ll be worth noting. And since I’m writing this review after having seen the entirety of the first season, I can vouch that those initial thoughts were correct ones.
Ted Lasso doesn’t exactly find its footing in the first episode, but it shows us that we’re on that path—quite obviously, too rather because there are a lot of shots focusing on characters walking, including a close up of Ted and Coach walking on the field for the first time. Mobility is both a literal element in this series and a metaphorical one, and the angles the directing focuses on show us the sheer potential right from the start.
Classic Pilot Character Introductions
Each of the main characters are given a moment to shine in the Pilot and they’re each given an entrance that acutely sets up so much of their personality.
We’re introduced to Ted dancing his heart out in a locker room with his former team. We are introduced to Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) quietly contemplating something on a plane. We are introduced to them as friends, partners through all this and right from the start, you can understand that their loyalty to one another is steadfast.
We are introduced to the absolute boss that is Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) in her gorgeous office, but we’re also notified of the fact that she’s now getting a divorce because her husband has notoriously cheated on her while everyone knew and kept it hidden. She fires a grossly misogynistic “twat” (her words, not mine), right in front of our eyes, and it becomes clear in that moment that she’s the kind of person who commands respect.
We are introduced to Keeley Jones (Juno Temple) as a bubbly, extrovert who appears to just be Jamie Tartt’s (Phil Dunster) girlfriend, and this might just be my favorite of the introductions because no one on this show surprises you more than Keeley. And it’s largely due to the fact that writers in the past haven’t written women as multifaceted as she is. If she’s introduced to the audience as a popular, pretty girl, so often she’s written as nothing more when ultimately, women like Keeley are so layered and so kind, they are everything. Schitt’s Creek also mastered this with Alexis Rose, and in a perfect crossover world, these two would have been best friends. (It’s not too late, can we make this happen?)
Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) gives one heck of a side-eye and it’s game over from there. Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh) smiles and we already love him. Higgins (Jeremy Swift), and even Trent Crimm (James Lance) get an intricate introduction.
The character introductions tell us that this show is going to tell their stories distinctly, and it’s going to let them get in the driver’s seat from this moment on.
Tea Time and the Lasso Way
Potential and possibilities as the Pilot’s theme show us that even though we’re given a bombshell of an ending with Rebecca vocalizing that she wants to watch AFC Richmond burn to the ground, in defending Ted in front of the press, she reveals who she truly is as a person.
Rebecca Welton is a complicated woman who’s been through a terrible ordeal, and in spite of all her rage and the darkness brewing inside, for the first time, she’s asked ‘how she’s doing’ by someone she’s just met. That’s what starts this journey between the two of them because while she initially hires Ted as a gambit of failure, in that moment Waddingham shows the audience that Rebecca is sincerely stunned by this moment of kindness.
She is stunned by the detail that someone is asking her how she feels, and they are being genuine about it. Thus, when he’s ambushed and humiliated, in spite of the fact that she wants to watch it all burn to flames, she defends him because that’s who Rebecca Welton is at her core. She is a good person who’s doing something terrible because she feels betrayed, broken, and worn down.
Innate benevolence has a way of shining through even if it wasn’t intended to, and Rebecca standing up for Ted after the humiliating press conference gives him a moment to not feel as terribly. And it’s what we start to later see is the very reason why it’s so hard for Rebecca to follow through with her plan because she starts to realize that these small moments of grace were in fact, as good as they were in the moment they took place in.
The Crooked Sign, The Straightforward Message
Potential and possibilities equate to belief, and the one thing I really wish this show didn’t do is straighten the crooked “believe” sign. It was in fact, better that way and Keeley Jones would agree.
If there is one thing we gain with extreme certainty from the Pilot episode of Ted Lasso it is that on top of potential and possibilities, this is a show about transparency. Ted’s benevolence is one thing, his transparency is another. His kindness isn’t a faux charade either because the man admits to hating tea—he isn’t here to impress anyone, he’s just genuinely that good.
And this transparency continues to be a running theme all throughout the season because even when we don’t get certain emotions said out loud, we are shown the details through distinctive expressions and body language.
Right from the start we are shown just how much divorce has weighed on Rebecca, and we are shown how much this space from his wife is wounding Ted. We are shown that Roy Kent harbors a lot more than he lets on, and we are shown that there is a lot of potential no one has allowed Nate (Nick Mohammed) to explore. And as a Pilot, it promises that this is only the beginning of possibilities.
Ted Talks and Further Thoughts
- I did not ship Keeley and Jamie from the very first episode, and I’m glad they prove that they aren’t meant for each other.
- Brett Goldstein wears such hollowness in Roy’s eyes in this episode that it’s astonishing to see how far the character comes once he starts to let vulnerability and love into his life.
- Ted’s initial kindness to Nate from right the start is so refreshing (and also heartbreaking).
- The montage of the press hounding Ted is such a riveting scene because when the camera pans to Ted’s back, we not only get his point of view of what’s happening, but it immerses us into his head and shows us that he’s someone who suffers from anxiety. It’s something that especially becomes obvious after episode seven, but it was there right from the start and the show’s effort to reveal it to us early on was an A+ move.
- Rebecca pronounces it right, it’s GIF, not JIF.
- The first shot of Ted and Coach Beard walking into the locker room is so memorable and hits evocatively from the start.
- I LOVE THIS SHOW’S OPENING THEME.
- Also really appreciate Ted and Beard rearranging the office to make it homier.
- Ted covering up Keeley’s pictures was such a sweet showcase of the fact that this man is genuinely and purely for everyone’s wellbeing.
- I too would spit out sparkling water if someone gave it to me instead of still water. I feel you, Ted.
What are your thoughts on Ted Lasso’s Pilot episode?