“Man City” Spoilers Ahead
Deep breaths, greyhounds. Ted Lasso’s “Man City” might just be one of the most emotional 45 or so minutes on TV right now. “Man City” writer Jamie Lee has also written another breathtaking episode, “For the Children,” and the ways in which the two connect, along with the number of questions that are answered is in short, brilliant. This is also the episode where music communicates so meticulously, it results in one gut punch after another.
“Man City”emphatically takes our core characters deeper into the metaphorical forest and forces them to take shots in the darks for the advancement they’ll need in finding a way out. It continues to cement the thematic importance of self-care by emphasizing that there is not a single person in this world who isn’t in need of guidance. It explores just how difficult vulnerability is, and it continues to show the actuality behind what therapy can achieve.
Finally, the emblematic use of David versus Goliath is colossal in highlighting the hopeful promise, which hints that though they’ll likely fall fast and hard, these characters are going to win in the end. They have what it takes, their monsters cannot stay reigning all throughout. When their win comes to pass, it’ll mark the completion in the fight of their lives.
Man City vs. The Man
It was evident that we’d see Jamie’s father return at some point, but I wasn’t expecting it quite yet. However, it makes all the more sense that he would return now and that this time, his derogatory behavior would be openly confronted. This was Phil Dunster’s moment to dig deep into the harrowing depths within Jamie Tartt, and good Lord, does he accomplish the task pristinely.
There is a lot of content on Ted Lasso that’s so realistically portrayed, it’s hard to watch at times, and this is one of those moments where it’s so painful, it’s easy to be rendered speechless (much like the entire team’s loss of words vividly exposes the depth of this calamitous outcome). Losing the game is one thing, but much like in “The Hope That Kills You,” there’s solace in the idea of being sad together. This is something they’re tragically used to. They could have gotten through this. But what do you say when you watch your teammate and friend’s demons all brought to shore by another broken man? How do you find ways to properly marinate in that type of sadness together?
But before we get into that, we need to address where it all begins—the abuse, and Jamie Tartt’s almost childlike desire to connect with other people. Jamie’s acute loneliness isn’t a new development—we’ve watched him bury parts of himself long before this in order to keep his walls up, but it’s often been painfully clear that more than anything, all he has wanted is to connect with people. When given the opportunity and chance to be transparent, he will be. And it’s admirable just how vulnerable he’s capable of being because the softness he has tucked away in order to impress his father is the very softness that sets him free. We see that tinge of vulnerability it through his confession to Roy in “For the Children,” we see it in his subtle sacrifice during the curse breaking ceremony in “Two Aces,” and we see it for a moment with Ted in “Lavender.”
More than anything, all Jamie Tartt has wanted is the safe space to feel like he belongs somewhere—like he isn’t alone in his darkness and the pain. And it’s so fascinating to see how much of that has manifested in his behavior with the team because he’s an equal to them now—he isn’t above or beneath, but they are one. We catch a stunning glimpse of it during Isaac and Sam’s extraordinary haircut spectacle when he shuts Jan Maas up because he doesn’t understand the point in all this. We then catch a glimpse of it when he asks Higgins if he’s close to his father.
Jamie Tartt is trying, really and truly. This search to find an answer almost, a reason for why this is his life as opposed to how supportive Sam’s father is with him is a direct result of the paralyzing loneliness that’s been a growing monster within.
This need for profound connections is something that Ted Lasso achieves so beautifully, it’s why the series is so beloved to us viewers as well. Because it’s these very connections that reveal that we are not alone in our brokenness—it touches on the detail that we’re all searching for ways in which our broken pieces can connect to others for something even lovelier than what is in front of us. And thereby, Jamie has been searching for this all throughout the season.
He seeks and he quietly bears it all, but there is only so much a single person could take before they crack. Something which Phil Dunster has been showing us since Jamie’s return by chipping away at the walls and darkness. We knew something prodigiously shifting was coming for him, and the locker room is that moment—the inability to take much more, the decision to step up.
There is no way to possibly imagine what he must be feeling, no way for someone like me to even try putting myself in his shoes, and while no one knows what to do after Beard kicks his father out, Roy Kent knows what it’s like to be embraced in a moment of sheer vulnerability.
I’ve cried a lot while watching Ted Lasso—I’m sure many of us have, but the guttural sob I let out during this scene wasn’t something I ever expected this show to put us through, and what a memorable scene it has resulted in. Everything that is represented in this moment is a direct testament to the healing that is found in shared pain—the inexpressible power of an embrace.
George Harrison’s “Beware of Darkness” playing at this very moment is the perfect song choice. And though Jamie can’t hear this, only we can, it’s the representation of just how much this moment will have a lasting impression on him. Roy Kent isn’t just his coach or his former teammate, but once upon a time, much like George Harrison, Roy Kent was his idol, and today, he is his strength.
It’s the way that Roy grips him closer ever so slightly right before Jamie puts his arms around him as if to wordlessly say, it’s okay you’re safe broke me. And then there’s the following moment as Jamie’s tears start to get louder where Roy unclenches his fist to fully touch his back as if to further enunciate the fact that he’s got him was so achingly breathtaking.
Where Keeley was once the physical and emotional strength that Roy needed to break free from the confines his darkness had him in, he is using what he’s learned in order to be that safe space for Jamie. Where words fail, where there are none, a physical touch or an embrace can profoundly convey just what the person needs to understand. This has broken Jamie in a way that nothing ever has before, he’s seen goodness in Ted, he’s found somewhat of a comfort with the team, but this moment is something that Jamie Tartt is going to carry with him for the rest of his life.
A dark cloud had fallen heavily over him, alone and completely broken as he stood there shaking, an immense bridge collapsed in his path, and he was reminded that he could breathe again—really and truly. Where his father terrorized him, where softness was once again deemed a weakness, Roy Kent was there to remind Jamie Tartt that he is going to be okay. For a moment, Jamie Tartt could be free from the shackles that have barred and terrorized him.
The way Jamie clenches on to Roy shattered me—Phil Dunster and Brett Goldstein are always sublime when the characters are at each other’s throats, but to exhibit this level of pain and trauma and rely on one another as scene partners created something so utterly compelling, I’ve yet to recover. You felt every ounce of Jamie’s pain, and you felt every ounce of Roy’s sorrow in witnessing such a collapse.
A hearty kudos once more to Ted Lasso as a series for allowing men moments of groundbreaking vulnerability like this. A pat on the back, a nod, a few words. We’ve seen those moments in fiction before, we’ve even seen them in private before, but something like this, smack dab in the middle of a men’s locker room with everyone watching is just breathtaking. We watched two extremely masculine men who’ve constantly belittled one another be given the chance to let their walls down in a moment of vulnerability that overtly touched on the importance of shared pain and its healing capabilities.
Where Jamie Tartt will go from here, how he’ll cope and how he’ll overcome it all is still unknown, but he is no longer walking the road of darkness by himself. Whatever he needs to beware of, whatever’s lurking in his path, he’s got a team beside him now. Jamie might not have understood the importance of Ted’s choice to bestow him with a Toy Soldier after witnessing his father’s rage in “The Hope That Kills You,”but today, he knows with full conviction, that passing the ball was his saving grace that day. He can be certain of this because today, he isn’t alone in his sadness like he was then, an army of soldiers surround him now.
The Healthy Male Figure
“Man City” focuses intently on what it means to be an older male figure in someone’s life. Whether that’s a father, an uncle or a coach, the impact these people have is immense, and their role is crucial in shaping one or more people. Roy Kent is starting to be that figure for Jamie, but before that, his influence on Phoebe proves to be instrumental in shaping his character. So much of his softness comes from the role he has taken on in her life since her father is absent. And that role at times has consequences, which are also addressed in “Man City.” He gets called to Phoebe’s school because she’s been swearing and after the fifth offense, she is suspended.
The conversation Roy has with Phoebe isn’t an easy one because he admits that he’s terrified the bad parts of him have been infecting her. (A fascinating word choice.) And my goodness can we talk about Elodie Blomfield’s performance in that moment? She holds her own so brilliantly with Brett Goldstein, it makes the scene is a marvel to watch. Phoebe states that she’s as good as the best parts of him, and she can achieve all her goals without cursing. And it’s such a riveting moment that paints the importance of having conversations about the things that matter.
Would the Roy Kent we met back in the first few episodes of season one be able to have such a moment of vulnerability? Probably not. But the truth is, he’s grown immensely, and she’s a large part of his growth—caring for this kid and doing the best he can to set a great example has been a goal of his. And though he can’t control his foul mouth, his influence is the reason why she stands up to bullies, and simultaneously, why she forgives those who’ve bullied her. His influence is better than most, and it’s entirely due to the fact that Roy has so much love for her, it surpasses everything.
Issues on Ted Lasso as we see closely in “Man City” are stemmed from the absence of love. Because where that love exists, however imperfect, it’s still everything. It’s monumental in how it inspires. And even though Ted has demons he’s battling because of what his father has done, he too was exposed to a type of colossal love that shaped him to be a better, stronger person because of it. If Jamie had more love, he wouldn’t be dwelling in the darkness he’s a part of.
So much of this conversation and this moment with Phoebe is what we can decipher prompts Roy to use the best parts of him to help someone else who’s been broken by their father too.
Vulnerability and The Truth
“Man City” essentially opens up with the excavation of vulnerability as we hear Sharon talking to her therapist, Bridget. Over the phone we hear that Bridget believes Sharon and Ted are actually fairly similar because they’re both afraid of letting their guards down and being vulnerable. In the same way that Ted deflects with humor, Sharon uses her intelligence, and it’s one again, a stunning decision to show the audience that Sharon is also trying to get the help that she needs.
She is advised then to meet Ted halfway in order to potentially make his journey through therapy easier as well. She agrees, but as she’s on her way to work, she’s hit by a car. She’d left Ted multiple voice memos, which means he has gone to the hospital to pick her up.
Back in Sharon’s apartment there’s an interesting show of empty alcohol bottles to pose the question of how she’s coping with what she’s dealing with and whether it’s done properly or not. And in an episode where we were given one adult who’s very obviously a drunk as opposed to one who might imbibe a few times, it’ll be fascinating to see it if it comes around again.
Sharon does open up to Ted however when she states that for a moment, she was afraid of getting back on the bike again. “Man City” is the episode that doesn’t sugarcoat or force anyone to read between the lines—it’s the episode that lays everything overtly bare, and thus, Sharon saying the words I was scared today holds colossal power. It not only allows Ted to see just how human she truly is, but it allows him to connect with her. It allows him to understand that they are more alike in this matter, and when such connections are drawn, it makes vulnerability that much easier.
And we see the direct aftermath of it when Ted tells the Diamond Dogs the truth about what really happened to him in “The Signal.” After Beard notices his breathing exercises and asks if he’s okay, he tells them that he’s been having panic attacks from time to time. He tells them he’s working on it, and the moment of silence they have, followed by each of them confessing something makes for a riveting turn of events. And more than anything, this open doors for the coaching staff to feel safe with one another to admit when things aren’t okay or if there is something they need from each other. It further emphasizes the notion that creating a safe environment from the top can have mammoth impact on the teammates as well. (Also, there’s the fascinating detail about the team not asking each other for details, but giving them the safe space to open up when they’re ready that we see in the beginning of the episode.)
This is the kind of moment that needs no further explanation, and yet, I’d be remiss not to mention the amount of heart each of the men brought to the scene. The warmth and support in their expressions spoke so loudly on behalf the message this show is trying to get across with the importance of a healthy community. They don’t have to do anything for Ted really, but their show of support is enough, it’s everything—their acceptance, the refusal to judge, and the quiet pat on his back by Beard is enough. (Followed by not knowing how to tell Ted he drinks tea now.)
And then finally comes the moment of the truth—the sadness Ted’s been harboring longer than most, the heartache that’s broken and shaped his entire character. After watching Jamie’s father torment him and Roy hold him together, Ted leaves the locker room to tearfully tell Sharon that his father took his own life when he was sixteen. When you look back at “my father was a lot harder on himself” in “Lavender,” the puzzle starts to piece together. Jason Sudeikis’ heart crushing reveal broke me. He doesn’t say it because he’s sure she can help him, but perhaps because sharing pain can be healing.
He doesn’t want to talk just yet, but he needed to tell her. Whatever the details, healing is in Ted’s future. It’ll help him deal with the grief he likely hasn’t dealt with.
The Reveal | The Date | The Decision
For the most part, Sam Obisanya is having a pretty amazing week. (And deserving it if I may add.) His father calls him to let him know that Cerithium Oil is no longer operating in Nigeria and it’s largely due to this campaign. He vocalizes being proud of son, and the good mood prompts Sam to set a date to his mystery woman who’s yet to respond. Rebecca agrees.
And then…they meet. Rebecca is astonished at first, comments on his age, the detail that she is his boss, but Sam convinces her that at the very least they could still have dinner since they’re both here and likely hungry. There’s a gorgeous montage that plays here, but we have to address the elephant in the room before anything else.
They’re absolutely precious. They’re both aces. Seriously, I could not love each of them more as individual characters if I tried. But the age difference for one is tremendous, and in the same way that I’d be deeply uncomfortable with this outcome if the roles were reversed and it was a man with a younger woman, I’m just as a uncomfortable with an older woman and a younger man. He’s only 21. If Sam was in his early 30s at least, maybe, maybe even late 20s, I’d feel a little bit better about it, but his life experience compared to hers differs significantly as well. And not to mention the power imbalance with her being his boss. It’s icky, friends. I’m not going to pretend to be okay with it when I’m not.
Yes, they are two legally consenting adults, yes this also serves as a big fat f-you to anyone who ever called her “old Rebecca,” but if this is going to work in the long run, if this is truly the endgame relationship for the two of them then sadly, one of them has to leave the team. At some point, I suppose I can maybe let the age thing slide if the power imbalance weren’t there either, but something tells me that though this will end, it’ll serve as the reminder that trying matters.
As Sam states during the press conference, they tried their best, and they’d regret not trying, which I appreciate greatly from a storytelling standpoint because this is as much about them as it is about the team. They’re going to try. I imagine they’ll keep it a secret for a while as they wouldn’t want to notify HR about it. And thus, maybe (likely with this show and as the events throughout “Man City” prove), they’ll give their best and they’ll be better for it. They’ll help each other grow. There’s a strong chance of that happening and it’s something that diving deep into will bring a lot out onto the surface.
“Man City” is an episode that’s out for blood, in more ways than one, and another factor that weighs in on this is the music used. I was already wrecked, my tear ducts were basically dried up because of how hard I had sobbed, and then Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger” started playing to prove that apparently, I can still sob for another few hours. Anytime this song has been used, it makes the scene that much more memorable (and surprisingly, uplifting) which is what we needed after Ted’s confession.
The gait into the dark forest must continue—there’s no way out the way these characters have come in, there is only the matter of coming out on the other side. And the song could not be a more gorgeous form of advancement in encompassing the emotions that they’ll have to overcome. Anger, resentment, pain, grief, they’ve all marinated in them for far too long. In both the game, and in their real lives, it’s one thing to use it when necessary, but it’s another to view one’s own past through jaded lenses. It happened. It needs to be undone.
We’ve got four more episodes left and I keep thinking about Empire Strikes Back—the big reveals, the uncertainties, the pain and everything necessary to create the kind of comfort that is Return of the Jedi. This loss against Man City is more devastating that the game that got them relegated, four wins is one thing, but a loss at this caliber can have unimaginably detrimental impact on the psyche, their headspaces, and everything in between that comes in the form of a rupture.
Ted Talks and Further Thoughts
- I want to know more about what Beard and Roy’s staring contest was all about. And the fact that neither of them respond to Keeley about a coach’s branding opportunity followed by: “I respect that we didn’t have to say a word.” “She gets us.”
- Speaking of Beard, where exactly is he going to do to shake this off? It sounds like something we should worry about especially with Ted reminding him that coffee is on him tomorrow morning.
- Colin choking because Jamie didn’t spot him properly should not have been funny and yet here we are. And then the same thing happening with Isaac. Poor dude. “Why didn’t you say anything?” “It was on my neck.”
- I want to see Isaac give everyone their ‘once a season’ haircut. It’s what we deserve after the pain “Man City” inflicted. It’s art we deserve to watch constantly.
- “Thank God for science!” Yes, Ted. Agreed.
- Also, Ted’s inability to grasp the concept of free health care because America sucks is a big mood.
- The doctor confusing Sharon and Ted for a married couple brings me back to The Prince of Tides as mentioned in “Headspace.” Could the same type of fleeting romance develop here too? Time will tell.
- Jamie yelling in Wembley to hear the echo—what a scene.
- I also did not know this wasn’t the same Wembley Queen performed at during Live Aid. Bummer.
- Keeley FaceTiming Rebecca then saying “you look so beautiful I can’t bear it” is a whole mood.
- Higgins is still floating around but it seems he’s found a spot in the Janitor’s closet for an office.
- Beard throwing his hat then falling over. Also a mood.
- “F NO!” He tried. A for effort.
- “I don’t get how that works, what you treat them in the woods and no one pays for it. you know what doesn’t matter.”
- “Loving Is Easy” by Rex Orange County is also a great song.
What are your thoughts on Ted Lasso’s “Man City?”