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Best of 2021: Ted Lasso Special

Best of 2021 Ted Lasso Season 2 Spoilers Ahead

Ted Lasso was 2020’s unexpected treasure, but in its second season, it’s something else entirely—a series that gets better as it strives to focus on its characters, their relationships, and the overarching theme of belief that continues to instill hope in its viewers through superb writing and directing. And so, when it comes to the Best of 2021—it’s impossible to choose a single character, performer, relationship, and episode from Ted Lasso Season 2. (Believe me, I tried.)

Ted Lasso triumphs in its second season; thus, the kind of astounding growth we see for all characters happens to be a rarity on television still. There’s a reason they nearly swept the Emmys, and there’s a reason why almost every actor is now award-nominated and will continue to be. Ted Lasso, in its entirety, is the Best of 2021 in how it’s been like a healing balm for us all. It took us through the dark forest with compelling, closely relatable storylines and though we aren’t entirely free yet, it promises we’ll get there in a way that’s certainly going to be rewarding. We’ve all needed this show, and we might never stop needing the hope it ceaselessly leaves us with.

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Performances

1. Jason Sudeikis

Jason Sudeikis in Ted Lasso Season 2 Best of 2021
©Apple TV+

Jason Sudeikis is remarkable during the first season, but his work in Ted Lasso Season 2 is a true marvel to watch. As we dig deeper into Ted’s psyche and watch him explore his trauma through therapy (hesitations and all), Sudeikis shows us every ounce of the pain that’s long-broken and molded our hero into the person he is today. Where the scene calls for heartache, Sudeikis gives everything to embody the emotions organically. He escapes so indescribably into the role that words fail to convey what he’s done in creating a sense of catharsis for so many viewers.

The full range of emotions at any given moment, the subtle bouts of pain that glisten in his eyes even when Ted pretends he’s okay, every tear that was shed, and every subtle change in his physicality. We could sit here for hours trying to excavate the insurmountable work Jason Sudeikis has done in Ted Lasso Season 2, but we’d be here all day because it’s that phenomenal. A standout, indescribable performance through and through, and without question, the best of 2021. 

2. Brett Goldstein

Brett Goldstein in Ted Lasso Season 2 "Rainbow" Best of 2021
©Apple TV+

Ted Lasso Season 2 gives Brett Goldstein plenty of room to showcase the intricacies of his character, and he does so with the kind of brilliant subtlety that’s always a splendor to watch. Goldstein’s strength lies in the small details. It’s like a quiet demand that we pay attention to Roy Kent’s every move, but it’s not necessarily through the gruff cursing or the overtly visible guttural frustrations. Still, beyond those intrinsically established character traits, it’s the quiet moments where each of his facial expressions, and the ever-so-slight changes in his physicality, act as the signs of carefully layered embodiment worthy of analysis. 

Whether it’s the wide range of emotions he masterfully brings to life in “Rainbow” or the perplexing uncertainties in “Midnight Train to Royston” and “Inverting the Pyramid of Success,”—every curse word, every vulnerable declaration extends beyond the spoken words. Goldstein meticulously shows the audience so much of what is constantly brewing inside Roy with the right shades of emotion every single time. If this season proves anything, it’s that there’s nothing and no emotion Brett Goldstein can’t dominate.

3. Nick Mohammad

Nick Mohammad in Ted Lasso Season 2 Best of 2021
©Apple TV+

Nick Mohammad as a performer is the clear standout during Ted Lasso Season 2, and undeniably deserves all the accolades during the 2022 awards season. So much of the reason the betrayal from Nate hurts as much as it does is because Mohammad is a top-notch performer who’s made us adore the character in Season 1, only for Nate’s actions to rip the rug out from right underneath us in Season 2. Mohammad does such a brilliant job showcasing Nate’s transformations throughout the season that it’s only after you’ve re-watched following the finale where you truly see how much of Nate’s inner emotions he’s providing.

Nathan Shelley is a complex character, and for such, the role demands an astute actor to deliver the changes without any form of over-acting. Mohammad thus nails the task at hand through the kind of embodiment that shows us complexities and emotions wrapped up in the face of a man who’s so much more than what we’ve seen. His work in “Inverting the Pyramid of Success” alone is a masterclass. This is only the beginning, and I can’t wait to see where the next season takes us. 

4. Hannah Waddingham

Hannah Waddingham in Ted Lasso Season 2 Best of 2021
©Apple TV+

Hannah Waddingham not only continues to command every scene she’s in, but during Ted Lasso Season 2, the actress does something even more unbeatable—she doubles down on what we’ve seen for the kind of performances that are hauntingly brilliant and so achingly raw, it’s impossible not to be in awe of her. The best part of this season and what equates to it being so special is the fact that each performer had the opportunity for a wide range of emotions, and they dig into those emotions with such organic vehemence it’s utterly flooring. 

Waddingham’s episode to shine is “No Weddings and a Funeral,” with the kind of magnetic performance that words fail to do justice for. She takes the words on the page that paint Rebecca’s trauma, and she brings to the surface all sorts of emotions that highlight how much heartache she’s consistently lived through brought on by her father then later Rupert. From the playful woman in the kitchen basking in the glory of a night well spent to the harrowing darkness that’s choking her from every angle, Waddingham brought to our screens something completely gut-wrenching and indescribable.

5. Brendan Hunt

Brendan Hunt in Ted Lasso Season 2
©Apple TV+

No character had the chance to carry their own episode the way Brendan Hunt does during “Beard After Hours,” and while it’s enough to showcase his fantastic range, Hunt’s performances throughout the season are a spectacle without question. As the character with the least amount of dialogue, much of what we see with Coach Beard depends on what Hunt shows us, and good Lord, does he show us plenty. If I had the time to nit-pick every look when he’s in the background, we’d have one of the most glorious essays of all time because Hunt’s abilities consistently serve as remarkable examples of what acting should look like. 

Whatever is going on inside of Beard, Hunt shows us as much as the character wants us to see, but more innately, the character has so many sides, it’s easy to imagine it makes Hunt’s job a lot of fun. Whether it’s his delighted sigh of relief in “Rainbow,” every little move in “Beard After Hours,” the faint, but burning rage in “Inverting the Pyramid of Success,” or the comedic tonal highs he goes on when needing to rhyme cobbled with the stares that pack plenty of emotions, Hunt is, in short, unparalleled. 

6. Phil Dunster

Phil Dunster in Ted Lasso Season 2
©Apple TV+

I had a feeling Jamie Tartt might us make cry this season, but I didn’t expect to be full-blown sobbing by Ted Lasso Season 2, Episode 8 “Man City.” Phil Dunster delivers one of the most extraordinary performances throughout the show’s run while simultaneously delivering some of the most hilarious lines such as “God bless me, everyone” and “Philistines! I’m asking for help here.” 

So much of what we’ve seen in Ted Lasso Season 2 has been a culmination of the subtle work in Season 1 to bring the character here today, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. Jamie Tartt is actively trying this year, and Phil Dunster rises with every opportunity to showcase the types of memorable and evocative emotions. The evident growth with Jamie’s character allows Dunster to explore various sides of the character, who’s always been tremendously complex and riveting. In doing so, Dunster gives his all in the kind of moment that merits ample praise and accolades.

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Characters

1. Ted Lasso

Jason Sudeikis in Ted Lasso Season 2
©Apple TV+

If I loved Ted Lasso less, I might be able to talk about him more. Remember when we all thought Season 1 pushed the man too hard, and then Season 2 happened, proving that we had seen nothing yet? (Please let him be happy in Season 3. My tear ducts are tired!) This year, the series decided to remind us of life’s most cruel facts—the detail that those who are the most kind have often seen the most darkness. It’s a reminder that the optimism that’s an infectious joy for us all is more often than not a coping mechanism for those hurting the hardest. And, most importantly, it’s a reminder that Ted’s kindness is a choice. 

Ted Lasso continues to stand as the shining example of the fact that people aren’t born kind or optimistic, but they wake up every morning choosing to believe that today could be better than yesterday. They wake up every morning putting one foot in front of the other when it’s too hard to even dart in the mirror, and they decide to look a little deeper into someone else to see if there’s any way they could be of use to them. Ted Lasso chooses kindness every day because he carries tremendous guilt, heartaches, and an ocean full of love in his heart. And when life pushed him close to the edge this year, Ted needed to learn that helping himself takes priority before he could help others. He needed to choose to open up, and he needed to choose to forgive, showing that the difficult decisions are so often the most healthy ones, and people can always surprise us if we allow them to.

2. Rebecca Welton

Hannah Waddingham in Ted Lasso Season 2
©Apple TV+

Rebecca Welton defines character development. The woman we meet in the Pilot and the woman we leave behind in Ted Lasso Season 2 is a woman who’s decided to trust even though she might break in the process. She is a woman who’s taken chances and a woman who’s trying her hardest to be better than she was yesterday. And more importantly, she’s a woman who’s still deeply flawed because growth doesn’t happen overnight.

Rebecca Welton made difficult decisions in Ted Lasso Season 2, she made amends, and she has shown that though she appears collected on the outside, she’s grounded in the same kind of aches so many women are. She is a woman who’s opened the door to vulnerability even though pain could have followed, and she’s standing in front of her demons, ready to trample them with the kindness she’s now using as hope. She is a woman who’s done everything she can to make matters right both within her and outside in the world where she could control. 

3. Roy Kent

Brett Goldstein in Ted Lasso Season 2
©Apple TV+

People love Roy Kent with the intensity they do because, in Keeley Jones’ words, vulnerability is sexy. Men who embody society’s definition of “tough” yet possess heart and kindness are to be adored because there’s something tremendously admirable about this duality that serves as a solid f—k you to toxic masculinity. Roy Kent stands as concrete proof of the fact that vulnerability is a strength, never a weakness. He could (and should) single-handedly inspire all men to leave the patriarchy to the past and move on towards a better, more inclusive future. 

Ted Lasso Season 2 allows Roy Kent to explore who he wants to be outside of the pitch, and the fact that we get to see the transitions along with his struggles is part of the reason the year has been so great for him. It’s never easy to end a career, but taking the chances needed to fight through the battleground without ever losing oneself is a commendable victory.

4. Keeley Jones

Juno Temple in Ted Lasso Season 2
©Apple TV+

We can never have too much Keeley Jones, and my one hope is to get more development with the character in Season 3 because everything we’ve seen thus far showcases what a treasure she is in every way. There is nothing Keeley wouldn’t do to see another person rise to their highest potential, and there is nothing she wouldn’t do to encourage them to keep going. However, Ted Lasso Season 2 does something extraordinary by allowing us to see her insecurities and the natural, human fears that arise when people are supposed to show the world who they truly are. 

Seeing this side of Keeley permits viewers to understand that even those who seemingly have it all together feel the pangs of anxiety and the weight of darkness trickling down on them when the potential for them to do something bigger rises. It’s especially the case with women, and it’s a fascinating side to explore because both her confidence and her insecurities are natural. Thus, Keeley is a shining example of hard work and passion, proving that a person could go far if they’re deserving of it. She is proof that innate goodness and immeasurable love work wonders. She is sunshine personified, and we knew this from the first season, but Ted Lasso Season 2 takes it one step further by adding organic complexities that fully flesh her out as a character even more.

5. Sam Obisanya

Toheeb Jimoh in Ted Lasso Season 2
©Apple TV+

One of the most surprising details in Ted Lasso Season 2 is the amount of development we got to see with Sam Obisanya, which resulted in some exquisite performances from Toheeb Jimoh that showcased his range beautifully. Sam Obisanya is the male embodiment of human sunshine with so much goodness pouring out of him it’s a sight to behold every time he’s on our screens. But more than anything, we got to learn things about him that made him that much more memorable. 

Sam Obisanya takes the crown for the kind of character who’s so easy to adore because not only does he wear his heart on his sleeve, but he stands his ground where need be in a lively manner. We watched him go from a boy wanting to make his parents proud to a man taking risks and later opening a Nigerian restaurant to feel closer to home. The layers and details that make Sam such a fascinating character come from the fact that his kindness directly results from the love he’s received and the love he gives. Proving that more than anything, compassion doesn’t just fuel the person in front of you, but it does something special within as well. 

6. Jamie Tartt

Phil Dunster in Ted Lasso Season 2 Best of 2021
©Apple TV+

The fact that Ted Lasso Season 2 gives us the growth we’ve been itching for with Jamie Tartt is an incredible thing because it’s both an organic transition, and the kind of treat that allows us the opportunity to get to know him for a little bit longer than the .05 seconds we would’ve gotten if this was any other TV show. Redemption and character development isn’t a difficult facet of storytelling. Still, you’d think it is by the detail that we seem to only get glimmers of it at the very end of something rather than in the middle. 

However, in the same way that we got to see Rebecca Welton’s transition from the character we meet in the Pilot, in Jamie Tartt, we get to the root of the issue by bringing him face to face with his father in the kind of scene that authenticates precisely why he is the way that he is. But more than anything, we see Jamie’s growth through quiet, faint moments of effort that make his more colossal spectacles that much more amazing. This season gives Jamie Tartt plenty of little moments to showcase that he’s cared profoundly all along, and his efforts are entirely what makes him one of the best characters of 2021.

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Episodes

2×05 “Rainbow”
Written by: Bill Wrubel

Episode still from Ted Lasso Season 2 "Rainbow"
©Apple TV+

Rainbow” isn’t just my favorite episode of the year, but after countless viewings and having the same joyous reaction every time, I’m now confident that it’s one of my all-time favorite episodes of any TV show—ever. As an homage to romantic comedies and the kind of episode that thematically showcases Ted Lasso’s overarching theme, “Rainbow” is the kind of episode that encompasses so much joy, it’s impossible not to love it entirely. 

As said in the full-episode review: The happy ending doesn’t disqualify or dim the fire of the darkness by spreading false hope, but it authenticates the fact that darkness isn’t meant to be a lasting feeling. We could marinate it for a while, but at some point, we’ve got to pick ourselves up and make the conscious choice to do something about finding a way out of the forest. It reveals the strength that human beings are bestowed with and the actuality that rainbows are a sign of endurance. As an episode that brilliantly frames Roy Kent’s homecoming around the rest of the team’s unparalleled joy in the return of hope, “Rainbow” stands as a genuinely perfect episode. 

2×12 “Inverting the Pyramid of Success”
Written by: Jason Sudeikis and Joe Kelly

Episode still Ted Lasso Season 2 "Inverting the Pyramid of Success"
©Apple TV+

It’s hard not to compare season finales sometimes, but the ways in which “The Hope That Kills You” and “Inverting the Pyramid of Success” play off one another are so fascinating to consider. The more time I’ve had to think about the Ted Lasso Season 2 finale, the more it’s evident that the series did something exceptional with the kind of ending that leaves us wanting more while still so satisfied. 

The best part of the finale is the acute balance between moments that make us feel profoundly uncomfortable and so utterly hopeful. It’s the kind of episode that’s full of exemplary performances and engaging, quite literally breathtaking moments. It’s a finale does a superlative job of paralleling the first episode of the season in the best way that organically touches on the growth the characters have gone through while still keeping storylines untouched for next season. It’s full of stunning shots worthy of framing (the featured photo, for instance), and it’s full of the kind of heart only Ted Lasso could manage amidst darker storylines.

2×03 “Do the Right-est Thing”
Written by: Ashley Nicole Black

Episode still  Ted Lasso Season 2 "Do the Right-est Thing"
©Apple TV+

Ted Lasso’s “Do the Right-est Thing” does something exceptional in its simple means of highlighting a critical cause in the world while weaving it into this sphere through stunning performances and tremendous heart. “Do the Right-est Thing” allows Sam Obisanya to shine brilliantly by giving Toheeb Jimoh the platform to enable the character to cross through stages of understanding what’s essential and necessary versus an image. Rebecca’s decision to listen and step up to Richard is thus the very showcase of how much she cares about her team and everything she is willing to do to protect him. 

It’s then Ted’s decision to give Sam the platform to speak during the press conference, to vocalize that white people don’t have to fight to get anyone’s attention when there’s a conflict they’re dealing with. It’s the little things, but it’s the big things. Ted Lasso’s “Do the Right-est Thing” is a shining example of what it means to have an engaging plot, a powerful lesson, and solid performances all wrapped up in a perfectly written episode. Ashley Nicole Black outdoes herself with every part of the writing.  

Honorable Mention: Carol of the Bells

“Carol of the Bells” is as close to a perfect holiday episode as they come. It’s beautifully vulnerable and so wholesome, it’s holds just the kind of healing power that It’s A Wonderful Life does. It’s a reminder of the fact that Christmas is about the people we spend it with, and the love we sprinkle into the world as we celebrate. And Ted Lasso’s Christmas episode is about ensuring that no one is alone.

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Relationships: (Romantic + Platonic)

Keeley Jones and Roy Kent

Roykeeley in Best of 2021 Ted Lasso Season 2
©Apple TV+

Keeley Jones and Roy Kent aren’t just the 2021 “it couple, but they’re forever the “it couple.” While usually, I’m a ship and let ship kind of gal, if you don’t ship the heck out of these two (Ted Lasso style photographic hands and all), then you’re wrong. Plainly and simply wrong. This is the one rule we must all abide by. 

In all seriousness, however, Ted Lasso Season 2 gives Roy and Keeley the kind of growth necessary to come out as a more solid pair by challenging them in such a way where they both learn that while having the other’s love and praise is a gift, it’s not the consolation to fix their crosses. There is nothing Roy and Keeley wouldn’t do for each other, but one of the best things a couple can do is give each other the freedom to become an even better version of themselves by finding the exquisite balance between space and time spent together. Keeley has been Roy’s strength for so long, and when the opportunity presented itself in “Midnight Train to Royston,” he was right there beside her, ready to be the greatest cheerleader and the beacon of hope she needed to remember that there’s nothing she can’t do when she sets her mind to it. 

Through trials both big and small, as one of the best romantic pairs of 2021, both Roy and Keeley set standards for the fact that an impeccable partner should be the person who makes you feel like you’ve been struck by f–king lighting.

Ted Lasso and Rebecca Welton

Tedbecca in Ted Lasso Season 2
©Apple TV+

Whether you want them to be together romantically or want them to stay friends, the fact remains that Ted Lasso and Rebecca Welton have one of the best relationships on television right now. The two have come so far since the people we meet in the Pilot, but more importantly, it’s the intrinsic way in which they’ve grown to understand each other that leaves us in awe. Ted and Rebecca are kindred spirits. They’re two sides of a coin, and they’re two complete halves of a whole—neither is empty without the other, but they’re significantly better and stronger after knowing each other. 

But to break it down even further, where some believe the two getting together romantically will fuel a Hollywood cliché, the truth is, they’d be a leading paradigm of what it’s like when 40+-year-old divorcees get a second chance at love. This trope is not only a rarity on TV, but it’s seldom ever done in a way that showcases a healthy, mending relationship where both parties continuously grow by virtue of the love they receive. Where neither Ted nor Rebecca was ever enough for their former partners, they’re just right for each other. There is also something to be said about how Ted Lasso Season 2 challenged both of them in ways where only the other person could understand the mammoth depth of. Whether the series allows them the chance to be together, there is no disputing that the profound connection that binds them eclipses anything the two will uncover with another person. 

Rebecca Welton and Keeley Jones

Ted Lasso Season 2 Keeley and Rebecca
©Apple TV+

When Parks and Recreation ended, I was genuinely terrified I’d never love a TV friendship between women as much as Leslie and Ann’s, but now, I’m actually certain that there will never be a female friendship that’ll make me cry as hard or make me feel as warm the way that Keeley Jones and Rebecca Welton’s does. (I hope I’m wrong about this and that Ted Lasso instead serves as a paradigm for how to write female friendships in the future.) The best of friends aren’t solely each other’s anchors, but they’re each other’s waves. They call each other out when need be, they let each other go when the time is right, and more than anything, they love each other so hard that it acts as a strength in trying times. 

Neither Rebecca nor Keeley would be the person they are today without the other’s hand holding them since that beautiful moment in “For the Children.” And in Ted Lasso Season 2 especially, the women took their friendship to new heights by reaffirming that they’ll always have a safe space to lay their head on when necessary and hands that’ll welcome them home in the face of any form of adversary. Through the good times and the bad, they prove how important it is for women to be cheerleaders to each other and never a competition. In wanting the best for another, that adoration fuels in a way that sole success could never accomplish. Shared joy and success are the foundation of this series, and this friendship is a beautiful testament to that fact.

AFC Richmond Team

AFC Richmond in Ted Lasso Season 2
©Apple TV+

The little team that stole all our hearts and ran with it. Ted Lasso Season 2 delivers some of the best, most memorable scenes with AFC Richmond as a team, and the fact that they’re all on the same page now (except maybe…Jaan Mass?) makes for a beautiful thing to witness. Nothing makes me cry like the team jumping on each other in celebration does. Where in Season 1, they were playing for the same team, in Season 2, they are a solid chosen family. 

Whether it’s everyone covering up the Dubai Air logo in solidarity with Sam, or Jamie giving his shining moment to Dani instead, nights out, or days in with Isaac giving his noteworthy haircuts, this year they’ve proven that the love and trust for one another runs deep. This year, they’ve proven that they’ll follow a captain’s lead to believe a little harder or let the coaches do what need be. But more importantly, they’ve shown that they are each capable of change and that there’s no more room for toxic masculinity left. So much so that where Roy Kent and Jamie Tartt used to butt heads, a hearty embrace now follows a headbutt. As one of the best exhibitions of a chosen family, in every way, Ted Lasso Season 2 proves that AFC Richmond is the kind of team we’re all going to remember for a long, long time. 

Ted Lasso and Coach Beard

Ted and Coach Beard in Best of 2021 Ted Lasso Season 2
©Apple TV+

Continuing to dismantle toxic masculinity by having heart-to-heart conversations, defending each other, and giving the other the safe space to unwind is one of the many reasons why Ted and Coach Beard’s friendship is top-tier. There is a lot to appreciate about their friendship, but the thing that’s easy to takeaway is the detail that there’s a brilliant, unspoken language between the two that results in the kind of healthy communication most people have yet to master with another person. 

The two of them know exactly when to say something and when to give the space necessary. In the same way that Rebecca and Keeley have established that they’re always safe with each other, that’s the case with Ted and Beard, too. Boundaries, badgering, and tremendous trust continues to strengthen the two in the kind of friendship that’s a true brotherhood. A kind of friendship that promises that more than anything, the two only want what is best for each other. 

Who were your favorite performers, characters, ships, or episodes from Ted Lasso Season 2? Let us know in the comments below.

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Gissane Sophia View All

Gissane (pronounced Geese-enny) or, as people often call her, "Goose," is a Christ fan above all and a romance enthusiast who's taken her Master's degree in English and love for essays into writing lengthy analyses about pop culture.

She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Marvelous Geeks Media and the co-host of Lady Geeks' Society Podcast. She drinks too much coffee, wants to live in a forest, and cries a lot because of her favorite characters. She's a member of The Cherry Picks and can also be found writing features for Looper.

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