There’s an old trope in television that the second season of a show is doomed to flop. Of course, this flop is never intentional. Instead, writers often pilot their better material and character arcs in hope of not getting cancelled by the network. If the shows get traction, there can be a felt need to backtrack in the second season and betray the very nature of their characters in order to make room (and money) for future seasons. Friday Night Lights, Mr. Robot, and even The Wire all lost their luster in season two.
If the trope is true, then if the second season of a show you love passes muster, we are often filled with a surprising sense of relief (see: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Crown). But if the second season somehow transcends the first, we’ve encountered something truly worth talking about.
Ted Lasso has (miraculously?) bucked the trend to become that latter beacon of hope.
Season one caught us off guard during the worst year in recent memory. In our burdensome era of complaining and outrage, which was only accelerated and magnified during a global pandemic and the 2020 presidential election, the show was dropped into our locked down living rooms and became one of the few sanctuaries to breathe the fresh air of grace. The writers gave us several, emotionally persuasive pictures of one-way love toward undeserving human beings.
Critics deemed the show a shining light of kindness and decency and a triumph of can-do optimism. Coach Lasso became a role model, a counterpoint to toxic masculinity. For many, the show promised that if we can only embody the resilience and grace of Ted, then we will finally breeze through life’s many challenges and hurdles like we’ve always imagined (even professional coaches are joining in our folly). This portrait of grace became an aspirational ideal.
We are afflicted with the belief that we can heal ourselves. This is why we love what theologians label “the law” – the prospect of self-improvement by gaining more knowledge.
The only and main problem is, the law doesn’t work. The time between season one’s release and season two has shown us that none of us actually are Ted Lasso in our nine-to-fives. Rather than laugh at ourselves with the crowd, forgive the ones who wrong us, and celebrate the names of the janitors, we defend our decisions until we’re out of breath and nurse our bitterness towards others. More often than we care to admit, we resemble “Led Tasso,” Ted’s neurotic split personality.
But then along comes season two.
Now, in order to leave the magic of this season untarnished for first time viewers, we can broadly say that the second season shows us in bright, brilliant colors that we are, in fact, not ok. We all suffer from an inability to love those we care about most, little-man syndrome, known and unknown father wounds, or neglect.
And in addition to bundling your favorite rom-coms into an episode about how love motivates, persuades, and influences our decisions more than logic, the whole second season resembles the mystery of the gospel, that the way up is down. Joy is found through confession, strength arises through vulnerability, and life springs forth from what feels like death.
Roy Kent’s path is paved by several deaths to his self-protected tough-guy image. His rage and militant independence can only be undone through the crucible of self-awareness. It’s coming to terms with the wake he is leaving behind that opens his eyes, and his relationships with Phoebe and Keely respectively reveal the dark parts of Roy Kent that are being brought to an end.
Ted’s own not-ok-ness is disclosed in new ways this time around, seen in particular through his fidgety exchanges with the team therapist, Dr. Sharon Fieldstone. After watching Ted blame, hide, and humor his way out of confronting the unfunny, painful parts of who he is, Fieldstone says to Ted and (ultimately all of us) “the truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off.” The truth harms before it heals. The order of operations is significant.
Season one gave us an ideal version of who we ought to be, while season two is showing us our need for the type of healing that addresses our unseen selves.
This “two-season” story is beginning to resemble the Bible’s own two testament narrative. Like Ted Lasso, God’s second season wasn’t a betrayal of the first, but a deepening of its themes in new directions.
Far from flopping, season two (i.e. the New Testament) consists of God’s best material. On the other side of Jesus’ cross and resurrection, our little “d” deaths through the hard, frustrating parts of confronting ourselves and lives are the only true pathway to healing. We do not become who we ought to be by grit and smiling determination, but by admitting who we actually are. Deeply flawed, and wounded — yet loved to hell and back by the Truth who put on human flesh to bleed for us. By his wounds, we are healed.
God’s second round of wine at the party exceeds the first, leaving everyone both dumbfounded with surprise and satisfaction. The second season of God’s story reveals how life has always been cruciform. It may not have been what anyone expected, but it was precisely the plot twist we needed.
This post originally appeared on mbird.com