Ted Lasso recognized Nate’s skills as a tactician, but a great coach would have recognized that Nate was sliding and it’s why he failed in season 2.
Despite audiences loving to hate Nathan Shelley’s heel turn this season, the Ted Lasso season 2 finale was really about Ted’s failure, not Nate’s. Ted Lasso season 2, episode 12, “Inverting the Pyramid of Success” finally brought to a head the confrontation that had been brewing all season between Nick Mohammed’s Nate and Jason Sudeikis’ Ted Lasso. Ted, however, was blindsided by the conflict that audiences had so clearly seen coming, which is actually the point.
Season 2 of the multiple Emmy Award-winning show has been a surprisingly divisive one. Viewers have expressed strong feelings about everything from the seeming lack of meaningful storylines early in the season to the bizarre conspiracy theory that Ted Lasso’s Roy Kent is a CGI construct. One of the storylines that has gotten the most focus this season, however, is that of Nate’s shocking evolution from the sweet but bullied kit man of season 1 to an arrogant, sneering bully in season 2, culminating in him betraying Ted by leaking news of his panic attack to the press before leaving AFC Richmond to coach Rupert Mannion’s (Anthony Head) newly acquired West Ham. It’s clear that Nate will be a full-blown antagonist in Ted Lasso season 3.
Nate deserves much of the hate viewers have loved to throw at him, but the blame doesn’t fall entirely on him. Ted also failed Nate as a friend and mentor, and the entire team as a coach. Nate’s outburst in the season 2 finale may have been harsh, but he wasn’t completely wrong, and the fact that Ted never saw it coming underscores that. Nate’s betrayal of Ted Lasso didn’t suddenly come out of nowhere; his gradual descent into villainy has been clearly telegraphed all season. Though Nate’s most extreme moments happened in front of Coach Beard, there were a number of times throughout season 2 that Ted and Beard exchanged silent “What was that about?” glances as Nate snapped at someone or got cocky. For example, Ted ignored a significant moment in episode 7 when Coach Beard made Nate apologize to Colin for having been cruel to him earlier. Rather than following up on it, Ted let it drop. He shouldn’t have. He should have had a one-on-one conversation about the dark turn Nate was taking far earlier, but his avoidant personality kept him from it.
The message in Ted Lasso season 2 and its ending is that Ted may have done a lot of work on himself this season with Dr. Sharon (Sarah Niles), but his work is far from over. Ted still struggles mightily with the hard but necessary things that a head coach must do for the good of the team. Ted is a good coach when it comes to getting a team to believe and he’s a great coach when a motivational pep talk is needed. He’s also been spot-on in reading certain team dynamics, such as knowing that Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) had to be the one to handle Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) in season 1. But a great coach is like any great leader or boss, and great leaders understand that a hands-off approach doesn’t work in all scenarios.
Some might argue that Ted clearly values him; he was the one to promote Nate and had been using Nate’s plays all season. Others may point out that Roy and Beard don’t need validation and recognition, so Nate’s just being selfish. But both of those arguments ignore who Nate is. In Ted Lasso, Coach Beard and Roy Kent are both fully secure in who they are in football and don’t need recognition; in fact, they’d probably tell Ted to stop if he were to give it. Nate is an entirely different person, however. He’s deeply insecure, and insecure people need more validation to feel secure, even if it’s in private. Nate wouldn’t automatically assume that Ted valued him without Ted having to tell him as Nate has never been made to feel he has value in his life. A great coach recognizes what each person on their team needs. Ted saw Nate’s skills as a tactician, but a great coach would have recognized that a promotion wasn’t enough. But he didn’t, and now he’ll be dealing with the fallout in Ted Lasso season 3.