It’s Ted Lasso premiere week! The comfort TV show healed many hearts and reminded us to believe in belief returns in just a few days. That means we only have a few days to look back at Season 1 and all of its greatness. I’ve already written about Keeley and Rebecca’s iconic and subversive friendship. Plus, I looked back on Keeley’s other epic love story with Roy Kent. Now, it’s time to spend a little time appreciating AFC Richmond’s former striker and top scorer, Jamie Tartt.
Jamie Tartt is a tough character to love because of his boldness. Though, it’s that same boldness that draws us in and makes us take a second look at whether it’s an honest reflection of his character or a defense mechanism. Jamie reflects plenty of people in that it represents both for him. He is complicated and complex on Ted Lasso. When a cocky and narcissistic character like him could’ve been written off as just that, Ted Lasso refuses to put Jamie Tartt in a box. Even when Jamie puts himself in one, this show breaks down every wall to let everyone and, most importantly himself, see Jamie as a whole person, warts and all.
There are plenty of people who chalk Jamie up to being Ted Lasso‘s main villain. This stance is a peculiar one when multiple episodes are at least partially dedicated to proving why that is not the case. Rupert Manion is right there and has zero redeeming qualities. There aren’t even hints to any throughout the ten episodes in Season 1. Jamie can be mean and selfish, but there’s still time for him to grow and change. The first season shows Jamie is capable of doing so despite him resisting it at every turn. I can’t say the same for Rupert.
Jamie Tartt is an antagonist, but he’s not a villain. He’s one of Ted Lasso‘s aces, and I’m here to remind you why. The best way to get to know Jamie and realize his potential is by looking at him through three of his most influential relationships: Keeley Jones, Roy Kent, and Ted Lasso.
Keeley Jones & Jamie Tartt
The most stable (and even that is debatable) relationship at the start of the season is Jamie’s romantic one with Keeley Jones. Their romantic relationship falls apart pretty quickly (as it should), but that isn’t where their connection ends. Jamie and Keeley’s friendship is far more appealing than their misguided romance. Their friendship ends up being one of Jamie’s largest support systems throughout the first season. I’d even argue that Keeley is his best friend.
Keeley is a magical unicorn who makes every room she walks in better and brighter, and however often Jamie pretends to be unphased by her heart, Jamie is better for having Keeley Jones in his life. We have a better understanding of Jamie due to Keeley’s perception of him. He does fall into her usual pattern of dating 23-year-old footballers, but she sees potential in him far before Ted Lasso comes into his life. To know that Keeley and Ted believe Jamie can be and do better is a sign that Jamie’s an Ace.
But for that to be true, Jamie has to believe in himself beyond the way he plays on the pitch. One of the most glaring examples of Jamie measuring his worth to football is when he visits Keeley during Episode 8, “The Diamond Dogs.” She asks him how he’s doing, and he responds with, “Good,” yet justifies that feeling through impressive statistics from his most recent match. Juno Temple plays that moment wonderfully because she doesn’t lean into that but pushes on the former — how Jamie the person is doing, not Jamie, the footballer.
Keeley tries to build on his self-perception because Jamie’s confidence and determination are two of his greatest strengths (and weaknesses). Keeley even tells Jamie those are things she admires about him when she calls him a “battler,” but she quickly follows that up with a reminder that he can’t battle everyone all the time. Through Keeley’s interactions with Jamie after their break-up, we start to see Jamie in a new light. That light shines through the cracks in the toxic masculinity he grew up with, internalized, and has profited from for so long.
Another example of exactly this is also from “The Diamond Dogs.” Jamie thanks Keeley for believing the best of him and trying to help him be cultured, despite him hating plays. This moment is another one where Ted Lasso could have put Jamie in a box of the “dumb star jock” who doesn’t like art. But that’s not Jamie Tartt. Instead, Jamie hates plays because they brought out the softer side of him and made him feel like a part of something bigger than himself. So he rejected it in favor of dominating.
It’s important that Keeley (and everyone else) never once justifies the means to which Jamie goes to dominate. He should be held accountable and take accountability for his actions. Because of that, Jamie is on the cusp of a real turning point heading into Season 2. Part of that has to do with his friendship with Keeley. Keeley is the one person he turns to when he feels like he has no one, not even Ted. It’s strange to assume Jamie is incapable of changing for the better when he continues to turn to Keeley, whose heart is likely literally made of gold.
Roy Kent & Jamie Tartt
Jamie’s relationship with Roy is tumultuous, to say the very least. They’re adversaries on every front. As the season progresses and with the help of Ted, we become more aware of the similarities between Roy and Jamie as they do. It’s fun to watch them resist their commonalities, but they eventually face them during Episode 4, “For the Children.” It all starts with Ted telling Roy, “You know how they say that youth is wasted on the young? Well, I say don’t let the wisdom of age be wasted on you.” With that quote, Ted gets Roy to admit that he was a lot like Jamie when he was Jamie’s age.
Roy’s admission begs the question of whether Roy is tough on Jamie not only because he deserves it for the way he treats people but also because Roy’s been there and knows Jamie can do better. Additionally, this admission allows us to look at Roy and Jamie’s relationship with new hindsight. Jamie and Roy represent two ends of the professional football spectrum: Jamie at the beginning and Roy at the end. Jamie is far too aware of the seemingly guaranteed longevity of his career, which makes later events in the season hit Jamie even harder. On the other hand, Roy is uncomfortably aware of how much time he has left on the pitch.
Ted Lasso presents this spectrum again by having Roy kick off the ritual to rid their treatment room of its curse and having Jamie end it. It works for Roy to start it as team captain, to encourage the other players to open up. Still, Roy and Jamie’s experiences are perfect bookends representing two very different yet curiously similar depictions of the journey to becoming a professional footballer. Both Roy and Jamie came up against conflict and bouts of immense loneliness. Both of their journies led them to AFC Richmond, to this found family.
The show is unafraid to confront the flaws in both of their approaches on the team. We never get to see how Roy comes up in the football world, but we watch many of Jamie’s awkward and frequently defensive steps. The power of Roy’s wisdom, as mentioned earlier, comes through Brett Goldstein‘s performance. Roy clings to every last shred of this world as he can with gritted teeth. Everyone knows him as legendary footballer Roy Kent. That’s how Jamie knows him, too.
That reveal is one of the most minor yet most meaningful details from “For the Children.” Jamie shares that he had a poster of Roy on his wall growing up. This quote brings to mind yet another famous phrase: Never meet your heroes. Jamie’s not only met his hero but plays on the same pitch as him, too. Jamie so clearly wants to be friends with Roy, or else he wouldn’t ask if Roy ever became friends with his old teammate and adversary, Doug. There’s potential there; I believe it.
Regardless of Ted, it isn’t easy to imagine Roy would try to get through to Jamie if he didn’t believe Jamie was worth it. So much about Season 1 of Ted Lasso is about accountability, belief, curiosity, and change. Though it may be small, some part of Roy knows that Jamie is capable of those things. Roy’s face says as much when Jamie shares his story at the ritual in the treatment room. That story doesn’t excuse anything Jamie did, but it allows Roy (and us) to understand him more.
After the events of “For the Children” and “Two Aces,” Jamie is more of a team player than ever before. A lot of that has to do with Ted’s coaching style, but plenty of it has to do with Keeley’s friendship. It’s also undeniable that Roy’s presence and guidance have shaped Jamie’s perspective of himself as well. Neither of them is alone anymore. We all need people, and when Jamie starts the “Richmond ‘Til We Die” chant at the end of “Two Aces,” it starts to feel as though Jamie and Roy see the joy in this found family in a whole new way.
Ted Lasso & Jamie Tartt
Jamie’s relationship with Ted is his most influential because Ted fills a massive void left by Jamie’s father. Ted is a positive male role model that Jamie never had. In the season finale, Ted tells his son that being a football coach is a lot like being a dad. For Jamie, that couldn’t be more true. Jamie is self-centered to a sickening degree when Ted walks into his life. Of course, Jamie chooses to live that way, but learning why he does so makes Ted’s mission statement all the more meaningful.
Ted makes it abundantly clear any chance he gets that it’s equally important to teach the players to be good men as it to be good players on the pitch. A big key of that lesson plan is having AFC Richmond operate as a team, and Jamie is the biggest thorn in Ted’s side in fulfilling that goal. Though, we see Jamie’s defensive walls falter a bit when Ted compliments him early in Episode 2, “Biscuits.” Phil Dunster leans into Jamie’s mannerisms to show how taken aback Jamie is by Ted’s niceties.
Earlier in that same episode, Jamie shows great disgust in Ted having a similarly lovely moment with Sam. Ted passes on one of his son’s toy army men to Sam to keep him safe, and Jamie can’t take it. With the hindsight of an entire season, we can understand that Jamie rejects something like that on every front because it’s too “soft.” How could Ted ever expect AFC Richmond to “dominate” by fostering such an environment? That question lingers in the air when Ted confronts Jamie on his terrible attitude and sportsmanship. One of the first times is interrupted by Ted’s son, and we could cut the tension with a knife. Ted is so cautious because he’s concerned that Jamie will keep that same narcissistic attitude around Henry. He does, to an extent. I may be giving Jamie too much credit, but it comes across that Jamie knows not to involve Henry because of his experiences.
This tension crescendos with Jason Sudeikis‘ Ted’s take of the now infamous Allen Iverson “Practice” monologue. This scene is as uncomfortable as it should be, but Jamie needs to hear those words. Except, Ted Lasso takes the kindness in the show’s ethos to its camera work when the camera tilts to put Jamie and Ted eye to eye. This scene could have remained one where Ted has the upper hand because that’s what we hear through his words, but that’s not what it’s about for Ted. It’s not about belittling a player for the sake of doing so.
It’s about making Jamie realize the error of his ways from someone who genuinely wants nothing best for him. This concept is so foreign to Jamie that he believes every time Ted speaks kindly of him in the press is mind manipulation rather than what it is — utmost support. Jamie even thinks this is true at the AFC Richmond vs. Man City game when Ted cheers him on even when Jamie is on the opposing time. Jamie’s world is so jaded by his toxic mentality formed by his father’s abuse that he can’t begin to believe anyone would genuinely root for him. Though Man City’s win is bittersweet for what it means for AFC Richmond, it’s a real breakthrough moment for Jamie Tartt. All of Ted’s genuine kindness and curiosity pay off in an extra pass. That’s when the other shoe drops when Ted is about to congratulate Jamie on his performance. We only hear about how awful Jamie’s father is up to the season finale, but then we see the abuse through that door with Ted. No one should have to endure what Jamie does from his father.
Jamie is all alone even after that win because that wasn’t enough for his father to love him unconditionally. It’s heartbreaking; there’s no denying that. That’s why it’s so heartwarming to watch Ted return to Richmond’s locker room and give his team the exact opposite of what Jamie received — a safe place to fall. A safe place to feel whatever they need to feel together. But Ted doesn’t forget about Jamie. That “soft” gesture Jamie scoffed at earlier in the season brings this Ace a whole lot of comfort during his bus ride home. The relief on Jamie’s face when he opens that envelope to see a note that probably feels like a pat on the back and a tiny, toy army man that feels like a comfort blanket is enough to make me believe there is more to Jamie Tartt than meets the eye. After all, we’re supposed to be curious, not judgemental, right?
Ted Lasso Season 2 premieres Friday, July 23, 2021, exclusively on Apple TV+.