If you thought last week’s Ted Lasso was difficult to watch, 2×08 “Man City,” just said, “Hold my Beer.” This episode, written by Jamie Lee and directed by Matt Lipsey, delves into the darkest parts of the characters’ lives. It does so in such an honest way that so much of this episode will take your breath away. I know it did for me. The Ted Lasso cast are no strangers to stellar performances, but every single of them outdoes themselves in this one.
Namely, “Man City” will be the episode to remember when Phil Dunster is nominated for an Emmy next year.
Everything has been leading to this, both on and off the pitch. The character turns and revelations can only be unexpected to those who haven’t been paying enough attention to the details Ted Lasso gave us from the very start. Those details are smaller ones that inform the character’s trajectories to right here, right now. They’re the same ones that make the emotional beats of this episode work. It’s nerve-wracking to think there are still four episodes left in this season. But I believe everything will work out in the end.
Sharon and Admitting Fear
Sarah Niles gives an amazing performance during “Headspace” opposite Jason Sudeikis. “Man City” gives Niles more room to shine, and her performance shows her range. Before, Dr. Sharon appears when Richmond needs her help. Now we’re seeing her on her own terms, without being Dr. Sharon Fieldstone. It’s vital to begin the episode with such a reminder. Someone’s profession is a part of them, but it can’t be all of them. It’s a misconception that therapists aren’t people who struggle with things themselves. It’s refreshing to see Ted Lasso refute that.
Sometimes the best people to help others are the ones who have gone through something themselves. That message isn’t lost on Sharon or Ted by the end of the episode when they start to realize there are more similarities between the two of them than they knew. As odd as it may seem, their differences are their similarities, and it’s stunning to watch them both realize that in real-time. It lends itself to the ethos of being curious, not judgemental, too.
Similar to Earl the Greyhound’s death in the premiere, starting this episode with such a traumatic accident that could have killed Sharon is another harsh tonal shift from the dominant perception of the show. To have something so drastic and gory be the kick-off point and lead directly into the theme song shows the vast juxtaposition this season will continue to elevate. Bad things happen to good people. It matters how people react to those bad things. Ted Lasso presents a world in which people choose kindness and community.
“Man City” is the first time where maybe that doesn’t feel possible anymore. We’re well into the dark forest now, where all hope feels lost. But isn’t that usually when some light shines through? Some beacon that reminds us that hope isn’t futile? That believing in belief isn’t naive? Despite everything that this episode throws at its characters, Ted Lasso’s remains the same. Through it all, there are moments that beautifully display that kindness and community. It’s isn’t lost. It’s right there. They just have to fight for it. It won’t be easy. But what is?
It’s Sharon’s traumatic accident that solidifies her as the backbone of this episode. It’s her journey of realizing, accepting, and then desiring to overcome her fear that ripples throughout the rest of the characters without them even knowing it. All of that matters significantly more because of the details Ted Lasso gives us about Sharon — the alcohol on the counter, the books on her table. It’s brilliant that we learn about them with Ted. It makes us feel like an active participants in this journey, and that’s always nice as a viewer.
Sharon admitting, “I was scared today, really scared. I love riding my bike. It’s my happy place. And after today, I was worried I’d be too scared to enjoy riding ever again,” is the center of everything in “Man City.” Every character on this show is scared of something, but bravery is infectious. They’re all trying to find their way back to their happy places, to get back on the horse, after such tremendous obstacles, trauma, and loss. When they do get back on their respective horses after all of this, they won’t be the same. And that’s okay. It’s okay to be changed by the things that happen to us.
Sam, Rebecca, and the Right Person at the Wrong Time
It’s unfortunate that Rebecca’s big move to overcome her fear of being loved by someone good is with Sam Obisanya. There is no way that this ends well. All of the outcomes imaginable at this moment in time do not have good optics. For this to continue in a way that isn’t a conflict of interest, Rebecca would have to step down as manager or Sam would have to no longer be on the team. I don’t want to be too nit-picky about Sam’s age because he is a legal, consenting adult but he is younger than Rebecca. If the gender roles were swapped, I’d feel uncomfortable about an older man dating a younger girl. Even setting aside their ages, there is still the entirely problematic power dynamic at play.
Their relationship is complicated by the fact that Rebecca knows it’s wrong. She is adamant about that from the second she knows her Bantr match’s identity. She points out all the red flags, yet she’s still the one to make the first move. If Ted Lasso was only all sunshine and rainbows all the time, then one of its main characters wouldn’t make such a giant mistake like this. This show has always been about people learning and growing, and hopefully, that’s what this is for Rebecca. People aren’t perfect, and to be honest, that version of this show would not be entertaining to watch.
Jason Sudeikis shared with the Kansas City Star that Ted Lasso Season 2 is like their Empire Strikes Back. In “Goodbye, Earl,” Higgins says that he’s concerned about how he’ll explain to his boys why Luke and Leia kiss even though their siblings. Sam and Rebecca aren’t siblings, but their kisses are awkward and uncomfortable to watch. That’s no comment on Hannah Waddingham and Toheeb Jimoh’s talent because it’s their determination in delivering chemistry that shouldn’t exist that makes the possibility of this couple almost feel right. But crossing the line from coworkers to romantic partners is an awkward situation. We love these characters and we want them to find love, but they can’t be with each other. Not like this. Not right now.
If that’s what this is about, learning that no matter how hard you try sometimes you fall for the right person at the wrong time and in the wrong circumstances, then so be it. Rebecca knows what’s at stake here but she also knows but this is the first time she spelled anything real about someone in a long time. All of the shiny montages and the epic needle drops can’t hide the reality of the situation. “Man City” tries one final time to convince us that everything about this relationship makes more sense than it does by pairing Sam’s moving speech about trying with Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know.” It’s another epic needle drop; it sets an emotional tone. It’s a nice distraction, but it’s only that, a distraction.
It’s a way to get us caught up in the moment alongside Sam and Rebecca. But what happens when the song stops playing and the moment fades into reality? Considering the depths that this episode explores, it’s no question that Sam and Rebecca will have to face the consequences of their actions. Hopefully, Rebecca giving herself this chance at love and it not working out doesn’t deter her from ever giving herself a chance again. To end the episode with them is to end the episode with a false sense of optimism. I see what you’re doing, Ted Lasso. We are not clear of the dark forest yet.
Ted and Believing in Bravery
It’s moving to watch the ways Ted shows up for Sharon in this episode. It’s even more powerful to watch the way he shows it for himself. After battling self-care tools for so long it’s incredible to watch him utilize them and reflect them back to Sharon. It’s those tools and Sharon’s bravery in being vulnerable that inspire Ted to do the same. There aren’t enough words to write about Jason Sudeikis’s incredible performance in the final minutes of “Man City.” There’s still so much to learn about the trauma he’s endured having lost his father the way he did and when he was only sixteen years old. The knowledge of that event reframes everything we’ve seen about this character until now. It adds so much to every single scene.
Ted’s scene with the Diamond Dogs (Yes, Roy Kent is a part of the Diamond Dogs whether he likes it or not) ahead of the match is as impactful as his vulnerability with Sharon. Admitting that he had a panic attack is no small feat. Ted Lasso knows this and commends Ted’s bravery and offers thoughtful commentary on mental health. It’s a well-known fact that being honest about a hardship makes it easier for someone else to do the same. This scene reflects that in spades. The rest of the Diamond Dogs sharing their secrets is a way to let Ted feel less alone. It’s a way to let them feel less alone, too.
None of them shame Ted, not for his breathing exercises and not for his admission because none of them see Ted’s panic attacks as something he should feel any shame of. That isn’t something that should be so moving to watch, but it is because people are still so hesitant to believe that mental health matters as much as their physical health. To see a group of men who are always conditioned to believe that their vulnerability and their emotions are weaknesses rally around their friend who is being vulnerable enough to let them in on his mental health is a sight to see.
There’s also plenty to commend for each member of the Diamond Dogs’ performances in reaction to Ted’s confession. Each of their faces reveals the truth about themselves and their relationships with Ted. Roy looks shocked. Nate looks like he instantly feels less alone in his struggles. Some people could read Beard’s as expression as blank, but that’s a disservice to Brendan Hunt’s performance. There is so much care and concern behind his eyes, but there doesn’t need to be any shock. Beard knows Ted more than Ted knows Beard, probably. That all translates, just through his eyes.
In an episode where people name their fears to protect their happy places, there is no braver action that Ted could have taken. He doesn’t have to hide the parts of himself that struggle from the people who care about him anymore. That paves the way for anyone else to do the same. It could also be what keeps someone else from speaking up. Sometimes people will refrain from sharing their stories and struggles, believing that theirs couldn’t possibly measure up to someone else’s. This season is doing such a great job of showing the complexities in caring for mental health, so ideally, it wouldn’t shy away from that either.
Roy and the Awareness of Being an Inspiration
Roy’s always known that he’s a person of influence in Phoebe’s life. It’s an entirely different beast for Roy to realize that he could be inspiring her in a different direction. Roy does not maintain any sense of pride or love for Phoebe’s father, who he calls “a living piece of shit.” Does that sound like anyone else’s father we know? Something that Ted Lasso loves as much as metaphors is a good parallel. Look no further than this episode’s parallels between Roy and Phoebe’s relationship and Roy and Jamie’s relationship. It’s heartbreaking to watch the ways in which “Man City” weaves together Phoebe and Jamie’s stories.
Pheobe’s just a little kid whose mom’s heroic field of work doesn’t allow her much free time. Her father sounds like he’s the other side of James Tartt’s coin of Toxic Masculinity. It’s Roy’s knowledge of Phoebe’s father that makes the realization that Roy could be filling a similar role to him so heartbreaking. Brett Goldstein sends Roy on another stunning face journey when Roy comes to terms with this in one of the tiny chairs in Phoebe’s classroom. The far more emotional scene comes in Roy’s car when he tells Phoebe, “And sometimes, I get concerned that I’ve been infecting you with the worst parts of me.”
Brett Goldstein delivers that line brilliantly because you can see Roy fighting the words from ever leaving his mouth. Roy can’t even look Phoebe in the eyes when he says it. It’s an excellent decision on Matt Lipsey’s behalf to pull the camera’s focus away from Phoebe and on to Roy when she tells him, “And because of you, I stand up to bullies and referees.” The expression on Roy’s face at that moment is unforgettable. It somehow expresses both the pride and fear that comes with knowing he means that much to someone. You can see Roy processing that responsibility.
There’s also a brief moment when Roy’s walls fall and you can see him wondering if maybe he should step away from Phoebe, that she would be better off without him. Phoebe has always been perceptive and wise beyond her years so of course, she catches that and instantly refutes his doubts by saying, “I’m as good as the best you.” Sure, Phoebe should lay off the cursing. She is a little young for that, but she only mimics Roy’s words and behaviors because she admires him.
You can hear that in the way she mimics the way he growls “NO.” Phoebe doesn’t see Roy’s cursing as a bad thing, as he does. She sees it as a tool to do the right thing.
Roy isn’t setting Phoebe back like he fears that he is; he inspires her to move forward in the name of things that matter, like standing up to bullies and referees. Like Sharon’s happy place is riding her bike, Roy is spending time with Phoebe. And like Sharon’s fear almost kept her away from her happy place, Roy’s fear of infecting Phoebe almost kept him from his. Roy’s awareness of the parts of him that he may not want to pass on to Phoebe is proof alone he won’t “infect her.” However often he tries to deny it, Roy Kent cares too much and tries too hard for that to ever happen.
Jamie Tartt and His Heart
Phil Dunster’s performance in “Man City” is one of the best of the series so far. The nuance in every choice he makes is commendable. If Sharon’s arc is the backbone of this episode, Jamie’s is the heart. Throughout this season and the last, we see Jamie struggle with finding his place. We see him struggle with accepting the parts of himself his father has told him shouldn’t exist. We see him fight the wrong fights to preserve an image that isn’t truly him. “Man City” strips all of that away, and we see Jamie in his most vulnerable state yet.
It’s saddening to watch Jamie ask the men he respects about their relationships with their fathers. He does this with Ted earlier in the season and again with Higgins in this episode. He’s looking for some commonality between his experience and someone he admires, and he has yet to find that. The one person Jamie could probably relate to the most is Phoebe. That’s why it’s so sad to see Jamie standing in the middle of the locker room after Beard removes James from the premises. He just looks like a scared, little kid.
Where Phoebe has Roy to look to for guidance and inspiration, Jamie didn’t have that. His father possesses none of the awareness or care that Roy does, leaving Jamie with no positive male role models. He had to look elsewhere; he had to find one. I can’t help but think Jamie had pictures of Roy on his wall for more than Roy’s football skills. He likely saw the way Roy carried himself (just like Phoebe does) and admired that from afar.
Jamie’s father has the audacity to call Jamie “a moody bitch,” instead of being sympathetic to the team’s loss. It never crosses his mind to be sympathetic because Jamie’s feelings don’t matter to him. Just like Phoebe does to a bully, Jamie stands up to his father. It’s only when Jamie’s father persists and lays his hands on him that Jamie punches his father in the face. That’s when the tension in this crucible boils over. That’s when Jamie’s guard comes down, and the fear in his eyes is visible. There’s a hint of shock in Jamie’s expression at the fact that he even defended himself like that. It’s all in Dunster’s eyes and the way he makes Jamie’s hands tremble.
There is no redemption for Jamie’s father. The only light at the end of that tunnel is Richmond, and Jamie being as far away from him as possible. Higgins may be able to try and love his dad for who he is and forgive him for who he isn’t, but that isn’t possible with Jamie’s dad. Sometimes people can’t be forgiven. Sometimes they shouldn’t be forgiven. James Tartt is a villain in this story. But Jamie Tartt isn’t. Despite everything his dad has literally and figurately thrown at him through the years, Jamie is still here and still trying to be better than his father. And he is. Jamie is so much stronger than he knows, and everyone who matters in that locker room recognizes that.
After Jamie’s father was removed from the room, Jamie appears as small as Phoebe in stature. Jamie looks so destroyed that he can’t even realize the immense bravery he just exhibited by standing up to a bully, by standing up to his father. Jamie is conditioned to bottle all of that up. It’s moving to watch Roy, someone else who struggles with vulnerability, be the first one to make his way to Jamie. Someone needed to give Jamie permission to fall apart. For it to be Roy and set to George Harrison’s “Beware of Darkness” is too much for my fragile heart to take. It’s too much to watch Roy who mere hours ago believed he was giving someone the worst parts of himself, see someone actively fighting that.
Jamie’s worked so hard to be a better version of himself, to learn from his coaches, to learn from Roy. All of that shines through Jamie at that moment. The lasting effects of a positive male role model shine through Jamie at that moment. Still, Jamie’s dad comes in and threatens everything. He spins everything on its axis even more. Suddenly a place that is meant to be happy is now infected with darkness. Jamie may be saved by the embrace of someone who cares, but, now, Richmond has more to worry about than their recent loss. But even with all of the uncertainty that comes with that darkness, there is still this overwhelming belief that humanity can be healing.
Other Winning Moments:
- “Now hold on. You’re telling me I can shatter every bone in my body, someone could just drop me off in front of any old hospital, dumped into a garbage can or something and ya’ll patch me up and I don’t gotta pay jack squat?” – Ted about England’s healthcare system
- Ted drinking the entire glass of water
- “I watched a lot of Grey’s Anatomy in my early thirties.” – Ted
- Roy knowing that Beard was on mushrooms during the quarterfinal
- Roy is the princess to Phoebe’s dragon.
- “She gets us.”
- Sam reading A Wrinkle in Time is SUCH A GOOD DETAIL considering he’s a leader on the team now.
- The weights falling on Colin’s next not once but twice
- The Ronnie Fouch callback
- The ENTIRE haircut ritual
- Will holding back tears before Isaac cuts Sam’s hair
- Phil Dunster‘s delivery of “Shut the fuck up, Jan Maas.”
- The red and blue braided into Keeley’s hair at the match
- Cerithium Oil not operating in Nigeria anymore
- Sam’s dad telling him “And you are the butterfly whose wings made this happen.”
- Keeley calling Rebecca only to hype her up
- The brief commentary on American football
- The framing of Beard and Ted being over either of Jamie’s shoulders before they go into the locker room
- As if she couldn’t get any cooler, Mae has a Richmond tattoo on her ass.
- Mike Dean’s cameo
- Keeley saying “Referee!” but she’s not pretending anymore
- Nate knowing how big the pitch is because of his father’s job
- The commitment to the “Ted hating tea” bit
- Ted bought Sharon a bike!
What did you think of Ted Lasso 2×08, “Man City?” Let us know in the comments below!
New episodes of Ted Lasso stream Fridays on Apple TV+!