Good Grief: Saying “Farewell” to Ted Lasso

Lessons from an unforgettable show.

I am bereft: three of my favorite shows ended this week. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel taught me that women can actually be funny (in olden times) and I learned from Succession that pre-grief does not work. Then there’s Ted Lasso, which showed me real grief.

 I’ve come to believe in recent years that grief is the truest state of life, the tension in which we constantly reside. Between the extremes of life — joy and heartbreak, triumph and failure, laughter and tears — there is a middle ground that makes up most of our moments, composed of a mixture of these extremes (hence the laugh-cry emoji being #1 in my most-frequently-used list). We are almost always swimming in a cocktail of nuance, of good-and-bad, black-and-white running together to create something that is both between the two extremes yet wholly different. I call this space grief, both because I am a downer at parties and because I’ve had therapy that encouraged me to see grief for what it is: the space between the way things are and the way they’re meant to be, the now-and-not-yet-nature of existence, the garden interrupted. Our most joyful moments are inevitably tinged with sadness: the longed-for wedding that’s missing a father to walk the bride down the aisle; the baby born after a miscarriage; the embrace of a child or spouse brought on by a rip-roaring fight; our eternal souls won from an instrument of execution. Grief is all around us because love is, and grief is the price we pay for love

Nick Mohammed, who played Nate (and was interviewed by The Mockingbird — check it out!), wrote about Ted Lasso on Twitter

… even though [redemption] is used a lot, ‘catharsis’ is probably a better way to describe Nate’s S3 arc. To an extent redemption is in the eye of the beholder and as far as Nate’s story is concerned it’s more a look into our capacity for forgiveness … our capacity and desire to forgive isn’t nearly as seductive as our desire to judge.

Redemption can be observed and measured from a distance: we, as an audience, can watch a redemption arc and make it totally about the onscreen character’s journey. Catharsis, though, requires our personal involvement — an emotional engagement with the story. As we watched Nate feel the grief that resulted from his choices, we felt that grief with him. Unlike, for example, Glee (a show I watched in its entirety but was rightfully skewered), which generated catharsis in a way that felt emotionally manipulative, Ted Lasso’s character arcs felt earned and authentic (until some parts of the last season, tbh) and, consequently, relatable. Particularly resonant for me was the S1 revelation that Ted suffered from panic attacks — one that added layers to his character and prevented the audience from being able to see him as just a simple, bumbling, nice guy. (Contrary to some spectators’ assessments, Ted Lasso — the person and show — was about so much more than being nice.)

Wrapping our arms fully around life, and engaging fully with the story of the gospel means acknowledging all the parts of it that are beautiful, and grieving all that suck — extremes often contained in the same moment, situation, or person. My gratitude journal, which once only included items that were indisputably “good” (rainbows, unicorns, kids sleeping through the night), now contains all the things, though some are followed by a question mark as I wait for God to reveal the good in them (violent stomach virus?). As if any of us even knows what good really looks like. I can tell you that for most of my life, I wouldn’t have defined it by way of autism or 6 am wake up calls or disagreements over who vacuumed last, but here we are, smack dab in the middle of holy ground, where I often trip over holes. Grief and grace, hand in hand. 

I think about all the brokenness and healing among the characters of Ted Lasso: how Keeley lost her business before restarting it with help from friends; how Roy had to be hurt before being willing to ask for help in the form of becoming a Diamond Dog; how Nate had to lose his job to find his way home to his dad and Ted; how Beard had to hit rock bottom to be pulled up by Ted and extend forgiveness to Nate; how Rebecca had to abandon revenge, then fall into a canal, to find family; how the Believe sign was so much more meaningful after literally being ripped up and taped back together. What isn’t more beautiful in life without being scarred?

So I grieve for Ted Lasso, but I grieve with hope — and not just because the ending of the show hasn’t been fully confirmed or because there are whispers of spin-offs in the works. I grieve joyfully and sadly, in admission of the gains and the losses. Or, to put it in Lasso parlance: Thank you, and f—you, Ted Lasso, for making me feel everything. 

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4 responses to “Good Grief: Saying “Farewell” to Ted Lasso”

  1. Jim Munroe says:

    Stephanie, what a wonderful reflection – thanks. The absolute core for me was in the next to last episode, when Coach Beard and Nate connected in the locker room and did a head bump and hugged. I just lost it. Bless you.

  2. Yes, thank you Stephanie. I agree . . . the taped together “Believe” sign was more beautiful than the original. The whole show seemed to be about believing in the midst of the brokenness.

  3. Joann Saylors says:

    Violent stomach virus: a reminder of our gratitude for being created with bodies that can work to fight off infection?

  4. Jean D Kelleher says:

    Yes to all you have written. To embrace and accept our broken selves in the midst of the journey and see it as holy ground is the gift of the gospel….the gift of Him. I will forever miss the Diamond Dogs!

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