‘Ted Lasso’ and the great Nate debate
If watching the trajectory of Nate Shelley, the formerly meek now mean assistant coach-turned-traitor on “Ted Lasso,” has made you uncomfortable this season, you’re not alone. Count me among those who felt during most of the season that the character Nate (Nick Mohammed) had been done dirty by a room of cartoonishly evil writers, represented in my head only by a series of shadows and occasional shots of their ghoulish hands reaching for watered down cold brews at a conference table in a dark dungeon.
The people or persons deciding Nate’s journey could not, I told myself, be the same people writing the foul-mouthed but lovable unicorn Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) or bringing us the ray of joy that has been the romantic story of Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) and Sam (Toheeb Jimoh). Nate’s path to becoming a wholly disappointing human has been ugly, painful and at times, disturbing.
However, some argue that the character’s descent into douchebaggery has been entirely realistic and exactly why some of us have hated it and him all season. (Bravo to actor Nick Mohammed and those not-actually-evil writers for making any of us care this much.)
The quandary facing us all who’ve watched the finale is now this: Is there any way to save Nate?
What happened in the finale
The finale set up a pretty long return back to good graces for Nate.
In the episode, streaming now on Apple TV+, Nate finally has a confrontation with Ted (Jason Sudeikis) over what Nate perceived to be Ted’s shortcomings as his mentor.
“You made me feel like I was the most important person in the whole world and then you abandoned me,” he told him.
He felt “invisible” even as he tried to get Ted’s attention back, he said, bringing up the fact that Ted doesn’t have the photo Nate gave him on display in his office. (Ted doesn’t tell him that he actually has the photograph at his home, next to a picture of his son.)
“Everybody loves you — the great Ted Lasso. Well, I think you’re a f—ing joke,” he said. “Without me, you wouldn’t have won a single match and they would have shipped your ass back to Kansas where you f—ing belong — with your son. Because you sure as hell don’t belong here. I do. I belong here. This didn’t fall into my lap. I earned this.”
Ted tries to affirm this, but Nate cuts him off and storms out.
When Ted returns to the locker room after Richmond’s victory, Nate is gone and the “Believe” sign that once hung above his office door, is torn in half and on his desk.
At the end of the episode, Nate is seen working with the football club now owned Rebecca’s ex-husband, Rupert.
As a general rule, I dislike Twitter threads. But this one, from a sharp Twitter user, actually hits on a lot of points that I’ve seen in bits in pieces throughout the season. The bones of it? This trajectory makes sense for Nate and there are a lot of women who know Nates.
The latter point struck me especially hard. The eerie transformation of a so-called “good guy” into a not good one can be so slow you don’t see it happen. Perhaps that, I wonder, is why so many viewers have been triggered by watching this unfold.
Actor Mohammed even weighed in with his own thoughts on Twitter, writing about the microaggressions Nate faced this season.
Even more interesting than the various reactions to the storyline has been people’s thoughts on what should happen next. Viewers seem to be splitting in to a few distinct camps:
- Watching Nate go dark side has been sad, but Nate can be redeemed.
- Watching Nate go dark side has been sad, and Nate can’t/doesn’t deserve to be redeemed. Then, Ted is going to have to deal with the fact that he can’t cure everything with positivity.
- Nate is infuriating and needs to go away.
- Nate need to get beat up. (Seriously. This is some people’s take. And, honestly, these people might be part of the creation of some Nates in the world.)
I’m not sure which I category I fall into — only that it’s not the last one.
Honestly, at the moment, my most enduring hope is that next year’s Emmy voters recognize that as much as we all love Roy Kent, Mohammed deserves serious consideration. I can’t remember the last time I’ve thought this much and this hard about a character throughout a season of television.
Believe me, that’s saying something.
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