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‘Ted Lasso’ 2.12 Finale Review: Inverting the Pyramid of Success

Can AFC Richmond end the season triumphantly?

Brendan Hunt, Ted Lasso, and Brett Goldstein in 'Ted Lasso.'
(Image: © Apple TV+)

Our Verdict

This finale is a fitting bow on a season packed with emotional highs and lows.

For

  • - The final match brings some storylines full circle
  • - A good mix of resolution and hanging threads
  • - The Roy/Keeley conflict is less contrived
  • - Rebecca and Keeley's friendship is still goals
  • - Ted's team talk and press conference
  • - The AFC Richmond squad's reaction to Ted's confession

Against

  • - While the Nate storyline paid off, it was a bumpy journey getting here
  • - A minor niggle, but the fact the writers ignored the playoff factor
  • - The big wait until season 3

This post contains spoilers for Ted Lasso "Inverting the Pyramid of Success." Read our latest review here

The second season of Ted Lasso was always going to feel different from the slow burn of its debut. Thanks to positive word of mouth, most viewers (myself included) watched AFC Richmond’s crash from the Premier League by the time all the episodes were available on Apple TV Plus as a whole. The decision to not only add two installments to the episode order but also circumvent this streamer’s typical three-episode premiere impacted the momentum of this year’s darker narrative. Opening with the bloody “Goodbye, Earl” and the Christmas in August special led to protracted discourse regarding a potential sophomore slump. 

It is fair to say all eyes have been on Ted (Jason Sudeikis) and his team as a result of the different viewing conditions. When this season is considered as a whole, it is clear seeds that were planted early have now bloomed. While this addresses some of those early concerns, it doesn’t paper over some of the pacing choices.  

“Inverting the Pyramid of Success” includes multiple callbacks to the season premiere while cranking up the tension for the story to come. It is a tense affair that addresses most of the conflicts while leaving several dangling threads — particularly regarding one contentious arc. It also finally gives fans of AFC Richmond something to celebrate after relegation and FA Cup semi-final heartbreak. There is a lot to pack in and it is no surprise this is the longest episode to date; I am left wondering whether season 3 will maintain the extended runtime when it returns.

Jeremy Swift and greyhound puppies in Ted Lasso

Jeremy Swift and greyhound puppies in 'Ted Lasso' (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Let’s get the result out of the way first. While it looked pretty certain that AFC Richmond would earn their spot back in the Premier League, it was touch and go there for a moment. Suspending disbelief regarding the writers erasing the small detail that another promotion spot is given to the team that wins the playoff final is necessary if you know anything about the English soccer league structure. Nevertheless, this match managed to make me cheer as if it was the real thing. 

Thanks to how the other results have previously fallen, it is rather poetic that all Richmond needed is a draw to secure the second spot. The start of their Championship campaign was marred by an unprecedented run of ties at the start of the season, and Ted viewed this as some sort of karmic payback for the draw he hoped he would get against Manchester City at the end of season 1. In the dying moments of the game against Brentford, Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) is brought down in the box and a last-ditch penalty kick is awarded. 

Jamie has been the designated penalty taker since his return and in the past, he would’ve gladly taken the glory without hesitation. He is now a more mature player and realizes this is the ideal time for Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernández) to truly overcome the horrifying moment from the premiere. RIP Earl is written on his boot and a new greyhound puppy mascot (wearing a helmet) is on the touchline to watch Dani send the ball into the net and AFC Richmond back to top-flight soccer. 

Even though this is a fictional match, I still watched this moment through my fingers as if it was a real penalty. The players go wild with celebrations and it is a testament to the half-time rallying cry from captain Isaac (Kola Bokinni) when he placed his hand on the “Believe” sign and everyone followed suit. Morale had been low so it is also worth pointing out that Jan Maas (David Elsendoorn) speaking up in favor of Nate’s (Nick Mohammed) “false nine” tactic was the surprising boost needed when they were losing 2-0.

AFC Richmond in the Ted Lasso finale

AFC Richmond in the 'Ted Lasso' finale (Image credit: Apple TV+)

In a season packed full of ups and downs, it would’ve been too bleak if Richmond hadn’t succeeded and the jubilation that ripples throughout the ground was also felt on my sofa. There is only one person who doesn’t join the party, as Nate stalks off the pitch even though they stuck with his tactic. Everything has been building to this moment and rather than his anger dissipating it only intensifies during the 90 minutes. 

Ted’s panic attack story has made headline news — “Panic at the Lasso” reads one such back page — and rather than confront Nate, he acts as if nothing has happened. Beard (Brendan Hunt) has correctly deduced who the snake is and is itching to physically confront him about this breach of trust. During the Diamond Dogs session — which is called when Roy (Brett Goldstein) asks for advice — Nate’s confession isn’t about betraying Ted but kissing Keeley (Juno Temple). When Roy brushes this off as insignificant, Beard is more than willing to fulfill Nate’s headbutt request.

No physical contact is made and it isn’t until halftime that Ted finally asks Nate why he is mad as hell. Before this confrontation takes place, Ted turns the press leak into a teachable moment explaining to the squad that “Every choice is a chance” and he regrets not telling them sooner. “We got you, coach,” is Isaac’s emphatic response, and Nate is perturbed by this good faith reaction. All Nate wants is to be noticed and he stooped this low in a twisted bid to get his surrogate father to interact with him again. This finally comes out after the team has rallied at halftime, and Nate is done trying to win his approval. 

In a funny way, Nate’s fear of abandonment is a mirror image of Ted’s issues, but it has manifested in a different way. Ted hasn’t had to work hard to get his role as AFC Richmond coach whereas his assistant has worked from the bottom up. The anger he feels toward his father is now directed at Ted, and this is fueled further by Ted’s apparent ease at securing (and keeping) his job. He is unnecessarily cruel but it fits with the trajectory of the last few episodes, even if some of the "turning to the Dark Side" plotting has been uneven. As Nate’s hair has got greyer, his soul has got darker and this is highlighted further in the final reveal. The former AFC Richmond kit man has joined Rupert (Anthony Head) at West Ham United and he is now working with the main antagonist of the first season. For a show that loves pop culture references, I agree with this observation that it is a nod to Twin Peaks. This is the final shot of “Inverting the Pyramid of Success” and it now makes sense why Rupert was whispering sweet nothings in his ear a couple of weeks ago. Rupert has bought a local rival and will return as the big bad through his hiring of Nate.   

Brett Goldstein and Juno Temple in Ted Lasso

Brett Goldstein and Juno Temple in 'Ted Lasso' (Image credit: Apple TV+)

While Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) will have to contend with seeing more of her ex thanks to this acquisition, she does get some good news regarding another beau. Despite Edwin’s (Sam Richardson) very tempting pitch and lavish gifts, Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) takes his father’s advice and looks for a sign from the universe to help aid this life-changing choice. Ted’s team talk is also likely echoing and seeing a young Black man wearing a shirt bearing his name at the park highlights the impact he is having. When he comes to see Rebecca, Ted is also present and this leads to an awkward three-way conversation. Sam directs his thoughts at his coach, but they are clearly meant for another. This decision is not informed by his feelings for her but rather what he has left to do at the club. 

Worryingly, this relationship is the kind of thing Rupert will wield against his ex-wife and I worry Sam will get caught in the crossfire. But for now, he is content with his position and his experience with Edwin leads to a different exciting venture. Edwin brought the food of Nigeria to a corner of London for one-night-only via a pop-up that was intended for only Sam’s enjoyment, and now Sam is opening up a Nigerian restaurant for everyone in this community to experience. Edwin didn’t take his rejection well and it is also concerning that he now wants to ruin his life — that is two very rich people gunning for Sam.  

Rebecca’s tears are saved for another this week, and a sobfest takes hold when Keeley tells her she is leaving her job at the club. The people behind Bantr are financing Keeley’s new PR firm and while Rebecca is thrilled for her BFF, she is also going to miss her like crazy. It might be because I have been watching a lot of I Love Lucy recently, but I am getting solid Lucy and Ethel vibes from their shared crying reactions to this news and it only feels right that Rebecca and Keeley sit alongside the OG best sitcom besties. While other areas have stumbled this season, Rebecca and Keeley’s dynamic has gone from strength to strength and this remains one of the most rewarding relationships on Ted Lasso.

The other big love story Keeley is part of has hit some stumbling blocks over the last couple of weeks, and this finale is another roller coaster for Roy and Keeley fans. Despite finding the teacher flirtation to be a contrived obstacle, it did point to an unspoken tension between the couple, and this is handled more effectively in “Inverting the Pyramid of Success.” 

First, Jamie approaches Roy to confess what he did and apologize for this behavior. He explains he respects Roy, Keeley and their relationship, and Jamie’s sincerity means Roy has no choice but to forgive him — his version of forgiveness is to yell “F**K” in Jamie’s face. During the celebrations later on he does headbutt him, but it is a rare headbutt-hug combo and proves how much Roy has changed. It is also worth noting that Nate is not placated by how little Roy sees him as a threat because what he did with Keeley is worse (in his eyes) than Jamie’s declaration. But to be fair to Roy, Jamie did date Keeley in the past.

Roy is also thrilled about Keeley’s new PR company opportunity and basks in her independent woman glow. However, being cut from the Vanity Fair piece — the solo photos are stunning — points to larger insecurities. He even comments that it would be weird if one of the couple shots had been used as the headline reads “Keeley Jones, Woman on Top,” but it still hurt his feelings, and in a rare display of vulnerability, he admits to the Diamond Dogs, “She looks so fucking great ... on her own ... without me.” A misguided big gesture follows as he has bought tickets (actual tickets) for a six-week vacation so they can relax before her company gets going. It is very sweet but this decision requires a conversation and Keeley needs to be here because her job has already started. He sees this rejection as a breakup when it is far from the case, and this is something Roy will have to reconcile in order for this relationship to thrive. 

Whereas Keeley’s confidence is rocky when it comes to how she is perceived professionally, Roy has successfully navigated his career woes. The latter is a marker of the emotional growth Roy has made across this season while revealing he still has ways to go when it comes to his love life. This is the kind of conflict that feels authentic to the characters and not a contrived roadblock like last week. Despite the lingering doubt, I do think Roy and Keeley will survive this particular storm. Also, I know that issue of Vanity Fair doesn’t exist but I still want to get my hands on a copy.  

To match the vibe of the whole season, the finale ends with a mixture of hope and apprehension. Ted takes the press conference opportunity to talk about anxiety and mental health in sport, which mirrors IRL conversations that athletes like Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles have highlighted. Promotion sparks joy, but dread permeates with the looming Rupert and Nate partnership. Despite a torn “Believe” sign, this can’t keep the mood down and this is a satisfying episode. It would’ve been easy for Ted Lasso to lean into the chipper attitude of the first season, but the writers have chosen the harder path and it is still a winning formula.