Can good people lose their way to evil? Perhaps in recent TV or streaming history, only Game of Thrones‘ Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) can (still) spark the same fan reaction as Nate Shelley‘s crush on Ted Lasso. The difference is in the construction of the character, with the technician being much better structured than the Mother of Dragons, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Ted Lasso and Game of Thrones couldn’t be more different, but the series’ connection to the phenomenon is usually made when it hits on the study of human behavior, and in that, they have ground in common. Danny and Nate have grown up and overcome prejudices and gained respect and friends, but they still feel forced to compare themselves with others. Jon Snow (Kit Harington), like Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis), is popular and for Danny and Nate, it feels natural and effortless. Everything they do is good, it’s correct, but behind the scenes, the two know the flaws of heroes and don’t conform that others don’t criticize them. It is Lacan’s theory of the mirror that I quote again: the projection of what we choose to see, coming from our expectations and frustrations.
Power – or fame and adoration, which often go together – are dangerous elements for anyone, let alone unstable people. Frodo Baggins was corrupted by the Ring in The Lord of the Rings, had it not been for Sam the world would have belonged to Sauron. Ivar the Boneless started to think of himself as a God in Vikings, although Ivar always had a corrupted DNA, having been a child prone to violence, he also projected himself in the physical perfection and popularity of his brother, Bjorn Ironside, popular and imperfect as himself. Mirror!
While people are still discussing the tragic fate of Daenerys Targaryen, who spent five seasons genuinely freeing slaves, but in the last three parts of the story became obsessed with her Right for revenge and ended up decimating a city for no apparent reason, Nate Shelley was revealing his flaws more clearly. I noticed all the hints of Daenerys’ destiny, her growing hypocrisies, and her mental imbalance as she got closer to her goal. Surrounded by biased advisors – Tyrion was a Lannister and Varys changed teams according to circumstances – and confronted with Jon Snow’s innate heroism, Danny didn’t know how to deal with competition or resistance, she was outraged that she didn’t have immediate support from the people who also loved her. they were looking for a change. Before getting into Nate, a little more on the Daenerys topic.
Daenerys has always dealt with false people who are contrary to her plans. But they were “foreigners” to her, they were cultures to be “conquered” or decimated, after all, she had the best army and three dragons. In Westeros it was different. It was her homeland, it was the land where her family ruled, and it was where she wanted respect, love, and loyalty. Remembering the mirrors: she became what she most criticized of her brother. Viserys II believed that there were people dreaming of the return of the Targaryens, and Daenerys began to mistake the desire for popularity as a reality. Tyrion, in his positivity and a GOT‘s ted lasso way, got in, well, the way. Daenerys couldn’t take the Throne by being popular, but she nurtured that dream. Though Tyrion wanted to bring his sister down, he couldn’t bring himself to have her killed. Daenerys lost everything by associating with him. And Jon? Another version of Ted Lasso. True heir and hero, he was more practical in dealing with unpopularity when there was something right to do, but in a scarce universe of leaders, he was at the height of popularity when Daenerys entered his life. She began to envy him. Envy is the feeling that unites Nate and Danny.
Ted Lasso‘s showrunners are geniuses. Everything in the series seems simple, but it’s deep and connected. Villains are three-dimensional (except for Rupert), and it showed us how evil wins through fissures in the soul. Nate was always talented, but he was ignored and despised for being the son of immigrants. When Ted elevates him to the leader, he wasn’t emotionally prepared. “Without a doubt, Nate suffers,” said actor Nick Mohammed. “His mental health is not the best it could be, and he has a lot to learn – a lot of soul-searching to do.”
With the oppression of goodness, and the toxicity of positivity, we can bring new names and concepts but what ruins people’s souls is envy. Envy is born from the projection of what you want and you identify in people who “would be just like you”, but who achieve what you want apparently without the same pain. Or, “deserving.” It’s the old issue: what does he have that I don’t? In a person suffering, it is the trigger for the worst.
The writers of the Apple TV Plus series wanted to show that abused people are not always able to overcome the trauma and repeat the behavior with others, where, reversing the feeling of Power, they feel “venged” and “safe” as their own atrocious ones. Something in sharing/repeating the pain they felt was the alternative to stop suffering. When others get hurt like you, the problem or weakness is not yours, but everyone’s. Daenerys, not loved like Jon or feared like Cersei, destroyed the Wheel to create a world where she would be worshiped and powerful without question. Nate, who is humiliated inside and outside the house, sees Ted Lasso clearly incapable of his role – he doesn’t even know the minimum rules of football! – is offensive and unacceptable. Even if he only managed to overcome part of his problems with the help of the American coach. “There’s a reality to it – that, in fact, sometimes people are chased in their lives, and you give them a little bit of power, and they just decide it’s the only thing they know how to do with other people,” agreed the actor Nick Mohammed. “There’s a certain conditioning that comes with it, so I think it’s a very smart and sensitive way of tackling a lot of very difficult subjects.”
The intelligence of the story lies in the complexity of Ted Lasso’s personality and purpose. Ted prioritizes human connection, empathy, and empowerment to bring out the best in everyone. His unshakable confidence in goodness, and his unending ability to forgive, are comical and irritating, but he comes from deep personal pain to promote overcoming. We know two of them, Ted never ‘hides’ them, but no one listens to him. In the 1st season, he says that he lost his father at 16 and later confesses that he agreed to go to London because his marriage came to an end, but with the distance, he also stayed away from the son he adores. By dedicating himself to others, Ted takes the focus off himself and that may seem heroic, but it directly affects his own mental health. The consequence is the panic attacks that at the end of season 2 lead to the split with Nate and the final betrayal.
Perhaps one of Ted’s mistakes was helping too many people at once. Helps Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) overcome her trust issues and get back to who she was before her marriage to Rupert (Anthony Head). He also helps Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) to use his arrogance for good, Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) to reinvent himself after retirement, and above all, Nate to be someone, to believe in himself, but not knowing the toxic relationship Nate has with his father, Ted didn’t realize the trap he was setting for his friend. We should notice that Nate always attacks people reminding them that he is where he is by “deserving”. He knows his talent, and he knows he worked to get where he is, but his father figure always confronts him with the risk of losing everything, of still being an underdog, and that he will never be enough. So much so that her last dialogue with Ted at the end of Season 2 is just as painful. “Everybody loves you – the great Ted Lasso. Well, I think you’re a joke. Without me, you wouldn’t have won a single game and they’d have sent your ass back to Kansas where you belong – with your son. Because sure as hell you don’t belong here. I do,” he practically spits (a habit he developed). “I belong here. It didn’t fall into my lap. I earned it,” he says more to himself than to Ted. Mirror!
I have already mentioned here that it is actually possible to understand part of Nate’s point of view. Ted appears not to know what he is doing as he consults the team for alternatives and never creates one of his own. He takes care of the players’ heads, and Nate and Beard do the rest which is on paper what he is paid to do in the first place. There isn’t a subordinate that one day doesn’t question knowing as much or more than the boss, because the command chair usually removes the day-to-day person who took it up. However, without the DNA of evil (which Ivar The Boneless had) Nate may have a tragic fate like Daenerys: a vertiginous fall (in her case, death). Because for now he has the material, the success, and the “respect”, but he is alone. Success has gone to his head, but the inferiority complex that is his weakness is there. His insecurity is turned into aggression, insulting everyone he fears is undeservedly superior.
By inverting the frame with Nate, the Ted Lasso series shows the superiority of its narrative. I quote Daenerys again because Game of Thrones made the same inversion, without the same success. Everything that made us root for Nate in the first season bothered us in the second and pisses us off in the third season. The happiness he feels when he is praised – which has gone from surprise to pride to smugness – the search for validation from those who he thinks are strong – first Ted, then Roy, and now Rupert – and so on. Having Nate as the main and open antagonist brings a lot of pain to those who follow the series, without being sure of redemption or a happy ending. Well, this being Ted Lasso and not Game of Thrones, we know the ending will be happy… but how do we get there? We will have to believe.