On some level I think everyone has a little carried trauma from childhood. If you’re lucky it’s minor, and has a very small impact on your life — but not everyone is so fortunate. The penultimate episode of Ted Lasso is a study on how we cope with childhood trauma, how we move past it, and how we reconcile it with those who saw it, but didn’t have the capacity to help.
There are two driving forces in “Mom City,” wrapped in Richmond’s approach to facing Manchester City in the biggest match in team history. Ted is trapped between feelings of duty and disgust as we meet Dottie Lasso, Ted’s mother — who surprised her son with an unannounced trip. The second is Jamie, who has become a lost, soulless mess as he faces the reality of returning to Manchester and seeing his father.
Parent/child adult relationships take wandering, circuitous routes before hopefully reaching a point of equilibrium. Everyone lionizes their parents as sees them as paragons of stability, and everyone is let down as we transition from seeing a parent as a super hero, to a human with the same flaws and struggles we all have. The trick is to be well adjusted enough to spot the flaws early and avoid them formatively as a teenager, but trauma often prevents this.
Trauma manifested itself as mirroring when it comes to Ted. Dottie hides all emotion under a veneer of jokes of relentless positivity, which we know is Ted’s worst personality trait. It’s a suit of armor he uses to stop people getting close, because the biggest fear in his life is being emotionally destroyed again, the same way he was when his father committed suicide.
This is fascinating to watch, because everyone in Ted’s orbit loves Dottie. They keep telling him how great his mom is, how she raised such a wonderful man, and Ted keeps bristling at this praise because he sees right through it all and hates the parts of his mom that he’s inherited, while perpetuating the same cycle.
This superficial, rather sad relationship is juxtaposed with that of Jamie — who takes Roy and Keeley to meet his mother after they follow him on a walk down the streets of Manchester. Jamie’s relationship with his mom is infantilizing, as can be the case when it comes to abuse. He lays on the sofa, head in him mom’s lap, and reveals that he feels soulless without the motivation to infuriate his father.
“You’re not lost,” his mom says, “you’re just not sure what direction you’re going in yet.”
A visit to see his mom isn’t the panacea Jamie hoped it would be. He’s not fixed, and throughout the game he keeps looking to the stands in hope of finding his dad. One last lingering piece of trauma, the motivation needed to prove him wrong once more — but dad isn’t there.
With Tartt hurt, Ted makes the bold decision to play a man down in the hopes of Jamie recovering and returning to the pitch. It’s unclear how much of this injury is physical, and how much is psychological. Ted recognizes the trauma and in the middle of the biggest game of either’s career, he takes a knee to play sideline psychologist, telling Jamie that “hurt people hurt people,” knowing for experience that we can either choose to keep perpetuating the cycle and pass on our flaws to the next generation — or try to fix them and become better, for everyone around us, and more importantly, ourselves.
Ted offers Jamie the sage advice he’s unable to take himself: Forgive his dad. Don’t do it for him, do it for you, because freeing that burden is what breaks the cycle and allows a frail, damaged ego to grow again. It all clicks, Jamie returns to the pitch with his characteristic swagger, and scores the game-winner before his body gives out.
Walking off the pitch to raucous applause from the fans who once hated him, Jamie is free of his demons. His dad’s drinking buddies clink flasks, quipping that “his dad would have been proud.”
The viewers’ first thought is naturally that Jamie’s dad has died, but no time is wasted as we get our answer. His dad is watching the game in rehab, and he’s profoundly proud of his son. Jamie doesn’t know it, and it’s better he doesn’t — because he did this for himself, and not his flawed father.
It’s time for Ted to exorcise his own demons. Returning to his apartment, Dottie has made a home-cooked meal for Ted. For the first time we’ve seen, Ted opens up. He thanks his mom for cooking, but says “fuck you” for not wanting to talk. He thanks her for flying to London, but says “fuck you” for not giving him a heads up.
“Thank you for all the little silly things you did in my life, the notes in my lunchbox and putting googly eyes on the fruit at the supermarket to make me laugh and fuck you for not working on yourself, or seeking help after we lost dad, and for not talking to me about it either. For glossing over the whole thing and acting like everything was alright.”
Ted gets a real, sincere, heartfelt apology from his mother. She realizes that her efforts to insulate her son caused incredible damage. Ted reveals that he keeps his son Henry at arm’s length because he’s afraid of being hurt — and this is the most tragic thing Ted has ever said.
For what feels like the first time in Ted’s life, he gets real, true advice from his mother about how to be a parent and an adult. It starts the healing process for him. Ted is ready to grow.
There is now one episode left in Ted Lasso. The end is on the horizon and it feels like we’re getting the resolution we needed.
More notes from “Mom City”
- Coach Beard revealing the history of his relationship with Ted to Nate was the most poignant moment of his character and tells us so much about the nature of forgiveness
- Roy and Keeley seeing posters of themselves on the walls of Jamie’s childhood room was magic
- Ted absolutely revealed to Rebecca that he plans to leave Richmond at the end of the season, right?
- There were numerous allusions to The Wizard of Oz throughout the episode, as Ted realizes that there’s nowhere like home and he needs to return to the USA