Why We Love ‘Ted Lasso’ Boss Rebecca Welton
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Ted Lasso’s first season.]
Everybody loves Ted Lasso — the show, and the character. That’s for good reason. Both of ‘em are relentlessly optimistic, cheery without being unbelievably saccharine, the perfect antidote to gray skies, bad days and a whole year of staying six feet apart. Believe, indeed.
But with Season 2 of the England-set soccer series just around the corner, we’re setting AFC Richmond coach Ted (Jason Sudekis) aside and praising another of the show’s fantastic cast of characters: His shady boss, Rebecca Welton (played by Hannah Waddingham, who has earned an Emmy nomination for her role). Here’s why we’re big fans of Rebecca’s story so far, and why we think she’s unique in today’s TV landscape.
An Understandable Antagonist…
For most of Ted Lasso’s inaugural season, it’s hard to be entirely on Rebecca’s side. Why? Well, she’s actively trying to tank AFC Richmond, using her power to, unbeknownst to the players and coaches, sabotage their chances of success at every turn. But even when she’s working against the ray of human sunshine that is Coach Lasso, it’s also hard not to root for what she’s ultimately trying to accomplish, even if her methods are questionable.
The best villains are heroes in their own minds; there is often a good point buried in their dark deeds, and Rebecca certainly makes one. There’s no denying that her cheating, lying ex-husband was awful, both to her and as a person, in general. If “turnabout is fair play,” as they say, then Rebecca is more than justified in making him watch as she sends his beloved football team swirling down the drain. In fact, at times it’s hard not to cheer for that — even if it means no one’s cheering for Richmond. And on a show where the new head coach was 90% less utterly endearing, it might even be possible to see Rebecca as the protagonist.
But the problem is Ted.
…With a Powerful Redemption
Ted Lasso is so brimming with benevolence that it’s tough to view Rebecca’s actions as anything but antagonistic… and in the end, she grows enough to realize that. Rather than ignoring Ted’s continual kindness — although she does try, at first — and continuing along her path, she does the right thing, the very, very difficult thing, and apologizes for the harm she’s done. (And willingly gives Ted a hug, which goes to show just how far she’s come!)
Even setting her tearjerker of an apology aside, her arc is compelling. We watch her go from insulting and belittling her underling Higgins (Jeremy Swift) to sincerely asking him to return to his job after he quits; we see her ask her best friend’s forgiveness for allowing her marriage to drive them apart; and, in one of the show’s most touching moments, we see her help and comfort Ted as he suffers an anxiety attack. Certainly, Ted Lasso influences her to be curious and not judgmental, as he does to everyone around him. But even as Rebecca moved ahead with her plan, cracks in her “villainy” were evident. At her core, she was never a bad person, and her willingness to make things right proves it.
In the end, Rebecca didn’t want revenge on her ex-husband: She wanted justice for everything she’d sacrificed and lost through years of a broken marriage. Ultimately, she realized the best way to have that justice was not to sink to his level and hurt others the way she’d been hurt, but to move ahead with her life. That’s powerful stuff. And it’s darn great of Ted Lasso to let her arrive at that realization and develop from it, rather than relegating her to the sidelines or having her be “defeated” after the first season.
More Than a Stereotype
But perhaps even better than her overall arc is the fact that there’s more to Rebecca than power suits and designer heels (although we do love her outfits). In many ways, Rebecca defies the traditional “career woman” stereotype on TV. While she starts out as a bit of an “ice queen,” that’s not where she ends up, and the show is better for it.
Unlike the friendless, heartless, lonely portrayals of powerful career women commonly seen in media, Rebecca has friends in Ted, Keeley (Juno Temple), Higgins and the team. She has family, in Sassy (Ellie Taylor) and her goddaughter. She both feels and shows emotion. Heck, she even sings! Point being: Rebecca has both an excellent career and happiness, in a media culture where women are often written as having to choose one or the other.
To show a woman with power who isn’t also suffering in several areas of her personal life and fending off inescapable unhappiness is to breathe much-needed fresh air into the TV landscape. With Rebecca Welton, Ted Lasso does just that — and we can’t wait to see where her story goes in the show’s second season.
Ted Lasso Season 2 Premiere, Friday, July 23, Apple TV+