Nathan Shelley has been public enemy number one since the season 2 finale of Ted Lasso dropped last year. After what viewers of the hit Apple TV+ show considered the ultimate betrayal, so many of us were waiting with bated breath to see Nate get what he was due. He wronged our beloved Ted when he was at his most vulnerable, telling the press a sacred secret regarding Ted’s mental health, and that was something I think we all resonated with. It was a nightmare we all share — betrayal from a friend we hold dear.
When season 3 began, it was time for Ted vs. Nate, or so we thought. While it isn’t in Ted’s nature to be vindictive — any hint of that would be so wildly out of character that it wouldn’t be satisfying to watch no matter how much I want to see Nate’s career end in misery — many thought we’d see the demise of West Ham’s Coach Shelley come on the pitch and even possibly at the hands of his manipulative, skeevy, watered-down Emperor Palpatine boss Rupert, who would eventually turn on him just like he did everyone else in his life. In the early episodes, we got exactly the opposite, but that’s to be expected. He was winning games, had complete control of his players and staff, social media still adored him, Rupert bought him a fancy sports car … the world was Nate’s oyster. But we saw some of that façade of invulnerability crack when he came face to face with Ted in episode 4.
Episode 4 of season 3 began like I saw the season finale going, the big matchup between Richmond and West Ham, Ted would pull out some victory by motivating the team with a halftime speech that propelled them to victory. But Richmond went down in flames by doing the exact opposite of what Ted would do (still poetic), and Nate went on being Nate. His team was still winning, he had his family, Rupert’s good graces … When was this all going to go south? When was he going to get what he deserved?
Of course, Jade, the Taste of Athens hostess, was reintroduced. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hopeful that while West Ham’s fans revered him, she’d stay immune to his fame and continue her cold approach toward Nate. Especially after he brought Anastasia there. Then you tell me that episode ends with her joining him for dessert after his “date” leaves him there? That’s not what I ordered, I’d like to speak to the chef and the manager.
As we’re heading into episode 10 of the 12-episode supposedly final season (it doesn’t feel like a final season though), Nate is happy with Jade, who has given him the honor of being her boyfriend and supported him completely when not one of us could find it in ourselves to do so. And sure, it’s great that Nate refused to go down Rupert’s scummy path, good for him for not being another wandering eye, but Nate has done nothing but rack up win after win this season, and I wanted retribution, sweet, sweet vengeance served cold and brutal.
And I think that disappointment is the point.
Is Jade the key to whatever climax of redemption the writers have in store for Nate? Absolutely. The arc has already begun descending from its climax. He’s stood up to Rupert and risked his boss’ disappointment to follow his own moral compass, a trail I assume he’ll continue to follow up until he’s forced to face Ted — his biggest fear — once again. But there’s more to Jade and Nate’s story than that.
Sometimes, the people we hate get to have nice things. That’s the reality. We can’t change it. If we dwell on it, the only person being affected is ourselves. Why am I cheering for this character’s demise more than I am for the redemption of Jamie Tartt or the emotional walls holding Roy Kent hostage breaking down? It’s not like he’s Thanos, a supervillain ready to wipe out half of humanity. But in our eyes, as people firmly in Ted’s corner ready to take a kick at whoever even looks at him wrong, we see Nate as the villain. But to West Ham fans, he’s the Wonder Kid with his brilliant trick plays and a winning record for their favorite team. To Jade, he’s that weird, nervous guy that comes in and always fumbles his sentences and looks at her like she hung the moon. Ever since that first Richmond vs. West Ham match, I’ve been forced to see Nate from other perspectives, not just that of the Richmond locker room. And I’ve found space to learn that I can hate Nate, but not everyone has to.
Was it ever the Ted Lasso way to do anything but this? From season 1, this series has been filled with life lessons and metaphors while challenging us to think in different, kinder, more Ted-like ways. It’s what makes it so great, and this is no exception. Ted himself wishes Nate nothing but the best, and for a moment I found myself mad at him for it. But isn’t that what we love about him?
As the season (maybe series) comes to a close, I do hope that Nate confesses his transgressions to Jade. I think she deserves to know, and I think Nate needs to get that off his chest within a safe space. And while at the beginning of the season, I’d have wished for her to theatrically throw a glass of red wine in his face and storm off, disappointed in the horrible man he is, I hope she listens and that whatever feelings come up from it are worked through in a healthy way. Because we as people deserve to have someone like that. And we as viewers deserve to see that in a world so polarized and governed by negativity and this drive to find something to hate in everyone.
We don’t have to forgive him. But Greyhounds, I do think we need to move on.