Warning: the following contains spoilers for episode six, “The Signal,” of Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso
Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender, Sandor Clegane in Game of Thrones — television audiences have always loved a good breakout anti-hero. You know, a character with a rough exterior and, upon first glance, few endearing qualities. But, more often than not, anti-heroes are someone we know deep down have a good heart. Or, at least an openness to not being such a dick all the time. Now, we can add Ted Lasso‘s Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) to the pantheon of great TV anti-heroes.
The character has become the vehicle for the show’s commentary on positive change as he slowly morphs from a selfish and arrogant diva to a humbler person. But only Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) understands that to unlock Jamie’s full potential as a footballer and a teammate, he needs to mix the best of his old jerky self and his selfless new identity. That’s the lesson he tries to impart on Jamie (and Ted) in “The Signal.”
To win, AFC Richmond needs Jamie to score goals and get in the opposing team’s head as opposed to playing passively. So when the coaching staff give Jamie the signal—a unified flipping of the bird—he does exactly that, helping Richmond to a decisive victory with two goals and some cocky trash talk.
“Everybody’s got the things that are crap about them, and that’s inescapable because we’re a product of our environment and our environment isn’t always great,” Dunster told Observer. “This season for Jamie, call it introspection or self-knowledge, he’s taking stock of who he is and what are the things that make him up and what’s in his emotional shadow.”
In Season 2, Jamie has gathered up the courage to ask himself some tough question. Why am I the way I am? Should I be better? How can I be better? On this journey, he’s realizing that even the darker elements of his personality have value because they’re apart of him. Ignoring and suppressing these traits doesn’t solve the issue. That’s why “The Signal” is such an important stepping stone for the character’s development.
“Up to now, the insecurity and arrogance has all been a mismanagement of that internal darkness,” Dunster said. “What he’s learned to do is listen, which is the direction Roy and Ted have been trying to maneuver him in. It’s a huge step in the right direction for Jamie because’s he hasn’t had a lot of that up to now.”
Dunster sees a clear progression of Jamie’s internal moral compass. He finally began listening once Keely (Juno Temple) broke up with him in Season 1. In episode 3 of Season 2 (“Do the Right-est Thing”), he offered his support to Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) by joining his protest of Dubai Air. Now, he’s repurposed his old tricks with a team-first mentality that is beginning to pay off for both Richmond and the character.
“I think there is a good lesson in there that it’s not about striving for perfection and beating yourself up when you don’t have it,” Dunster said. “It’s about understanding what your limitations are and what that’s a part of you jsut as much as the good things are.”