Nate the Great has gone to the Dark Side, ditching Jedi Ted Lasso for the evil empire of Rupert Mannion. The creators of Ted Lasso underlined this with the visual aesthetic of the dark side of the Force in their depiction of Nate’s new team, West Ham.
The characterization of Rupert Mannion as a figure of authority with a haughty and imperious demeanor evokes the image of Emperor Palpatine, the malevolent ruler of the Empire. The use of dark sets with imposing, bold shapes is a nod to the stark, industrial design of the Empire’s starships and bases in the Star Wars films. Mannion’s office is directly inspired by Palpatine’s throne room. The inclusion of a female employee in a flowing loose dress recalls Leia’s signature style, again evoking Star Wars.
By drawing on the visual language of Star Wars, the creators of Ted Lasso communicate the power dynamic at play between West Ham and AFC Richmond. By portraying West Ham as the dark side to AFC Richmond’s light, the show may be setting up a classic underdog narrative, in which the scrappy, determined AFC Richmond team must overcome the powerful and imposing West Ham team to achieve their goals. The dynamic was further emphasized in the episode by the contrast between Rupert and Nate’s press conference and Ted’s more humble approach. Rupert and Nate’s press conference, with their grandiose language and disdainful attitudes towards their opponents, cemented them as the villains of the story. By contrast, Ted’s decision to take the Richmond team down into the sewers for a training session could be seen as an act of humility and resourcefulness. This juxtaposition of grandiosity and humilitiy highlights the differences in approach between the two teams.
In Ted’s own press conference, instead of bragging about his team or fighting back (as Rebecca asks him to), he praises Nate and acknowledges the role his former employee played in helping Richmond succeed. By doing so, he subverts the typical sports narrative of the coach as the hero and elevates the importance of teamwork and collaboration. He also makes fun of himself, showing a willingness to be vulnerable and humble, which stands in contrast to the arrogance of Rupert and Nate.
Overall, the use of contrasting visual and narrative elements in the episode highlights the dichotomy between the dark side and the light, the powerful and the scrappy, and the grandiose and the humble. The episode sets up a compelling conflict that promises to be an exciting and emotionally resonant storyline for the rest of the season.