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On the surface, Ted Lasso is a simple show about an American who travels to England to coach football. He’s an optimist, he’s a fish out of water, and hijinks ensue. Beneath the surface (barely beneath it), Ted Lasso is complex show about grief, loss, and the power of kindness.
Way beneath that surface, though, Ted Lasso is a show where one of the characters is a wizard hiding in plain sight.
We can’t stop thinking about the Apple TV+ hit after the conclusion of its second season. Only now, looking back, do we realize that the most loyal friend and advisor to Ted (Jason Sudeikis) is more than he appears. Coach Beard, played by Brendan Hunt, is a wizard. He may not be aware of it, but he's got magic to do.
Higitus figutus migitus meetz, bet you’d like to see the receipts? We’d love to show them to you. We can start with his name, which is only ever said to be “Coach Beard.” His first name (or last name) has never been spoken. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Hunt referred to the character as “The Beard.” What kind of characters are famous for having beards? Wizards. Is that all we have? No.
Beard’s magical talents are probably latent, and they only began to came alive once he set foot on British soil. He was always good with wordplay and he's obviously very smart, but his magical awakening did not begin until he went on his adventure with Ted. He’s in a class of his own, but if we had to make a comparison he would be more Merlin than Gandalf.
This would make Ted a King Arthur figure, creating a new round table of chivalry. The players are the knights. His closest advisor? Merlin/Beard. The outgoing owner of the team just so happens to be played by Anthony Head, who played the magic-hating Uther Pendragon on the BBC’s Merlin series. (Think Rebecca as a possible Guinevere, Roy Kent as a possible Lancelot). Roy Kent is definitely a knight; we’ll just leave that here, there, and every f***ing where.
Beard seems to be all-knowing. He knows the game, and he knows people. He’s consistently shown to be aware of people and things that other characters are oblivious to; Nate "the great” being a prime example. He sees Nate’s devolution early on, and aside from one “get your s**t together” moment, he lets it happen. He doesn’t tell Ted that something is festering within Camelot; Ted has to learn the hard way. Wizards teach hard lessons. Thinking about it, Nate could be a Mordred figure... but we’re gonna leave that alone. It’s an insult to Mordred.
Wizards also have tempers, which flare up despite their calm and casual exteriors. Beard erupts at Ted towards the end of Season 1, having had it with Ted’s “winning isn’t everything” talk. Hunt could have added “do not take me for some conjurer of cheap tricks” into his explosion and it would have fit. That’s not a Merlin line, but whatever. No one knows Ted as well as Beard does, to the point where Beard holds the key to Ted’s alternate personality, Led Tasso. Why does Ted keep saying the “be a goldfish” line? Perhaps Beard turned him into a goldfish so he could experience that sensation first hand, which is what the Merlin of The Once and Future King (and Disney’s partial adaptation, The Sword in the Stone) would have done.
So much of this is circumstantial, so here’s the mile-long CVS receipt that you’ve been waiting for. The key to Beard’s wizardry? Jane, played by Phoebe Walsh. If we’re going to pile on with the Merlin stuff, then Jane would be Nimue to Beard's Merlin.
Jane and Beard are romantically intertwined, just as Merlin and Nimue are often portrayed to be. They meet thanks to a love of chess, and they're able to play it in their heads. We rarely see what the hell these two talk about, but it’s beyond the comprehension of mortals. Everyone who is close to Beard thinks that Jane is a toxic influence, and she may be. She may also be a magical influence, coaching the Wizard Beard in the ways of magic. If she goes the path that Nimue sometimes goes, she is using Merlin to learn his secrets and take his magic. Merlin knows that this is his future, but he does nothing to stop it.
Jane has a magical pull on Beard. He knows it, too. Like Merlin, he walks the path despite what it may lead to, despite any and all warnings. Jane has power over Beard's texting, as well as power over his hats. When she tells Beard to change his hat, he does. Maybe she doesn’t like ball caps; maybe it’s because ball caps are not the height of wizard fashion.
Beard also winds up having to change into pants that would make Doug Henning blush during his solo "night out" episode. This night is his magical gauntlet, one where the fates toss him hither and yon. In the end the heavens open and he winds up back in the comfort of Nimue/Jane. It’s an adventure fit for a wizard, and he levels up as a result.
Aside from mind chess with Jane, what does Beard do when he’s not coaching, watching, observing, and divining? He reads. Over the course of Season 2 we see him reading a book about the pyramids, and by season’s end the book is studded with post-it tabs. Let us seriously examine this, because it’s no small detail. Why is he marking passages in this book? He could be a successful amateur archeologist, and his page marking is simply so he can revisit certain passages later. Would that it were so simple.
He’s marking the passages because he’s attempting to uncover the secrets of the pyramids himself. The color code he’s using could reveal what thoughts he agrees with, which ones he doesn’t, and which passages require further examination. His magical mind is at work. Another possibility? He’s marking passages that contain inaccurate information. How would he know something in a book about the pyramids is inaccurate? If he ages in some kind of backwards way like Merlin, he very well may have been there.
When he’s not giving wise council to King Ted in the running of Camelot/AFC Richmond, he’s correcting books of archeology. He’s watching evil take root, noting it, and not interfering. He’s planning another magical session with his lady of the lake. Again, “The Beard” may have no idea that this is who and what he really is. His night out may have begun his journey to coming into his true power, though that power baffles even him.
He is a stoic, sensible, mysterious, and brilliant man. He’s fallen under the sway of a woman who is his magical equal. He assists the valiant, and he keeps an eye on the wicked. He is a persistent enigma, and love baffles him.
Think we’re smoking from the wrong barrel of Old Toby? We may be, but just you wait.
When Season 3 features Jane rising from a lake and throwing a sword at Ted, you’ll see what’s what. Until then, we’ll do what the show keeps telling us to do; we’ll believe. We’ll believe in magic, and we'll believe in The Beard.