There's a reason that Nathan Shelley (Nick Mohammed) is the very first person that jolly football coach Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) meets when he arrives at Nelson Road in season 1 of the Apple TV+ series. At the time, Nate was the perfect encapsulation of the so-called Lasso Effect. A timid kit man who expects to cower before the newest AFC Richmond coach, Nate is caught off guard when Ted embraces him: bolstering his confidence, indirectly calling off his bullies, and praising all of his great ideas.

In a matter of episodes, Ted changes Nate's life by making him an assistant coach. But more important is the way he's made Nate feel: valued and vital to the team. Like so many of the players — and basically, everyone else who spends time with the folksy charmer — Nate is forever changed by the profound Lasso Effect. Just not quite in the way we hoped. Rather than being a simple underdog narrative about Ted saving Nate with his kindness, all along, "Ted Lasso" has been Nate's villain origin story.

One Villain Origin Story, Please

For two seasons, Nate was empowered by Ted, who listened to his ideas, valued his input, and praised him at every turn. But how long can you call a guy Nate the Great before it starts going to his head? Reflecting back on the early episodes, it clearly doesn't take much! The signs were already there in the occasional jabs and snarky comments. The more empowered Nate became, the more toxic his attitude.

It wasn't just Ted, either: Keeley Jones (Juno Temple) and Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) also stepped in to boost his confidence. Together they gave Nate the tools to better himself but they had no power over what he did with them. And after years of being the target of toxic behavior — from players, former coaches, and his own father — Nate started to replicate it.

Making matters a million times worse, England's most irritating man decided to get involved. Rebecca's emotionally abusive ex-husband, Rupert Mannion (Anthony Head), is offering something that Ted was no longer able to give: constant attention. For now, Nate is enjoying it. He's showered with compliments, opportunity, and even a shiny new car in season 3. But as we've seen, Rupert is a master manipulator. He's exactly the kind of man to zero in on Nate's troubled self-esteem to do even more damage. Does this mean that Nate is doomed to the dark side?

Well. It might depend on who you ask. The average viewer has probably noticed that Rupert's aesthetic is eerily reminiscent of well-known galactic supervillain Emperor Palpatine, which I guess makes Nate his Anakin Skywalker. Yikes. But Ted himself still speaks fondly of his former assistant coach and still has friendship on the brain. So there could be hope for Nate yet.

An Effective (Self-Destructive) Villain

While we await Nate's potential for goodness, we'll have to get used to his penchant for being mean. Sadly, lashing out at Will and berating Colin were not one-off mistakes. Bullying is also the way that Nate approaches coaching. Forcing players to stand on the "dumb-dumb line" when they make mistakes is far from subtle, but it's effectively mean. So are the s***y comments he makes about Richmond's sewer detour. And then there's the way that he treats his coworkers, ignoring morning escalator greetings, and shooing away banter. The atmosphere of this office is the exact opposite of the AFC Richmond Diamond Dogs.

Much of this was within Nate the whole time but clearly, Rupert is rubbing off on him. He even ousts his charming green mini in favor of a sports car so sleek and expensive that you legally have to be a jerk to drive it. Nate has always been more of a troubled soul than an outright villain, but in the season 3 premiere, he's really putting in the effort to play the part.

Despite all that they now have in common, there's still a difference between Rupert and what Nate has become. Rupert has no qualms about rudeness, he's openly malicious without a care in the world. Nate isn't quite there yet. He's being mean to prove a point. He's riddled with doubt and anxiety. There's still a chip on his shoulder and it certainly doesn't help that in his greatest moments of despair, he turns to Twitter. Deriving your self-worth from social media is more than just a slippery slope, it's downright self-destructive. Vicious comments are inevitable and Nate clearly doesn't have the constitution to bear them. Thanks to parental trauma, the man doesn't know how to healthily process criticisms any more than he does praise.

Nate The Great Vs The Lasso Effect

Nate is the perfect villain for this (potential) final season of "Ted Lasso," more so than someone like Rupert, who doesn't seem to possess a single ounce of goodness. Nate is what happens when the underdog rises to the top, only to become the worst version of himself. He is Ted's whole philosophy gone wrong.

It sucks, but it's our reminder that Ted Lasso — despite his folksy charm and unrelenting optimism — shouldn't be put on a pedestal. Even though he's insanely chipper and has magically turned the Greyhounds into a fully-functioning team, he's also a guy who's still recovering from childhood trauma, struggling in the aftermath of a divorce, and genuinely trying his best to hold himself together. He's another flawed human being, which is more than okay — he wouldn't be nearly as impactful if he wasn't. There's no better person to go head to head with Nate than someone who refuses to validate the toxicity he's begun to replicate.

As for Ted's arc, Nate is the perfect counter because he's proof that the mustachioed coach is fallible and unrelenting kindness is more complex than we'd like to believe. Ted's aggressive positivity has been wildly impactful — not just on the Greyhounds, but basically everyone in his vicinity. But it wasn't enough to draw him personally out of the darkness. It wasn't enough for Nate, either. Ted can't save Nate, but that doesn't mean he can't help him along in his journey.

After all, Rupert once had a very similar effect on Rebecca. This series began with her as the villain, acting out of pure spite to ruin Rupert's team despite the fact that everyone else would be caught in the wreckage. But upon learning the truth, Ted forgave her without a second thought. And going by his Richmond Nelson Road LEGO set, that same offer of forgiveness and a warm hug could still be an option for Nate.

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