No matter how many accolades Ted Lasso has earned nor the countless fans the series has gained since its rookie season in 2020, in my head it always feels like an underdog I want to cheer for. Maybe it is the overall optimistic tone of the series that gives off those vibes. With each season, no matter how much I loved the previous, I always worry it will lose its way.
Luckily, after watching the four episodes provided for review, fears of a slip in quality were quickly quelled. Now, with what is rumored to be the final season, the series has transitioned comfortably into the role of seasoned veteran; confident and focused on its goals while still having plenty more kick left in it. The third season, which premiered yesterday on Apple TV+, will sport 12 episodes with an extended running time (averaging about 45 minutes each, so far).
We pick up about a few months after where we season two concluded where everything is not coming up roses in Richmond. The team has clawed their way back into the Premier League only to find sports analysts predicting them to finish in a last place. The stakes are high because it they do, the team would be relegated back to the English Football League, essentially the minor leagues of football. It is up to Ted (Jason Sudeikis) Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt), and team owner, Rebecca, to prevent them from doing so.
Standing in their way are Nate the Great (Nick Mohammed) who was promoted from kit man to assistant coach under Ted. He shocked fans and the characters last season with a major heel turn, betraying Ted and Co. by taking position with rival football team West Ham, owned by Rupert Mannion (Anthony Head), Rebecca’s ex-husband. (dun dun dunnnn!) Plus an Italian footballer, Zava (Maximilian Osinski) is on the market, sending team owners scrambling to land the superstar, especially Rebecca and Rupert. Adding to the mix is the unexpected breakup of Roy and Keeley (Juno Temple) due to her new career monopolizing her time.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg as the series continues to build off one of its biggest strengths: its continual expansion of its world and characters with each season. On the surface it has always been a comedy series about a coach’s fish out of water scenario as he tries to lead his underdog team to victory. While that remains true it has grown into something much richer.
Ted’s journey alone has expanded well beyond sports to cover much more personal aspects of the character, namely his dissolving marriage and all that brings with it including crippling anxiety induced panic attacks. The spotlight doesn’t stay fixed on Ted, it shifts from episode to episode. Characters who would typically ride the bench doing some of the heavy lifting through diverse stories and characters in all tenses of the world. By investing in other characters it becomes a real team effort which benefits the storytelling and the viewers. They are such a unique cast of characters that favorites probably change from viewers.
It is one of the reasons I feel the series connects with such a wide audience. It can be enjoyed on different levels and in different ways. It does revolve around sports, but you don’t need to be a sports fan (thought that does not hurt) to get caught up in its underdog story. There is also endless sharp and witty comedy engrained in just about every line of dialogue for comedy fans. Don’t forget the sweet romances which certainly are fun to follow.
For “a soccer show,” as often described before finding its massive audience, it has become so much more. It really is impressive how many heartwarming and motivating paths the series takes us on. It is hard not to get wrapped up in one or all of these characters in what feels like an annual family reunion of sorts; full of familiar faces with new stories, as welcome heaps of comfort food is being dished out in the form of puns, one-liners, biscuits, character quirks, f-bombs, and much more.
This season starts at a slower pace with a first episode that does a lot of seed planting for the starting squad and even some past benchwarmers. The cast is at that top of their game comfortably slipping back into their characters. Now-single Keeley is stressing over the growing pains of her new PR firm. Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) is maturing as a player and a person with some help from the most unlikely of places. Plus both Colin (Billy Harris) and journalist Trent Crimm (James Lance) have been upgraded to at least second string. Even Dr. Sharon (Sarah Niles) appears to provide therapy for Ted over the phone. Don’t worry, if I did not name your favorite they are sure to appear.
My favorite plot line sits at the center line this season, an epic tug-of-war between three key characters: Ted, Rupert, and Nate. Much more is at stake than the success of their respective teams. The situation has quickly morphed into a Star Wars-esque power struggle between good and evil. Nate is the Anakin/ Darth Vadar of this intricate triangle – he is the powerful but lost “wonder kid” with Ted as Obi-Wan using his good natured force to try to keep his former apprentice from embracing the dark side and the ways of his new boss, The Emperor, Rupert.
Four episodes in and the series has already tapped into the vein of empathy and optimism viewers have come to expect as it also explores the more deplorable human traits than before. Nothing beats a great villain and fans get just that in Rupert and Nate. In this universe the villains dress all in black while the good guy wears a soup straining mustache and a smile. It all looks to be one hell of a season. I really cannot wait to see how it all turns out.
As the stakes grow larger on the pitch and off, it is the smaller moments that remain the heart of the series. By the end of the fourth episode Sudeikis delivers his best work of the series. His lovable charms remain, but he also delivers his most nuanced and emotional performance – it hit me much harder than expected. While Lasso remains the ultimate feel good series, its ability to also strike so many chords is what separates it from the pack. Laugh, cry, or cheer it’s magical and addictive.
Some hints seemed to have been dropped about what to expect going forward, and if correct this just may be the best season of Ted Lasso yet. Which is why, and I hate to say this, if show creators Sudeikis, Hunt, and showrunner Bill Lawrence decide to close shop with season three, maybe that’s the best decision. Many of the character arcs are heading towards logical conclusions. Let it retire on top without overstaying its welcome or compromising in any way, leaving fans cheering for more. I have faith in their decision, whatever it ends up being. In other words… Believe!
The first episode of season 3 is now streaming exclusively Apple TV+ with new episodes dropping weekly.