By Carly Lane
The third season of the streaming smash-hit is back to remind us exactly why we adore these characters so much.
These days, it feels difficult to even conceive of a television landscape where Ted Lasso didn't exist. The little-streaming-show-that-could, hailing from Jason Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, Joe Kelly, and Brendan Hunt, eventually earned a W in the hearts of countless viewers — as well as critical and awards acclaim. Now, the only question that really hovers over everything when it comes to Apple TV+'s smash hit is whether this third season will also serve as its finale. The marketing surrounding Season 3 has been interestingly cagey in terms of language, rather than officially declaring an endpoint. Even Sudeikis hasn't really committed to a definitive answer while making the promotional rounds, only alluding to the fact that the upcoming season was "the end of the story that [they] wanted to tell." That being said, if Season 3 does turn out to be Ted Lasso's swan song, it's currently poised to go out exactly how it premiered — reminding us of the ways in which we've grown to enjoy and love these characters, and this world, so very much.
It probably goes without saying that Season 2, for all its charm, quirkiness, and optimism, still tackled a lot of dark subjects. It was tough, at times, to see the perpetually hopeful Ted Lasso (Sudeikis) laid low by the panic attacks he struggled to keep the rest of AFC Richmond from noticing, finally leaning on team therapist Sharon (Sarah Niles). It was even harder, still, to watch assistant coach Nate's (Nick Mohammed) descent into the role of new antagonist, a heel-turn brought on by his private insecurities — not to mention a growing fixation with name-searching himself on Twitter (never a good idea!). Throughout last season's airing, Hunt repeatedly referred to it as Ted Lasso's version of The Empire Strikes Back. That didn't seem that farfetched by Season 2's conclusion, which saw Nate turning his back on Ted — and Richmond by extension — and accepting a coaching job at West Ham United, under the sinister eye of Rupert Mannion (Anthony Head). However, if Season 2 was intended to be Ted Lasso's Empire, it's entirely possible that Season 3 could be its Return of the Jedi, complete with a Nate-demption arc that would only emphasize what the heart of this show has been about all along.
As the new episodes begin, Nate is clearly wrestling with more than one side of himself, and it's a testament to Mohammed's strengths in this role that he can lean into the inherent sadness around the character, those brief glimpses of vulnerability before retreating behind a meaner wall. The newly-minted football coach and "wonder kid" isn't the villain of this piece, but more of a tragic figure, a wayward hero who needs an open hand rather than a closed fist. Any previous Star Wars comparisons are even more apropos once we're first welcomed into Rupert's sinister West Ham office, the design scheme for which seems to have taken a page from Emperor Palpatine's interior decorator. In fact, Season 3 bears more than one resemblance to the iconic franchise, including an elevator scene featuring Nate and Ted that could be playing clever homage to a similar conversation between a father and son.
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Meanwhile, Season 3 of Ted Lasso has a lot to throw at a newly-promoted AFC Richmond, which now finds itself estimated to finish at exactly last place in the Premier League. It's not an unfounded prediction, but narratively, it positions the team as the underdog once again, and these players are more determined than ever to prove themselves to not only the media but their long-suffering, still-devoted fanbase. That's easier said than done when every other team — West Ham, chief of all — hardly considers them the competition, but Rebecca's (a stunningly good Hannah Waddingham) desire to square off her ex-husband and his new football club activates her drive to win at all costs. She's not the only woman with the need to prove herself this season; now that she's the head of her own PR firm, Keeley (the eternally delightful Juno Temple) struggles with striking the balance between being a businesswoman who gets taken seriously and finding time for fun in the office. Thankfully, no matter how busy these ladies' respective schedules get, the season still sees them making time for one another, maintaining an important friendship that anchors the entire show.
Overall, Season 3 (or, at least, the four episodes provided for review) does strike a lighter tone than its predecessor. That's not to say there aren't moments that threaten to dim the show's overarching theme of hope — Ted continues to weather the occasional symptom of his anxiety, as well as navigate the complications of being a single dad thousands of miles away from his son. That being said, Ted Lasso has always been an ultimately optimistic series. It's that heartwarming emotion that each episode leaves you with, even if the journey to finding or recovering positivity can sometimes still be longer than the characters, or those of us watching at home, expect it to be.
To that end, what Ted is in possession of, if not a successful romantic life, is a supportive group of friends. The self-dubbed Diamond Dogs, made up of Ted, Beard, Higgins (Jeremy Swift), and a reluctant Roy (Brett Goldstein) are a constant presence for one another, whether it involves personal life advice or a spirited debate over the best Dame Julie Andrews character. So far, Season 3 prioritizes more of a shift into friendship and platonic support between different pairs over anything that could be described as romance (at least within the early episodes). Roy and Keeley might be having trouble seeing eye-to-eye on an emotional level, but simultaneously, Roy actually finds himself becoming unlikely pals with Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) when he takes the younger player under his coaching wing. Theirs is a dynamic that has definitely been seasons in the making and is very well-earned, but it also lets Goldstein and Dunster bounce off each other in a way that advertises their natural chemistry (which is slightly more begrudging on Roy's part) instead of positioning them at unnecessary odds.
Ted Lasso's third season feels like a reward for the fans who stuck it out through the high highs and the low lows of Season 2. It doesn't immediately promise that the road ahead will be an easy one; as we've learned, sometimes there can be such a thing as too much positivity, or a willingness to pretend the hard times don't exist for the sake of maintaining optimism. But while last season signaled just how heavy things could get for Ted and team, Season 3 is more of a return to form, the small-screen equivalent of a hot cup of tea and a big, soft blanket, as well as a successful hat-trick for Apple TV+. To quote one of my favorite fictional journalists, Trent Crimm (James Lance), "If the Lasso way is wrong, it's hard to imagine being right."
Ted Lasso Season 3 premieres March 15 on Apple TV+, followed by new episodes weekly every Wednesday.