Spoilers for Ted Lasso season 3

A lot of big TV shows ended their series runs this week, from Succession to Barry to Ted Lasso, the show that perhaps most defines “comfort watch” in the age of COVID. (In case you’re wondering, yes, Barry sticks the landing in its series finale, too. Where Succession presents a world where change is fundamentally impossible, especially for the wealthy, Barry offers the observation that sometimes we change not because of our actions but because it’s easier to live with a kind lie than a hard truth.)


Ted Lasso’s first season was a breakout hit in 2020, gaining steam particularly after all episodes were available to binge as one big fictional hug. Back then, I called it the “spiritual successor to Schitt’s Creek”, though season two took a darker, Empire Strikes Back tone, dividing loyalties and testing friendships as the show homed in on Ted’s mental health issues and the line between positive thinking and toxic positivity. Season two was somewhat divisive, as not everyone welcomed the tonal shift, but it was thrilling to watch a show that was instantly beloved embrace the dark side and keep pushing characters forward, rather than settle in a sitcom-style rut where no one ever really grows and nothing ever really changes.

Season three, however, has been a big ol’ mixed bag. The bloat problem evinced in the first few episodes was never really solved. Season three is overlong, overstuffed, overly busy with subplots and too many characters, many of which are more window dressing than actual, full people. For instance, Jade (Edyta Budnik), the tetchy restaurant hostess—why does she like Nate? We never really know, only that she does warm up to him eventually. At first, it seems a cynical ploy once she realizes Nate is well known and admired (by some, anyway). But then she’s just all of a sudden Nate’s full girlfriend for reasons that are never apparent. She’s just a different person who likes Nate now, because Nate…deserves a girlfriend? I guess?


This is the hinge on which season three fails to swing. Nate (Nick Mohammed) needed a significant redemption arc after his deeply hurtful betrayal of not just Ted, but the whole Richmond AFC club-cum-family in season two. But season three is so busy doing so much damn stuff all the time, he never really gets that arc. He quits West Ham OFF SCREEN—a real problem throughout the season, the number of massively important character moments that happen off screen—and is welcomed back to Richmond with relatively little fuss. Oh but, we must make time for the men to sit around and talk about how sh-tty it is when women have nude photos leaked! A well-meaning moment, I know, but in the grand scheme of things, unimportant in the face of delivering on the character arcs the previous seasons expertly set up.

It's a fundamental problem undercutting the whole season, and it’s hard not to see it as symptomatic of the change in creative team at the top. Series co-creator Bill Lawrence left Ted Lasso to show-run Shrinking (which he, in turn, co-created with Lasso’s Brett Goldstein), which left Lasso in the hands of other series co-creator, Jason Sudeikis. There are moments in season three that are fun, funny, heartwarming, exciting, but the overall execution is uneven, and despite rumors that this season was delayed because of Sudeikis’s “perfectionism” in scripting the episodes, there is no evidence of such perfectionism on screen. It’s a sloppy season that undercuts some of the show’s best characters and most anticipated moments.


Like Roy and Keeley never reconcile! Although Jamie Tartt’s character arc from vainglorious glory boy to thoughtful, strong leader capable of humbling himself for the sake of his team is one arc that carries solidly all the way through the series. Phil Dunster is truly delightful as Jamie, whether he’s being an asshole or showing his vulnerable side or saying “poopy” in a way that will haunt me forever. But the love triangle between Jamie, Roy (Brett Goldstein), and Keeley (Juno Temple) goes nowhere and serves no purpose except to keep Roy and Keeley apart, in case of spin-off.

And this is the other way in which Ted Lasso does a disservice to its characters. In and of itself, the finale episode, “So Long, Farewell” (written by Brendan Hunt, Jason Sudeikis, and Joe Kelly, and directed by Declan Lowney), is a great finale. It brings back the heartwarming tone that made the show so beloved in the first place; Ted caps off his journey of self-discovery and returns home to Kansas to be with his son; Richmond AFC doesn’t win “the whole f-cking thing” but they do have their best season in club history; and more importantly, Ted left the club in a place to continue being a major competitor in the Premiere League. Rebecca finds peace and a new love interest, and Trent Crimm publishes his book, The Richmond Way, which becomes a hit.


Everyone wins! And it feels good! It’s not TOO twee, by denying Richmond the EPL title, there is still something for the club to strive for and it sidesteps hokey Hollywood clichés. But all the main characters end up better than when we met them, changed by their experiences and Ted’s kindness and gentle leadership. And Ted himself has a better handle on his issues and his life than he did when he essentially ran away to London at the beginning of season one. If you just take this one episode, it seems Ted Lasso ended perfectly.

But you can’t just take that one episode. You have to take the eleven messy episodes before it, too, and so much of those episodes is devoted to setting up potential spin-offs, particularly in Keeley’s case. Just like there’s no real reason for Jade to like Nate, there’s no real reason for Roy and Keeley to still be separated by the end of the season. Keeley is more confident and working closer than ever to Richmond with her new-new PR firm, and Roy is more apt to open up and show support than he was initially. They’ve both grown, yet they remain entrenched in a love triangle that does nothing but place-hold for a potential new series focused on at least some of these characters.


Ted Lasso offers one perfect season, one daring season, and one messy season that manages to capture the warm fuzzies of season one in fits and starts but sacrifices good storytelling for corporate wheel-spinning. It’s still a very likeable show, and the finale episode is especially good, but in the end, Ted Lasso is a case of diminishing returns.

This review was published during the WGA strike of 2023. The work being reviewed would not exist without the labor of writers. Ted Lasso is now streaming all episodes on Apple TV+.


Attached - Phil Dunster and Juno Temple at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation Conversations for Ted Lasso last night in LA.