Episodes watched: 4 out of 12
“It smells like potential,” coach Ted Lasso chimed in the debut episode of the critically acclaimed comedy, which aired almost three years ago. And who could have predicted that a series of NBC Sports sketches would evolve into such a beloved Emmy Award-winning show? Star and co-creator/writer, Jason Sudeikis, may have been onto something when he spoke those words.
With expectations running high for the third (and potentially final) season – following Sudeikis’ revelation that “this is the end of this story that we wanted to tell” – can the cast of Ted Lasso score a hat-trick with the upcoming 12-episode run?
Following the shocking revelation that “wonder kid” Nate (Nick Mohammed) is now coaching for Rupert (Anthony Head) at rival team West Ham United, the newly promoted AFC Richmond aim to overcome the pundits’ poor predictions and end the season higher in the table than their former owner’s new team.
With the focus shifting to the showdown between Ted and Nate’s respective teams, the writers have clearly listened to some of the criticisms of the previous season. In result, the third season of Ted Lasso is driven primarily by the footballing action now the team are back in the Premier League, with the season starting out stronger with the engaging underdog narrative.
The size and scope of the football matches are also on another level, with much more time spent on the pitch actually following the player’s progress in key fixtures. The team plays against the likes of Chelsea, Leeds United and Manchester United throughout the season, with real crowds, replica kits and sporting grounds utilised, leading to a much more immersive experience.
Nonetheless, the sporting action is well balanced with the character-driven comedy we’ve come to know and love. New scenarios are also introduced to keep the series feeling fresh, such as Keeley navigating being the boss of her own PR agency and Rebecca going out of her way to try and secure a Ronaldo-esque player from Rupert. If anything, the series spreads itself a little too thin trying to juggle the overarching narrative with multiple character arcs, but understandably so as the extended cast are so wonderful.
The overarching central conflict between Ted and Nate – and in turn, Rebecca and Rupert – is also engaging. It’s clear that the way Nate departed, along with his cutting comments around Ted and his relationship with his son, has hit a nerve with the ever optimistic coach. Sudeikis once again shines while exploring Ted’s vulnerability and hurt underneath the good-hearted warmth and humour, as he contends with failing Nate and the ramifications this has on the team.
However, it’s Mohammed’s time to shine as the Anakin Skywalker-esque “wonder kid”, who’s turn to the dark side isn’t quite as clear cut as it seems. Following the incredible shock transformation at the end of season two, there’s still flashes of the old Nate cleverly dotted throughout, sowing seeds of doubt over his betrayal. The actors’ portrayal of grappling with fragile/toxic masculinity and self-loathing, including the continuation of Nate spitting in key moments, is one of the more fascinating elements.
Hannah Waddingham and Juno Temple also continue to excel in the wonderfully uplifting Rebecca and Keeley dynamic, positively inhabiting empowering female characters as wholly likeable leaders who refreshingly support each other throughout.
The series also continues the character growth and development of Phil Dunster’s Jamie Tart (complete with even more Jack Grealish-esque hair) and Brett Goldstein’s Roy Kent in a sweet, almost brotherly dynamic – which is so rare to see in such a masculine environment. Goldstein is electric in one particular scene, letting down his gruff guard and confronting a part of his past which he’s carried throughout his sporting career. The writers sure do know how to craft impactful character moments.
Whether this is the end of life at Richmond AFC as we know it, Sudeikis and co have certainly created something special. With much more gripping conflict, raised stakes and sporting action, season three so far packs a real punch. However, the jury is out on whether Ted Lasso season 3 truly sticks the landing, especially with the hint at a potentially risky dive into one player’s personal life.