‘Ted Lasso’ season 3 finale review: Coach Lasso loses at Television’s Premier League this season

Though the final season sporadically provided us with episodes to praise, it was overshadowed by a consistent habit of inconsistent writing that was a disservice to the talent of the cast and the surging emotions of a moving sport

May 31, 2023 04:13 pm | Updated June 01, 2023 03:07 pm IST

A still from season three of ‘Ted Lasso’

A still from season three of ‘Ted Lasso’ | Photo Credit: Apple TV+

Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) started off this season at AFC Richmond drowning in doubt about whether he even deserves his place as coach. “I know why I came, but it’s the staying around I can’t quite figure out,” he tells his therapist. While Ted is concerned with how to steer the team away from its string of losses, his statement also summarises what it feels like to be a regular watcher of this show.

When Coach Lasso first landed in London, flying in like a moustachioed midwestern Mary Poppins to fix a struggling football team, the audience — like the team’s stern owner Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) — was slowly worn down by his goofy kindness. What made this show an awards darling is summarised in this part of the citation for when the show won the Peabody: “the ripple effect of Ted’s radiant optimism.”

As Ted Lasso, moved away from this theme, what the audience got to witness over this past season was a sloppily written scatter-brained show that failed abysmally at putting forth a cohesive plot.

Ted Lasso (Season 3)
Creators: Jason Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, Brendan Hunt and Joe Kelly
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham, Jeremy Swift, Phil Dunster, Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt, Nick Mohammed, Juno Temple, and others
Episodes: 12
Runtime: 50 minutes-1 hour 
Storyline: In its third season, Coach Ted Lasso deals with the pressure of advancing AFC Richmond in the Premier League while also finally confronting his personal anxieties

Spoilers for the whole season ahead...

AFC Richmond eyes an ambitious goal of winning the Premier League this season, and everyone is trying to shake Ted out of his ‘winning isn’t everything’ belief. This sends Ted burrowing into himself, searching for a confirmation of whether he can lead the team to victory. What could have been a deeply transformational plotline, of balancing kindness with corruptible success, is presented to us in scattered bits across 12 episodes.  

Ted is first handed Zava, an eccentric new star scorer. Richmond’s prospects seem to brighten, but the writers dispense of Zava as swiftly as they brought him in. Ted, realising that bright yellow posters can only do so much of the coaching for him, sets out to find an implementable strategy. When they are in Amsterdam for a friendly game, Ted finds himself close to home in an American-themed bar, where he stays up all night to stumble upon: ‘Total Football.’ Its good football, and it is one of the fewer instances this season when the show can justify its ever-increasing runtime. Unfortunately, this is also where Ted’s practical coaching begins and ends. His other scenes with the team involve his famous motivational speeches.

Ted’s instead spends time in a personal one-sided battle with his ex-wife, who is now dating their marriage counsellor. He grieves through this ‘betrayal,’ grows anxious when he thinks they might get engaged, and has a very vulnerable conversation about what kind of father he is being to his son. The folly in Ted Lasso’s writing emerges when these plotlines are not folded into the central conflict of trying to win the Premier League.

Other characters around Ted are also meted out the same treatment. Nathan Shelley (Nick Mohammed), who defected to coach West Ham United at the end of season 2, could have been used as a formidable opponent. But Nate’s own personal journey, again taking place so narratively far off from the show, means that the writers hastily wrap it all up as the prodigal wonder kid returns to AFC Richmond.

On the other hand, women this season come across as written as an afterthought. Rebecca’s long-standing feud with her ex-husband Rupert Mannion (Anthony Head) finally seems to be reaching an entertaining showdown. She shows her prowess multiple times, and weaponises her personal knowledge of Rupert to steal Zava from him, pushes Roy Kent to take a more active role in team management, and successfully persuade other teams against joining a Super League. It is Rebecca repeatedly holding her own in a room full of old white men. And yet, these moments are so few that they come as a sigh of relief in her otherwise wonky plot. Keeley (Juno Temple) meanwhile is off starting her own PR firm. But since Ted Lasso has not bothered to flesh her out beyond her relationships with those involved in AFC Richmond, her narrative plays out like a parallel spinoff show.

As the final episode approaches, the show adopts a repetitive theme. While the universe of Ted Lasso had expanded beyond the American coach, the writers find themselves struggling to conclude it without making Ted the centre of it all again.

With the Premier League title in sight, Ted is yearning for his homeland. Like all the other important developments the writers chose to play out off-camera, we are never shown Ted handing in his resignation. He pep-talks his team through a victory against West Ham United before they lose against Man City in the final match. Rebecca, who initially uncharacteristically said she is not going to move forward without Ted, decides to stay with the club, selling off 49% of it to the fans, and having fixed a lot of souls in Richmond the Lasso way, Ted returns alone to Kansas.

It is a safe ending to the say the least, it is also an ending that champions the relationships that anchor you even when faced with crushing defeat. Nearly the length of a movie, the finale plays out the way the show should have played out the entire run.  

Ted Lasso, the coach, has existed all this time as a vacuum. During the pandemic lockdown he was a vacuum that dispelled the looming effects of lockdown. Turning the vacuum inwards, the show left little space for anyone to grow out of Ted’s glaring sunshine. Though this season sporadically provided us with episodes to praise, it was overshadowed by a consistent habit of inconsistent writing that was a disservice to the talent of the cast and the surging emotions of a moving sport.

All episodes of Season 3 of Ted Lasso are now streaming on AppleTV+

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