I still 'believe' in Ted Lasso season 3, even if it seems like I'm one of the few I know who still do. Judging by some folks' opinions I've heard, Ted Lasso's final season should have come out on Netflix instead of Apple TV Plus.
Unlike Apple, the big red streaming machine is comfortable doling out whole seasons at once (though it's splitting The Witcher season 3 in half, as it did with Stranger Things and Ozark). That could have helped with some claims I've heard that this season's been plain bad — or a bit too slow for some.
And while I don't agree with them completely, I sit somewhere in the middle of the conversation. I like that the season releases weekly, as each episode's (mostly) told a good little story that ties into the larger season at AFC Richmond. I'll admit, though, I'm still sometimes shaking my head. Just like the pub-goers who are frustrated with the Greyhounds at present day.
So, to try and figure out what works and what doesn't with Ted Lasso season 3, here are the three things I love about the the new season and two I'm still not convinced about.
The best parts of Ted Lasso season 3
Ted's story of actually-coaching soccer is overdue and perfectly done
The weird thing about Ted Lasso's first two seasons was that AFC Richmond was able to finally excel out of relegation despite having a coach who doesn't really ... coach. Sure, they had help from Nate's tactics, and his 'false 9' formation, but it was always weird that this show could continue with a coach that doesn't know the game.
There's a message in there that the game doesn't matter, and it's one that they're finally throwing away.
I've been delighted to see Ted (Jason Sudeikis) take up some interest in the strategies of the beautiful game. Early on this season, he was trying to read the history of it all with Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics, though that didn't last. Then, in episode 6 ("Sunflowers," the memorable Amsterdam trip), Ted managed to dream up the famed Total Football strategy.
And while it could feel like a cheap out for that stratagem to fall into the team's lap, it wasn't that easy. In episode 7 (the comically-named "The Strings That Bind Us,") Total Football didn't work within the Richmond ranks until the team figured out how to play it differently than was explained to them — and in a way that fits thematically with the series.
Speaking of which:
Jamie Tartt and Roy Kent's bromance is a delight
As was teased by Keeley (Juno Temple) talking to her friend Shandy (Ambreen Razia), today's Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) isn't the selfish weirdo we first met. Season 2 saw (some) his ego broken down, and the humiliation he suffered at the hands of his father in the locker room in front of his team was a true low point.
Since then, Jamie's slowly risen in every way possible, especially as he's growing into an actual leader of Richmond. Being a star player is one thing, but actually making the team more cohesive is another.
Similarly, Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein)'s breakup with Keeley has been used well to slowly unravel his tightly-wound persona. Now, he's giving quiet somber monologues about fear and being humble enough to let Jamie teach him how to ride a bicycle.
And their burgeoning friendship has been pure fun to see, even when it's just about Jamie explaining to Roy why he sleeps in just a tee-shirt and nothing else. Sidenote: I'm convinced Ted would say Jamie dresses "Winnie The Pooh style" if he ever saw it.
The Nate Shelley redemption project is a perfectly bumpy road
After Nathan "Nate" Shelley (Nick Mohammed) revealed Ted's anxiety attacks to the press, and joined up with Rebecca's ex-husband Rupert (Anthony Head) at West Ham, the "Wonder Kid" rocketed to the top of both the Premier League and the list of the most villainous TV betrayals of all time.
Now, with that heel turn in the recent past, it's been clear that Nate's path forward may end at redemption. Fittingly, Nate's got a bumpy road to travel. He's slowly beginning to see how Rupert is a bastard, both with his adultery and how he makes Nate call him "Mr. Mannion" — unless they're in public where his image is on the line. Additionally, Nate's utter discomfort when encountering Ted in the elevator felt like a perfect way for the character to serve some penance.
Throughout the season, we've gotten to learn why Nate isn't actually a villain. For one, he was not really into Anastasia (Elee Nova), the model who Rupert set him up with. When faced to choose between her and the modest Greek restaurant he loves, he chose the restaurant. Then he realized he had to choose Jade (Edyta Budnik), the hostess at said restaurant, who always bristled when Nate acted the way he thought the world wanted him to act.
Once Nate just started acting like himself, smiles formed here and there. Then, in a warm sub-plot from the most recent episode, Nate finally started to learn about dating — as his mother Maria (Neelam Bakshi) told him about how she and his father went from cold to warm when they first got together. But much like how Total Football had to have a bump in the road, Nate fell in the street (breaking his gift for Maria) before he asked her out, and went through the "have I been stood up?" moment at said date. That's how you get people to root for someone they booed, show them falling and in pain.
The worst parts of Ted Lasso season 3
Rebecca's story feels utterly hollow
One of the biggest flaws of the season can be best summarized by how the "good stuff" is nearly-entirely about the men of the show. Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) is basically living a life of small coincidences seemingly tied to her maternal clock.
Meeting with Tish, the psychic her mother practically forced on her, Rebecca collected a series of call-backs from that conversation. Tish "saw" a green matchbook, heard the phrase "sh*te in knining armor" and spoke of Rebecca being upside down, drenched and safe.
So far, we've seen these phrases play out. Sam gave her a green matchbook at his restaurant's opening, her now-ex John Wingsnight once called himself a "sh*te in knining armor" and the last bit describes her night with the unnamed man in Amsterdam.
Tish gave Rebecca these little before saying that the Richmond owner would be a mother, something she's concerned with given her age. Outside of this barely-a-story, Rebecca's season has been about wanting revenge against Rupert and trying to let Ted be Ted.
Right now, it feels like the Ted Lasso writer's room has some way to pull Rebecca's story together with string, but even if Waddingham nails the landing on her part, I'm worried it will still feel threadbare.
Zavamania fizzled faster than it started
I'm trying to avoid judging Ted Lasso season 3 by its first seven (of 12) episodes, but the entire Zava storyline feels more like padding than ever at the moment. The mononym'd megastar athlete played by Maximilian Osinski still feels like a creation to help pass the time.
Sure, he gave Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernández) opportunities to say silly things. Yes, his existence gave Jamie Tartt reason to push himself harder. And, right, he helped Richmond win. But those things could have happened in any other number of ways that felt more natural.
The only way to save Zava would be if the guy somehow signed to West Ham for a climactic match against Richmond where the Greyhounds' Total Football was enough to stop him.
Outlook: I'm optimistic for Ted Lasso's final five
If I didn't bring up a character or story you have a problem with, let me know in the comments below or on Twitter, I'm @henrytcasey. But, for now, I think I trust the Ted Lasso team to land the plane well.
There's stuff I love I haven't explained here, such as how the other Richmond teammates feel more like the zany cast of The Muppet Show. How the Colin (Billy Harris) and Trent Crimm (James Lance) storyline has played out wholesomely, and teases a great moment for the former.
I don't need AFC Richmond to win the Premier League, I just need this season and show (this definitely feels like the end) to end now.