2023 is a little confusing for me. Not only are Marvel movies running the risk of losing money, but people seem to be turning on two TV shows that were generally assumed to be universally adored. The Mandalorian and Ted Lasso were bonafide darlings of streaming television, but both shows’ third seasons seem to have flipped that consensus on its head.
And honestly, I do not understand it in the slightest. While there's been a lot of grousing from folks, including some of my colleagues at Tom’s Guide, I’ve found both shows to be very enjoyable. There have been some ups and downs, but my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, it feels like people are being overly-critical for the sake of it.
The Mandalorian hasn’t changed, but that might be the problem
Well actually, now that I think about it, it’s not a huge surprise that people seem to have turned on The Mandalorian the way that they have. As the saying goes, nobody hates Star Wars more than Star Wars fans. While true of any major fandom, there’s something particularly unique about the salty toxicity in a lot of Star Wars-centric discourse.
Considering how loud groups of people will scream to the heavens about how bad they think the latest instalment in the saga is, it’s a wonder any of them said anything nice about The Mandalorian to begin with. It makes me wonder whether people were so enamored with Grogu that it didn’t give them much time to find something to complain about.
The Mandalorian hasn’t really changed since its debut in 2019. The show is still essential a TV series made of side quests, with little threads that build up to a climactic finale. The third season stuck to that formula, and that might be the cause of animosity from fans.
Take Grogu for example, because even the adorable frog-eating green goblin is starting to lose his magic. While his babyish antics were cute and endearing in previous seasons, The Mandalorian season 3’s plot could have progressed mostly-unchanged had Grogu stayed with Luke Skywalker learning how to Jedi. So with little to do, Grogu’s only purpose was to stand around gurgling and being cute — and those green-tinted glasses are starting to wear out.
Grogu losing his appeal isn’t why people have turned on The Mandalorian, but it’s a prime example of the problems people seem to have. Tom’s Guide Streaming editor Henry T Casey has noted many times that he feels the third season felt incredibly aimless, pushing him away from Star Wars and left him on the verge of quitting the show.
But me? I was quite happy to sit back and watch the action, enjoy the guest stars, and wait for the little teases to bring Mando (and the audience) to the season’s final conclusion. While the franchise has grown and gotten more complex, Star Wars is, at its core, easily-digestible science fiction for the casual viewer. The Mandalorian season 3 absolutely accomplished that.
Mando was never going to be profound, highbrow sci-fi that’s supposed to make you think. That’s what we have Star Trek for.
Ted Lasso is as entertaining and wholesome as ever
At its core Ted Lasso hasn’t changed all that much, either. It’s still a story about the football coach that’s woefully out of his depth, but survives life’s trials and tribulations with a smile and a chipper anecdote. It’s still as funny and heartwarming as it ever was, and I’m genuinely enjoying what the shop has brought to us as part of the third season. Heck, I don’t even like football/soccer.
That’s not to say that the third season is perfect. There’s plenty to pull apart, including the fact we have just two episodes of the final season to go and there’s still no resolution in sight. So the whole thing is feeling a little rushed, and at times feels more like the show is judging characters for potential spin-off potential.
Similarly, the shows villains haven’t been given any time to be, well, villainous. Nate’s story has been on the backburner, and while the start of the season showed him apparently struggling with his antagonistic side, he almost immediately reverted back to the same awkward Nate he was at Richmond. Even Rupert, Rebecca’s evil ex-husband, was afforded some modicum of redemption during the Akufo League meeting.
For its faults, I’m still really enjoying Ted Lasso’s third season. I’m not sure how the show will wrap up in the time we have left, but I’ve never finished an episode and wished I’d watched something else. Yes, I’m enjoying binge-watching Frasier a heck of a lot more, but I’m not dragging myself through each episode of Ted Lasso for the sake of it. Not like Henry did with The Mandalorian, at least.
It’s not a perfect season, but like The Mandalorian, Ted Lasso season 3 is still the same thing it always was. The only major change here is that the conflict between the main characters has decreased as they’ve adopted the Lasso way of thinking, and lack of conflict between characters rarely makes compelling television.
That could well be why Isaac took an entire episode to confront Colin, after learning his teammate was in the closet. The writers were simply trying to create some drama to make things a little more interesting. Though I do agree with Henry, it wasn't a great dramatic device.
The fact that the show’s villains are decidedly less villainous, sporadic appearances of Edwin Akufo not-withstanding, doesn’t exactly help this matter either. Not that either of these things has really affected my enjoyment of the show. Ted Lasso's still just as fun and heartwarming as ever, and that’s all that really matters to me.
There does seem to be a lot of negativity at the moment, especially where once-beloved franchises are concerned. Marvel movies are another example of that, with fans seemingly tipping themselves to the opposite end of a scale from "best thing ever" to "worthless pile of garbage that ruined my life." It seems Mandalorian and Ted Lasso haven’t quite lived up to some expectations, and both shows are having the same kind of effect. Long delays between seasons couldn't have helped.
But it seems both shows are simply doing much the same thing they always have been. Or at least it feels like that way to me, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying them both as a result. Whether it’s Din Djarrin doing battle with a creepy robot spider creature, or Ted Lasso apparently proving that angry footballers don’t perform well on the field.
But as much as I don’t understand that seemingly over-the-top criticism, I’m not going to let it stop me enjoying both shows.