I'm preparing for the Ted Lasso season 3 finale by placing my expectations in the mid-height position, because I'm still a bit perplexed by all of the odd decisions made in its twelve episodes. If this is supposed to be the series finale, as they've often hinted, I would have expected one of the best Apple TV Plus shows to go out on a higher note.
Ted Lasso's third season keeps making mistakes I see as big enough to have the crowd at Nelson Road Stadium shouting for their money back. Each episode delivers moments that makes me go "Wait, really? That's what they think is a good story idea?"
That said, I can't say I'm not enjoying the series overall. The Premier League travails of AFC Richmond may not have been perfect, but they keep swinging back to being good enough. Season 3 episode 11, titled "Mom City" was such a perfect distillation of this mixed bag that I thought I'd look at it as a way to prepare all for the finale.
Now, I am not sure this needs a spoiler warning for details about last week’s episode, but I don’t want people calling me a wanker for not erring on the side of caution.
Ted Lasso season 3 just gave me whiplash twice — but it's OK
Up first in episode 11, we got a rapid switch of tone from three of our favorites from Richmond. Captain Isaac (Kola Bokinni), left wing Colin (Billy Harris) and kit man Will (Charlie Hiscock) all showed up at A Taste of Athens to ask Nate (Nick Mohammed) to come back to coach the Greyhounds.
I can't say Nate's return wasn't expected (my colleague Mike Prospero called this last week), but the jump to this request felt especially rushed. Where was the scene where the players actually debated if they should do this or not? How do you jump from the team angrily screaming for Nate's head when they saw him tearing up the sign to this?
And, then, the Nate's redemption storyline is still made all the more dull by Jade (Edyta Budnik), his girlfriend with no personality. She exists as a hostess and a sounding board for Nate. Her lack of depth makes this story even shallower.
Still, though, it's all kinda-saved in the end, thanks to Nick Mohammed's solid acting and the fantastic monologue from Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) at the end. While he was still pushed to deliver far more exposition than he should have, the emotional second-chance-filled backstory of Ted and Beard hit me right in the feels.
Ted Lasso's penultimate episode took all of the surprise away — and then Apple made it worse
Throughout Ted Lasso season 3, the faint throughline of "why is Ted still here?" has kicked about. It started early on, as we could all see Ted's malaise. And then, in episode 11, the big conversation between Ted and his mother (Becky Ann Baker) basically shouted that he's going to return to the states to be there for his son.
And right as the episode was about to end, Ted told Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) that the cleat would be on the other foot: he's the one with a big surprise to tell her. Sure, some people may be tricked into thinking Apple TV Plus will finally deliver the "will they or won't they? moment, but the reveal is obvious. After this season, Ted's stepping down, and Roy or Nate — possibly both — will step up.
Even in episode 9, as Keeley's story was reduced to waiting for Jack to text back, after having (relatably) sent way too many texts without getting a reply, she felt like more of an aside than a character.
And, then, well, the Apple TV app just had to go and make it all the more obvious, by showing the episode title for the finale. Sure, episode 12 could be titled "So Long, Farewell" because they're going to watch The Sound of Music to follow up You've Got Mail. But the mix of that title and this image is convincing:
Maybe it's all setting up for a big twist, but after Michelle Lasso (Andrea Anders) returned from Paris sans-engagement ring, all feels almost-too obvious. That said, I've never rooted for TedBecca — the 'shipping of the coach and owner — so I'm more than happy to see Ted and his family reunite.
Outlook: Even the little things don't really matter when I'm shouting for Richmond
Ted Lasso season 3's other peculiarities, such as Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) having a mother (Leanne Best) who looks far too young to be his mother (the actors are only separated by 12 years), kept giving me pause.
In the end of the day, the good overtakes the bad, just like how it seems Richmond will defeat the foes they fight. We don't know if the show will be as direct as to place Rupert (Anthony Head) and West Ham as their final match of the season, to win the league. Or will Zava (Maximilliann Osinski) show up?
Either way, it feels as if I'm going to walk away from Ted Lasso the way the titular coach may leave Richmond. Aware of the flaws and mistakes, but happy I was there.