Like many people, I was delighted to see the return of Ted Lasso on Apple TV Plus this week. And while I greatly enjoyed the premier episode, it left me with an overpowering sense that Ted Lasso season 3 needs to be the last one.
Whether or not this is the final season of Ted Lasso appears to be somewhat up in the air right now. Brett Goldstein, who plays Roy Kent and has written multiple episodes, has already reiterated that the show “was planned as three” seasons, and the same sentiment has been echoed by showrunner Bill Lawrence.
And yet, to date, Apple has not come out and given us concrete confirmation that we’ve just started Ted Lasso’s final ride. Of course, it's only natural that a streamer would want to hold onto one of its biggest hits for as long as possible. After all, popular shows keep subscriber numbers healthy. But I'm hoping Apple will make the bold call to say goodbye to Ted in just a few weeks' time.
Even after just a single episode, it's hard to ignore the evidence that Ted Lasso season 3 is positioning itself as an end — and I firmly believe that’s the right play.
Ted Lasso is reaching a natural end
As we enter season 3, Ted Lasso is presenting itself very much as a TV show that is building towards a final conclusion.
The eternally optimistic coach is not the same man who arrived in England back in season one. He’s now won over most of his critics, and has earned the respect of the AFC Richmond squad, as well as club owner Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham).
Rather than Ted’s arc in this third season being a fish out of water story, it appears that over these 12 episodes, Ted will grapple with one of life’s biggest questions: Where do I belong? And regardless of whether he ultimately decides to stay in England, or move back to Kansas to be nearer his son, once this arc is concluded, it’s hard to see exactly what stories would be left to tell with this lovable character that wouldn’t just see him spinning his wheels.
The same is true of the show’s other key character, Nathan Shelley (Nick Mohammed). After transferring to the dark side at the tail end of season 2, he’s now the head coach of West Ham United under the thumb of Ruper Mannion (Anthony Head).
Considering the type of show Ted Lasso is, it seems highly likely that at some point this season Nathan will find his redemption and make amends with Ted and the AFC Richmond team. And, just like Ted, at that point, Nathan’s arc will have been brought to a (hopefully satisfying) conclusion.
The progression of AFC Richmond as a collective also seems to be reaching a natural endpoint. Relegated from the English top-flight in season one, and promoted to the Premier League in season two, the scrappy underdog squad are now fighting to prove themselves worthy of a place at the top table. Perhaps they’ll fall short of “winning the whole thing” but either way you have to imagine, the team will come out of this season with their heads held high.
It really does feel like all the threads that started across the show’s first and second seasons are drawing to a natural conclusion as we enter the third collection of episodes. If these arcs are dragged out into a fourth season, or characters are made to regress for the stake of new dramatic plotlines out, I’ll be seriously disappointed.
Fortunately, I have faith in the Ted Lasso writer's room. The show’s creative team has already delivered gold twice, and based on the first episode of season 3 are about to do the same a third time. I really do believe Goldstein when he says the show has been written as a three-season project, and I think that was a very wise decision.
Better to finish as champions
Perhaps the wildcard in this situation is Apple. Apple TV Plus is still finding its feet in the streaming world — even if we already class it as one of the best streaming services — and it’s likely that Ted Lasso put the service on a lot of subscribers' radar in the first place.
However, there is real value to letting a show go out while it's on top. A great recent example of what happens when a streamer refuses to let a popular series end is You season 4 on Netflix. What started out as a fun, but pretty illogical, thriller series has now devolved into a repetitive mess of plotholes and poor characterization.
Of course, there’s an irony that Netflix, a streamer infamous for canceling shows too soon, has allowed You to stretch well beyond its sell-by date. But either way, the news of You season 5 felt more like a punishment than a reward.
I’m really hoping that Apple TV Plus doesn’t make the same error. Let Ted Lasso go out while it’s practically universally beloved. If Apple can’t bare the thought of saying goodbye to its biggest hit just yet, then there’s always the option of a spinoff show that could tell new stories with some of the less explored characters of the main show (Although I'm of the opinion any spinoff would feel forced).
Whatever happens, Ted Lasso season 3 episode 1 felt like the beginning of the end (Ted Lasso season 3 episode 2 should likely continue that), and while that’s a little bittersweet, it’s the correct call for this particular show. Better to wave goodbye as a champion than ruin your legacy by becoming relegation fodder.