The Spool / Recap
None of us get a perfect end, not even Ted Lasso
The series closes on a heartfelt episode that nonetheless reveals flaws and disappointments.
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The series closes on a heartfelt episode that nonetheless reveals flaws and disappointments.

Endings rarely leave us fully satisfied. It’s why we still attend class reunions, even though we were so ready to get the hell out when we were attending. Or why we mourn relatives who live to nearly 100 or cats who are over 17. It’s why we think fondly about past loves that we were absolutely right to end. And, relevant to this, why television finales seldom do everything we want. Because no matter how perfect a conclusion, no matter how right the timing is, it’s human to want just one more thing. One more kiss, one more laugh, one more purr. It’s why we chase the infinite with art and sports, why so many faiths talk of the world after this one. Endings are hard because who wants a good thing to stop?

As you might guess from that, Ted Lasso’s finale, featuring a script by a trio of series creators Jason SudeikisBrendan Hunt, and Joe Kelly and helmed by Declan Lowney, director of last week’s episode and last season’s finale, did leave me wanting. There were things I wished it did that it didn’t and things I was hoping it wouldn’t that it did. I wanted more of this and less of that. That’s not good criticism, really. To discuss what you wanted, what you would’ve done had you been in charge, is basically fantasy casting. But just this once, as a treat, I’m going to run with it.

My point being “So Long, Farewell” is a strong series finale, perhaps as strong as one could expect. But it isn’t perfect. It couldn’t be. It is, after all, an end. And endings suck.

Now to the recapping.

Ted Lasso Season 3 Finale (AppleTV+)
Just think of me as this recaps James Lance. Just sans hair and any coolness. (AppleTV+)

The episode opens with Chris Powell and Arlo White—you may know them better as the announcing duo—setting the stakes. The whole season comes down to the final game. First, Richmond needs to win. Then, they need Man City to lose. If both happen, they win the whole f-ing thing. If either or both don’t, they’re dunzo. No matter what, though, they’re headed to the Champions League next season. For West Ham, a win also puts them in the running to top the league. If they do so, it might spare Rupert (Anthony Head) a bad end at the club, helping him to dodge allegations from Ms. Kakes (Rosie Lou) regarding their inappropriate relationship.

Then, the show gets playful with us. We cut to Ted (Sudeikis) stumbling into Rebecca’s (Hannah Waddingham) kitchen, the two regarding each other with a classic air of “we slept together last night and don’t know where we stand” cautiousness. Except they didn’t! Thank goodness. I know plenty of people wanted them together, but I was never not baffled by the sentiment.

Instead, it turns out Ted, plus a thong-wearing Bead (Hunt) and closet-raiding Jane (Phoebe Walsh), spent the night, forced out of their apartments by a gas leak. The air of caution between Ted and Rebecca stems from his truth bomb at the end of last episode. As suspected, he told her he’s going home. And she remains not ready to talk about it.

Endings are hard because who wants a good thing to stop?

From there, we enter the Greyhounds’ locker room to witness one more of the team’s rituals. Isaac (Kola Bokinni) has taken on the role of Judge McAdoo, complete with robes and an impressive wig, to determine the final fines owed by the team. Like the haircut ceremony from “Man City” or Isaac playing Santa in “Carol of the Bells,” I wish we had gotten more of this kind of thing. The silly arcana people develop to organize and bond with one another, which lets us get to know them beyond games or personal crises. Ted Lasso has been a stuffed show for some time, but I’d have gladly traded the foreshadowing of the bad fan from earlier in the season for another one of these scenes.

During the divvying up of fines, we see Nate’s (Nick Mohammed) temporary place on the team, assistant TO the kit man. Besides being a reference to The Office—although I can’t recall if it is just from the American or if the British original incarnation made that joke first—it demonstrates how Nate has returned with humility. No one is giving him a hard time, but he also is doing a bit of public penance. It’s nice to see him back and comfortable—even if it all seems too easy—and the return of one of his adorable boxes seals the deal. Isaac fines him a bunch of money for not attending any meetings, practices, or dinners, which is an excellent way of welcoming him back while soaking him for live band karaoke at the end-of-the-season party.

In the office, Trent Crimm (James Lance) distributes Beard and Ted an early incomplete version of his book. He’s seeking their opinion, although he reassures them he’ll set them straight if they disagree with anything in it. Relationship issues also come up as Beard reveals Jane shredded (one of three of) his passport(s) in an attempt to derail his upcoming return to the States. Roy (Brett Goldstein) also asks how to tell if someone is interested in you, echoing Nate’s question about Jade (Edyta Budnik) in “The Strings That Bind Us.” Oddly, the script passes up on a chance to make a callback (“You can’t”) or to differentiate Ted’s squad from the people Nate talked to in that episode. Instead, they go for a Diamond Dogs gag, which sends Roy backing out of the room chanting no.

Ted Lasso Season 3 Finale
Get you a team that can do both. Sports and musical theatre. (AppleTV+)

Rebecca, meanwhile, is contemplating selling the whole team, stunning Keeley (Juno Temple) and Higgins (Jeremy Swift). Given the team could make two billion dollars, it is an understandable temptation. Sure, it runs a bit counter to her speech about the Super League, but it shows how much Ted’s departure has left her feeling distant from her own team.

On the pitch, Ted and Beard ask Roy to end practice in a no muss, no fuss kind of way. Instead, the team stages a musical number set to “So Long, Farewell” (hey, the episode’s title!). It’s cute enough and a nod to several members’ love of Julie Andrews. However, what makes it land is how bullshit everyone goes after Ted declares it perfect. It’s such a great way to show how much the team put into it and how important doing it was not just to them but to Trent, Will, and the fans watching in the stands.

That affection extends to Rebecca as she discovers while eating lunch with her mom (Harriet Walter). There the pub trio picks up her lunch tab. Then they approach, awkwardly but earnestly, to thank the Greyhounds’ owner for everything she’s done for the team. She’s still talking about selling, but it must be that much harder to do so after their open-hearted, if floundering, appreciation.

Ted Lasso Season 3 Finale
Juno Temple and Hannah Waddingham get in some quality snuggles. (AppleTV+)

In one of the more frustrating threads of the episode, Jamie (Phil Dunster) and Roy make plans to grab a beer, which seems wonderful. Unfortunately, Roy has ulterior motives. After seeing Jamie ask Keeley to escort him to Brazil for a Nike shoot, the coach wants to assert his dibs, for lack of a better way to put it. Worse, he brings it up right after Jamie thanks him for being one of the few older men who helped him. The situation devolves into a fight. Then they take their issue right to Keeley “letting” her choose. She, thankfully, kicks them out instead. I’m gonna be upfront here and say I hated all of this. It was lowkey the worst thing the show has done to either character all season. So dumb. So very dumb.

With game day looming and Ted sitting alone in the stadium, Rebecca decides it is finally time to talk about his departure. She reveals her plans to sell the team, explaining if he’s gone, she will be too. She offers an alternate future, though, one in which he stays and Henry and Michelle move to Richmond too. While not at all on the level of 25th Hour’s famous Brian Cox narrated fantasy sequence, it reminded me of it. It’s a moment of irrational hope that somehow they can dodge the inevitable. That there’s a way everyone can get much closer to everything they want. Of course, Ted isn’t interested, as Rebecca no doubt knew from the start. Still, she had to try.

Dangling plotlines continue to wrap with Nate up next. He finally apologizes, suturing that season-long wound. As I talked about regarding episode 10, this is a perfectly good scene that, sadly, loses a lot when you judge it by more than just the moment. It’s not that I want Nate to suffer or that I doubt his genuine grief. It’s that he had concerns that remain unaddressed. Misinformed or not, things like the picture he gave Ted not being visible—we know it is on display in Ted’s house, but Nate never does—are legitimately worth having hurt feelings about. His apologizing without Ted ever explaining the reality of those situations leaves it feeling like Nate’s apology is a matter of plot necessity, not the end of a difficult journey.

I never hated Nate and always expected he’d redeem himself, so the destination isn’t what bothers me. It’s how little we saw Mohammed showing us Nate’s evolution. It feels less like Nate grew up and grew mentally healthier and more like someone flipped his switch back to sweet and genuine. Also, not for nothing, but tearing up the “Believe” sign was not Nate’s biggest sin. It felt like the series forgot that fact. Outting Ted’s mental health issues was a way bigger deal, but Ted Lasso never tried to square it.

All that said, both Sudeikis and Mohammed nail the scene.

It feels less like Nate grew up and grew mentally healthier and more like someone flipped his switch back to sweet and genuine.

Later, as the team assembles, we get our last word on Zava. He doesn’t appear, but he sends a box of t-shirts and an enormous avocado. I expected him to come back, probably playing for West Ham, and I’m glad the show didn’t go there. That said, I do feel like they never quite nailed his storyline. The point was a good team is better than a great superstar, but the team won with him, then lost once because they acted as bad teammates, then he left. We never actually witness how a selfish superstar could be poisonous to a team. If we use the evidence of the series, the message is “a great superstar or an excellent team are both very good,” which is quite obviously not the intent.

Zava’s biggest acolyte, Dani (Cristo Fernández), makes amends with Van Damme (Moe Jeudy-Lamour) with a cool new mask that “makes him look like a superhero.” This inspires the goalie to ditch his action hero name and rechristen himself Zorro. That’s Zorro, not Zoreaux. I can’t decide if Dani acknowledging his maiming of Zorro with the gift as by way of apology makes that whole thing play better or worse. Ultimately, it’s fine, though.

A little easier to parse and thus be satisfied with was Roy finally accepting membership in the Diamond Dogs to confess he’s been trying to change and still feels like the same old jackass. The takes on improvement vs. perfection are fairly excellent distillations of what I had to say so many times when I was still an active therapist. That remains one of my favorite aspects of the show, how it allows itself to be so naked regarding therapy and therapeutic concepts. Even if a certain therapist is my least favorite part of the show. Don’t worry. We’ll get to him very shortly.

Ted Lasso Season 3 Finale (AppleTV+)
Nick Mohammed makes amends with a mended sign. (AppleTV+)

John Wingsnight (Patrick Baladi) and his fiancee Jessica (Victoria Elliott), Colin’s (Billy Harris) fella Michael (Sam Liu), Barbara (Katy Wix), and Sassy (Ellie Taylor) join the usual cast of characters at the Dog Track for the game. Wingsnight, in particular, is a nice touch. It both damns him (the quintessential bandwagon fan) and lifts him up as a supportive dude (one of his two teams is in position to win the league elsewhere, and he’s in Richmond for this longshot). Barbara going in for a high five and being ignored by Rebecca is a fun bit of business too. Between her and Rupert’s new assistant from episode 10, administrative assistants seem to love Rebecca. Oh, and George (Bill Fellows) is there too, working for Rupert again, this time as West Ham’s coach.

Dr. Sharon (Sarah Niles), Michelle (Andrea Anders), Henry (Gus Turner), and, yes, Dr. Jake (Mike O’Gorman) all tune in from their homes. Dr. Jake doesn’t wrap himself in glory, behaving like a rather stereotypical “ooo, a 0-0 tie” kind of American about the whole thing. But here’s the thing, he shouldn’t be in Michelle’s house, on her couch, to be this kind of a bore. He should be preparing to lose his license and prevented from seeing her by an injunction. I won’t go long on this again, but his dating Michelle is a massive ethical violation. I have zero interest in the show reassuring us that he’ll be gone soon because he’s a bad fit. He’s a bad PERSON. That’s what should break them up. Dammit.

Before taking the field, Beard takes the lead on the pre-game speech. Instead he shows a video of the team and their time together under Ted. It is a wonderful bit of acting as the players move from smiling and joking to realizing what a special thing they were part of. By the end, they’re in tears. I imagine quite a few viewers were too.

While the team passes well, they can’t get any rally going. West Ham, on the other hand, manages a couple of breaks through the Richmond line. As a result, the teams go to the locker rooms at halftime with Nate’s current former team—now that he’s back with his previous former team—up 2-nil.

It is a wonderful bit of acting as the players move from smiling and joking to realizing what a special thing they were part of.

In the locker room, Ted again opts for something lowkey over full-out inspirational. However, when he looks for the now shredded and gone “Believe” sign, the team again demonstrates that they’ve absorbed his lessons enough to pick up his slack. In a throat-catching brief montage, each player reveals they kept a piece of the shredded sign. They all hid them within or behind something important to them. The first book Ted gave them, a photo, a bottle once filled with beach sand, under the captain’s strap, and so on.

One by one, they come forward and reassemble the sign. Does this undermine Ted’s point about it being just a symbol? Maybe. But it’s also a hell of a moment. Actually, you know what? Here’s what it says. Symbols are important but not vital. People can survive their destruction. No one should be tethered to them. That said, the Believe sign didn’t trap the team. It freed them. So bringing it back is an affirmation of that, not a regression. There. I squared it.

Reinvigorated, the team goes out and redoubles their efforts. Jamie scores the first goal fairly quickly before West Ham tightens up again. Still, they overplay their double teams on Jamie, and someone fouls him. He passes the penalty shot to Dani, who, in turn, passes to Isaac. Isaac attempts to give it to his best friend Colin, but the midfielder won’t hear of it. Thus Isaac takes the first penalty shot of his professional career. And parks it into the cheap seats. And right into Wingsnight’s nose.

Except not exactly.

As it turns out, Isaac put it through the top of the net. It turns out his kicks can shatter glass and perforate vinyl netting. The goal counts, the score becomes 2 all, and Wingsnight couldn’t be happier about his face full of blood. Bandwagoner or not, the dude is passionate.

Ted Lasso Season 3 Finale (AppleTV+)
Look! Darth Vader…err…Anthony Head. (AppleTV+)

Rupert, already clearly going through it, snaps and stamps onto the field. He demands George take Jamie out, which the coach, in a surprise moment of spine, refuses. Rupert knocks him down, and the crowd immediately turns on the West Ham owner. He leaves to chants of “wanker.”

As always, Head plays any and all beats you can give him. I’m still frustrated the show couldn’t decide if he was a charming, amoral rogue, a straight-up supervillain, or maybe an aging guy who finally gets how he screwed up his life. Or gave us the connective tissue to make him all at once. His character consistency worked until this season. Every moment after he tried to lure Nate into cheating on Jade has felt at odds with the next and the previous.

Despite their owner’s implosion, West Ham still manages to score, seemingly closing the door on Richmond. Strangely, though, Ted begins to laugh. It turns out the Hammers were offsides which cancels the goal. Coach finally figured out offsides. Bravo.

Richmond gets one last shot at the win, and Ted returns to his bag of trick plays. He finally gets Jamie to put on the Oscar-winning display he demanded back in season 1. As expected, it frees up Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) to take the shot. My series MVP seizes the moment and wins the game. Chaos erupts. The fans rush the field. Colin gets his kiss. Ted finally does the dance again!

Ted Lasso So Long, Farewell (AppleTV+)
Brendan Hunt, Brett Goldstein, Nick Mohammed, and Jason Sudeikis celebrate demurely. (AppleTV+)

Hard cut (apologies to the Flop House’s Stuart Wellington) and we’re in an airport.

Through context clues and eventual outright statements, we learn that while Richmond won, Man City managed to hold on in their game to stay atop the league. This is a plot choice I quite like. It gives Richmond further horizons without denying them a happy ending. The creative team threaded the needle.

We also learn that Rebecca threaded the needle, selling 49% of the team back to the fans, ala the Green Bay Packers or real-life improbably rising Wrexham. She puts her “they’re not our teams, we just own them” speech into reality.

In even better Rebecca news, she’s waiting for Ted to talk one last time at the airport. The scene is another home run. Then, she leaves to run right into her Dutchman and his daughter. I want her to be happy, but I kind of wish the show just left that one perfect night alone. But I guess they had to pay off that stupid prophecy.

On the plane, Ted gives Beard “permission” to stay with Jane. He fakes an exploding appendix with zeal. Despite not being entirely accurate, the flight crew buys it, reopening the cabin door and wheeling him away. I guess we’re all supposed to pretend this is a happy ending for Beard? Remember when Higgins pointed out how bad Jane was for Beard? Remember him being 100% and nothing about their relationship changing since? Beard staying for the team, I like. Staying for Jane bums me out.

I thought [Ted Lasso] was something special [in Season 1]. I still think it is something special.

Ted returns to his former home and that son who misses him. Then we briefly jump forward to him coaching Henry in soccer. At the final moment, he seems to see us and awards us with a slight smile for taking the journey with him.

Speaking of flashes forward, there is another one. Maybe. The show’s visual language implies that it is a dream Ted has while flying home. Given what we see, this makes sense. However, members of the writing staff insist it is an accurate accounting of the future. On that level, it confounds a bit. 

For one thing, the scenes get increasingly dreamlike as they go, climaxing in a Beard-Jane wedding that looks like it is happening in front of a melting Stonehenge. And with no Ted anywhere to be seen. Beard himself, Brendan Hunt, insists Ted missing Beard’s wedding would be no big deal, but I greatly disagree. Ted seems like a move heaven and earth to be there kind of guy. Oh well, it isn’t a huge deal, I suppose.

Ok, those last few notes are negatives, so let me end with this instead. When Ted Lasso debuted, I was by myself in a house full of boxes, my wife and children in a different state, unsure if they’d be able to come home thanks to a reasserting itself COVID. I was a therapist in two group homes for adolescents in total lockdown, a big old frayed nerve. I watched the entire series in two days on screeners, watched it again a week later, and then recruited my wife to watch it with me a third time when she finally did make it back. It was huge for me.

I haven’t always thought it was perfect. My first season review confirms that. But I thought it was something special then. I still think it is something special. To steal from the show, perfection is boring. I’m glad for the Ted we got. And if it didn’t do everything I wanted, well, whatever does. Plus, it did a bunch of stuff I loved that I didn’t know I wanted. So, yeah, I’ve been disappointed, annoyed, and baffled by choices. I’ve also been delighted, cracked up, and moved to tears. I’ll take the limited bad for the plenty of good.

Ted Lasso So Long Farewell (AppleTV+)
On three! 1. 2. 3. RICHMOND! (AppleTV+)

Postgame Analysis

  • Really? Haven’t had enough yet? Ok!
  • Great to see the “us-ie” kid again.
  • My biggest complaint is pure fan service. I wanted more. I wanted Ted at the end-of-season party. I wanted to SEE that party. I wanted Ted and Sassy to have a goodbye. I wanted Ted to talk to Dr. Sharon one last time. Yes, their final time together in season 2 was perfect, but they already brushed over that with two phone calls this season. Why not a third?
  • And because I just have to say it: Justice for Michelle, Ted, and Henry: strip Dr. Jake of his license and drown him in fines.
  • Ted and Michelle absolutely never get back together. They’re both good people and good co-parents, just not good for each other people. I will die on this hill.
Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 11 (AppleTV+)
One last Richmond stroll for Jason Sudeikis. (AppleTV+)

Let’s Go To The Tape

  • “Derivative! Overly prosaic!”- Besides being a funny Beard moment, this feels a bit like the show anticipating possible criticism and making it into a joke in advance.
  • “I really am exceptional.”- She might not have been a great parent, but Rebecca’s mom is never not a hoot.
  • “Must be awful for ’em. Lying awake at night, haunted by how fucking easy they’ve had it.”
  • “Well that’s weird because I’m like the mother she never had.” “I guess that makes you like the grandmother we never had.” “No, it doesn’t.”
  • “Worth the wait.”- No one has loved drinking a beer on camera as much as Dunster.
  • “Eat, Pray, Love Style, right?” “Well, more like Drink, Sleep, Fuck.”
  • “We’re fucking idiots.”
  • “You’re still in training, but you can watch me eat a kebab.”
  • “Making a real connection with someone and starting a family.” “Boring.”
  • “I’m still me.” “Wait. Did you want to be someone else?” “Yeah. Someone better.”
  • “Perfection sucks. Perfect is boring.”
  • “Always be moving towards better.”
  • “I prefer rugby. There’s just more grown men throwing other grown men into the air like children. And blood. Which is nice.”
  • “Before the match is reserved for anxious vomiting.”
  • “Forget my luggage. It’s full of rice.”
  • “We don’t want to know the future. No. We want to be here right now.”
  • “I tell you, when I look up there, I still see it.”
  • “There ain’t a whole lot of places like AFC Richmond.”