The crown jewel of AppleTV+ hits the pitch, ready to address the mounting criticisms.
Considering the number of statues, attention, and fans the series has collected over two seasons, it may feel odd to call Ted Lasso Season 3 a chance at a comeback. However, given the backlash that seemed to accumulate during the back half of the second season, it isn’t entirely off the mark. Viewers and critics (not this one, make of that what you will) expressed frustration with the show’s messier tone and longer episodes. Additionally, even as the show pierced it, people’s appetite for Ted’s (Jason Sudeikis) positivity had rapidly grown thin in some quarters.
While it’s difficult to predict how individuals will react to the four episodes provided to critics so far, there are signs the creators—Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, Joe Kelly, and Brendan Hunt—and writing staff—including Brett Goldstein—took some of the complaints to heart. The episodes are all in the over 40 under 50-minute range, longer than Season 1 but less “it takes as long as it takes” than Season 2.
Additionally, the show feels less antic, perhaps a little sadder. If Season 2 matched its protagonist’s jittery, constantly suppressing anxiety emotions, this one reflects a more subdued Ted. As he expresses early in the first episode, he’s having a harder time figuring out why he’s still here. While not acute as his panic attacks, the coach’s dysthymia is palpable. And spreading. Roy (Goldstein), Keeley (Juno Temple), and Jamie (Phil Dunster) are all struggling with their own blue moods, too. The press certainly isn’t helping, with every outlet picking Richmond to finish dead last and end up relegated once more.
Don’t worry, though. Ted Lasso Season 3 is still funny. Quite funny, often. It feels like, perhaps, the show is choosing its shots a bit more carefully. As a result, the highs, so far, are perhaps not as high. However, there’s a stronger sense of consistency. It isn’t quite the joke factory it often was last season, but its punchlines feel more self-assured. Not to re-legislate Season 2, but the messy tone fit with how out of control Ted felt. Now that he has some sense of management over his mental health struggles, he’s not as quick to toss out eight punchlines when one will do. The series is doing the same.
Where Ted Lasso Season 3 feels less assured is the Greyhounds’ new rivals, West Ham. Their arena is appropriately gigantic and markedly more expensive than Richmond’s “Dog Track.” Its interior, at times, recalls a non-sci-fi version of The Supremacy. Rupert (Anthony Head) also fits. The costumers drape Head entirely in black, including a long coat that moves about him more like a cloak. He’s in his supervillain era and embracing it.
The issue comes with Nate (Nick Mohammed). In the first episode, he’s markedly nasty, kicking a corporate staff member out of his office and relishing in mocking Ted during a presser. A few episodes later, however, he seems like a completely different person. It’s clear the series intends to show us that he’s confused about who he is now. But the swings are too intense. His contempt for others too quickly recedes.
If Season 2 matched its protagonist’s jittery, constantly suppressing anxiety emotions, this one reflects a more subdued Ted.
It should be noted, however, the fault doesn’t lie with Mohammed. He has a standout moment opposite Head in the first episode that will likely remind fans why their hearts once broke for him when he first began living his dream of being a soccer coach. The actor plays it pretty much note perfectly. Now he just needs the scripts to capture his vast inner turmoil better.
Four episodes in, Ted Lasso Season 3 is off to a strong start. It isn’t perfect. Besides Nate’s characterization, there’s a new player of interest whose energy this writer remains wary of how well he’ll complement the rest of the series. Still, if this proves the final hurrah for Ted and company, this start is promising. It provides both plenty of threads for the season to pick up and run with and a roadmap for bringing it all to a close.
Overall, though, the team—behind and in front of the camera—feels assured and equal to the emotional shifts the show is committing to. Regardless of if season 3 will resolve the concerns season 2 raised for some, it feels good to be back in Richmond with these characters. Given this opening strike, it suggests Lasso’s mix of comfort, laughs, and seriousness is enough to earn the Cup. Just don’t, perhaps, call it a comeback.
Be back here weekly for episode recaps as we follow Richmond’s quest to avoid relegation.
Ted Lasso Season 3 laces up its boots starting March 15 on AppleTV+.