Contrary to the dark and depressing content of the other shows I’m currently writing about (Barry and Succession), I do, in fact, like to have fun and feel good. There’s only so much of Jeremy Strong and Bill Hader plummeting into the depths of inhumanity that I can take before I need to watch something else. Lucky for me, Ted Lasso aired its final season at the same time as Barry and Succession.
Much as I hate to admit it, Ted Lasso has ever so slightly dropped in quality season by season. Its premiere season was a well-told fish-out-of-water story about its title character (Jason Sudeikis) making the bitter, beaten-down people around him at his new job as a football coach (the British kind) well-rounded and likable. Season two introduced the trend of episodes longer than 45 minutes, as well as new character arcs that felt like they went nowhere. (There were, however, quite a few arcs that elevated some of the best characters and made them even better.)
With season three, the 45-minute episodes and meandering arcs are back, but at the same time, the show is still so undeniably Ted Lasso. Sudeikis’s infectiously chipper performance is as dominating as ever, and seeing the team he coaches go through their own little dramas is ridiculously fun. Ted Lasso‘s third season is at its best when it makes full use of its sprawling cast; the best episode of the season finds everyone on the AFC Richmond squad running around Amsterdam and getting into all sorts of self-discovery hijinks.
The show’s sense of humor isn’t always my cup of tea—reference humor is almost impossible to get right unless you’re Community or Nirvanna the Band the Show—but characters like eccentric coach Beard (Brendan Hunt), ever-positive Dani (Cristo Fernández), and especially gruff coach Roy (Brett Goldstein) wring more than enough laughs out of their personalities to keep me happy. Everyone’s performances are still very up to code, and every major character still manages to be remarkably funny yet believably human at the same time.
Roy, of course, continues to be the best character on the show—I will never get tired of watching him grumble and curse his way through every scene—and perhaps the best story in the season is him and Jamie (Phil Dunster) continuing to bond. Their characters’ opposing personalities work off of each other remarkably, and seeing Roy realize that he does, in fact, care about Jamie very much is wonderful. Other great stories present are Richmond manager Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) trying to put the final nail in the coffin of her relationship with her horrid ex-husband; Richmond player Colin (Billy Harris) coming to terms with a potentially harmful personal secret; and the overarching story of former journalist Trent Crimm (James Lance) writing a book about Richmond’s rise to prominence.
Unfortunately, Ted Lasso‘s final season is held back from being truly fantastic by the fact that for every great storyline, there’s one that just seems to drag on and on. Ted, once a richly layered character who had real struggles under his unflappable exterior, is reduced to hitting the same story beats of “obsess over ex-wife” and “have a panic attack,” episode after episode. Sometimes, it’s like he’s not in some of the episodes at all; and don’t get me wrong, I love when shows pull away from their main character for a little bit. But to make that work, the shows then have to…do something interesting without that character?
Keeley (Juno Temple) spends the entire season being pushed from love interest to love interest while she struggles far more than she should. Nate (Nick Mohammed), after betraying Richmond last season and running away to their rival team, slowly begins to realize the error of his ways, but in a way that drags on and on and becomes too much cheese for even this show. Sam (Toheeb Jimoh), a character I like a lot, has a great plot involving his restaurant, but is left on the sidelines throughout the season.
And if the episodes just weren’t so damn long, this wouldn’t be as big of a deal. A comedy can afford to have a dud episode or two, because most comedies even out to around 30 minutes an episode. But if you find yourself not liking a Ted Lasso plotline this season, does it ever drag on. The totaled running time of Ted Lasso‘s final season is double that of its first, despite only being two episodes longer. Of course, if I like a show (and despite these last three paragraphs, I do really like this show), I should want to see more of it. But the catch is that I’d prefer it to be consistent.
Thankfully, the series finale mostly sticks the landing. There are plenty of great character moments and it’s jammed full of loving fan service, ending on a very satisfying, final note. (There’s one line that kind of inappropriately hijacks a great moment from season one, but this is a spoiler-free review.) It’s as good an ending as a megafan of this show could ever ask for. To Ted Lasso‘s credit, it really pulls itself together near the end despite its flaws. It’s rare to find a comedy nowadays that is not dark and/or satirical as well as unique, so to have one that was this good makes it a bit of a treasure. Much as I find myself longing for some kind of compromise between the longer episodes and the emotional consistency of season one’s writing, its final season is still a fitfully funny and sweet tribute to the kindheartedness of the show.
The final season of Ted Lasso is now available on Apple TV+.