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Ted Lasso Season 3 POV: It’s just poopy?
Has Ted Lasso collapsed under its own weight? Or is it just as good as it ever was?
Alise: Hello there. We are here for a special post on Ted Lasso. As we’re headed into the final chapters of a season in what may or may not be the final season of this spectacular show, Beth from Beth’s Exceptional Video Playlist (BEVP), a longtime Lasso fan, is here with us to debate the virtues of Season 3. Is it working or is it not?
While Season 2 of Ted Lasso had moments when people declared it “over” following the Christmas episode, Season 3 has had far more nay-sayers. Rory Mellon at Tom’s Guide has said that this season makes him question if he ever liked the show. And Kelly Lawler at USA Today believes the entire show is collapsing. Despite the concerns of others, I am still firmly in the camp that believes that the good far outweighs the bad this season. Beth mentioned that she was among the folks who had some questions about the direction of Season 3, so I invited her to join me for a little back and forth on whether the end of this show is something we will celebrate or mourn.
Let’s start with one of the easy complaints - the run time of the episodes this season. Down from a tight 30, most have been pushing the hour mark, with one running 63 minutes. Has the expanded runtime been detrimental or is it giving us more to work with? Where do you fall on this, Beth?
Beth: It’s a really solid question Alise. Yes, the show has incrementally increased in run time season over season. Per Wikipedia, avg. run time per season: 29–33 minutes (S1) 30–49 minutes (S2) 43–63 minutes (S3). I think this has likely led to more characters getting airtime, and those who were formerly minor, getting pulled into major storylines this season, like Nate, and his girlfriend Jade and even Colin and Sam. Most notably, while Keeley used to be more a part of the Richmond enterprise, and it felt like an extended family, with her new PR firm and that world (Barbara, Jack, and Shandy), the show is tugging in other directions that don’t really jive. It almost feels like they are already anticipating spin-offs of this show and so they are test driving some of the characters’ stories to see if there’s an eager audience and this is at a cost to the Ted Lasso story.
Also, the S2 Christmas episode (“Carol of the Bells”) was so notable because it fell smack dab in the Summer, which just felt strangely off. I guess if you’re living in the Southern Hemisphere, it tracks but for those of us up here north of Equator, it took a hot minute (no pun intended) to wrap our heads around this. That said, hokey as the episode was, with themes and storyline ripped straight out of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Love Actually” abound, I still felt the magic of it. It focused on what the show does best - give us focused Ted and Rebecca time, Keeley and Roy got to play surrogate parents to the Roy’s niece whose own parents couldn’t figure out she had a rotten tooth, and Higgins, albeit a somewhat minor character, hosted the players who were far from home and in need of some love. And even with the long run time, we got to see people opening up to one another, connecting over food (Sam and the goat storyline), and culture and how relationships can be transformative, in the case of Rebecca and Ted.
Alise, what are your thoughts on some of the many characters and storyline directions the show is going in this season? Do you feel like it all comes together makes sense structurally?
Alise: I very much trust the process. I personally really enjoyed Zava’s short stint on the show. Aside from his character being hilarious, he gave the motivation that was needed for Jamie to push himself to be a better player and ultimately, a better leader. I love that Jamie could have just noped out of his additional training almost as soon as it started, but because he’s grown so much, he kept going even when he was once again easily the best on the team. So I am still team Zava & Zava & Zava & Zava.
That said, I feel like Keeley’s story has felt muddled this season. We see her more tentative than I think we ever have in this show, and while the change in job could explain that, we haven’t actually seen her doing her job at all, so it just feels off. Things seem to be happening to Keeley this season instead of her making things happen, and that does not feel consistent with her character at all. So Shandy, Barbara, and honestly, even Jack felt like more of the same - characters who were supposed to flesh out Keeley’s character, but without actually adding much to the story. Every time she and Rebecca are on screen together, I am happy. But honestly, I kind of want Rebecca to chew her out like she has so many others this season so Keeley can gain some power back.
Speaking of Rebecca, let’s talk about the most controversial episode this season, “Sunflowers.” I really loved this one, but I know a lot of critics were not fans, particularly of Rebecca’s story there. What are some of your thoughts both on the team’s trip to Amsterdam and Rebecca’s arc this season?
Beth: It’s a great question. This episode felt like a filler episode to me, but I also think it provided the necessary catalyst to get Rebecca’s arc where it needed to go, so she could continue to rock it out for the remainder of the season and be back to herself, the Rebecca of S1 and S2. One of Rebecca’s core strengths is her ability to tell it like it is, with a mixture of kindness and toughness and all the while sporting bold outfits that make her look like a majestic hero. She’s a true friend to those she takes in, as we’ve seen in her interactions with Ted, Sassy, and Keeley. Her Achilles heel has always been her ex-Rupert who is the most vile human on the planet, even if he was ½ of the love interest from those beautiful coffee commercials from the 90s.
And we saw her get really hooked on getting Rupert back for all his abuse which felt off-character earlier in Season 3. She wants so badly for the team to win because she wants to beat West Ham, Rupert’s team and it feels all very Rupert centric. Once she meets “Handsome Dutch Stranger” or HDS, coined per this Vulture recap, in the Sunflowers episode, the romantic, emotional attachment between the two and the intimacy that they share, in a non-sexual way, opens Rebecca up like the giant sunflower she is, to rediscovering her best self. I can appreciate this. All the other tangential stories with Roy, and the bike, and Jamie maintaining his regimen, and the rest of the team figuring out what they want to do on a night off in Amsterdam, fell short IMO.
This episode has been compared to the Liverpool episode from S1 - “Make Rebecca Great Again” in which the gang goes to Liverpool and we are introduced to Rebecca’s mad karaoke skills and voice talents singing Elsa “Let It Go,” and we see Ted’s anxiety start to take a front seat which paves the way for S2’s exploration of mental health and Ted’s relationship with Sharon aka “Doc,” the Richmond team’s therapist. Ted’s interactions with Sharon and his relationship with her were such a coup for S2. I’m feeling the absence of Dr. Sharon here. And Dr. Jake is not a suitable replacement. Is mental health still top of mind for this show in S3? Or did we lose the beat here? What say you, Alise?
Alise: I’m totally with you on missing Dr. Sharon this season. I loved the interactions between her and Ted last season, and her appearance early on in this season had me excited that we were going to have more of her, but instead we got Shandy. That said, I do feel like the show is starting to show the growth that is a result of receiving therapy. Ted was honest with Michelle, at least to some degree, about her dating Dr. Jake (VILLAIN). And we saw him practice deep breathing and positive affirmations when he starts to spiral about Henry’s bullying. It’s a show that generally keeps things small, so it makes sense to me that Ted doesn’t fundamentally change, but is making progress with his own issues.
You mentioned feeling like the Jamie and Roy story with the bike fell short for you, but I thought it worked. Obviously everyone loved “Man City” and The Hug (tm). Early this season, Jamie tried to recreate the hug when he found out that Roy and Keeley broke up, and Roy rebuffed that because that’s not who he is. But by working with Roy and allowing him to open up at a rate that is more comfortable for him, we’re getting similar vibes. The bike riding was a little silly, sure, but it provided an opportunity for Roy to express some vulnerability that wasn’t necessarily what we expected. I loved that moment because while it’s not as visually dramatic as Roy striding across a locker room to console a devastated Jamie Tartt, it is a similar moment of support. To me, that shows the need to meet people where they are, not where we want them to be.
As for the team, I personally am loving the dynamic that we’ve got there, and I adored the call-back to the Season 1 hope for a pillow fight. But I do see complaints about just how saccharine this season has been, particularly with them. What do you think Beth? Have we gone too far with “nice”?
Beth: The team is always a strength of this show so focusing on the players’ development as humans and as a team is going to be a critical path for the show to follow in its recipe for success. That said, some of the recent episodes have taken on really meaty subjects and also tackled the effects of social media on effectively canceling people. While I fully support the messages being brought forth in the Keeley-focused episode (“We’ll Never Have Paris,” episode 8) where her very private and intimate video to Jamie from years ago from when they dated gets leaked and everyone sees it and she’s forced to reckon with its repercussions, the way the Richmond team handles it in the locker room feels unrealistic.
Yes, I know this is a fictional show, but I also think it grounds itself in some level of pragmatic and human truths when it comes to behavior, empathy and growth, as you so beautifully pointed out in the context of Roy and Jamie’s burgeoning friendship and Roy’s ability to be vulnerable and Jamie to meet him where he’s at. I love the way Keeley handles herself in this episode because she tells Jack to shove the apologies Keeley is supposed to make for even have made the video in the first place, where the sun don’t shine and let’s face it, Jack is not the right partner for her, and we get to see why, first hand. Keeley recognizes she’s not sorry she made the video and shouldn’t have to apologize for it because that’s perpetuating a falsehood. There’s a beautiful Rebecca and Keeley scene in which they talk over what happened and it’s full of Rebecca being loving, direct and kind without any kind of judgment (which is the best version of Rebecca) and Jamie’s apology at the end to Keeley is really a stark contrast to Roy’s immature fumble of an interaction with Keeley.
That said, the teammates talking about how they should delete any past suggestive photos or videos from an ex, as standard decent bloke behavior, feels a bit “cringe” and like an 80s after school special meets “The More you Know” type segment. I applaud the sentiment and the action but it’s not very reality-based.
Similarly the Colin coming out episode where Isaac goes after the fan heckler in the stand when he makes a homophobic comment, felt somewhat forced. Prior to this explosive scene, we see Isaac and Colin not playing well together and Isaac shooting Colin angry resting faces. We all knew in this household that Isaac was angry with Colin, not for being gay, but for Colin not telling him he was gay and not trusting him enough. But to see this anger take the shape of Isaac, team captain, taking a physical shot at a relentlessly obnoxious fan in the stands before half time, felt like a very dramatic turn of events. I appreciate in this day and age that ideally everyone in the locker room is supportive of Colin and acts like it’s no big deal (not sure how I feel about this also), though again, not sure it lands. What does land though is that the show is taking some big swings and using its prominence and popularity to tackle bigger ticket items.
Alise, how did these episodes land for you? What were their strengths and weaknesses?
Alise: I think this show sometimes bites off a little more than it can chew when it comes to big social issues. One of my primary gripes with S2 is the sponsor swap. I loved the way that Jamie showed solidarity with Sam by blacking out Dubai Air when Sam said he couldn’t in good conscience have their name on his kit, but that they were easily replaced with a new company and with no blowback from something that massive felt like way too much wish casting. I felt kind of the same way about Sam’s restaurant this season. I love the episode, but it’s very, very neat. So whenever the writers tackle social issues, I end up feeling a little bit conflicted. I love how it works out, and I also wish it was a little messier.
But all that said, one of the things that was a huge appeal in 2020 was that this was a show that emphasized kindness. So even though things aren’t super realistic, I still appreciate something non-cynical in a world where cynicism pretty much rules the day. I like the idea that a group of men can come to an agreement that a gay teammate is no big deal. I like the idea that a group of men can agree to delete nudes from their phones of someone who they aren’t actively dating. I like the idea that a group of men will rally around their black teammate to rebuild his restaurant after a racist attack.
And honestly, I have felt the Isaac rage. I parent trans kids. They’re adults now, but it’s terrifying and infuriating to see attacks against people I love, even if it’s not directed at them. So while his response could seem over the top, it felt kind of real to me. I’m not a violence kind of person, but I have directly confronted someone who was spouting anti-trans rhetoric and I was not as kind as I might like to be. Their statements weren’t aimed at my family at all, but it felt personal. So Isaac feeling that general homophobic slur as personal, particularly when he’s feeling frustrated about the game itself felt accurate.
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Well, we have put this off long enough. What about Nate? Has he had an unearned redemption arc? Do we care about him and Jade? His arc over season 2 was spectacular - have the writers done him justice this season?
Beth: There’s been a heavy Nate focus this season and I’ve come to terms with myself on this one and why I have such discomfort with this. A lot has to do with a deferential Nate, going from a rather sad and awkward soccer strategic genius in Season 1 to a build up of confidence under Ted’s father-like oversight and recognition of him from Season 1 to 2, only to have Nate go full on Sith, in his tearing of the “Believe” sign and his complete and utter Darth Vader transformation in S2.
It was a lot to take in and yet, all the while, I’ve been holding out for Nate to embrace the Jedi in him and do good. Well, his final cemented “evil” act this season in my mind was when he banned Ted from the West Ham stadium after Ted came with Henry and Beard to a soccer game and Henry was cheering for Nate and all about him. How does Nate repay this kindness? He cowers to Rupert, after winning the game and sporting his all black attire, and tells Rupert to ban Ted from the stadium from here on out.
And the Jade romance storyline doesn’t flow for me. How is she seeing a better side to Nate? He’s still the same person. Even his rejection of Rupert’s club escorts (a direct sabotage act on Rupert’s part to break up Nate and Jade) in favor of Jade, can’t redeem him in my eyes. I’m just so over him.
I get that his dad doesn’t show him kindness, is pretty cruel with him and mistreats him, and that everyone in the family goes along with this, but I really don’t think Nate’s problems are solely solved by him standing up to his dad. It’s going to take a potential spin-off (see how I did this) to work thru the arc to “Nate the Great” and boy, I won’t be around for it.
Alise, am I being too uncharitable? Should I take the Lasso approach to love and empathy? Do I need a meeting of the Diamond Dogs to work this one out?
And what of potential spin offs? You think this is the last season of Lasso and where do you think the show will spin off? Hopefully with a Beard/Crimm/Higgins/Rebecca/Keeley concoction of madness?
Alise: So Nate. I still believe we’re going to get a fully earned redemption arc for Nate in one of the last episodes. He wants things to be better with Ted, you can see that from the start. So I hold out hope that we’ll have a big moment between him and Ted somewhere near the end. Things are going not-so-great with Rupert, and that’s going to show him more and more that he had something special with Ted and that he squandered it due to his own insecurities. Let’s bring back Doc Sharon to fix Nate, please, because that guy needs some therapy. But truly, it feels impossible to me that there is not a meeting between Ted and Nate where Nate apologizes. I just think he’s going to have to stand up to Rupert and his games first. Which brings me to Jade.
I’m of two minds about Jade. I think she largely exists to show Nate how big an ass Rupert is. I’m pretty sure Nate knows this, but his messed up daddy issues won’t allow him to acknowledge it. But when Rupert starts messing with this relationship, he won’t be able to continue to ignore it. So I don’t love a female character simply existing to teach a man a lesson, even if it’s in kind of a roundabout way, but I get why she’s there. She has just clocked Rupert hard, and his charm does not work on her. I think she is just not impressed by any of the glitz. That never worked when Nate tried it on her, and it won’t work from Rupert either. But yeah. I don’t know that she and Nate work, exactly.
I don’t know about any spin-offs. I love this show and these characters in this moment. I don’t know that I will connect with them outside of this. Maybe there’s a way they can do it that would make it feel like not a cash grab, but I personally don’t see how. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of Roy and Phoebe starting that veterinary practice for wild animals, but I’m not sure if I could watch it. There are lots of fun ideas for spin-offs, it’s just hard for me to think about them beyond some kind of listicle. But with the right names attached, I could be convinced.
Thank you so much for joining me again, Beth! I think we need to meet back here in a few weeks to discuss our feelings about the end of the season. Any parting thoughts or predictions for the last 3 episodes?
Beth: Agreed that we need to schedule a meetup at the end of the season. Predictions for end of season..Roy is going to be the one that takes over coaching the team. Beard stays with him. Lasso makes the decision to head back to the U.S. and prevent the reign of the nefarious Dr. Jake from planting roots in Henry. Rebecca is pregnant, father be damned and really who cares. Nate is Nate and Keeley starts up her own smaller PR shop? Also we get to see more of Jamie saying this:
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Thank you Alise for engaging me on the pros and cons of this season and its arc. I look forward to your recaps leading up to the finale.
Alise: I’m so glad we could do this! Everyone, go subscribe to BEVP for some really great insight into all kinds of film and television. And check back tomorrow for another entry in the Ted Lasso Relationship Guide!
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