As of this writing, Ted Lasso has two episodes remaining in its third and probably final season. To say that this season has received mixed reviews from fans is an understatement as a quick perusal of social media will offer an eclectic blend of opinions ranging from “this season is brilliant” to “this season is awful” and everything in between.
As the end nears, however, the show’s intentions come more into focus and the entirety of the series appears to be more planned and orchestrated than fans were ever led to believe. Instead of modeling each season as a complete story with a single plotline delivering the season-ending cliffhanger like so many shows have done, Ted Lasso has given fans a three act play. These seasons may have been released over the course of three years but they are structured as a singular piece to be consumed in one sitting — if one is able to consume 24+ hours of content in one sitting.
The main criticisms of season three have been the shift in tone, the introduction of new characters with little payoff, and the lack of interaction between the core characters of the show. Early in the season, the characters — save for Beard who is rarely bound to the emotional complexities of the rest of the Richmond crew — are in various states of doubt. Whether they doubt their purpose, their ability, their decisions, their skills, or their future, each character is just a little bit out of sorts, out of their element, or out of their comfort zone. Their minds are somewhere beyond the team and the team, therefore, becomes secondary to everything.
The writers of season three expertly made the audience feel what the characters were feeling. The pacing and tone felt off because it was intentionally off. At one point, Higgins suggests the possibility of potentially having a conversation about considering the possibility of maybe letting Ted go. This is, of course, an absurd notion but it highlights just how out of focus everything is for AFC Richmond. They’re scrambling and grasping at straws because they’re not addressing the real issues at hand.
As each character moves beyond whatever doubt they have, the season comes more into focus. Once Ted dreams up a new (to him) style of playing the game, he regains his confidence and focus and the team starts winning. Once Roy is able to realize the real reason he broke up with Keely, he’s able to get out of his own brain and rekindle an important relationship. Each character has had their own separate journey and season three is an illustration of how these separate side-quests have an impact on the group quest. As each character comes around, the episodes begin to feel more like “classic” Ted Lasso and all the seemingly pointless moments of the season are suddenly a series of dots that simply needed connecting to see the full picture.
If the approach to this series as a whole is to tell a story in three acts, the end of season two and start of season three are text book writing devices. In order for the story to have any purpose, a writer must create some sort of conflict to overcome. While this is usually a singular force — a villain, an obstacle, or a classic misunderstanding — the writers of Ted Lasso opted to create a number of personal conflicts that all had to be individually overcome. Season three splintered the heroes journey into 10 different journeys only to bring it back to where it always needed to be: the soccer club.
This type of writing isn’t common in television and it doesn’t lend itself well to episodic installments a week apart but as the show comes to its end and fans watch the series again as a singular piece of art, the first half of Ted Lasso’s third season will be regarded as a critical and well executed story telling device and a genius way to involve the viewers into the heads of the characters.
That said, we’d still like a season four.