The Pitch: AFC Richmond have managed to claw their way back to the Premier League, with a newfound unity in the team and a hunger to prove their detractors wrong. Led by affable punner extraordinaire Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis), his two assistants Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) and Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), Richmond owner and certified “girlboss” Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham), and players Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh) and villain-to-hero Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), Richmond find themselves projected to finish last this season and be relegated once again.
Meanwhile, Rebecca’s conniving ex Rupert Mannion (Anthony Head) has just taken ownership of popular London club West Ham United, and placed the so-called “Wonder Kid” Nathan Shelley (Nick Mohammed) as their new manager. After Nate embraced a rather hateful persona in Season 2, much was left unsaid when he left Lasso’s camp, and the ensuing tension and guilt — combined with the intense pressure and scrutiny of his new job — appear to be weighing him down.
Back in the Richmond camp, Keeley Jones (Juno Temple) finds herself knee-deep in running a new PR firm, which has put quite a lot of pressure on her relationship with Roy. Ted Lasso, on the other hand, is still reeling from his divorce — only now, he’s working it out in therapy with Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles) and taking it all one day at a time (as Lasso puts it himself, he’s a “work in prog-mess”).
With a new season of football to be played, a fierce rivalry with West Ham on the docket, and the arrival of megastar Zava (Maximilian Osinski) to the Premier League, Richmond’s work is certainly cut out for them. Considering this is likely Jason Sudekis’ final season as Lasso, the ultimate test of both sport and personal growth is ahead of him.
New Signings: Similar to Ted Lasso‘s first two seasons, the highest points of Season 3 arrive not just in the glory of the game, but in the expertly-constructed jokes. There are dozens upon dozens of cheeky one-liners, joyously funny ensemble scenes, and references to everything from Julie Andrews’ catalogue to Flava Flav making Ted Lasso wait on purpose at a Public Enemy show in the ’90s.
Similarly, the show’s cast is as magnetic as ever. Hannah Waddingham in particular is thrilling to watch, and considering how much this season is digging into her and Rupert’s rivalry, it’s no easy feat that she’s able to manage so much pain and anger while also being incredibly funny.
A big storyline that appears in Season 3 concerns the aforementioned Zava, who announces his arrival to England’s Premier League in Episode 2. Zava is modeled after real-life football icon Zlatan Ibrahimović, an incredibly prolific striker with more trophies to his name than nearly anyone in the sport. But Ibrahimović is also a notable egotist, referring to himself almost exclusively in the third person and essentially demanding that the rest of the team cater to his abilities at all times.
Zava’s arrival to the league spawns an immediate race to sign him, with both Rebecca’s Richmond and Rupert’s West Ham battling for his signature. But not only is Zava’s portrayal hilarious, it’s another excuse to dig into the psychological complications of ego in sport. Osinki is a like-for-like depiction of Ibrahimović, and his differing attitudes serve as a foil to the holistic and growth-driven mindset of both Lasso and former ego-driven starboy Jamie Tartt.
Zava may score plenty of goals, but Ted Lasso as a whole is much more concerned thematically with the possibilities of unity within a team — his addition to the show, then, is an exciting prospect with real-life circumstances to draw from.
Other intriguing cast additions show that Ted Lasso isn’t afraid of tackling some new subjects. As it was in Season 2, the players of AFC Richmond are given even more focus and backstory. One exciting storyline concerns a player’s sexuality and navigating the tension and uncertainty of coming out to his teammates, let alone the press. Meanwhile, with last season covering some serious conversations around mental health, purpose, and honoring who you are, seeing that the show’s writers also interested in tackling homophobia in men’s sports is a great move for Season 3.
Meanwhile, Keeley brings on her old mate Shandy (Ambreen Razia) to work at her PR firm, and it results in friction regarding Shandy’s lack of qualifications, experience, and decision-making skills. The ensuing arc seems less interested in validating Keeley’s altruistic perspective and more interested in depicting the difficulties of a system that takes advantage of people like Keeley and Ted — a bolder choice that may or may not pay off in the end.
Also deeper in the mix this season is Trent Crimm (James Lance), who arrives at Richmond’s training camp to write a book about their season. Not only is Lance a very skilled actor, deserving of a heavier story lift — it’s a great example of how much Trent Crimm has transformed since his pessimistic taunts in Season 1, and it appears he’ll be playing a crucial part in the narrative this season.
The Verdict: While the heavier topics that Season 2 capitalized on are still in the mix, there’s that Ted Lasso unapologetic earnestness constantly lightening the mood. Ted Lasso may have its helping of silliness, but it feels genuinely important to see its male characters embody a different kind of masculinity — one that’s actively being forged by Sudeikis and co., and one that seeks to illuminate the trappings of “If you’re not winning, you’re losing” as a man’s primary personal infrastructure. There’s a lot more to mine from a sports story than we’re used to seeing, and Season 3 seems completely determined to develop that idea to fruition.
That being said, sometimes Ted Lasso‘s rom-com softness doesn’t work in its favor. After Season 2 depicted a rather unexpected (and frankly, bizarre) fling between Rebecca and Sam, Season 3 isn’t really in a rush to define that relationship further or dig back into the specifics. While it becomes clear that the sting from their relationship’s demise is still apparent for Rebecca, she’s much more concerned with gaining the upper hand on her nemesis, Rupert, and Sam is more focused on a new crush as well.
Furthermore, it’s a delicate balance that the show has to strike. After last season’s successful foray into more intense thematic material, they certainly have to maintain the weight of what they’re trying to achieve — especially regarding topics like toxic masculinity and mental health.
At the same time, the show is beholden to a Parks and Recreation-style levity that demands a quicker pace and more rewarding storylines. Combine all that with higher stakes in the narrative, a significantly larger audience than Season 1, and the likely scenario that this is the final season, and it’s a lot of pressure.
But luckily, as he must with his wonderful football club, Ted Lasso will keep fighting.
Where to Watch: Ted Lasso Season 3 kicks off on Apple TV+ starting March 15th, 2023, with a new episode being released each Wednesday.