Ted Lasso Season 3: A Self-Professed Rom-Com Chooses Cynicism

The beloved comedy series committed an act of self-destruction by toying with its audience.

The following article contains heavy spoilers for Ted Lasso, including Episode 312, “So Long, Farewell.”

“So Long, Farewell,” the series finale of Ted Lasso, plays out like your worst nightmare – the kind that wakes you up in a chill, the kind that makes you sink into your bed with relief because it wasn’t real. This time, it was. The beloved comedy series, once hailed for its complex understanding of optimism, took a sharp turn in its third and final season that undid everything it once believed in. As the run time of each episode kept expanding, the self-professed rom-com set itself further and further adrift from its original sentiment and became an island of its own making. Ultimately, Ted Lasso let apathy reign, concluding with a devastating final shot of Ted alone in Kansas.

To say everything about Ted Lasso was unsuccessful would be disingenuous and oversimplified. The show marveled at human empathy when it didn’t get in its own way. Despite a focus on football, Ted Lasso was never about the sport but about overcoming personal trauma through kindness. The entire catalyst for the series was Rebecca Welton’s (Hannah Waddingham) own divorce from emotionally abusive ex-husband Rupert Mannion (Anthony Head). After winning AFC Richmond in the divorce, Rebecca hires Ted (Jason Sudeikis) under the guise of “positive” change. Ted doesn’t know he’s there to burn the club down to the ground, ultimately inserting himself so profoundly into Rebecca’s life with unconditional affection and understanding that she takes what Ted offers: redemption. 

However, when it mattered most, Ted Lasso failed to live up to the nuanced optimism it once believed in. It begs heartbreaking questions: did the breadcrumbs of a deeper connection between Rebecca and Ted not matter? Throughout the first season, the friendship between Ted and Rebecca could also be interpreted as the foundation of a romance. The characters live distinctly parallel, both freshly divorced, middle-aged people who slowly form a close bond. Ted coaxes Rebecca out of her pain and anger following her split from Rupert; Rebecca gives Ted the space needed to realize his marriage is over. Both seemed on a path of healing that included each other’s company.

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Yet something shifted after Season 1. Rebecca and Ted were suddenly on diverging paths that shook the series’ foundation. “Biscuits with the Boss” became a thing of the past. Rebecca turned to online dating and Ted turned to therapy, but one was perhaps more successful in finding themselves than the other. Rebecca ended up in a borderline inappropriate romantic relationship with 21-year AFC Richmond player Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh), a relationship rife with social-political issues the series never bothered to dissect. In the end, Rebecca ends right back where she started at the end of the season. Meanwhile, Ted has a newfound sense of life after a year of therapy, unpacking his father’s death and coming to terms with his divorce.

Amid Rebecca’s journey to love, as hollow as it turned out to be, viewers were made to believe Ted was the online match Rebecca made on the dating app Bantr. It turns out to be Sam, to the shock of everyone, yet even the messages exchanged between Rebecca and Sam resembled the tonal voice of Ted. From quirky pop culture references to quoting revered poets, it all pointed to him. It’s one of many examples in which the show knowingly tugs at the line of Ted and Rebecca as a possible romantic narrative, something it continued to do right up until the very end.

In the opening moments of the series finale, viewers were treated to a rumbled, sleepy Ted walking into Rebecca’s kitchen as she sat perched in a silk robe, sipping her morning tea. Ted asks if she’s ready to talk about “it.” The implications are clear; we’re to assume it means they slept together. However, it’s ultimately revealed – in the form of a thong-bearing Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) – that Ted crashed at Rebecca’s apartment with Beard and Jane because of a gas leak in their neighborhood. It’s the equivalent of a vat filled with cold water thrown at your face, yet it didn’t even end thereAfter learning Ted is leaving, Rebecca makes her way to the stands where a lonely Ted sits in contemplation. In a final act of desperation, Rebecca offers solutions, pleas, and ultimately her heart. Ted, in return, says nothing. A speechless Ted is worse than any jump scare.

The desire for a romantic relationship between Ted and Rebecca is not merely self-projection from “Tedbecca” shippers, but the fanbase’s response to narrative cues consciously woven within the narrative of these two characters. From the ritualistic biscuits Ted himself baked to the final blow of Ted remarking at Rebecca’s “romantic comedy” gesture showing up at the airport, the series committed an act of self-destruction by toying with its audience. Tropes exist to aid in the narrative structure of dynamic relationships, not used as accusations against their audience. Tropes are tropes because they work. They add compelling nuance to a story as they are repeatedly reworked for different narratives. The Ted Lasso writers spent three years utilizing every known romantic trope in the book only to wield them as weapons when viewers saw through them.

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It is tragically ironic that a show demanding kindness from its viewers didn’t bother granting that to its own characters. Claiming social conditioning as an excuse not to fulfill a narrative hinted at for three years is as close to narrative suicide as possible. It’s an invitation to sever trust between the writer and the viewer, imploding every speech Ted ever made about “rom-communism” and demands of love. It taints almost every earnest effort of romance this show ever tackled. Worse, its creators made viewers cower in shame for ever believing in love. 

As for the show’s other major romance? Well, that’s another tragedy all on its own. Season 3 saw fan-favorite character Keeley Jones (Juno Temple) become dispensable. Her final arc hinged on one unresolved plot point after another, reducing her to the one-dimensional and tiresome “boss girl” moniker. She bounced around from relationship to relationship, meandering along with no sense of direction or course. Temple does the heavy lifting to keep her character interesting but, in the end, it wasn’t Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) nor Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) who didn’t deserve her, but the writers. 

Speaking of which, Roy reverted so far back to his old ways that he became almost unrecognizable by the end of the season, picking fights with Jaime over Keeley like she’s a prized possession and not the woman he once deemed himself unworthy to love or be loved by. Jaime, whose arc highlights the ways deeply abused individuals can turn their pain into love, reverted back to the cocky footballer who once had a topless Keeley poster in his bedroom. Juvenile and petulant, Roy and Jaime eventually show up at Keeley’s doorstop demanding that she decide who to be with. Ultimately, she chooses herself – a last-ditch effort by the writers to redeem her character – and all the painstaking work these characters did throughout Season 3 evaporates before our very eyes. Roy and Keeley, once a gold standard in unconventional television romance, has been withered down to nothing,

Ted Lasso chose cynicism over belief in the end. Every inspirational speech about deserving love and being loved rang empty, diminishing its theme of found families. The same show that dedicated an entire episode to the romantic comedy genre systematically destroyed everything we know about love in the span of a season – both with Keeley and Roy and Ted and Rebecca. For a show that built its entire mythos around a character whose main mantra was “believe,” they sure left him, and its audience, with little to believe in.

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