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How to End a Season (Series?), the ‘Ted Lasso’ Way

If ‘Ted Lasso’ really is coming to an end, its Season 3 finale returned to form for a fitting farewell

Apple TV/Ringer illustration

While The Ringer spent last week celebrating the legacy of TV finales in the lead-up to the endings of shows like Succession, Barry, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, there was one notable omission in our coverage: Ted Lasso. Even with star and cocreator Jason Sudeikis openly admitting that they only had a three-season road map for Ted Lasso, Apple TV+ has been hesitant to pull the plug on the streamer’s greatest success story. (When I asked an Apple publicist about screener access for the series finale, their response clearly noted that it’s a season finale.) But as more evidence mounts that the series has ended—the show’s production designer shared photos of the sets being torn down, and Emmy-winning actress Hannah Waddingham has described the finale as “our final day as Richmond Greyhounds” on Twitter—let’s once again wade into the dreaded Ted Lasso discourse, which remains as intimidating as the atmosphere at Anfield during the Merseyside derby.

Even the most die-hard Ted Lasso supporters might freely concede that this has not been the show’s finest season. With meandering subplots featuring characters who came and went—Richmond’s briefly featured, Zlatan-like superstar known as Zava; Keeley’s love interest–cum–boss, Jack—contributing to increasingly bloated run times, Season 3 pulled further away from Ted Lasso’s half-hour sitcom roots in favor of continued expansion. It’s hard not to view these creative pivots within the context of Ted Lasso’s overwhelming industry acclaim, including successive Emmy wins for Outstanding Comedy Series. Like Richmond adopting a Total Football ethos in the middle of the Premier League season, it’s as if Ted Lasso willingly changed its identity as a marker of prestige. (There’s nothing more quintessentially Prestige TV than a series airing several episodes that run over an hour just because it can.) To paraphrase the underlying lesson of the Season 1 finale: It’s the hype that kills you.

For Ted Lasso, the good news is that an effective (series?) finale lingers in the minds of viewers far longer than the events that preceded it, giving the show an opportunity to go out on a high note. It did, mostly: “So Long, Farewell” is a heartwarming 75-minute (!!!) send-off for the characters and club we’ve come to love over the past few years, even if the episode somewhat overstays its welcome. (Seriously, there is no reason for the finale of a workplace sitcom to be longer than The Land Before Time.)

“So Long, Farewell” begins with the confirmation that Ted will leave Richmond at the end of the season to spend more time with his son back in the United States. (Ted choosing to break the news right before a match that could lead to Richmond winning the Premier League title was perhaps ill advised, but I digress.) Meanwhile, Rebecca is considering selling the club: Richmond is already guaranteed to play lucrative Champions League football next season, which means it has a jaw-dropping valuation of $2 billion. Rebecca’s rationale: She’s willing to part ways with Richmond if Ted leaves the club, a last-ditch ploy to convince him to stay. As for the players, they welcome back former assistant coach Nate with open arms after his brief heel turn, while journalist and future L’Oréal spokesperson Trent Crimm prepares to publish his book on the merits of Lasso’s coaching philosophy. (The book itself is set to be titled The Lasso Way.)

Naturally, Richmond’s final match of the season comes against West Ham, the team owned by Rebecca’s vile ex-husband, Rupert, and previously managed by Nate. (In an amusing twist of fate, West Ham’s new gaffer is the guy that Rebecca fired to hire Ted at the start of the series.) For much of Ted Lasso, what’s really mattered hasn’t been the results on the pitch: It’s how the players continue becoming better versions of themselves off of it. Thankfully, the show makes a notable exception in the finale, dialing up the tension like a proper sports drama as West Ham take a commanding 2-0 lead into halftime. (Coach Beard’s decision to show the players a pre-match video compilation of their most wholesome moments together backfires; they walk onto the pitch in tears.)

It’s then up to Ted to deliver one of his rousing halftime speeches, which hits the emotional beats we’ve all come to expect from this sentient, mustachioed motivational poster. “When I showed up here, I didn’t know one thing about soccer,” Ted tells the group. “Now, I know at least one thing about football. I’m so gosh-dang proud to be part of this team. I love you guys. I’m gonna miss y’all.” But the best is yet to come: The players each pull out a piece of the locker room’s torn-up “BELIEVE” poster, piecing it back together to reaffirm the faith they have in one another to defy the odds. It’s undeniably cheesy, sure, but Ted Lasso is never better than when it embraces the kind of cornball sincerity that first endeared the series to viewers during the height of the pandemic.

In mounting a last-minute comeback against West Ham, Richmond proves how much they’ve grown as a collective: The players embrace a selfless philosophy, with superstar Jamie Tartt using himself as a decoy for the winning goal, reviving an old training ground routine from Season 1 in the process, while Ted shocks his staff by actually understanding the offsides rule. (The bar was always low for Ted on the whole “understanding the sport he’s been employed to coach” since his superpower is boundless optimism.) Even the reveal that Manchester City won their final match—thereby capturing the Premier League title—doesn’t feel deflating: What Richmond accomplished is indicative of what happens when you follow the Lasso Way. Of course, Ted is quick to diminish his role in the club’s success on and off the pitch. Upon reading Trent’s book, Ted leaves him a single note about changing its title that effectively doubles as a mission statement for the series: “It’s not about me. It never was.” As a result, the book is renamed The Richmond Way.

It’s a sentiment that Apple TV+ evidently wants to take to heart; the streamer’s insistence (desperation?) that Ted Lasso isn’t truly ending could be buoyed by where the show leaves the rest of its characters in Ted’s absence. Roy Kent is appointed Richmond’s new manager, while coach Beard chooses to stay in London as an assistant alongside the reformed Nate. Keeley’s PR firm comes into its own, and Rebecca stays on as Richmond’s owner while selling 49 percent of the club’s shares to the fans. (Rebecca’s decision echoes the Bundesliga’s 50+1 rule with regard to team ownership.) On the player side of things, Jamie reconciles with his alcoholic father, who has entered a rehab program; Sam Obisanya is finally called up to the Nigerian national team; Colin Hughes kisses his boyfriend on the pitch to cap off an occasionally clunky coming-out subplot; and Dani Rojas pulls a Ronaldinho by dating two women at once. (Apparently, like football, polyamory is life.) Throw in Keeley’s suggestion to Rebecca that she should create a Richmond women’s team, and there’s fertile ground for Ted Lasso’s story to continue without its title character in the picture.

At the same time, there’s something to be said about shows that know when to end on their own terms. Succession’s series finale couldn’t be more different in terms of tone, but it left me with a feeling similar to the one created by Ted Lasso’s presumptive conclusion: Just because you can imagine what would happen to the characters in the next stage of their lives doesn’t mean we have to see it play out on-screen. For a time, Ted Lasso rode its immense word-of-mouth popularity to be the defining show of an especially bleak moment in modern history—a series that resonated in part because its fundamentally hopeful message of overcoming adversity is what a lot of people needed to hear.

That Ted Lasso stumbled to the finish line doesn’t diminish what it achieved at the start of its run—that first season is still as excellent as you remember—and the largely affecting finale is a reminder that few current sitcoms can tug at the heartstrings like Ted and the Richmond gang when the show is firing on all cylinders. Besides, if this is really the last we see of Ted Lasso, then the series has embodied the sport it followed in every respect. In soccer, all great dynasties eventually come to an end, and there’s no reason for fans to mourn that inevitability; instead, it’s worth celebrating the journey. That’s the Richmond Way.