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[This story contains spoilers for the season three premiere of Ted Lasso.]
The thesis for the third — and final-of-this-story-arc-but-not-necessarily-final-overall — season of Ted Lasso is right there in the opening of Wednesday’s season premiere, courtesy of a phone session Ted (Jason Sudeikis) has with Dr. Sharon (Sarah Niles) before the theme music even plays.
After seeing his son Henry off at the airport following a six-week visit, which he’s clearly sad to see end, Ted tells Sharon, “I guess I do wonder sometimes what the heck I’m still doin’ here. I mean, I know why I came, but it’s the stickin’ around I can’t quite figure out. … Maybe my bein’ here is doing more hurtin’ than helpin’ at this point.”
He repeats the idea at the end of the episode as he and Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) walk home from AFC Richmond’s training ground: “It’s nuts we came here in the first place, but at this point I can’t tell if it’s more or less crazy that we’re still here.”
In fact, as the show picks up again, a lot of people in Lassoworld — including Roy (Brett Goldstein) and Keeley (Juno Temple), who confirm they’re not a couple anymore; new West Ham manager Nate (Nick Mohammed); and a very short-fused Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) — seem to be wondering what the heck is going on.
Goldstein, Temple, Hunt, Waddingham and Mohammed all spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about how the premiere, “Smells Like Mean Spirit,” sets the table for what’s to come in the remainder of the season.
Roy and Keeley
The end of season two looked like the couple was taking a break as Keeley prepared to launch her own company and Roy took on more coaching duties with Richmond in the wake of Nate’s departure. The intervening time hasn’t, alas, brought them back together, as they break the news to Roy’s niece Phoebe over a pre-dinner bowl ice cream. (She later tells Roy he’s being “stupid” for letting the relationship drift.)
“People always say when your personal life is going really well, then your work life isn’t going as well, and vice versa,” Temple told THR. “I feel like at this moment, they’re flourishing at work and learning to get good at these new positions they’re in. People are depending on them, which leads to this new doorway of panic and delight and people coming into their lives. I hope fans enjoy this season as much as they did the last ones, even if there’s some heartbreak involved.”
Goldstein, for his part, says he’s “a fan of Roy and Keeley, so I’m devastated. But this is the journey we’re on.” (It’s also worth noting here that Keeley can still read Roy like no one else: As he’s telling Phoebe about his duties with the club, she cuts in with “We know you’re scared about that.”)
The “wonder kid” is never going to live that slip of the tongue down, but he is ensconced at West Ham and still the contradictory ball of top-flight tactical skill on the pitch and social anxiety off it. His penchant for insults serves him well in a season-opening press conference, where he lobs some insults at Ted — to the delight of team owner Rupert (Anthony Head) — but can’t stop scrolling when Ted turns them into a master class of self-deprecation at his own presser. And to top it all off, Nate’s dad is mad that he swore on TV.
“He’s not equipped to deal with the mild celebrity status that’s come his way from being the ‘wonder kid’ and then going on to a fancy club like West Ham,” Mohammed told THR. “But he is that same guy we met in season one who has a difficult relationship with his dad that undoubtedly explains some of, if not all of, his deep-seated insecurities. They still exist even if he’s got a fancy car now and a new boss. If anything, he’s even more vulnerable now than when we first met him, because there’s so many seductive things out there — Rupert being one of them.”
Ted and Rebecca
Let’s stipulate that taking the team to visit the London sewers, in the Richmond bus and while everyone has on their training gear, was probably not the best for the optics of the club picked to finish last in the Premier League in the coming season — even if it is entirely in the realm of the Lasso canon of motivational ploys.
Rebecca has apparently spent the time between seasons stewing about Rupert and West Ham, because she opens the season very much on edge, unconsciously substituting her ex’s name for West Ham. (She’s not wrong about the sewer trip being dumb, though.) “[Rupert] is the thorn in her side, and sometimes it pricks her more than usual,” Waddingham said. “I think it pricks her here because you just think, really? Nate? She has such a barb in her about anyone hurting Ted, now, she just thinks ‘I am going to have to take you down.'”
Ted, meanwhile, isn’t in the headspace to really take Rebecca’s direction to heart: Henry’s back in Kansas, and he’s questioning (moreso than usual) what he’s still doing at the helm of Richmond — even if he does now know what a 4-4-2 alignment is.
“Ted’s feeling of separation from his son is definitely something we’ll continue to look at as the season goes on,” said Hunt, who’s also one of the show’s writers and executive producers. “It’s been ongoing from the beginning, but the more Henry grows up and the more [Ted’s ex-wife] Michelle gets on with her life, it creates new complications in Ted’s heart, for sure.”
Henry supplies both some possible motivation — “You’ve gotta try, right?” he replies to Ted when his dad says winning isn’t everything — and a gut punch in a FaceTime call after he gets back home, when he shows off his new Infinity Gauntlet and says he got it from “mom’s friend.”
Ouch. Richmond’s season opens in episode two, and Ted will need to get his head in the game for it.
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