2023 has been a hell of a year so far. A couple of small personal successes but a lot of bleak things too. I needed a nice warm hug, and the return of Ted, Rebecca, Higgins, Roy, Keeley, Jamie, Beard, and the rest provided that. I remarked out loud “Wow, I haven’t felt this good all year!” I realize that might be saying more about me than the show. Don’t focus too much on the “mean” in SMELLS LIKE MEAN SPIRIT; It’s always better to have the optimism of one Coach, Ted Lasso.
In the opener of the third, and what’s reported to be the final season, the story picks up a couple of months after AFC Richmond found their way back into the Premier League. It’s very apparent right off the bat which characters have changed and how they’ve changed since we met them in the summer of 2020. Rebecca and Jamie have probably come the farthest, but we’ve also seen Roy and Keeley, individually and together, gain wisdom, self-esteem, and optimism across their careers and relationships. Ted is always a work in progress, but he’s finally seemed to turn the corner on facing his trauma around his father’s death and the breakdown of his marriage. It looks like Ted is on a roll, but we’ve seen this false sense of security with him before. Beard is probably the most unchanged since S1, and that’s okay. He’s our “true neutral” on the alignment charts. There’s a recurring theme in the early moments of Ted Lasso’s third season: Sometimes it’s just best to let people be who they are.
Nate, Nate, Nate The Great. “The Wonder Kid.” Nate was one of my and many other fans’ early favorite characters. But sometimes, the mighty fall and Nate’s S2 descent from beloved coach to narcissistic villain was spectacular. And yet, the angrier and more cynical he got, the more successful he became. I was recently rewatching some of S2 to prepare for today when I finally realized where Nate’s turn truly happened. It’s E6, THE SIGNAL. When Nate’s game strategy was executed by AFC Richmond and resulted in a big win, initially, the credit went to Roy, and Nate was LIVID. Everyone expected greatness from veteran player Roy, not Nate was the kit man. Later in the episode, Roy makes sure everyone knows it was Nate’s idea, but the damage is done. The sudden whiplash from unappreciated nobody to wunderkind seals Nate’s fate. It was only Ted, who bestowed Nate with his original nickname, who knew just how good he could be, but Ted was nowhere to be found. It’s something Nate’s had to deal with his entire life as his father diminishes every win he has, both big and small. The fallout of Nate’s relationship with Ted and AFC Richmond appears to be a huge focus of S3. Massive kudos to actor Nick Mohammed for doing a lot of heavy lifting here. We want to love him again. We can empathize, but he’s hateable and possibly beyond redemption.
The title SMELLS LIKE MEAN SPIRIT isn’t the only pop culture riff in the premiere. The writers of TED LASSO are tuned into what the fans are talking about on the socials, leading to one of the episode’s funniest lines. S3 E1 also follows in the footsteps of the last season with longer episodes than the original season. The show may have one man’s name in the title, but it allows many characters to shine. So you won’t be disappointed if you’ve missed Isaac, Sam, Dani, or even Richard. I missed them too.
Grab your favorite teammate or go it solo because if there’s anything I know from this premiere, we’re all #RichmondTilWeDie!
Ted Lasso’s third season is on AppleTV+ with a new episode every Wednesday morning..or if we’re lucky, it’s a Tuesday night surprise.