By Kaleena Rivera | TV | May 26, 2023 |
By Kaleena Rivera | TV | May 26, 2023 |
(spoilers for episode 11, season 3)
Much has been written about how Ted Lasso is largely a show about fathers and sons both in the literal and figurative sense. This week brings a change up to that dynamic, bringing moms to the forefront. Beneath that, however, is the series’ larger theme of forgiveness, one that the season is finally honing in on with one episode left to go. How it manages to go about this is, as I’ve come to expect over the season, uneven, but it largely sticks the big emotional landing despite the ragged threads that still remain.
Although we all knew Nate’s eventual return to Richmond was a foregone conclusion, the general principles of storytelling would prescribe showing how such a thing would come about. There would be debate of some sort with solid points on both sides, the argument for bringing Nate back into the fold intended to not only convince the players who are nays but audience members as well. Remember how Richmond was so ready to pulverize Nate that they wound up tanking their match against West Ham? Ted Lasso sure doesn’t. Instead, the episode opens up with Colin, Isaac, and Will walking into the Taste of Athens and simply telling Nate that he’s welcome back in the club. Once again the show has succumbed to its terrible habit of telling instead of showing. While I did find the apology to Will a sincere and kind gesture, I would have liked to have seen at least several of the astounding 70 minutes of this episode’s run time be granted to this aspect of the storyline.
At this point, this is no longer a matter of redemption as it is a fast track to getting the entire ensemble back onto the pitch together. This is less on Nate, who’s shown enough contrition and good intent that him floating past any labor (aside for what he’s done for Will) is acceptable if not entirely satisfactory; again, this has almost everything to do with the season’s poor time management. Credit to Nick Mohammed for juggling Nate’s desire for forgiveness with his (understandable) fear of facing the people he’s wronged.
The lack of any extended struggle has become a feature rather than a bug. From Sam running Ola’s, Colin’s coming out story, to Keeley losing the PR firm, there’s not many issues that plague our characters for longer than a single episode. In a similar fashion, Beard’s staunch refusal to even consider having Nate return (“If you bring that Judas back, I will burn this place to the f*cking ground”) is reversed by episode’s end.
Thankfully, Brendan Hunt sells the absolute hell out of that monologue, wisely making the choice to temper Beard’s fury with an ocean of regret. It not only justifies Beard’s olive branch—doing it for Ted falls squarely in line with the man we’ve come to know over the past three seasons—but it pulls double duty by at long last giving us the backstory on their partnership (credit to writer Joe Kelly). By the time Beard gives the world’s most tender headbutt with the directive, “Monday, 10:00 am,” despite my criticism, I was sold.
Jamie Tartt, season MVP that he is, has his own path to forgiveness sprouted from the internal crisis he undergoes when preparing to face down the club—and by extension, the city—that he once rejected. Phil Dunster likely has an Emmy nomination coming his way based solely on the way his face crumples when a worried Roy finally confronts him in the boot room. This is when I’m forced to admit that until I recapped, “Sunflowers,” and had to do some fact checking, I was under the impression that Jamie’s mother had passed away. As it turns out, she’s (Georgie, played by Leanne Best) alive and well, living in Manchester with a sweet amateur baker named Simon (Steve Edge). She’s what gives Jamie the fortitude to step onto the pitch with his head held up despite the jeers of his fellow Mancunians, but it’s Ted, yet again, who tells Jamie that hating his father may not be sufficient motivation anymore. Forgiveness for another, Ted poses, is something that’s ultimately gifted to yourself. It works, not only with helping Jamie get his game back, but it also gives him the strength to send his father a text message. Though we never see the response, a quick look at his father in what appears to be a rehabilitation center, looking proudly at the tv after his son made a game-winning goal, strongly suggests we’ll see some sort of peace between the two.
All of this is why Ted’s eventual confrontation with his mother, Dottie (Becky Ann Baker), is less effective for me for a few reasons. Partially it has to do with reconciling the idea of Ted Lasso saying, “F*ck you,” to anyone, let alone his mother, as flawed as she may be. Anger and forgiveness are by no means mutually exclusive, but there’s little emphasis on the latter. One can chalk it up to being a process, though her leaving means there’s unlikely to be any onscreen catharsis on that front. But the biggest issue is that for all of the mystery of why Dottie has randomly flown to England to see Ted is to tell him Henry misses him. It’s a line of reasoning that doesn’t hold water considering that it’s a message relayed easily enough by phone.
Ultimately, Dottie’s presence feels like little more than a way to make way into the series’ conclusion, an ending that has been predicted by fans and advertised frequently enough by the show itself that that final moment was less of a cliffhanger than a watched pot coming to boil: Ted will soon leave England to return back to Kansas to be with Henry once again. I would like to be surprised but there’s little to indicate there’s much in the way of surprises left as we go into the finale. The big match is up in the air, but there’s little emotional stake in its outcome, seeing as how even the thought of playing for the Premier League title was once a near impossibility. Much like how forgiveness is a foregone conclusion, so is Ted’s big goodbye and who will manage the club once he’s gone. But there will be football, laughs, and many emotions. Even if the surprises are few, at the very least, they will no doubt give us much in the way of feelings.
Jamie: “Roy, I feel like—I feel like I’ve lost me wings, Roy. Where the f*ck are my wings, Roy??”
Higgins: “Well, I do believe in second chances, Ted. That’s why I’m still married, and all my sons are alive.”
Jade: “I’ve literally never thought about work the second after leaving work. Or even while there, really.”
Rebecca: “I mean, everyone always talks about his amazing four-octave vocal range. But my father always insisted that if you actually asked Freddie what his greatest talent was, he would’ve said flipping straights.”
Beard: “You can’t walk up stairs!”
Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. When she isn’t tracking down what poem Mae recited (“This Be The Verse,” by Philip Larkin), she can be found on Twitter here.