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Ted Lasso ending spoilers follow.
If the Ted Lasso finale is guilty of one thing, besides a criminally long run time, it's of getting in its own way.
The questionable way season three storylines were sliced and diced on screen became no more explainable in the last episode of the third season, when Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) clearly saw the writing on the wall and packed it in at AFC Richmond.
Yet while Ted had a modicum of narrative resolution stateside, with the door open for a possible return in the future, several of the other characters in the locker room's orbit were denied a similar fate.
The episode kicked off with Nate Shelley (Nick Mohammed) back in the Richmond locker room sporting the greyhound kit, as if he had never left. By the season's end, Nate has shed his villainous skin as if it never existed, seemingly because Rupert Mannion (Anthony Head) tried to lure him away from his one-dimensional girlfriend Jade (Edyta Budnik) with a pair of charmless supermodels.
Much like the hastily repaired BELIEVE! sign, the naïve but brilliant iteration of Nate we all fell in love with in season one is taped back together for the last episode, with very little explanation for how he got there after the second season had carefully plotted his slow but steady retreat into bitterness.
Just as we never saw crucial scenes like Nate quitting his post as manager of West Ham, we never see his return to the fold or reintegration into the team after an expertly spun baddie arc.
But it's hard to get too worked up about this when genuine plot developments happen off screen throughout the finale, which instead dedicates many, many minutes to a Ted Lasso x Sound of Music collaboration that leaves you wondering if we're actually still in Amsterdam and this is all part of Ted's not-really-high trip.
Another key example comes when a spanner is thrown in the works of Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) and Jamie Tartt's blossoming bromance (Phil Dunster), in the form of the show's very own shadow of her former self, Keeley Jones (Juno Temple).
The pair acknowledge they both want to be with her and decide to scrap it out in what we will have to assume is a Bridget Jones-style street brawl, since the entire thing again happens off screen. Whoever thought to bin that, when the scene in which the team train with their penises tied together via string stayed off the cutting room floor where it belonged, needs to take a long hard look in the mirror.
Just as Nate's character veered in incongruous directions in the finale, so too did Keeley, Roy and Jamie's. With this long-gestating love triangle, the unrelenting positivity of Ted Lasso had created a problem and, shockingly, some real conflict which we were genuinely interested to see resolved.
Yet after building up the close bond of the bike-riding windmill besties, Ted Lasso clearly decided it was too much to stomach leaving one or the other heartbroken, so we instead get the dodgiest of cop outs yet.
Jamie and Roy go to Keeley to make her choose one of them, which she refuses to – finally something we can recognise her character would in fact do.
But then, the storyline sinks like a skipping stone which has lost all its momentum. We last see the trio at a street party with their fellow Richmond chums, apparently having chosen to remain friends – or, perhaps, as the throuple they should really be.
Either way, we never find out.
Throughout this final season, as the episodes became bloated and the storylines racked up apace, Ted Lasso spread itself far too thin. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Nate and Keeley, both of whom arguably went on the biggest journeys over the show's run, but were cast to the wind in its final stages, in favour of giving absolutely everyone a look in.
Did we really need the mock horror of Rupert pushing over his new manager on the side-line? Or the prolonged DIY job to the BELIEVE! sign, done with the reverence of an archaeologist uncovering an ancient artefact and set to reverent Chariots of Fire-type music.
In its finale and the last ten minute montage in particular, the show became about checking off characters one by one to create the illusion of resolution.
So we got several scenes of Dr Sharon (Sarah Niles) in some anonymous hotel room watching the game, one of Rebecca's mum Deborah (Harriet Walter – a jump scare after her exquisite turn as Succession's Caroline just days ago) and far too many of the trio of Richmond fans with publican/occasional guardian angel Mae (Annette Badland).
Ted Lasso is obviously conscious of its fans and what they want. The first scene of Ted and Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham), where the possibility of a hook-up hangs in the air, is quickly revealed to be a tongue-in-cheek tease to long-time shippers.
Refusing to fall prey to fan service can be admirable when the writers conjure up an alternative storyline that feels more fitting to its characters, which they sort of do with Ted and Rebecca.
But the finale also veers away from certain arcs that have been built up, like Nate's stint in West Ham purgatory and Keeley, Jamie and Roy's never-fully-developed love triangle, for no other apparent reason than that they didn't know how to conclude them while also keeping in line with the heartwarming brand of the show.
Much like Ted Lasso himself, the finale of the show was just too darned eager to please.
Ted Lasso is available to stream on Apple TV+.
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