REVIEW: Ted Lasso Season 3, Episode 1 – “Smells Like Mean Spirit”

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Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 1

With a greater balance in the division of wholesome vs. melancholy, Ted Lasso Season Three Episode 1 sees an immediate course correction following an at-odds second season. This is immediately apparent in the premiere episode, “Smells Like Mean Spirit,” which sets a promising tone for the third season. For what might likely be its final season, the Apple TV+ sports comedy delivers on a narrative platform that promises resolution to older and ongoing storylines while simultaneously setting the stage for developments, either random or new, so that characters who haven’t been given a sole spotlight in the past may be relegated to something greater than simply team member number three. 

Following the events of Nathan’s (Nick Mohammed) betrayal, where he leaked Ted’s (Jason Sudeikis) panic attacks to the press and followed that by taking a job with Rupert (Anthony Head) at West Ham United, “Smells Like Mean Spirit” sees Ted and all of the team Richmond shaking off the cobwebs. They’re facing ridicule from the media, who peg them as last in the Premier League, the wily distrust from a passionate public who have again lost faith in Ted’s ability to coach, and intrapersonal opposing decision-making from coaching to management. It’s a shaky time to be on the team, but as they often do, they manage to try and rally by the end of Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 1, making for a straightforward, singular story that succeeds in setting the tone and pace of what will follow. 

Perhaps the greatest indicator of the show’s main source of drama comes in the first few minutes, as Ted must say goodbye to his son after weeks spent together, his son having to board a plane back to America to be with his mother. Ted, having wondered why he’s still playing coach to a team that could inarguably find another who knows as much (more likely) about the sport, in a place with the general public’s opinion of him furiously teeters over the line of begrudging support and vicious disdain, for a team that’s been having to push the boulder continually up the mountain with little to show for it. All the while, he’s missing integral parts of his young son’s adolescence. 

Of course, the rest of the team doesn’t see it that way, especially with Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) hellbent on beating Rupert (a small step up from being relegated to her phone and love life in season two) and other coaches, such as Roy (Brett Goldstein) and Beard (Brendan Hunt) stepping up to fill the space left by Nate. Despite the familial drama and doubts that Ted suffers, it’s much more interesting to get a sense of what those still dedicated to Richmond in their entirety are detailing in terms of internal and external pressure. There have been glimpses of Beard’s competitive nature and disagreement with Ted’s overtly peaceful teachings that would be interesting to expand on, especially with Ted being conflicted about his place on the team. 

That said, what falters in an otherwise enjoyable and well-timed episode — even at a longer length, a trend of the season — is Keeley’s (Juno Temple) storyline, which separates her from the main drama. There’s no real logistical issue with Keeley getting a new job as her boss at a PR agency, especially since it keeps her tied to the world of athletics. In execution, though, it makes it so that her plot plays like an afterthought compared to the well-oiled movement of the others, where the effects of decisions made by Rebecca or Ted are felt all the way through the rest of the team. Temple is wonderful in her moment of vulnerability when Rebecca visits her, and she realizes she’s double booked herself with her daily private cry and lunch with her friend. Still, it comes across as tangential when it should have flowed seamlessly. 

It’s a shame that in the last two seasons, two of the greatest mishaps have been how they write for their two main female cast members. With Temple being benched for seemingly consistent C plot adventures (if on her own) this season and Rebecca stuck in a sticky romance in season two, it’s time the writers remember their formidable talent with each and utilizes both for greater storylines.  

There are hints of this, though, in one of the two strongest written portions of the episode, which will surely enrage a portion of the audience. The first, in a conversation between Keeley and Roy, suggests greater depths and insight into their characters will follow. Temple is strong in the reveal, shooting a worldless gaze at Roy, suggesting there’s more hurt underlying what they’re saying aloud. 

Elsewhere, there will be those who want the screentime with enemy number one, Nate, to be minimal, but what the show does in Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 1 is tremendous in setting up both his unrestrained ego and putting it at odds with the dichotomy of how he grew up and how he appears to those like Rupert. Take, for instance, Rupert’s “gift” of a new car which ultimately is little more than a way to keep appearances so that there’s no character or rough edges to a team meant to look spotless. 

For better or worse, Nathan is one of the more complex characters of the series, and his utter inability to deal with stress and the spotlight without needing some toxic hype method (the spitting will not be gross), married with his clear insecurity, demonstrated by Mohammed makes for an engaging, unlikeable character. He’s the perfect antagonist to Ted, as seen in the differences in how the two engage with the press. 

Despite some rough spots regarding specific characterization, Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 1 is an enjoyable reminder of all that makes Ted Lasso such an engaging week-to-week watch. With a largely lovable ensemble and winsome atmosphere, the result doesn’t just redeem itself from the lower points of season two; it also reminds viewers why it’s such a warm and inviting series to return to. 

Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 1 is available now, with new episodes premiering Wednesdays on Apple TV+.

Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 1
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10


Despite some rough spots regarding specific characterization, Ted Lasso Season 3 Episode 1 is an enjoyable reminder of all that makes Ted Lasso such an engaging week-to-week watch.

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