What’s Up With Roy and Keeley?

After what feels like a decade, Ted Lasso has returned for a third (and final, per Jason Sudeikis) season. The fish-out-of-water story has experienced high highs (Skyrocketing in fame due to pandemic woes! Emmy wins! A Jeni’s ice cream flavor!) and low lows (Tons of online discourse! Drama with Sudeikis! Production delays!); whether we’re ready or not, we’re in for three more months full of new episodes. Let’s begin.

(Warning: Spoilers ahead for Ted Lasso’s Season 3 premiere, “Smells Like Mean Spirit.”)

We’re reunited with corny football (we’ll use “football” in these recaps, just know we’re talking about what Americans call “soccer”) coach Ted (Sudeikis) while he is going through a bit of an existential dilemma. The very first scene sees the usually happy-go-lucky American bidding farewell to his young son Henry (Gus Turner) as he flies back to the U.S. Ted is, understandably, upset. On the phone with his therapist Sharon (Sarah Niles), Ted reveals his inner struggles: He understands why he came to coach Richmond AFC in the first place, but he’s unsure of why he chose to stay.

Though the first few minutes feel like a return to form for Ted Lasso. The soundtrack of upbeat tunes is back. So are the energetic visits to Rebecca’s (Hannah Waddingham) office and the football field. That said, the first episode in this comeback does feel lacking in the signature Ted Lasso charm. Many of the jokes and storylines (from Nick Mohammed’s Nate turning evil to Rebecca loathing her ex-husband) feel like retreads of past seasons. And, my goodness, everyone is so downtrodden! It’s going to take so much candy-coated Ted Lasso cheeriness to peel everyone out of their downward spiral.

By far the saddest duo in the third season premiere, which is full of incredibly sad people, is fan-favorite couple Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) and Keeley Jones (Juno Temple), who have broken up. Gasp! Last season, we saw the pair enter a minor love triangle with Keeley’s ex, stuck-up footballer Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster). Jamie seems to have lost interest. No, instead, he’s abandoning his hatred of Roy in order to support him through the breakup, a character choice that feels awkward. Still, Jamie pins it on the fact that he, too, went through a breakup with Keeley—Roy begrudgingly accepts his help.

This still begs the question: Why in the world did lovestruck Roy and Keeley break up? There’s more backstory. Earlier in the episode, we see Keeley sobbing into BFF Rebecca’s arms over how tiring her new PR job can be. “Crying is like an orgasm for the soul,” Keeley says.

Quotes like this used to be so cheeky and fun, but after three seasons of parroting quirky quips, they’ve started to feel like the unhuman jargon you’d hear on Emily in Paris—especially since Keeley sports a bedazzled crop top in the office (?) and slays her way into a managerial position with minimal experience (??). Wouldn’t a spinoff starring Keeley and Emily, wearing goofy outfits while working together in marketing, make a lot of sense? Something to consider as Ted Lasso comes to a close.

Nevertheless, Keeley’s hard work doesn’t pay off. Her boyfriend dumps her and leaves her to cry over her job with no emotional support. The reason Roy broke up with Keeley? They’re both “busy.” Someone needs to teach Roy how to properly support his significant other! You don’t just leave your partner high and dry because they’re going through a massive life change—in fact, that’s when they need you the most.

Alas, I may be preaching to the choir here, as Ted Lasso is most likely setting us up to get that exact lesson from Ted himself. As stated earlier, there’s so much sorrow spreading through Ted Lasso in this premiere, from the team’s worries about being relegated all over again to Roy, who’s lonely and misses the simple art of kicking around a football.

These are all very transparent ways for the series to set up Ted, who will undoubtedly coach each and every one of these folks out of their moodiness with a chipper pep talk. If you enjoy these speeches (as I often do), you’re likely in for a treat. If not, Season 3 won’t be your cup of tea. Hopefully, the incoming bursts of optimism won’t be as heavy-handed as the season premiere, which sees Ted taking his team down to the sewers to prove that even at the bottom, there’s plenty of rich history and context to learn about—gross.

This is the same case with Nate’s West Ham villain arc. At his new job, Nate is rude to his coworkers and staffers. When he and Ted go head-to-head in dueling press conferences, Nate disrespects Ted in front of a live audience. His new manager Rupert (Anthony Head) rewards him for his behavior by gifting him a gaudy new car. Meanwhile at his press conference, Ted takes the high road, and is celebrated by the press because of it.

Surely, Ted’s going to step in and talk some sense into Nate at some point this season. This is metaphorically shown as Ted moves a Lego version of Nate back to the home team on his homemade Richmond AFC Lego set, back beside himself, Roy, and Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt). That appears to be the aim of this season: Get Nate back on Team Lasso.

The Season 3 premiere of Ted Lasso had its moments—Cristo Fernández as Dani Rojas is always a treasure, as is Hannah Waddingham, particularly her face any time Ted delivers biscuits—but the show’s taken a clear dramatic turn. Though its charm was slightly withered in this Season 3 return, the more wistful tone might be a welcome change for Ted Lasso. Whether that pays off in the long run, we’ll have to see as the rest of Season 3 plays out. (Pun intended, for Ted’s sake.) This first episode was quite a bore, but Ted would want me to stay optimistic—so nervously optimistic I’ll remain.

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