This Ted Lasso review is based on the four episodes available at the time of writing.
Ted Lasso has always been a show with a feel-good heart, even when the subject matters they're tackling can be a little sticky. And so expect more of the same as the show returns for its third (and debatably last) season.
Coming in at another 12-episode arc, AFC Richmond is back in the Premier League, and yet remains the underdog. Everyone – team included – isn't convinced they have what it takes to stay there. Then again, the Greyhounds are now pros at proving people wrong.
But the work/life balance of people in the public eye is messy, with lines continuing to blur. What happens off the pitch will nearly always affect what's happening on the pitch.
This materialises most obviously with Nate (Nick Mohammed) defecting over to the shinier, glitzier world of West Ham, run by Rebecca's (Hannah Waddingham) cruel and calculated ex-husband Rupert (Anthony Head).
Gone are the days of just trying to do something positive, the move now proves to bring something else into the game entirely – spite and rivalry.
While Ted (Jason Sudeikis) continues to play the honorable way in front of cameras and the press, behind-the-scenes pressure is on from all sides to get a little dirtier. Rebecca doesn't want to win, she just wants to beat Rupert. Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) and new assistant Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) want to prove to Nate he made a mistake. And Ted? Well, he's just trying to keep his personal life together, the success story of AFC Richmond becoming less of a priority for him as he is forced to watch his life back in the States with his son unfold via a screen, ironically like he's watching a football match.
The series does well at tackling hard topics in a digestible way, and this is most prominent in Sudeikis's portrayal of Ted, who can't seem to catch himself any kind of personal win. While he is at least now in therapy, he's alone and as viewers you can tell he feels it. This ongoing portrayal of depression and anxiety on the face of someone who does anything to portray himself otherwise is a little heartbreaking.
In season three, it's the subtle plays that truly have the most impact. Elsewhere, Roy's personal struggle over his life with Keeley (Juno Temple) proves a source of contention, even though Roy being classic Roy never says anything. Keeley, who is building up a successful PR firm, is still bright and bubbly, but crumbles at the first opportunity to bestie Rebecca as she struggles with the pressure of being the Boss Bitch the world has commanded her to be.
Other players (no spoilers) are revealed to be hiding their own secrets from the team for the sake of bravado and maintaining an image, and despite walking tall in his new life in claret-and-blue, Nate's self-esteem still hinges on the opinions of anonymous Twitter names.
In a world under the public eye, the projected image is everything, but is rarely often the truth, and this is examined far more in-depth in Ted Lasso season three.
When a show is supposed to be a comedy, it's difficult to truly review it beyond "is it funny?" or "is it not?". So yes, the show still brings the laughs – most prominently from Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) who has managed to transform this self-absorbed, one-note character into something with true depth and sweetness.
But Ted Lasso has always been a show about human connection, and the good and the bad within that, and it's definitely erring more on the side of almost drama at points in season three.
The importance of such connections is highly likely what made Ted Lasso such a success story in the first place, arriving at a time when viewers needed that more than ever. Ted Lasso doesn't just give fans what they want, it gives them what they need.
Whether this is the final season truly remains to be seen. While the creators have long-argued the show was only ever intended as a three-season arc, there's a notable absence of any official "final" announcement. In fact, they've now seemed to double-back on that assessment.
But from the first four episodes, it seems AFC Richmond have a destination in mind. It's just a case of how long it will be to get them there.
Either way, it remains a beautiful story way beyond the pitch points that create The Beautiful Game.
Ted Lasso launches March 15 on Apple TV+, with new episodes dropping every Wednesday.
Watch: Ted Lasso season 3 trailer