“The Strings That Bind Us”
- Creators: Jason Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, Brendan Hunt, Joe Kelly
- Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham, Brett Goldstein, Nick Mohammed, Juno Temple, Brendan Hunt, Jeremy Swift, Phil Dunster, Sarah Niles
Warning: Reviews of Ted Lasso season 3 will contain spoilers.
I’ve seen a handful of criticisms of this third season of Ted Lasso, saying the show is too scattershot and unfocused. I can’t say I completely disagree with that. The show certainly has its fair share of plates spinning, but even in the early episodes of season one, Ted Lasso was never built to be like Stranger Things or Barry or Succession, building to a certain moment from week to week. Rather, it’s an ensemble comedy – whose ensemble seems to be growing every other episode – that focuses less on its namesake hero and more on the people whose lives he’s touched.
It’s kind of unbelievable how many plot threads we’ve seen already this season, so to see even more new plots introduced this week was a bit overwhelming. Some of the plotlines introduced earlier were less consequential because it was so early and were simply utilized to establish the tone of the season. But with less than half of the (possibly final) season left, is it really wise to introduce such impactful material? Take the developments with Sam, for example. The show had never really hinted at the wider political world – or at least the British one – before The Strings That Bind Us, so when Sam and his restaurant employees are suddenly heavily involved in the changing immigration policies in Britain, it comes as a bit of a surprise.
Given his history with the DubaiAir protest last season, it makes sense for Sam to speak up and start a Twitter war with the new immigration secretary. But when things escalate after she tells him to “shut up and dribble”, the unseen cretins of London trash Sam’s restaurant – and right before Sam’s father comes to visit, no less. I have no qualms with the material, and I hadn’t realized how much I’ve missed Toheeb Jimoh getting the spotlight this season, but I fear this will be a repeat of the DubaiAir subplot last season, where it’s given a tremendous weight in one episode and barely mentioned ever again. And just like the protest last season, the rest of the team shows up to support Sam to fix the restaurant in a great moment of teamwork.
At least the episode dedicates most of its runtime (just a hair under an hour this time, for those keeping score) to a continuation of Ted’s revelation in Amsterdam last week, as Richmond tries to integrate “Total Football” to their strategy. It leads to a few humorous moments, most notably the sequence that gives the episode its title, and it demonstrates what Ted’s philosophy is all about. In order for the strategy to work, everybody on the pitch has to trust in each other and believe in themselves. Of course, it doesn’t click automatically for everyone, and good on episode writer Phoebe Walsh for not automatically giving Richmond the win against Arsenal, but it gives the team higher spirits nonetheless because they see the fruits of their labor pay off.
The only other developments within The Strings That Bind Us worth discussing are the romantic entanglements of Nate and Keeley (separately, not together, of course). These two characters feel less and less essential to the show this season, given their distance from Richmond and those within it. Anyone expecting Nate’s entire persona this year to be Evil/Anti-Ted hasn’t paid attention enough to the show and how it treats its “villains”. Ted Lasso was always going to try to humanize Nate, and here it’s done by showing how nervous he is to ask Jade out on a date. Again, I don’t know how invested we’re supposed to be in Nate’s romantic life this late in the season, and again, I very much enjoy seeing more of Nick Mohammaed.
Keeley’s romance with Jack feels even harder to pin down. We finally get to see her and Rebecca this week, but there’s nothing else tying her to Richmond or Ted anymore, not even a new ad campaign for the club. We’re conditioned to root for Keeley (Juno Temple has put in some great work once again this year). Her romance with Jack is surely doomed sooner or later, I just wish the show could have given them more time together to get us invested in them as a couple.
I also don’t know what to make of Trent’s sudden epiphany to Ted in the locker room to talk about their new changes besides a simple meta bit, but I welcome any enlightenment in the comments.
Were it not gobbled up by Apple, I could see a world where Ted Lasso made a splash as a network sitcom. Even the best network shows would take a detour a few times per season for a seemingly unrelated storyline – not unlike last week’s episode. The Strings That Bind Us hasn’t caused me to hit the panic button just yet. The characters and the humor are all still clicking, and I haven’t felt the fatigue with the longer runtimes. But, as well developed as the new threads are in this episode, I worry that subsequent episodes will follow suit and introduce more and more subplots, inevitably crushing the show under its own weight. I’ll almost always prefer a show that releases from week to week, but maybe the show will be more palatable if binged all at once, so we can see how well the entire vision fits together.
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