Ted Lasso: Season 3, “Mom City” – TV Review

“Mom City”

  • 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

Grade: B

Warning: Reviews of Ted Lasso season 3 will contain spoilers.

Of all the things that Ted Lasso has gotten wrong this year, the one aspect it’s gotten absolutely right has been Jamie Tartt. Season one saw the star player go from arrogant superstar to humbled supporting player. Season two was a rockier path as he found his way from opposing player to back into the fold at Richmond. And this season has been all about rekindling his connection to himself and, ostensibly, his teammates. Yet Jamie hasn’t been the sole focus of a lot of his screen time this year; rather, it’s primarily been about his relationship to Roy and the ways that dynamic has caused a change within him.

With Mom City, Jamie gets perhaps his finest hour (69 minutes, to be more accurate) when Richmond returns to face Manchester City, and all of Jamie’s demons return once again. He’s made no secret of his tarnished relationship with his father, but it manifests itself differently when he can’t escape it, back in his home town. Here, it seems like Jamie’s a shell of himself, actively discouraging any praise for himself at a press conference, and going full meltdown to Roy in private. It’s an abrupt change to start the episode, but Phil Dunster sells it all to perfection.

The centerpiece of Jamie’s arc comes when he ventures off on his own – followed closely by Roy and Keeley – to his mother’s home, where he seeks her advice. Ted Lasso has a lot of dramatic ideas at its heart, but one of its best is in how fathers (or father figures) can so irrevocably shape our lives, for better and worse. Jamie’s been driven by his father to pursue football, but there’s an element of fear at the heart of it, memorably brought to the front last season when Richmond played at Wembley Stadium. We haven’t learned much about his mother, and Mom City doesn’t reveal much about her or their history together, but she crucially provides Jamie with what he needs most in that moment. The material during the Man City match was pure Ted Lasso Sports Movie 101 schmaltz, but I’ll give it a soft pass because Dunster was so terrific in the episode.

It feels like a bit of a cheat for the show to recycle plot beats after only three seasons, but I can only get so disappointed at this point. You may recall that, last season, Rebecca’s mother abruptly showed up in The Signal to break the news that she was divorcing Rebecca’s father. With Mom City, we finally meet Ted’s mother Dotty (Becky Ann Baker), who arrives in Richmond unannounced, throwing off Ted’s focus. I was fully expecting for the final moments to do something similar, where Dotty shows up to break some horrible news to Ted, but that’s not the case, and I don’t know if I would have liked that more or less than what we got. The reveal of Ted’s father’s suicide was a major plot development late last season, so to see Ted finally confront it in the open with someone that was there provided him the opportunity to expel some long-standing demons.

All season long, the show has been driving towards several fairly obvious plot points, and by the end of Man City, they all feel basically inevitable. The show wants us to guess at what Ted’s big news is by leaving it as a cliffhanger, but Ted’s only arc this season – when he’s had one – has been his homesickness, and his guilt over being so distant from his son. So when the finale next week involves Ted quitting, the only question will be whether it comes before or after the end of Richmond’s regular season.

Similarly, Nate’s return to Richmond has been a long and winding road, full of a lot of filler material. This week, we’re treated to Nate’s disillusionment and hesitance to return to Richmond with his tail between his legs. Actually, it’s not much of a decision because three of the Richmond players literally come to his work – he’s now a waiter at Taste of Athens because I guess the show couldn’t find a new location or occupation – and ask for him to come back in Mom City‘s opening scene. Beard’s confrontation with Nate in the final minutes was the show distilled to its core: finding the best in people, while baring our own flaws to the world. At the very least, it’s more evidence that the show still knows how to give us character driven catharsis without taking shortcuts.

Ted Lasso; AppleTV+

Above all, it’s struck me recently just how much Ted Lasso just isn’t very funny anymore. Of course, there have been laugh-out-loud situational moments and jokes this season, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the show’s writers have prioritized dramatic beats over creating comedy. Mom City’s biggest comedic moment comes as the team watches You’ve Got Mail and all its macho stars are reduced to tears by the end. The “sensitive men who are in touch with their feelings” bits would have felt stale in the show’s first season three years ago. Now it’s almost desperate, at best. 

Believe it or not, all of this is a minor complaint because, without interesting characters or plot lines, none of it is worthwhile. But this is a show that used to be able to do both, effortlessly. Maybe Ted has burrowed under my skin, and maybe I’m too invested in the show at this point. But, despite all the evidence this year to the contrary, I remain optimistic that Ted Lasso can end the season in a satisfying way, whether it really is the series finale or not.

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