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In a sweet finale, ‘Ted Lasso’ has the last word on toxic masculinity

From left: Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt, and Jason Sudeikis in "Ted Lasso."APPLE TV+

“Ted Lasso” finished its three-season run by giving fans a powerful case of the warm and fuzzies. It was a bittersweet — but mostly sweet — 75 minutes of goodbye, or, as the Richmond Greyhounds put it in their choreographed musical performance to Ted, of “So long, farewell.” There were no major twists, no it-was-all-a-dream-in-a-snow-globe-type final gestures, no black-screen ambiguities; there was just a series of heartfelt and concluding moments — thank yous, I love yous, and I’m not crying you ares.

The popular series, which gave streaming latecomer Apple TV+ a nice early bump, also finished its run having fulfilled its unspoken series-long project: to unpack toxic masculinity. Frequently set in a men’s locker room, it was a veritable pu pu platter of issues and choices facing contemporary men, among them insecurity dressed as bluster, fear doing business as fury, an unwillingness to admit pain, and competition at all costs, all with flaming coals of ego in the center. The relationship between fathers and sons was a core theme, not just between Ted and his father and Ted and his son, but between Ted, the surrogate father, and the entire team, including the staff. Fittingly, the big finale song was Cat Stevens’s “Father and Son” (followed by “Fight Test,” the very similar Flaming Lips song that resulted in a plagiarism case brought by Stevens).


“Ted Lasso” was, simultaneously, a recipe for undoing toxic masculinity, as each of the major male characters faced down at least one of those issues across the series. During the finale’s last meeting of the Diamond Dogs, with Roy now a barking member of the all-male therapy-ing crew, the topic is change, and whether it is truly possible. The answer that all the guys agree upon comes from Leslie: “The best we can do is to keep asking for help and accepting it when you can,” he says, “and if you keep on doing that you’ll always be moving towards better.” The men on “Ted Lasso,” except that totem of the worst kind of manliness, Rupert, all end in that place: “Moving toward better.”

Certainly there were important women in “Ted Lasso,” notably Rebecca and Keeley, whose friendship was one of the show’s many joys. And they had significant arcs, with Rebecca, after learning to let go of her hatred of her ex, coming face to face in the last minutes of the finale with what appeared to be her happy ending — the romantic Dutch man and his daughter. The finale opened with a fake-out that had us thinking Rebecca and Ted had slept together — a joke on those fans rooting for them — but it closed with something more charmingly fateful. Also at the end, we saw that Keeley had no interest in dealing with Roy or Jamie after they came to her like crying little boys to their mommy; she appears to be focusing on inner peace.


Juno Temple as Keeley and Hannah Waddingham as Rebecca in "Ted Lasso." Their friendship was one of the show’s many joys. APPLE TV+

One of the most obvious of the show’s story lines involving the male ego belonged to Nate, and it was finished more or less by the finale, as he’d overcome his insecurities, had some healing with his father, and found his way back to Richmond. He’d succumbed to the worst male traits — the Rupert side of things — and then managed to climb out of that pit. He and Ted put a bow on Nate’s progress with a big fat hug in the finale, with Nate’s tears both moving and brave. And, by the way, the guys all forgave Nate, rather than holding on to animosity, another positive note. The show’s ongoing passion for successful emotional intimacy between men was always a treat, alongside its insistence that men can like show tunes, too.


The biggest change in the series, though, belongs to Ted himself, the father to all. He wasn’t toxic, of course, and his ego seemed steady; notice how he got Trent to change his book title from “The Lasso Way” to “The Richmond Way.” But his inability to deal straight-on with the suicide of his father was poisoning him nonetheless. A typical guy, he preferred to suppress those powerful feelings and put a happy face on everything — to even make that kind of upbeat mode his trademark.

By not talking about his pain and grief, though, he was giving it the power to lead him — into panic attacks and away from his own son. “It’s hard,” Stevens sings in “Father and Son,” “but it’s harder to ignore it.” All the shame, all the pressure to “be a man” and smile through it and not flounder around in feelings and analyses, it was killing him inside. Upon his return to the States, coaching his son’s soccer team in the final seconds of the series, he was, we could see, “moving toward better.”


Will these wonderful characters return to TV in some kind of “Ted Lasso” spinoff? Apple TV+ hasn’t said; the streamer hasn’t even officially announced that the show is over. My guess is that we’ll be seeing more of some of them in another series. Now that he’s the new manager, and now that he’s in therapy with Dr. Fieldstone, perhaps it will be “Roy Kent.”

Or maybe the story will follow Keeley’s proposal to Rebecca. “AFC Richmond Women’s Team,” are you in our future?

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him @MatthewGilbert.