I find it funny that Succession and Ted Lasso had their series finales 48 hours apart. The former is a chronicle of the world’s wealthiest, most horrible people, degrading the humanity of everyone around them for profit. In the lead-up to the finale, everyone was asking, “Who do you think is going to win?” as if becoming CEO of the World’s Worst Company could count as winning.
The finale of Ted Lasso has an actual football match – there’s a winner and a loser – but the question of who would win was not as motivating as it was in the Roy family. The final results of the Premier League table are barely dwelled upon. As Ted (Jason Sudeikis) said early on to Trent Crimm (James Lance), winning and losing don’t matter; it’s about becoming the best version of oneself. Mirroring this philosophy, the series’ engine is a collective internal conflict. While characters butted heads in different arrangements – usually involving veteran-phenom-turned-coach Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) or superstar striker Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) – it is the rare program where the drama comes from characters’ attempts to understand their humanity and build up the lives of others.
When it worked, it worked. But you had to buy in. A spiritual cousin to Mike Schur’s creations like Parks and Recreation and The Good Place, Ted Lasso was a comedy that made fun of nobody and asked you to believe. If you are willing to take every locker room speech, tearful confession, and stadium celebration as a genuine expression of love, then Ted Lasso is a program like no other. This is, in fact, a big part of the point: keeping those defenses up is just denying an opportunity to grow. Be curious, not judgmental.
There’s nothing that says “not judgmental” quite like a ranked list, is there? To celebrate the magic trick of Ted Lasso’s openhearted quest for community and goodness, we take a tour through the times they got it right and a few of the times they got it wrong. Episodes were judged by their cohesion, heart, humor, and message to see how they measure up to the program’s goals. Richmond on three!
34. 3×02 – “(I Don’t Want to Go To) Chelsea“
The early half of season three is defined by two narrative tangents: the club’s acquisition of international superstar Zava (Maximilian Osinki) and Keeley (Juno Temple)’s hiring of her old friend Shandy (Ambreen Razia). These two digressions derail the series and add laborious runtime to each episode, but more importantly, they betray the well-constructed characters Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) and Keeley. Rebecca is again reduced to a revenge warpath, while Keeley loses the emotional intelligence that defined her character in seasons one and two. Most of “(I Don’t Want to Go To) Chelsea” is built around both of those plotlines, leaving very little resolved by the end, leaving us to wonder what the show is even about.
Key Moment: After Roy and Trent reconcile, Jamie takes on a leadership role and helps the team build the strategy that would lead to their draw against Chelsea.
33. 2×09 – “Beard After Hours”
Season two was pulling itself apart a wee bit in “Headspace” and “Man City,” but things take a whole new turn in “Beard After Dark.” I don’t dislike the episode’s premise: Coach Beard goes on a madcap journey through the London night. It sounds like a fun experiment. But it’s not quite madcap enough, more of a slow, tortured journey that ends with… Beard meets up with Jane (Phoebe Walsh), a character we’ve been explicitly told is bad for Beard. It sours the moment of enlightenment the episode thinks it is providing.
Key Moment: The pub lads (Bronson Webb, Adam Colborne, and Kevin Garry) get a chance to go on the field a Nelson Road, and it is joyous.
32. 3×05 – “Signs”
Ted: “We all got so much junk floating through us. A lot of times, we just end up getting in our own way.” Indeed. “Signs” is a rambling mess, trying to cover 1) Nate’s failed romance with Anastasia (Elee Nova), 2) Shandy’s firing, 3) Rebecca’s attempt to have children, 4) Henry (Gus Turner) being a bully at school 5) the team’s winless streak, 6) Keeley kissing Jack (Jodi Balfour), and 7) Zava’s retirement. The message of the Zava storyline is that Richmond could win without Zava, which was never in question for viewers who had never heard of him before the season began. “Signs” wraps up a few plot misfires (Zava, Shandy) and tries to salvage the whole thing with a big Ted speech at the end, but it collapses under its own weight.
Key Moment: Ted’s speech about belief is not just classic Ted Lasso but the strongest distillation of the show’s message: that belief is work.
31. 1×04 – “For the Children”
While Ted Lasso has introduced its share of antagonists (Rupert, Edwin, Nate, the Apple TV player itself), it’s never really needed one. The show’s true heart is the players trying to overcome their own demons. With much of this episode focusing on Rupert crashing the charity gala that Rebecca puts on, little is added to the program’s true objectives. Keely and Rebecca’s friendship finds its starting point, and the show begins to outgrow its premise of a kooky American coaching football, but as an episode, there’s not too much here.
Key Moment: When Ted consoles Rebecca in a non-judgmental way outside the gala, Hannah Waddingham masterfully performs her realization that her cruelty was misguided. She does not confess to Ted for weeks, but from the look on her face, brought on by Ted’s kindness, she knew she was wrong.
30. 2×07 – “Headspace”
A scattered episode, “Headspace”, focuses on Ted’s attempts to start a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Sharon (Sarah Niles), Nate’s reveling in the glory of his rise to fame, and a fight between Roy and Keeley. The Roy and Keeley storyline is quite affecting but is quickly resolved. Coach Beard appropriately calls out Nate on his rudeness, but it doesn’t stick, as Nate becomes even more entrenched in his megalomania. Ted’s failings with Dr. Sharon help show that coming to terms with therapy is not always easy, but the dialogue is stilted. A breather episode, if there ever was one.
Key Moment: Dr. Sharon tells Ted she was offended by his comment about therapists not meaningfully wanting to help and only wanting to be paid. By being up-front, she shows Ted that she was hurt – exactly the thing that Ted fears most. This, finally, brings him around and continues the messaging of the friendly rebuke from “The Signal”.
29. 3×03 – “4-5-1”
Noticing the trend of early season three near the bottom of the list, are we? Mostly focused on the Zava plotline, “4-5-1” succeeds in showing how much the new player displaces the team dynamic, but at no point does the tension feel compelling. While Richmond rocket up the league table, the show is missing its soul.
Key Moment: Jamie complains to the coaches about Zava, arguing that he is self-absorbed and detracting from team cohesion. It’s a moment of growth for Jamie, who realizes the negative impacts he had when he was in Zava’s place and gave us the all-time great line, “I wasn’t being ironic, I was being hypocritical.”
28. 1×01 – “Pilot”
A true pilot, the first episode does little outside of establishing the series’ fish-out-of-water premise, billing Ted Lasso up as a capable, albeit unremarkable, sports comedy. It’s a necessary first act but not a particularly inspiring one. Outside of Ted himself, only Keeley shows glimmers of the depth she would eventually embody. Ted’s final phone call with Michelle (Andrea Anders) is well-acted and affecting, but at this juncture, feels like the program is making a clawing effort at seriousness in the final minute. Only later would Ted’s emotional state become central.
Key Moment: After Ted becomes overwhelmed at his opening press conference, Rebecca steps in to save the day and addresses the journalists. Of course, at this moment, it’s entirely disingenuous — but pokes at what her character will become capable of once she has her long, dark night of the soul.
27. 2×06 – “The Signal”
Rather humdrum until its final third, “The Signal”, focuses on the question of when and how to have a hard conversation with a friend. This all leads to the episode’s final beat: after leaving the FA Cup quarterfinal with a panic attack, Dr. Sharon finds Ted huddled in her office, asking for an appointment. But the rest of the episode struggles, as some of the other plot points that set up this final moment are tied to storylines that haven’t existed (Rebecca’s mother) or haven’t been substantial components of the narrative (Beard’s relationship with Jane). As a result, “The Signal” doesn’t quite support its final moment and is an example of the fractured narrative approach that would define the uninspiring early third season.
Key Moment: After the quarter-final win, Rebecca congratulates Roy on his positive influence. Roy immediately deflects the praise, attributing the winning strategy to Nate. Roy unthinkingly praising Nate reveals the one-sidedness of their rivalry; Roy is happy to be part of the team, but Nate constantly fears being overshadowed.
26. 2×08 – “Man City”
“What?” You cry! “Man City!? At #26? The one with Jamie’s father?” Indeed. That confrontation is one of the show’s best moments, but there’s a whole first half of this episode that drags down the whole. Dr. Sharon gets into a bicycle accident, and Ted tries to help, Rebecca starts her tryst with Sam (Toheed Jimoh), and Roy is brought into Phoebe’s (Elodie Blomfield) school because of Phoebe’s swearing. All of this is fine, but none of it contributes to the episode’s dramatic build toward the Man City match. I find myself waiting for the good part.
After Richmond are routed at Wembley, dominoes fall quickly: Beard is discouraged, Sam and Rebecca’s relationship accelerates, Jamie punches his gloating father (Kieran O’Brien) and collapses into Roy’s arms (forever changing their relationship), and Ted tells Dr. Sharon about his father’s suicide. It’s a whirlwind ending that leaves a powerful mark on the series, but the episode’s first half doesn’t quite support it.
Key Moment: After Beard drags out Jamie’s father, Roy immediately crosses the room and wordlessly embraces his former rival, who starts sobbing. There’s no dialogue, and the camera stays on the two of them for a long time. The restraint of the writing – simply letting Phil Dunster act without forcing his emotion into language – is brilliant television.
25. 1×03 – “Trent Crimm, The Independent“
Rebecca’s scheme to have Ted and Keely pictured together in The Sun is thwarted in a meaningless way – Keely just pulls a favor, and the whole enterprise, which has taken up substantial screen time, doesn’t pay off until episode eight. Elsewhere, Ted turns the seemingly cruel heart of Trent Crimm, who lays out Ted’s philosophy in his write-up. It’s an obvious premise, an episode that writes the ending the moment it starts, but the episode is saved by the parallel storyline with Roy.
When Ted gets Roy to protect Nate from Jamie’s bullying, we see an actual, substantive conversion to the Lasso Way – Ted brilliantly understands team dynamics and the credibility of a leader, and after getting Roy to see it his way for just a moment, he knows that there’s a way forward. It’s winning over Roy, not Trent, that gives this episode its meaning.
Key Moment: While the read-aloud of Trent’s article is the episode’s most iconic moment, the most spectacular is Roy calling Jamie a child for drinking vanilla vodka.
24. 1×02 – “Biscuits”
Ted tries to adjust to his new role and figure out the locker room dynamic, especially around Roy and Jamie. This is a strong episode within the limitations of the show’s early days when Rebecca and Ted have a one-way, adversarial relationship. Ted Lasso struggles to reach its full potential before Rebecca aligns herself with Ted, but this episode contains many sparks of the season’s later joys: the wry humor (Nate being called a “good lad” by Roy for breaking Ted’s window, Jamie shouting “thank you” at television commentators for mentioning his “meaningless consolation goal.”) Not quite a representative episode of the series, “Biscuits” is a simple affair that gets the jokes right and features the show’s first signature feel-good moment: the locker room party after a 4-1 loss.
Key Moment: Higgins (Jeremy Swift) is the first to turn over to Ted, with his “Caesar you later” pun. Ted never dramatically re-oriented anyone’s life or worldview — he tapped into the parts of people that were already full of joy and love. Higgins is the first to feel seen, rather than transformed, by Ted. This moment pays off at the end of the episode when Higgins turns up to the party.