Keeley and Rebecca lean on each other, laughing, at a restaurant table.

The Romances in ‘Ted Lasso’ Are Leaving Me Cold

Ted Lasso is a feel-good show about how great it is to be kind to people. In seasons 1 and 2, that premise was a great way to explore the messy lives of messy people. In season 3, though, the formula is starting to flag—and its romantic plotlines are suffering.

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In the latest episode, “The Strings That Bind Us,” we get caught up on three major romances unfolding in the series. First there’s Nate and his crush, Jade, the hostess at A Taste of Athens. In “The Strings That Bind Us,” Nate finally works up the courage to ask Jade out. The gift he makes gets crushed under a car tire, but he asks her anyway, and she instantly says yes. Hurray! Next thing you know, they’re sitting down to dinner as equals, instead of a customer and employee.

Next, there’s Rebecca and the Dutch guy who invited her onto his houseboat after she fell into a canal in Amsterdam. As she tells Keeley over dinner, neither of them got each other’s names, so it remains a mysterious romance filled with gezellig. They didn’t have sex, Rebecca explains, because their experience “transcended sex.”

Finally, we have Keeley and Jack. Jack is rich. She love-bombs Keeley by whisking her away on her private jet and defacing priceless antiques.

Each of these romantic plots have a gigantic, glaring problem: none of the love interests have any personality whatsoever, and that makes it hard to feel like there’s anything at stake.

I want so much to care about these crushes, but I don’t

Quick: name one character trait about Jade from A Taste of Athens—that doesn’t have anything to do with Nate.

You can’t, can you? She used to hate Nate, but thanks to his supermodel date standing him up, now she’s kind of into him. Does she have an inner life? Passions? Hopes? Dreams? Quirks? Flaws? It’s hard to tell, because all she’s ever done in the show is glower at Nate.

How about Mr. Houseboat? We know he makes a good dinner and gives an amazing foot massage. Those are great traits for a knight in … uh, shite in nining armor, but for an actual person whom you’re supposed to care about? Not so much.

And Jack. God, I want so much to feel invested in Keeley and Jack. It’s so lovely to see queer romances onscreen (which is why I’m relieved the show still has Colin, Colin’s beau, and the newly-out Trent Crimm to explore). As a bisexual person, I’m happy to see bisexuality portrayed as a normal, joyful way of loving. But Jack isn’t an interesting person—she’s just a super rich one. The scene with Keeley and Rebecca over dinner tries to inject some drama into Keeley’s relationship, with Rebecca suggesting that Keeley is being love bombed, but Keely and Jack seem to work it out by the end of the episode. There’s still a chance that Jack will turn out to be a narcissist like Rupert, but it’s hard to understand what Keeley would lose if she and Jack broke up.

At its core, the problem with all three love interests is that they’re not characters, they’re plot devices. Jade exists so that Nate can gain some confidence and rediscover his humanity. The Dutch guy exists so that Rebecca can get the family she wants. Jack exists to either help Keeley move on from Roy, or drive her back to Roy—I guess we’ll find out by the series finale.

And honestly? A crush-as-plot-device isn’t always a bad thing. See, for instance, Rosaline in Romeo and Juliet. But with season 3’s hourlong episodes, a lot of time is being devoted to minor characters who haven’t been fleshed out at all.

Romantic plots are interesting when everyone involved in the romance is interesting. Keeley and Roy, Keely and Jamie, Rebecca and Sam, even Ted and Sassy—love them or hate them, these pairings suck us in because both characters are complex, layered, and sympathetic. (Maybe not as much with Sassy, but she and Ted are just hooking up, so.) In season 3, it honestly seems like the writers of Ted Lasso have forgotten what made the show’s first two seasons so good. I want the show to go out on a bang, but I fear it’ll go out on a whimper instead.

(featured image: Apple TV+)


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Author
Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>