Ted Lasso Season 3 Is Solidifying Its Legacy as an Essential and Inspiring Show About Mental Health

TV Features Ted Lasso
Ted Lasso Season 3 Is Solidifying Its Legacy as an Essential and Inspiring Show About Mental Health

As someone who suffered from anxiety, panic attacks, and depression in his early 20s and went to therapy because of it, the mental health journey of Ted Lasso has always felt accurate and relatable. The scene in Season 1’s episode 7 when Ted (Jason Sudeikis) suffers his first panic attack during a party in a nightclub brought back the painful memory of my first anxiety attack. I remember it clearly to this day: the world was closing in on me, I lost my hearing for a few moments, my then-girlfriend’s alarmed face went all blurry, and I broke out in a cold sweat, on the verge of fainting. It’s a terrifying experience, and it’s even scarier to think of how your mind can shut down your body due to the deterioration of your mental and emotional health. The precise depiction of that in the show is uncanny. It’s also the first unignorable symptom that forces Ted to take action toward healing.

Until that point in Season 1, we saw that Ted’s coping mechanism was to masquerade his intrusive thoughts with a suspiciously upbeat and excessive cheerfulness. The constant dad jokes and puns helped him ignore that his marriage was falling apart. The very reason he took a job overseas as head coach of an English soccer team was to escape a difficult situation he couldn’t cope with. He claimed it was his way of giving space to his wife to reconsider the future of their relationship, but we know there was more to it. This sudden decision, however, allowed Ted to make it harder for everyone (including himself) to detect the struggles he wrestled with internally. His relentlessly exuberant behavior was a cover for his declining mental health—which wasn’t as easy to recognize as something like heavy drinking, drug abuse, or general self-destruction. No, Ted seemed like a man who had it together.

In my mid-aughts, I’ve done most of those “obvious” things when I’ve been depressed. I tried everything that previously had the power to make me feel something, but nothing worked. It’s extremely hard to admit you might need psychiatric help the first time around. Even if therapy is socially accepted today, there’s a stigma about thinking something’s wrong with your mind. You simply refuse to accept that you can’t overcome a difficulty that only exists in your brain. The thought of your mental weakness tastes like a defeat you can’t entirely articulate or justify to yourself. I remember beating myself up with questions like “What’s wrong with me?” and “Why can’t I feel good?” all the time. I felt completely hopeless, but even then, I didn’t think I needed therapy until my dad (who didn’t believe in psychiatric help) told me I did. It destroyed me inside to hear that from him at the time. The mere suggestion from someone I knew deemed therapy worthless felt humiliating—but that moment pushed me to seek help.

In Season 2 of Ted Lasso, the professional help that our coach needs arrives with sports psychologist Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles), who’s brought in to help the team overcome their seven-game tie-streak. Despite his doubts about needing therapy, Ted slowly warms up to Sharon and eventually becomes her patient. From a mental health perspective, Ted’s main arc is to come to terms with psychiatric help and identify the root of issues he can’t cope with on his own. This is a theme the series delves into courageously to explore in depth, observing it through a lens of traditional masculinity and male vulnerability. It’s a grueling task for a show that prides itself on being feel-good and easily consumable, yet the writers sew it into its fabric masterfully, leaving a thread to be continued in the next season.

With its (most likely) final installment, Ted Lasso seems ready to solidify its legacy as a show that dissected mental health into three crucial phases with each season. Now, in Season 3, Ted is in a much healthier place mentally than when we last saw him, and seems confident enough to overcome any difficulty life throws at him. Through virtual sessions, he’s still in therapy, but thanks to his gradual progress, less frequently so. He looks and sounds composed, having a handle on the mental and emotional problems he couldn’t control before. The panic attacks are gone, and his anxiety is at a manageable level, too. Undoubtedly, there’s still work to do when it comes to his most important relationships though. Finding out his ex-wife is seeing their marriage counselor (who clearly didn’t do a great job) is a tough nut to crack, but thanks to Dr. Fieldstone’s guidance, Ted opens up and shares his feelings about it. By openly addressing the issue—even if it feels uncomfortable—he shows how far he’s come by doing something he couldn’t have done a year ago. And he’ll also need to address his friend and colleague Nate’s betrayal (Nick Mohammed)—the main conflict of the season—sooner or later, whether he likes it or not.

Essentially, Season 3 appears to serve as the last phase of healing, where Ted needs to apply what he’s learned about himself in the past two years through self-assessment and therapy. Confronting those challenges is the final test before he can confidently leave counseling behind to face the world on his own again. It’s a crucial part of recovery, even if the eventual result of it doesn’t feel like that at first.

I don’t recall what went on in my last therapy session after attending for six months, but I remember the walk home. Though I felt good, I had a swarm of thoughts spiraling in my head, questioning whether I’m ready to go on by myself again. How do I know that I’m not depressed anymore? Will I ever have another panic attack? Am I going to have proper emotions again? Am I normal now, or just someone who’s been seeing a shrink for a while? Asking myself those questions, I knew I was still insecure about the future and unsure whether I was “cured.” At 22, I had no idea that the compound issues of depression and anxiety are more complex than a physical illness you can fix with medical treatment. It took me years to fully understand what therapy did, and how it veered my life back on the right track before I shifted into an irreparable wreck. I didn’t see it then, but it probably saved my life in the long term.

At its essence, Ted Lasso has been able to recreate a collective mental health journey that many of us have been through or are going through in different forms and different life periods, but with the same complicated emotions. Conveying the slow and challenging process of recovery through a protagonist who, despite his undying optimism and contagious kindness, still had to seek professional help to find his way back to life feels a triumph like no other. If the first half of Season 3 is any indication, we might see Ted end his journey at his happiest as he says goodbye to us with an inspiring and unforgettable farewell.

Akos Peterbencze is an entertainment writer based in London. He covers film and TV regularly on Looper, and his work has also been published in Humungus, Slant Magazine, and Certified Forgotten. Akos is a Rustin Cohle aficionado and believes that the first season of True Detective is a masterpiece. You can find him talk about all-things pop culture on Twitter (@akospeterbencze) and Substack (@akospeterbencze).

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