‘Ted Lasso’ Just Introduced Another Over-the-Top, Polarizing Character

Apple TV+
Apple TV+

In each new season of Ted Lasso, I’ve fallen in love with a new “best player” of the year. First there was Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), the “Baby Shark”-singing egomaniac who went on to star on a faux version of Love Island. Then, there was Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernández), Jamie’s replacement, known for killer headshots and an exceptionally positive attitude. Finally, last season, Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh) was the belle of the ball, winning over sponsors to the extent that he was offered a huge deal to create a brand new African Football Club—which he politely declined to stay with Ted).

Now, Richmond AFC has a new star player in Zava (Maximilian Osinski). There have been three star players on this football team before Zava—though Jamie spent a bit of time playing for Manchester—and yet, it takes Zava to make the team truly great. Why? Why, now, is Sam no longer a player to watch? How come Jamie isn’t as good as he was in the second season? And what about star player Dani—did he never really shake himself out of “the yips”?

New Ted Lasso characters have usually proven to be delightful. Rebecca’s pal Sassy (Ellie Taylor) was a grand addition to the middle of Season 1, as was plucky Dani Rojas. Therapist Sharon (Sarah Niles) took some warming up to, but in the end, she proved to be a wonderful addition to spotlight Ted’s (Jason Sudeikis) struggles with anxiety. So when I heard that there would be a new footballer in the mix in this third and final season, I was elated to see Osinski in early previews (especially since he’s married to fellow Apple TV+ royalty, Severance’s Dichen Lachman).

While this new footballer certainly has a big personality, and he really put a fire in Rebecca’s belly in the last episode, the character didn’t make the best first impression in his introduction this week. Osinski himself isn’t responsible. As my colleague Kevin Fallon wrote in his review of this new season, “It really is giving fans what they want, even if that means that the story arcs are frustratingly repetitive. Maximilian Osinski, in a new role that we won’t spoil, does a lot of work—some might say too much—to spice that up.” That’s exactly right. He’s sent to break the formula, but unfortunately, he falls right into it, while also playing a character that is way too much.

<div class="inline-image__credit">Apple TV+</div>
Apple TV+

Let’s do a little recapping here. In the first season, Jamie Tartt was the hot player of the hour, teasing legacy player Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) as he prepared to retire. When Jamie was benched for foul behavior, he was replaced by Dani Rojas who, on top of being a better player, had a better attitude about the game. Though Dani caught “the yips” after shooting a soccer ball straight into the team’s mascot (a dog) in Season 2, he rebounded thanks to the help of Sam Obisanya, the new star player for Richmond AFC in the show’s second season.

We’ve spent the last two seasons filtering through star players—there have only been three seasons, and we’ve now had four of them—which makes sense, if we’re talking about a team that’s good at football. But no, Richmond AFC is struggling to stay in the Premier League, with big concerns over being re-relegated down to the English Football League all over again. They shouldn’t be so concerned about it if they have three killers (Dani, Sam, and Jamie) playing on one team.

‘The Big Door Prize’ Is the ‘Ted Lasso’ Antidote We Need

Alas, they’re still worried, which is why the team brings in Zava, to help improve their standings in the Premier League. The purpose of Zava within the realm of Ted Lasso, though, isn’t just to keep seeing Richmond AFC succeed. Zava has been sent into the Ted Lasso universe to humble Jamie, who still has a major ego problem. As Zava reigns the supreme leader of Richmond AFC, gaining the respect of everyone on the team and scoring an unspeakable number of goals, Jamie is forced to reckon with the fact that he’s not “the best” anymore.

But was he ever the best? Ted Lasso Season 1 would like us to believe Dani is better than Jamie. In fact, in its first season, Ted Lasso used Dani with nearly the exact same purpose as they’re using Zava now. These characters are sent, almost deus ex machinas, solely to solve Jamie’s problems. Both feel more like tools to move the plot forward than real characters in the show.

<div class="inline-image__credit">Apple TV+</div>
Apple TV+

They are also both foreigners to England—though Ted Lasso does not make them the butt of the joke, they’re never really given further development apart from the fact that they’re really good at soccer and they’re not English. Zava refers to himself in the third person. Almost half of Dani’s lines are solely “Football is life!” How come pricks like Jamie and Roy get full character arcs, while these star players are only used to move the plot along?

Of course, Ted Lasso may still script more meaningful material Dani and Zava as the season continues. Both are becoming tight friends in the third episode, “4-5-1,” which shows that an actual storyline may be developing between the pair. But as the third season marks the end of the show, and we’re already three episodes in, Ted Lasso is going to have to hurry up and give more life to one of its most beloved characters and his new best buddy.

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