Squawk Box: Ted Lasso Season 3/Shogun

Ted Lasso Season 3:  It took us a while to get back around to the final season of Ted Lasso, but the Missus and I finally managed it. I wasn't quite sure what to expect with this final season and I had seen decidedly mixed reviews of it, but having watched it I can say that I understand some of the criticisms of this final season, but don't really care all that much because I loved it.

There have been whispers and hints on the internet that AFC Richmond might continue without Ted Lasso and I might have feelings on that because really and truly creative executives everywhere need to embrace the idea that it's okay for things to just end. I loved that they had a clear, three-season plan for this show. I was satisfied 

Season Three opens with Richmond back in the Premier League, but picked to finish dead last and West Ham- now owned by Rebecca's ex Rupert (Anthony Head), and coached by the now apparently evil Nate (Nick Mohammed) is expected to finish in the Top 4- which means money, success and Champions League qualification. Richmond is understandably bummed out by this, but Ted rallies the troops, and handles a press conference well and Trent Crimm (James Lance) arrives to start writing a book about the team.

In the meantime, Ted is disturbed to find out that his ex-wife Michelle (Andrea Anders) has moved on with their couples counselor/therapist, Jake but tries to move on as well-- even as Roy (Brent Goldstein) and Keely (Juno Temple) deal with the end of their relationship and Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) manages to land Richmond the coveted striker Zava (Maximillian Osinksi).which sparks the team to a winning run, but their luck runs out and when Zava retires they are looking at their season on the brink. 

A trip to Amsterdam loosens up the team and inspires Ted (Jason Sudeikis) to come up with a new formula- which Beard (Brendan Hunt) and Roy inform him already exists: Total football. 

The season rolls on as Rebecca ponders her future romantic prospects after a visit to a psychic suggests that she will find true love. Isaac (Kola Bokinni) and Colin's (Billy Harris) friendship is tested after Isaac attacks a fan for using a homophobic slur and Colin comes out to the team. Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) opens his new restaurant, but after criticizing an anti-immigrant minister, it's ransacked and he has to put it all back together again-- with help from the team, of course. Ted becomes more and more bothered by Michelle moving on and eventually Nate quits West Ham, makes his way back to Richmond and they come agonizingly close to winning it all-- but fall just short and wind up in second place.

Ted puts together his feelings and makes a decision: he misses Henry way, way too much to be this far away from him, so he quits the team and heads home to coach Henry's soccer team. Beard stays and gets married to Jane. Rebecca finds love. Everyone, more or less, has, if not a happy ending, then at least an ending.

Look, the only weird thing about this is Nate's arc. I think it worked out beautifully in the end because you get some back story about Beard and the idea of forgiveness and extending each other some grace in tough times and tough moments is earned. It makes a certain amount of sense when you build up to a moment like that- and you can see Nate struggle with what to do after he quits West Ham and is lost, but picks up his violin again and finds he can passionate about something-- the back of the arc is fine. It fits. It works. The payoff is earned. What I don't get is Nate's transformation into a 'supervillain' to begin with. He got mad that Ted forgot about him? So getting the starting point of Nate's arc felt very, very jarring, but his 'redemption' if you like, proved to be quite satisfying in the end.

I also don't hate the fact that they don't win the league-- that seemed like the obvious place for this to go, but it strikes me as realistic to have a team scrap throughout the season to get themselves to a point where they have a chance, but have to rely on other results falling their way to get there. (You always want to control your own destiny.) I love that the show went hard against the Super League-- Rebecca's moment telling off the billionaires and seeing them all as little boys is incredibly well done and I like that she gives shares of the club back to the fans. (As an Arsenal fan, I understand how it works and once the Kroenkes had majority ownership the shares get brought out or go away or whatever, but it would be cool to own a share of a club/team I support. Even if it's not worth much.)

The show was a love letter to the collision of the world's game with American pop culture and I think it was perfect. Loved every minute of this one. My Grade: **** out of ****

Shogun: Is it my imagination, or has FX been upping its game in a major way these past few years? Maybe it's always been this good and I haven't noticed, but their remake of Black Narcissus caught my eye (though I didn't wind up watching it-- I think I caught some episodes of the original that they ran) and then they announced that they were remaking Shogun and I was immediately interested. Based on the novel of the same name by James Clavell, Shogun is the story of John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) an ambitious English sailor who is seeking to find a way to Japan to outflank the Portuguese trading monopoly. Shipwrecked and alone in what to him seems like a very foreign land indeed, Blackthorne and his crew are taken prisoner by the local samurai and drawn into the fractious politics of Japan. The Taiko has recently died, leaving power in the hands of a regency council who protect the young heir of the Taiko at Osaka Castle. 

The local Samurai, Yabushige (Tadanobu Asano) is ambitious and immediately realizes that the cannons on Blackthorne's ship could be put to use either by his liege Lord, Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) or for his own ends. So soon, Blackthorne is brought before Toranaga and there he meets Lady Toda Mariko (Anna Sawai) who serves as his translator. The Portuguese, hearing of this, send Jesuit emissaries to demand Blackthorne be executed as a heretic- being a Protestant and give over his journals as proof of his heresy and piracy. Toranaga, having learned of the cannons is interested in hearing more from Blackthorne, so protects his life. As a descendant of the Minowara Clan, his family once ruled over Japan as Shoguns, which makes the other regents wary of his power. When Blackthorne tells him of England and how Portugal and Spain have divided the world, Toranaga becomes very interested in what Blackthorne has to say. His survival assured, at least for now, Blackthorne and Mariko navigate the deteriorating political situation- Toranaga uses Blackthorne's Protestantism to sow discord amongst the Christian regents, but eventually, a showdown becomes inevitable.

Toranaga appears close to defeat, having been cornered and left with little option but to turn himself over to the Regency council, but Toranaga is looking at the whole board and by the time the show ends, he has arranged matters to lay open the path for him to become Shogun.

I saw someone on Twitter say, 'Shogun is like what Game of Thrones would be if Ned Stark was smart' and I think that's a very apt way of looking at this show. The political machinations, the plotting, and the scheming will seem very familiar to people who liked Game of Thrones and if you are a GoT fan you will probably enjoy this show greatly. However, I don't know if I'd call this perfect either-- Freddie DeBoer makes a convincing case that the show has a Dumbledore problem. I'm not quite sure if I'd co-sign onto this, as I feel like there are Japanese cultural mores that I am unaware of, and Western and Eurocentric audiences may well not pick up on that might dial that notion back a bit, but I can see how you could reach that conclusion. He does look very smart. If his ultimate aim was to be Shogun from the jump, he played his cards right and everything fell just right for him which seems... unlikely. 

You also have to consider the rather ambiguous way that his character is portrayed. At the end of the day-- when Toranaga watches as his oldest friend and most faithful ally Hiromatsu commits seppuku in front of him, he is still in charge. And in that time period, that meant that he held the power of life and death of everyone-- something that Yabushige references in their final conversation together. (Toranaga says he does not 'master the wind, but studies it' which might be an antidote to the idea of a Dumbledore problem with the character.) Yabushige-- who might, in his one way, come close to stealing the show with that last episode, points out the hypocrisy of people dying and being killed for the whims and ambitions of one man.

This show makes me wish I knew Japanese and more about Japanese culture because I am sure that there are levels to this that I'm missing. Both the original show and the remake were very well received in Japan, and I'm going to be guided by their critical reaction, as they know their culture and language far better than I do. I am impressed that the update of the show invested so heavily in getting the Japanese right. I also enjoyed the fact that since everyone uses subtitles to watch things these days, they figured they might as well tell most of it in Japanese. (I do remember watching the original in high school-- that was less well-received in Japan- but did have an impact on the rise in Japanese restaurants, even if it's portrayals might not have aged all that well from 1980.)

Overall: Excellent, start to finish. There are a few nits you could pick if you want too-- you don't see anyone actually becoming Shogun and I'm a little unclear on the role of a Taiko and just where the Emperor was in all this. (I looked it up on Wikipedia-- it's... complicated?) But overall, absolutely appointment viewing if you're looking for a series to binge. My Grade: **** out of ****


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