If I could describe the first season of The Bear in one word, it would be “potential”. Everyone was full of it. Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) and Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) saw it in the crew and fought for each character to acknowledge that they could do better, and be better. In this newest season, though, it’s time for both of our favorite chefs to look deep inside themselves and see that they’re also insanely flawed and, unlike the others, got away with the illusion that they had reached their potential as professionals.
Season 2 of The Bear starts with a beautiful dream. “Every Second Counts!” was the motto since they had only 3 months to set everything in order and receive the documents allowing them to operate as a business. Thanks to Uncle Jimmy’s loan and the tomato sauce cans, they found the money they needed to turn the page and rebuild “The Beef” into something bigger. They changed the name (the new restaurant is now called The Bear), they demolished some walls, and added new dishes to the menu. The whole crew was sent on a mission to perfect their craft. While Tina, Ebra, and Marcus each went on a journey to master their cooking skills, I wanna focus on three characters here: Sydney, Carmy, and Richie.
Richie is known by us as the hot-headed, stubborn cousin who refuses to listen to anyone inside the kitchen. This time, he takes a step back. The Richie we watch during season two is a new man, a humble one. Whereas each member of the crew gets an episode to show their growth, Richie’s episode stands out. He gets thrown inside a restaurant known for its great service and hospitality to learn how to be a better professional, even though it also means he is about to become a better person overall.
We see ourselves rooting for him to succeed because if there is one thing that this show does extremely well is making us feel empathy and somehow relate to the characters because we also struggle with our traumas, self-doubts, and the suffocating fear of not being good enough. Bonus points here for revealing that Richie is a Taylor Swift fan, blasting Love Story in his car when he gets happy.
Now, onto our main characters: Carmy and Sydney. To him, this season was about showing how stuck in the past he is, unable to look forward and see that things are working because he is not alone and he is worthy of success. Everyone steps in the way they can, even Sugar (Abby Elliott), Carmy’s sister, discovers a newfound passion and begins to work with them. Fun fact: she is pregnant.
As for Sydney, she is the one actually giving her soul to make the restaurant work. She goes out every day, trying new dishes from various restaurants, she asks for advice from chefs all around the city and even spectates as some of her friend’s business shuts down. She battles against her fears, unlike Carmy and his unwillingness to do something about his own problems. Along with Richie, she is the biggest star this season.
One thing The Bear makes clear for us is that, when your job is about feeding people, you need to work with respect. You need to care. Food is related to reunions, family gatherings, and going out with friends. Food is about memories, remembering the ice cream you used to ask your mom to buy at the supermarket or even the cakes your grandma used to bake for you. It is all about human connections. Carmy does not understand this. We see him find love in Claire (Molly Gordon) and throw it in the trash because he really believes that she is not for him and that the relationship is taking too much time from his day when he could be using that time to work. The consequences later show in the fridge incident, but I won’t talk about it now.
It wasn’t until episode 6 that we got to truly understand where all this inner chaos emanating from Carmy comes from. This particular episode goes back in time, 5 years to be more specific, to the Berzatto’s Christmas dinner. The first thing I want to point out here is that Carmy’s mom is played by Jamie Lee Curtis. The Halloween fan in me went crazy when I saw that. Going back on track, although most family gatherings tend to be chaotic, it was never as bad as the Berzatto’s. Carmy’s mom is an unstable, alcoholic woman who spends all of her days cooking in the kitchen for the family.
This episode is one of the most uncomfortable, nerve-racking things that I’ve watched in a long time. It is unbearable to sit through the more-than-an-hour-long episode without pausing a second to breathe;… and it might be the best episode in the show so far. So many questions were answered here! Carmy seems unable to manage the kitchen during the big opening night in the last episode and we can easily track his behavior back to that Christmas dinner when his own mother went insane when one little thing went out of her control. Truly an eye-opening and technically stunning episode.
The season finale was when all the separate worlds collided. The crew was back together, they managed to do everything in time and the big opening night was about to begin. All the engines worked, except for Carmy. He just… broke. He got stuck in the fridge, the same fridge he was responsible for calling the guy to fix it, but forgot because he couldn’t manage his time and found relief in putting all the blame on Claire, the same Claire that was right outside the fridge listening to him talk about how she is the one responsible for his failure. The night – and maybe the season as a whole – ended on a sour note for him. While everyone was satisfied with their work and happy that the restaurant was working as intended, Carmy lost it. He spent the night, the most important night of all, sulking alone inside the refrigerator, stuck with his thoughts and unable to escape them for once in the entire show.
Overall, this second season is absolute perfection. There is nothing out there capable of competing against this level of excellence. The cast from The Bear delivers some of the best performances this year so far and the production couldn’t be better. The cinematography, the fast pace that keeps us on the edge of our seats, the precise shots, and the use of the camera to express emotions through the mere zoom-ins and zoom-outs. Everything we see, everything they show us, is not by accident, it has a meaning. I’m happy to say it was about time we got to witness such a good show come out and deliver the same level of quality that they did in the first season, if not higher.
The article above was edited by Giullia Cartaxo.
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