This past week, Hulu’s hottest new show, “The Bear” was renewed for season two. The show quickly became something of a cult hit after premiering late last month and seems to be on its way to ascending the cult status. “The Bear” has received a slew of positive reviews and more recently caused an online stirring when it inspired a viral Twitter thread about “the sexually competent dirtbag who only works in a restaurant kitchen.”
The show follows Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, who goes from being a lauded chef at the best restaurant in America to moving back to Chicago to run his brother’s restaurant after his brother, Michael, dies. Almost the entire cast of characters is stumbling through the wake of Michael’s death, from Carmy, to Michael’s best friend Richie to the rest of the restaurant employees who loved Michael. Over the course of this season, we watch as Carmy struggles to improve the restaurant that Michael left in shambles while fighting his grieving demons.
The majority of the show takes place in the restaurant’s hectic kitchen and heavily features the food itself. From stunning close-up shots of beef and donuts and spaghetti, if this show doesn’t inspire you to cook, it will inspire you to eat.
The show goes for a very naturalist style, often giving the audience the feeling that you are watching reality instead of a scripted drama. In the same vein, “The Bear” is a masterwork in realistically paced and delivered dialogue. This style is reminiscent of films like “The Florida Project” or Jonah Hill’s “mid90s” and makes it all the more easy to become attached to the characters and their individual journeys.
“The Bear” hosts a truly vibrant cast of loveable characters. Anyone who watches the show will fall in love with Sydney, Carmy’s sous chef, who is constantly caught between Carmy’s leadership and the rest of the cooks, who favor the way Michael ran things. Sydney is clearly an amazing chef but is an even better person. She cares deeply about the restaurant and wants it to succeed just as much as Carmy does. In many ways, we as the audience see the rest of the characters through her eyes because she is the new employee at the beginning of the series.
Richie, on the other hand, is the type of character that has you on a hamster-wheel of cycling between loving and hating him. Just when you are ready to write him off for casual misogyny or homophobia, he reminds you how deeply his heart runs in a moment of profound humanity, such as calming down his five-year-old daughter when she doesn’t want to go to school. One of the best parts of the show is the relationship between Carmy and Richie. In a comedic sense, Carmy functions as the “Straight Man” to Richie’s “Wise Guy”, with Carmy reacting in sync with the audience to Richie’s ridiculous and sometimes offensive antics. On a deeper level, Carmy and Richie have been bonded by Michael’s death. Despite constantly bickering and never seeing eye to eye, Carmy and Richie share an abiding love for having suffered the same loss. The moments when Carmy and Richie do get along are some of the most heartfelt in the series.
As for Carmy, to say he is struggling would be an understatement. Every episode presents a new challenge for him to handle in regards to the restaurant. Although he fails often, he is always trying his best. Carmy is of course also struggling mentally, in addition to trying to keep the restaurant afloat. One of the defining traits of his character is that he is self-isolating. He hides how he is feeling from everyone around him, especially the people he loves. One of the reasons he puts everything he has into the restaurant is because he feels like he has nothing else.
Besides Carmy and Richie, the other central relationship in the series is that of Carmy and Sydney. The pair shares a certain understanding because cooking lies at the center of both of their worlds. It is the thing they are both truly great at. Despite this understanding, they often have clashing viewpoints about how to run the restaurant which leads to tension. Speaking of tension, Carmy staring longingly at Sydney a few too many times leads me to believe there is a slow burn romance brewing for the pair. Sydney is special because she is the only character that humbles Carmy, forcing him to contemplate his actions several times throughout the season.
“The Bear’s” character work is subtle yet brilliant. Instead of opting for flashy and obvious character arcs, we get to see characters who are wound-tight with stress and grief slowly soften each other. The show also opts for short, twenty to thirty minute episodes. This is unusual for a drama, but completely works. It gives the show a captivating pace, bringing the viewer back to the Play button after every episode. The penultimate episode is only twenty minutes but feels like a solid forty-five as it is so action-packed. It is one of the more intense episodes of television I have seen in a while and will have you on the edge of your seat for the whole ride.
The series is marketed as a “dramedy”, but it falls much more heavily into the drama category while leaning into a few comedic moments every episode. The comedy, however, is not to be underrated. The comedic moments are absolutely hilarious, but they are only one ingredient in the recipe that makes “The Bear” so delicious.
The heart of the show really lies in its emotional moments. Despite the restaurant drama constantly tearing the cast apart, it also ultimately binds them together as a family. Whenever they finish yelling at each other, they always go back to being that family. Each of them believes that they are serving something greater than themselves. Even if that thing is just a tiny Chicago sandwich shop, the viewer ends up feeling as the characters do, that it is the most important piece of real estate in the world.
Hopefully season two of “The Bear” will continue the development of these colorful characters, both as chefs and people. It would also be nice to see them turn up the heat on Sydney and Carmy’s slow burn romance, but all in good time. In the meantime, if you haven’t watched season one of this excellent show, I suggest you jump on the bandwagon.
Image Credit: Frank Ockenfels/FX
Editor: Lindsey Neri
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