‘The Bear’ Season 2 review: Deft writing, stellar performances serve up a masterful second helping

Moving beyond the confines of Carmy, his grief, and the Berzatto family members, this season of ‘The Bear’ excels in establishing itself as an ensemble drama

Published - June 26, 2023 07:07 pm IST

Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri in a still from ‘The Bear’ Season 2

Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri in a still from ‘The Bear’ Season 2 | Photo Credit: Chuck Hodes / FX

In the opening shots of the second season of The Bear, Chicago is shown to be thawing anew from the last winter’s snow, welcoming spring and then summer. As if stuck permanently in this winter, the show’s second season emerges forth as a rare perfect follow-up to the preceding one.

Picking up shortly where it left off, Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) moves full steam ahead with the plan to start afresh and turn his late brother’s restaurant (The Beef) into a new fine dining establishment (The Bear). Partnering with Sydney (Ayo Edebiri), his sister Natalie (Abby Elliott), and his cousin Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), Carmy decides that a six-month wait would be too long and the team rushes to finish off the job in the next 12 weeks.

Having inherited The Beef from his brother who died by suicide, the restaurant stands tall as an old structure riddled with health code violations. It looms larger on Carmy’s psyche who struggles to move away from the shadows of his ruptured family. Carmy’s team are also assigned similar arcs of shedding doubt; Sydney wants to prove herself and earn a Michelin star, Richie feels inundated by a lack of purpose, and Natalie dithers initially from agreeing to work full-time at the new restaurant. The supporting characters are made part of this ringer too. Chefs Tina (Liza Colon-Zayas) and Ebraheim (Edwin Lee Gibson) are sent to culinary school, while Marcus (Lionel Boyce) is shipped off to Copenhagen to refine their skills.

The Bear season 2 (English)
Creator: Christopher Storer
Cast: Jeremy Allen White, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Ayo Edebiri, Lionel Boyce, Liza Colón-Zayas, Abby Elliott, Matty Matheson, and others
Episodes: 10
Runtime: 35-40 minutes
Storyline: After deciding to tear down The Beef, Carmy and his team face new challenges in opening up his new restaurant: The Bear

“It’s a hell hole…,” Sydney says of the restaurant to Tina, “…why would you want to be here?”. Across its 10-episode run, The Bear bakes the answer to this question in their narrative, as Carmy, and those around him, dig deeper to justify their efforts.

The reason the show is able to deliver two consecutively excellent seasons is a simple one — and like every simple dish is also very easy to mess up — weaving a cogent story. The overarching storyline of the impending restaurant launch is continuously interspersed with individual arcs propelling the narrative forward. The chaos of the restaurant’s renovation spills forth and impacts everyone’s lives, as the writers keep switching focus; some stories go on the back burner while others take the full heat, all until it finally culminates in a sumptuous meal.

Continuing with its tradition from the first season, The Bear peppers in several styles across different episodes. They differ in pace (including an hour-long Christmas episode with cameos galore), in how they look, while maintaining a cohesive voice.

The precision with which these storylines are coordinated and connected is upheld by smart cinematography. ‘Every second counts,’ Carmy writes below the plan for the upcoming restaurant. The three words repeat themselves across the ten episodes, across several kitchens that we see and are ultimately embodied in how the show has been filmed. Borrowing techniques from theatre and photography, The Bear makes every second of every frame count.

The Bear’s visuals are enriched with its expert use of sound and dialogue. Quick to disintegrate any conversation into a shouting match that is indistinguishable from the kitchen utensils clashing in the background, the show is a genius observation on the game of human conversation.

Moving beyond the confines of Carmy, his grief, and the Berzatto family members, this season of The Bear excels in establishing itself as an ensemble drama. It uses every tool at hand to drive home a simple point about how we can’t escape being products of our environment, that growth is not a straight road forward and that therefore we are all amalgamations of our past selves. The Bear’s characters grow from these past selves, confront them and sometimes fall back into undesirable habits, but the cycle is never mundane.

Setting up future seasons for more character-driven drama, The Bear second season is a dish that must not be missed.

Season 2 of The Bear is now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar

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