With shots of gourmet meals, screaming fights, ticking clocks, and tender family moments, all set to an impressive soundtrack, season two of The Bear packs a punch. After a successful first season in June 2022, the show came back better than ever almost exactly one year after the release date of season one. This season’s ten episodes demonstrate the constant fluctuation between calm and chaos, and spotlights the stories and skills of many of the supporting characters such as Head Chef Carmy. Spoilers ahead! Set in Chicago and riddled with Windy City references from Scottie Pippen to Steve Bartman, the show follows the story of Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, played by Jeremy Allen White, as he transforms his family’s Italian Beef restaurant into a fine dining experience. After his brother Mikey’s tragic suicide, Carmy faces destructive mental health obstacles in addition to the physical barriers to opening the restaurant like fire suppression tests, loans from family, and a finite number of forks. White gives an incredible performance in his role as a chef trying to keep his restaurant, family, and relationship together.
In addition to White’s performance, season two highlights a number of supporting characters through individualized episodes. The third episode, for example, is dedicated to Syd, Carmy’s partner, as she samples food from around Chicago to get inspiration for their own menu. Viewers also get a look into the pressure she feels from her father, who worries the restaurant will fail and leave Syd jobless. Marcus, the restaurant’s pastry chef, also has a particular episode, which involves him traveling to Denmark to study under Luca, a celebrated dessert chef played by Will Poulter. Marcus has his own internal battle; his mother is ill, and he worries he won’t get to say goodbye to her if he travels. My personal favorite supporting character’s storyline, though, is cousin Richie’s. Plagued by his recent setbacks in work and personal life, Richie’s motivation is depleted until he works at a Michelin star restaurant for a week. At the beginning of the week, Richie is annoyed to be woken by his alarm clock and tasked with hours of cleaning forks, but by the end, he has rediscovered his passion for hospitality and food service. Set to Taylor Swift’s “Love Story,” Richie’s love for the work is reignited, and he is reminded that “it’s never too late to start over” in a scene that you can’t help but smile at.
My favorite episode would have to be the finale. At the soft opening of the establishment, the staff invites family and friends to dine. This makes for a high pressure situation as all the characters have someone close to their heart that they are looking to impress. Carmy faces a crisis as his new but long-time-coming girlfriend dines there; he also convinces himself that his former verbally abusive executive chef is there judging his every move. Not even halfway into the episode and the opening night, Carmy finds himself locked in the walk-in refrigerator and, alone with his thoughts, can only blame himself for not calling the “fridge guy,” referenced throughout the season. With the heavy fridge door between him and his kitchen, he feels like a failure as his dream is so close yet unreachable. The rest of the team steps up and manages to have a successful launch, but he can’t forgive himself. In a heated closing scene, Carmy and Richie loudly argue in a memorable shot of the fridge door splitting the screen between them: Carmy in the darkness of the walk-in and Richie in the bright white light of the kitchen. The audience can see the shaking of Carmy’s hands and his breath in the cold with yet another impressive performance from White. The dichotomy between the success of the opening night and the physical and mental issues Carmy faces portray how the work in the kitchen can be unforgiving and aggressive at times yet comforting, inspiring, and rewarding at others.