THE BEAR (FX Original exclusively on Hulu in the US, on Disney Plus in Canada) was a surprise watch for me. I honestly fell in love with it. Season 2 was just as good, though different, with a particular hour-long episode that was one of the funniest and most heartbreaking TV episodes I’ve ever watched. This. Is. Good.
In the first season, we meet Carmine, a famous chef who takes over his deceased brother’s small Chicago restaurant and all its problems. From the gritty visuals to the deep, lovable characters to the realistic dialogue to the exciting and tense focus on what happens in the kitchen when things are humming and when things crash into disaster, it fired on every cylinder for me.
At the end of that season, Carmine comes into a surprise amount of cash from his deceased brother, which promises an end to all the restaurant’s problems. Instead, Carmine invites a whole new set of problems by interpreting the gift as a sign to create the restaurant he’d always wanted to build with his brother.
At first, I was wondering at the second season’s heavy turn toward comedy and the characters’ cuteness, a common sign of a show becoming a surprise hit and possibly struggling to find its footing with a second season. The first season comes at you like it has nothing to lose, while the second starts off with an awareness it now does. Happily, it doesn’t take long for THE BEAR to shake it off and find its groove and then raise the volume past the previous season’s high of 11.
There’s a lot of focus on the secondary characters this season, which is handled beautifully. While the renovations occur–at a frantic pace to meet their financial obligations and need to reopen quickly–many of the Beef’s staff members go off to learn new skills and level up to be able to contribute to the new Bear, which will offer fine dining. These episodes are goddamn heartwarming. Everybody gets a chance to find their best selves via a sense of owning what they do, often aided with powerful guest appearances by the likes of Will Poulter and Olivia Colman. They all contribute to the season’s overall theme that self-actualization is a journey with big gains but also a significant cost.
Then there’s the family Christmas episode, and oh wow. The less said, the better. I’ve never laughed so hard watching a human train wreck in my life. The guest stars, the dialogue, the pacing, all of it is landmark TV. And it perfectly encapsulates why all the major characters in the show are the way they are and why they have the motivations they have.
Overall, THE BEAR is fantastic. Big, big recommend. It’s a show that hits big themes, feels real without ever being boring, bakes your heart in the heartwarming moments, and fries your nerves when things go wrong. Can’t wait for Season 3.