The Bear Season Two Is Dégustation In High Drama and Deep Trauma

The high octane, never soporific Hulu culinary dramedy continues its pursuit of an answer to the question: Can one "let it rip" without tearing at the seams?


(pre-service meal.)

Last season on Christopher Storer’s delicious dive into the Hellmouth that is the professional kitchen, we were introduced to Carmen ‘Carmy’ Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White), his long-suffering sister Natalie ‘Sugar’ Berzatto (Abby Elliott) his cousin Richie Jerimovich (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), and most importantly, a hungry firebrand named Sydney Adamu (Ayo Edebiri). We learn of the tragedy of Michael ‘Mikey’ Berzatto (Jon Bernthal), wresting Carmy from his 3-Michelin Star gig to his inherited money pit of an Italian Beef restaurant in Chicago. We got to know Chefs Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas), Ebraheim (Edwin Lee Gibson), and bread-maker-cum-pastry-chef Marcus (Lionel Boyce). We learn of the dreaded Uncle Jimmy (Oliver Platt) and what arrears Mikey was in when he decided to punch his own card. We’d ended with a landmark windfall for The Beef.

The stakes are raised from the jump. Despite the money saved up for what was to be for franchising, The Beef is in a state where Uncle Jimmy’s coffers are the only way to keep it afloat. Sydney promises him a Michelin Star for his investment, but Carmy promises something far more savory to his palette—an 18-month window on opening The Bear or a clean break from Carmy.

This season turns up the heat on all relationships. With his mother bed-bound, Marcus needs to contend with his feelings for Sydney and his lack of inspiration. The Windy City might not be where he’s needed at the moment. The only focus on Richie’s mind is how much his life lacks purpose. He’s at everybody’s throats and he needs to be somebody that his daughter can look up to since his ex Tiffany (Gillian Jacobs) is dating new guy Frank. Sugar is conscripted into the role of project manager. Jimmy is wrapped around her finger, even when he’s tightening the screws on everybody else while opening the purse strings.

Carmy knows that a new restaurant means new responsibilities for all hands. Sydney moves up to Chef de Cuisine, so she appoints Tina as her Sous Chef, which lights a fire in T. Ebraheim, on the other hand, is brittle, unflinching, and dry like uncooked “Pasta”. He refuses to be transformed by the bubbling waters of change. Fak (Matty Matheson) is needed more than ever and though the most important jobs are beyond his pay grade, his utilitarian raison d’être keeps the gears from grinding to a halt. Richie’s cousin Claire (Molly Gordon) is a flame from Carmen’s past that just so happens to crop up when the restaurant is in crisis mode. A denial of Sydney in exchange for a refire seems awfully risky on Chef’s part, but some pots need to be stirred from time to time to coax the full potential of the ingredients.


“THE BEAR” — “Honeydew” — Season 2, Episode 4 (Airs Thursday, June 22nd) Pictured: (l-r) Lionel Boyce as Marcus, Will Poulter as Luca. CR: Chuck Hodes/FX.


Last season had its share of inflammatory moments and this second season only throws some more alcohol into the mix to flambe. From Mikey’s plan to nuke the restaurant to the very last glove pop on the fire suppression test, Carm and company start the season out in uncertainty. Every single thing in the edifice needs to be replaced like yesterday, and that shit ain’t cheap. Starting from the bottom isn’t as fucking easy as Drake made it sound, and there isn’t an inch of the interior of The Bear that isn’t moldy, rotted, or simply not working properly. Jimmy’s five-hundred thousand isn’t nearly enough to get it off the ground. It’s going to take every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears to be able to even open the doors to the public. This includes first and foremost a Business Certificate, which cannot be procured before the plumbing, electric, and gas are fixed first.

Richie needs to be food certified as well, which will only provide more friction in the kitchen. What’s more, it’s come to light that Mikey in a drug-addled state tried to burn the place down for insurance money. Though this initially doesn’t knock Carmy from his goal, the renovation situation just keeps moving the goddamn goalpost. Sugar’s initial projections to open in 6 months to open only give them 4 months of leeway, but she, Carmy, and Sydney want to slice that in half, making it 3 months. It is legitimate do-or-die territory but as #23 taught us, go hard in the paint when you can’t take the J.

When things are done by the book, the account has to bleed a bit more. There is not one moment when a character’s feet aren’t held to the flame by the restaurant. From outstanding debts and missing permits to everything else crashing, breaking, gurgling, or something not working, the edifice of The Bear was a character in itself. The urgency of its underlying problems belies bigger problems in its staff. The Fire Suppression test was a throughline I was legit concerned with. Never before had I wanted a balloon not to do what it was supposed to.

This season has its generous heaping of explosive moments. Sugar’s announcement of expectance was as precious a moment as a bloodied stranger’s acceptance of Marcus in Copenhagen. Tina’s performance of Freddy Fender’s “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” was nothing short of brilliance in the episode “Pop”. It encapsulates the journey she’s taken to raise the bar and constantly fucking pole vault it for herself. It’s my single favorite televised moment so far this year. Richie’s anguish over the constant shower of shit news throughout the season had the gravitas of some of Paul Giamatti’s best scenes.

So was the Berzatto household in the incendiary mid-season “Fishes”. Putting the ‘nuke’ in the term nuclear family, this hour-plus-long episode saw the reveal of Donna Berzatto (Jamie Lee Curtis). Surfeit with cameos like a stuffed Tilapia, we meet the third head in the Cerberus that is “KBL”, resident shit-starter Uncle Lee (Bob Odenkirk), and Cousin Michelle (Sarah Paulson) with husband Stevie (John Mulaney). From start to finish, much like the show’s namesake, the episode sinks its teeth into the viewers until all that is left are the cold, clean bones on the plate. Oh, it sucks the marrow out and all. That’s where the best shit is. Mikey and his breakdown were unpasteurized drama, the stuff accolades are made of. It’s one of the most riveting, haunting, and brilliant pieces of television I’d ever seen about the perpetual heartbeat of the homestead, the kitchen.

The frenetic yet slick pacing of a real 2-star Michelin restaurant in “Forks” was akin to a slickly choreographed dance, and Richie’s rise to becoming a mensch in a week was a real goddamn treat. His enthusiasm for learning was infectious and by the end, I didn’t want him to leave.

Observing Sydney’s frustration at Carmy’s lack of focus as the season progressed was much like waiting for that other shoe to fall off. It kept me on tenterhooks because I figured the payoff would be a big eruption, but they decided to play it smart. There can be such a thing as too much spice. Carmy has enough on his plate. You can’t control everything, and we’re treated to the fires he starts with too many cooks in the kitchen.

“Omelette” sees the gentleness of Carmen with his only respite from the world, Claire, but it also sees the animal emerge when he and fellow eggs Sydney and Marcus are broken and whisked about in preparation for their first Friends and Family service. We are served succulent moments of resolution and respect between the three at different times before the doors swing open to “The Bear”.

In the season finale, things getting dicey in the kitchen is the understatement of the year. From unbridled friction between Syd and Marcus to lack of silverware, Carmy’s got his work cut out for him. Oh, Claire’s now seated? Add another log to the damn stove. The front of the house ain’t fairing much better. Will Donna show? Who knows? Clogged toilet? Why not? Flashbacks of an abusive NYC Chef (Joel McHale)? Fuckin’ fire it up!

When the piquant note of despair begins to waft through the kitchen with Carmy eventually trapped in the walk-in refrigerator he’d been grossly negligent of as a metaphor for his life, we get Richie at Super Saiyan level. It’s a pleasure to see the tutelage of badass back-of-house manager Garrett (Andrew Lopez) pay off in a rewarding and very earned way. Pete (Chris Witaske) having survived a solo encounter with Mama Bear Donna pulverizes the audience like veal, making us tender enough to bread and fry by the time Carmy’s unwitting confessional to Claire starts the familial grease fire between him and Richie. It’s stomach-churning and no amount of Peptol Bismal will be able to tear this gloriously sour feeling from us.

In streaming, the trend for better or worse has been the setpiece (‘gimmick’, if you’re cynical) episode. Please excuse my lack of literacy on all television, but my citation for this phenomenon will be the Daredevil (Netflix) hallway fight scene in the first season episode “Cut Man“. We got the frisson of a frenetic “one-shot” take, showing the grittier side to streetfighting. People were summarily expecting another big scene which they didn’t get until the tertiary season. The strongest episode of The Bear’s first season was the now iconic penultimate, pressure cooker. This season closer enhances the recipe, 86’ing the quick drip of a one-take (save for the first 12 minutes) in favor of the patient, delicate brewing of nerves, resulting in a velvet complexity with a bitter finish. When the restaurant sees the virtual smoke, they’re more than happy to bring the fire.


THE BEAR — “The Bear” — Season 2, Episode 10 (Airs Thursday, June 22nd) Pictured: (l-r) Liza Colón-Zayas as Tina, Abby Elliot as Natalie “Sugar” Berzatto, Ayo Edebiri as Sydney Adamu. CR: Chuck Hodes/FX.


Interpersonal relationships continue to form and fracture, part, and parcel. Carmy needs Richie… to do many things. He needs Richie to step up but also step aside. Uncle Jimmy’s investment of 800 big ones is a mere drop in the bucket compared to Richie’s investing trust in Carmy. What’s priceless to Richard, however, is the reciprocated gesture of trust.

Marcus’s journey with his mother and crush Sydney are deliciously entwined and wrapped taut like a Bavarian Pretzel. His spiritual disposition starts out like a ball of dough, malleable and full of possibility, but deflated. Carmy sees the potential in him, but he wants Sydney to simply see him. His ultimate leavening agent is introduced in the militant Chef Luca (Will Poulter). We see that he wants to be better for the restaurant, for Sydney, for his mother, and most importantly, for himself. He sacrificed everything for The Bear, possibly even his mother’s last moments on earth. His passion for pastries is unparalleled and though the road was paved with deflation, ultimately rising above and beyond to something he wasn’t sure he was even capable of.

From early on, we see that Sydney’s dad, Emmanuel (Robert Townsend) approaches his daughter’s life choice with much trepidation. With her mother deceased, their relationship is strained, not liquified. Her feelings toward Carmy are always kept on the burner. Being a professional partner to the kitchen equivalent of the Terminator (and I say that in the most loving of ways) comes with its own designer set of drawbacks. Her desire to earn a Michelin Star is only usurped by the uncertainty if she can do it. She should be able to rely on her co-captain when the energy and hope are flagging. Her avoidance of handling Marcus head-on injected a very organic awkwardness in their chemistry. It was cringe, but for all the right dramatic reasons that put my stomach in knots, and not the edible garlicky type that would make you cum if Marcus baked them. For her, it’s The Bear or Bust. If the last season was her baptism by fire, this is her confirmation of the whole damn (love) trinity of her, Carm, and Marcus. Her story is one of overcoming the speed hump of self-doubt in order to fully “Let it rip.”

Sugar’s title of “Mom” now precedes her. She oversees operations because she has the golden touch and knows the sweet spots of Uncle Jimmy. She chooses to actively worry about her mother Donna when everybody else knows better. This will play heavily into her dynamics with the whole of The Bear. She’s trying to keep it together and as the binding agent, she will troubleshoot her way out of some dodgy situations.

Tina’s fervent and irrevocable spirit was smart to come out early on. Through the muck and mire, even with her strained relationship with Ebra, she was the virtual torch in the kitchen. Tina getting her own shine in “Sundae” spotlights the problem of ageism in hospitality through Ebraheim. She’s his cheerleader through and through, but also realizes that she has to live for herself. She’s at a point in her life when “Every second counts.” She sees the bigger picture because with age does come vast wisdom. Her story is one of the Second Act while Ebra’s is one of the Second Wind.

Carmy’s myopathy is the front of the house. His only certainty is a denial of happiness. His life is monastic, as he only lives to serve. He and Richie started the season on shaky ground, but once they get their footing, life pulled out the rug from underneath them. Though he clearly shares a bond closer than friendship with Sydney, every fibrous sinew in him buries himself into the business. He’s responsible for more than just himself, and even when something supernal is shown to him in the form of Claire, he literally closes the door on it in the end. Perfection doesn’t have time for happiness, and in the end, we see how much he’s expended. His story speaks to the elusive luxury in life called “balance”.

Richie by far was the biggest payoff. His journey from calcified to steely-eyed and from marshmallow to machine was a masterclass in acting. The initial brushback from Fak and Marcus’ “alliance” only made their ultimate alliance that much stronger. The fact he’s kept out of the loop by his own ex gives him something to fight for outside of the restaurant walls. He’s constantly kicked in the proverbial nuts but ultimately finds purpose in staging Ever restaurant, gaining respect in Carmy’s Pai-Mai, Chef Terry (Olivia Colman). His story is one of evolution and resolution.


THE BEAR — “Forks” — Season 2, Episode 7 (Airs Thursday, June 22nd) Pictured: Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Richard “Richie” Jerimovich. CR: Chuck Hodes/FX.



Chef’s kiss. Each of the episodes operated on the path of the titular title. The first episode “Beef” started out cold but ended up sizzling, “Pasta” boiled over a few times, “Sundae” ended up in a virtual split of Carmy and Syd, “Honeydew” showed us the sweeter side of taking a moment to lead inspiration flood in, “Pop” certainly felt like the can of soda was being shaken up for everyone, a thrown fork in “Fishes” had family going bananas, “Forks” shone the burnishing of Richie staging at Ever, the congealing and braising of relationships in “Bolognese” helped solidify some hard truths, metaphorical eggs were broken in “Omelette” bringing us to the titular season finale.

Marcus’s gustatory sojourn in “Honeydew” was one of the most beautiful episodes I’d seen in this series thanks to new DP Adam Newport-Berra and director Ramy Youssef. The way Denmark is filmed with its pastels and vibrant colors is a clever move to starkly contrast the unforgiving, cold winter of Chicago. Sydney’s complementary culinary holiday out in “Sundae” was brilliantly helmed by Joanna Calo, proving that Chi-town can easily stand toe-to-toe with the likes of NYC and LA. For them, even though the motivation was a phone call away, inspiration was right at their doorstep. She and Marcus are both sponges, worthy of elevating the kitchen to heights unknown.

The introduction of a romantic wrench thrown in the mix in the form of Claire reminded me a little of Andrew’s romantic interest in Whiplash. The glaring difference between the two is that Damien Chazelle sold us the hermetically sealed prepackaged goods filled with empty calories. The way Christopher Storer handled this blast from the past was organic, never forcing the relationship and seasoning it with some nice rich details of their history. Her crazy hectic schedule parallels Carmy’s, so on paper, they’d be a solid match since the understanding of a hectic career path is not lost on her.

Jamie Lee Curtis’ casting as the drunken, unglued Ma Berzatto was the planets aligning for our benefit. Being a fan of the series was the real windfall. Her wanting to be on top of things around the holidays as a widow was gut-wrenchingly painful and beautifully nuanced. The deep hurt in her soul is expressed exceptionally through her gift. She portrayed the overwhelmed, put-upon mother with bone-chilling pathos. “Baby it’s cold outside?” Fuck that. More like “Baby, it’s a dumpster fire in here!”

The minutiae in each episode, from callbacks to foreshadowing was flawlessly interwoven. Take the fifth episode, “Pop” for instance. From the desire to have the order the dishes that ‘pop’ to old-timer Ebra’s disposition to the literal fireworks between Carmy and Claire to Fak talking about the Replacements’ poppiest album all the way down to Tina slaying it in the kitchen on fish day in the culinary school, teeing up the sixth episode “Fishes”, nothing is without merit. It’s called world-building and they nary a smudge on the plate when presenting, no matter how bad the mess is.

Speaking of which, the food montages were to die for. Or to kill for. Or something you’d slap ya momma over. They are sumptuous, inviting morsels that don’t overwhelm the palette but rather excite it. They were portioned and spread out to just the right amount so as to enhance, not assault the experience.

The top-tier acting impelled me to savor every moment with the cast on screen. Jeremy Allen White tackles more of Carmen’s sensitive and creative soul with the soft, yet roughly hewn hands of a Nonna making spaghetti. Richie’s bitter, temperamental tannins age like a fine wine fit to be served tableside at any Michelin star. Sydney’s coming into her own was acted with the complexity of consommé. Ebra’s doubled-baked stubbornness deliciously pairs with Tina’s piping hot cup o’ pep. Tina’s effervescence is ever present, like a good Campari Spritz. Marcus and his internal struggle between losing and gaining are played with the velvety richness of a perfectly spooned quenelle. The cameos were braised and carmelized for maximum potency for their precious screentime. These weren’t phoned-in performances, especially at Berzatto Feast of the Seven Fishes; and that’s the thing…

These ten episodes are the reason for the season. The scripts were intoxicating, and the buttery direction sweated the cast until peak flavor was achieved in every moment. The production plated them in an elegant manner most could only afford to taste with their eyes. These nine dishes, this desultory menu is beautiful because conceptually it does not work. It’s culinary entropy at its finest and therefore should command a high price point.

But we’re guests at The Bear tonight, and the only accepted payment is “a mind fucking blown.” Mission accomplished.

5/5 Stars.

(after dinner mint)

Any Stella promotion was subtle until the last episode. The soundtrack was on point. The locales were dope. From a humble Danish houseboat to the luxuriant Ever Restaurant, from the gutted Beef to the proud Bear, from the bustling streets of Chicago to the volcanic innards of the Berzatto household, we are taken on a trip. The “Seven Fishes” runner was organic. Coach K’s book provided a nice little character detail to Sydney. The use of a Taylor Swift song was worth the ungodly amount they paid. Though the reality of COVID was present in restaurants shuttering, it didn’t overpower the stakes, it only spiced them up. Robert Townsend and Bob Odenkirk are the gifts that keep on giving. Luca’s gift was a little bit of a home away from home, adding some dextrose to an otherwise heavy finishing note.

Robert Kijowski
Robert Kijowski
Robert Kijowski is a script writer who enjoys a good chuckle and an even better weep when indulging in art both good and even better bad. He's written for pop culture and film websites alike. You can hear him on Spotify (After the Credits) and reach out on Instagram, X or by English Carrier Pigeon.

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The Bear (FX) season 2 is a chaos menu of wins, losses, peaks, valleys, and authenticity. With food. Lots and lots of food.The Bear Season Two Is Dégustation In High Drama and Deep Trauma