Yes Chef! ‘The Bear’ Season 2 Serves A Hearty Helping Of Character Depth

In late June, FX dropped in totality, Season 2 of its hit sleeper  The Bear. It is a layered dramedy centered on the life of burnt out chef Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto as he returns to Chicago to run his brothers failing greasy spoon. 

Without spoiling too much (yet), the through line of the show is the continued family drama and need for control in chaos, that catalyzes all things Carmy. From there it is a cast of misfit culinary characters, the stress that comes from running a restaurant, and the madness required to surve in an extremely dysfunctional family. 

Chef Berzatto is a professional success. Whether carrying Michelin stars, working the kitchen at Noma in Copenhagen or French Laundry in New York, he’s a brilliant creative, yet troubled mind.  In what is easily Jeremy Allen White’s best role to date, Carmy has a consuming need for perfection that can only be absolved by recognition in his own community.  In this circle and among these people, that validation never looks to be a possibility.

Chef’s boisterous, drug addicted sibling Michael has tragically taken his own life. Little brother is here to step in but nobody asked him to. Running Michael’s restaurant “The Original Beef of Chicagoland” is Carmy’s cousin Richie. Richie is not actually their relative but close with the family. He was Michael’s best friend and has been holding the restaurant together with zero experience, no will to learn, and all resistance to ideas other than his own poor ones. 

The rest of the kitchen has fallen into bad habits and Carmy’s mission is to turn the operation into a well oiled machine. Season one is pure bedlam. Everyone is resistant to change and the restaurant is falling apart physically. 

It is not until the finale when SPOILERS AHEAD they find Michael’s hidden stash of money and decide to strive for something, by creating a new restaurant called “The Bear”.

Season 2 easily surpasses its predecessor in every way. There are noticeable differences in storytelling, camerawork, and we finally take deeper dives into each character that made Season 1 such fun. The production team behind the series, stepped up their game with hard hitting narratives sprinkled with both warmth and pain, along with continuous unceasing camera shots that give us alert anxiety. It puts us in the heat of the kitchen with them. 

The sexiness of the food is as vivid as the creative processes behind each dish, whether at The Bear or any of the featured eateries the series visit to push the plot forward.

The continued tale of The Bear deviates from standard restaurant ops and chooses to give us non linear tales with focus on family and education. Each main character is featured in at least one episode revolving around them, what brought them here, and what they’re  striving to learn now in effort to keep pace with the force that is Carmy. This is where the show excels. 

ALL SPOILERS AHEAD: In particular there are nearly perfect standout episodes such as Pastry Chef Marcus heading to Copenhagen to study alongside one of Carmy’s former Noma coworkers and fellow prodigy. Another mention is Cousin Richie staging at Chicago’s greatest restaurant, as well as the flashback episode where Carmy’s entire family sits together for the most hilariously traumatic holiday meal you’ll witness. That one is packed with A list talent and will have you fluctuating between laughter and cringe around their dinner table.

Even amongst the other episodes (which are all fantastic) we are on the journey of self loathing leading into desire with Sydney, Tina, and Sugar.  Not to give female characters the backseat, they’re well represented on this show as Ayo Edebiri still effortlessly grounds the show as Sydney. 

Her family story and fight to be heard by her boss are the only way we as the audience get to see the cracks in Carmy’s armor. This season, we also get another perspective with fresh infusion through childhood love interest Claire, played by Molly Gordon. 

Worthy mentions also must go to Jamie Lee Curtis and Oliver Platt. Holy crap, do they make the most out of their limited screen time. Every small speech and bit of dialogue they deliver will have you awe inspired or on the verge of tears. 

They are incredible and best in limited doses as to not outshine the other cast members. If there’s one complaint about the show, albeit a minute one, it’s the lack of diversity in the soundtrack. For having a great ensemble cast representing Chicago and the food likewise representing the melting pot, the music of the show is as caucasian as it gets. 

From Classic rock to easy listening, every person over 50 will recognize music featured on the show from the speakers of their local grocery store. It’s the lone miss among all the bullseyes The Bear fires out.

Personal complaints aside, the music does work as intended. The builds, the cues, the song choices all play well and do not distract from the show. All in all The Bear, Season 2 brings a flair with it and accuracy in the culinary world that has been missing in tv. Not since HBO’s Treme Season 1 has a Dramedy stood out this much as an artistic endeavor that hits accurate notes with lasting watchability. It is the standalone star of this summer’s tv entertainment and should have you clamoring for the next installment.

Binge the entire season now, only on HULU.

About the author

Brandon Trones