'The Bear' Season Three Puts Another Superb Feast of Hospitality Industry-Related Ups and Downs on the Menu

Saying "yes chef!" to this Jeremy Allen White- and Ayo Edebiri-starring, Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning hit's third serving remains a delicious choice.
Sarah Ward
Published on June 28, 2024

The third season of The Bear is a season haunted. Creator and writer Christopher Storer (Dickinson, Ramy) — often the culinary dramedy's director as well — wouldn't have it any other way. Every show that proves as swift a success as this, after serving up as exceptional a first and second season as any series could wish for, has the tang of its prior glory left on its lips, so this one tackles the idea head on. How can anyone shake the past at all, good or bad, it ruminates on as Carmy Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White, The Iron Claw) faces a dream that's come true but hasn't and can't eradicate the lifetime of internalised uncertainty that arises from having an erratic mother, absent father, elder brother he idolised but had his own demons, and a career spent striving to be the best and put his talents to the test in an industry that's so merciless and unforgiving even before you factor in cruel mentors.

Haunting is talked about often in this ten-episode third The Bear dish, but not actually in the sense flavouring every bite that the show's return plates up. In the season's heartiest reminder that it's comic as well as tense and dramatic — its nine Emmy wins for season one, plus four Golden Globes across season one and two, are all in comedy categories — the Faks get to Fak aplenty. While charming Neil (IRL chef Matty Matheson) is loving his role as a besuited server beneath Richie aka Cousin (Ebon Moss-Bachrach, No Hard Feelings), onboard with the latter's commitment to upholding a Michelin star-chasing fine-diner's front-of-house standards and as devoted to being Carmy's best friend as ever, he's also always palling around with his handyman brother Theodore (Ricky Staffieri, Read the Room). They're not the season's only Faks, and so emerges a family game. When one Fak wrongs another, they get haunted, which is largely being taunted and unsettled by someone from basically The Bear equivalent of Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Boyles. For it to stop, you need to agree to give in. In Storer's hands, in a series this expertly layered, this isn't just an amusing character-building aside.

Joining the Disney+ menu Down Under on Thursday, June 27, 2024, season three opens with an episode called 'Tomorrow', setting the action on the titular day following the soft relaunch of Carmy's pride and joy. Season one followed his immersion in The Original Beef of Chicagoland, which his elder sibling Mikey (Jon Bernthal, Origin) ran before his death, and the call to turn it into the restaurant that Carmy has always wanted. Season two charted the hard yards traversed to make the plan happen and bring The Bear to fruition, culminating in an unveiling to family and friends that had them raving about the food while The Bear's staff were in bedlam. With Carmy, who was stuck locked in the fridge for most of the big hurrah, then ended it with his girlfriend Claire (Molly Gordon, Theater Camp) out of his life and his relationship with Richie at a new low, the third go-around asks how you whisk that difficult kickoff — and all previous difficulties — out of your brain and somehow move forward.

The Bear has been posing a version of this question from the outset, because it's one of existence's defining queries: how does anyone go on when our heads are swirling with the pinnacles and plunges, achievements and traumas, and riches and missteps gone by? This is a show that sees baggage and, Station Eleven-style, remembers damage. So, how could Carmy, Richie, Carmy and Mikey's sister Natalie (Abby Elliott, Cheaper by the Dozen), their pseudo-uncle Jimmy (Oliver Platt, Chicago Med), and The Beef's loyal staff Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas, IF), Marcus (Lionel Boyce, Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Ebraheim (Edwin Lee Gibson, Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty) carve a path — any path — after losing Mikey? With newcomer chef Sydney (Ayo Edebiri, Inside Out 2), after they ensured it was still a place that he'd approve of, how could they pivot to The Bear? And with Jimmy's money backing them and the culinary world watching, how can they now guarantee that their new restaurant not just simmers but boils?

'Tomorrow' is a tone-poem first instalment to The Bear's third course, flitting through Carmy's history — the other kitchens that he's been employed in feature heavily — to establish how being haunted will season everything that follows. It's a mindset episode, and a smart and absorbing one, as his time working for the unpleasant David Fields (Joel McHale, Animal Control), the kindly Andrea Terry (Olivia Colman, Wicked Little Letters) and the IRL René Redzepi at Noma all flash up. Its mood then turns haunting itself, persisting atmospherically as Carmy makes some blunt decisions solo about what the restaurant will be and do, then Syd, Richie and the crew are confronted with his choices. The Bear will now operate under a list of non-negotiables. It will change its menu entirely daily. It'll actively seek Michelin's covered five-pointed endorsement. It isn't overtly stated, but it will also exist in a state of fear over what a review by the Chicago Tribune might deem it, be it innovative, excellent, delicious, confusing, overdone or inconsistent.

The aftertaste of what's come before, and how impossible it is to cleanse it from your palate, lingers in every moment of kitchen and dining-room chaos — of which there's a buffet — alongside every plot strand. Syd struggles with the realisation that she's still the entree to Carmy's main, clicking the button on the partnership agreement that will formalise her stake in The Bear and whether to leave what she's toiled so hard for to take a new opportunity. Richie has the reality of his ex-wife (Gillian Jacobs, Invincible) moving on to deal with. The pregnant Nat's due date speeds closer. Marcus endeavours to cope with his grief by focusing on the job. Tina's route to The Beef gets its own episode. And The Computer (Brian Koppelman, the creator of fellow TV series Billions), Jimmy's no-nonsense numbers guy, has thoughts as The Bear keeps booking out and generating buzz but battling financially.

Season three's performances in roles not only lead and supporting but also among the guest stars — well-known names pop up again, some returning, some new — remain delectable. Leading the show, no one better provides the faces of those tormented by their choices, hopes, yearnings, chances, mistakes and regrets, sometimes as motivation and sometimes as an anchor for Carmy, Syd and Richie, like the one-two-three punch of White, Edebiri and Moss-Bachrach. No one on- or off-screen across the whole series shows any sign of being plagued by living up to the one of the best new shows of 2022 and best returning shows of 2023, or knowing what to do, either. Although the second and third seasons of The Bear have had the program's own past to match, doing so hasn't been a problem to-date, including when Storer can so effortlessly segue between experimental and classic, and wide-spanning to ultra-focused as well.

One of the reasons that the exploits of Carmy and company satisfied audiences from the show's initial arrival is its authenticity, understanding the pressures and anxieties, plus the hustle and bustle, of the hospo grind at the sandwich-diner level and the cream-of-the-crop tier alike. The Bear is equally as emotionally astute and frenetic beyond the kitchen, as every spoonful of its third season reminds viewers. The reality of trying to make it as a chef, cook, restaurateur and server collides with the reality of simply trying and being; it's a perfect recipe. In the show, the feeling of sitting down to your dream meal but proving incapable of dislodging your inner mayhem is inescapable. For those watching, The Bear is the streaming equivalent of the ultimate dish — and, because we all have our own internal turmoil, also the cure for being haunted across its superb 14 hours now over three seasons.

Check out the full trailer for The Bear season three below:

The Bear streams via Disney+ in Australia and New Zealand, with season three dropping on Thursday, June 27, 2024. Read our review of season one and review of season two.

Images: FX.

Published on June 28, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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