'The Bear' Serves Up Another Course of Sublime TV in the Hit Dramedy's Sizzling Second Season
Yes chef — the best new show of 2022 is finally back, and it's just as appetising and intense as ever.
July 19, 2023
The more time that anyone spends in the kitchen, the easier that whipping up their chosen dish gets. The Bear season two is that concept in TV form, even if the team at The Original Beef of Chicagoland don't always live it as they leap from running a beloved neighbourhood sandwich joint to opening a fine-diner, and fast. The hospitality crew that was first introduced in the best new show of 2022 isn't lacking in culinary skills or passion. But when chaos surrounds you constantly, as bubbled and boiled through The Bear's Golden Globe-winning, Emmy-nominated season-one frames, not everything always goes to plan. That was only accurate for Carmen 'Carmy' Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White, Shameless) and his colleagues on-screen, however; for viewers, the series' debut run was as perfect a piece of television as anyone can hope for. Excellent news: season two is better.
Streaming via Disney+ Down Under from Wednesday, July 19 — arriving a month after it hit the US, making Australian and New Zealand audiences wait for a repeat reservation just like last year — The Bear season two serves up another sublime course of comedy, drama and "yes chef!"-exclaiming antics across its sizzling stretch. Actually make that ten more courses, one per episode, with each new instalment its own more-ish meal. A menu, a loan, desperately needed additional help, oh-so-much restaurant mayhem: that's how this second visit begins, as Carmy and sous chef Sydney (Ayo Edebiri, I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson) endeavour to make their dreams for their own patch of Chicago's food scene come true. So far, so familiar, but The Bear isn't just plating up the same dishes this time around. At every moment, this new feast feels richer, deeper and more seasoned, including when it's as intense as ever, when it's filling the screen with tastebud-tempting food shots that relish culinary artistry, and also when it gets meditative.
For Carmy, Syd, the former's sister Natalie aka Sugar (Abby Elliott, Indebted), and lifelong pal Richie aka Cousin (Ebon Moss-Bachrach, No Hard Feelings) — plus The Beef and now The Bear's baker-turned-pastry chef Marcus (Lionel Boyce, Hap and Leonard), veteran line cooks Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas, In Treatment) and Ebraheim (Edwin Lee Gibson, Fargo), and resident Mr Fixit Neil Fak (IRL chef Matty Matheson) — it's all systems go from the instant that the show's second season starts. With his James Beard Award and experience at the world's top restaurants, Carmy has never been one to take things slowly or calmly. Relaunching the space that he inherited after his brother Mikey's (Jon Bernthal, We Own This City) death is no different, even after Carmy found $300,000 in cash sealed tins of tomatoes to close out season one.
In cooking, money just buys ingredients and equipment. Here, while The Beef team has scored itself a hefty stash, those funds can't quite purchase enough. Swiftly, Carmy and Syd enlist Sugar as their project manager so that they can focus on conjuring up the new restaurant's customer-courting spread — and they're asking the Berzattos' uncle Cicero (Oliver Platt, Chicago Med), their main investor, for extra aid just as promptly. Creator Christopher Storer (Ramy, Dickinson and Bo Burnham: Make Happy), also the dramedy's frequent writer and director, brings the heat and the bedlam early. He tests and stresses his kitchen-obsessed characters in their favourite surroundings, where they spent the opening season just surviving. Season two pushes them towards thriving by growing and learning, though, complete with new insights into Carmy and company, plus new ways to drizzle out their hopes, wants, fears and hungers.
The Bear's smorgasbord of havoc continues, then, but paired with savouring what quieter moments everyone can manage to stick on their forks. When Carmy runs into his old friend Claire (Shiva Baby and Booksmart's Molly Gordon), who is now a doctor, he finds something to enjoy beyond being a chef for the first time in far too long (certainly the first time in the show's narrative). Their relationship blossoms, taking the workaholic's focus away from his about-to-open restaurant. That causes struggles, too, but The Bear has always appreciated life's unexpected alchemies. When Carmy ditches plans to hop around town with Syd to glean culinary inspiration for the menu, for instance, she's initially peeved. Then her tasting tour of the Windy City, which is also a visual tour of some of its famous places and names for viewers, proves both revelatory and rewarding.
The clock keeps ticking, with Cicero's extra cash speeding up the opening date. The deadline: 12 weeks. Whenever The Bear is at The Bear, the non-stop pressure-cooker energy blisters like grabbing a steel-handled saucepan off the stove with your bare hands. Season one was exceptional at thrusting its audience into the hustle and bustle of working in hospitality as if they were really there, warts, woes and all. Season two doesn't falter on that front. But when The Bear isn't at The Bear, it lets its usually frantic figures make themselves over, including by sending Marcus to a Noma-esque venue in Copenhagen under the tutelage of Luca (Will Poulter, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3) and getting Richie to spend a week learning the upscale ropes at one of the city's best restaurants. This season's performances as a result: exquisite.
Marcus' trip to Denmark spans an entire episode, the only chapter in the show's 18 across both seasons to-date that isn't directed by either Storer or executive producer Joanna Calo. Instead, Ramy Youssef steps in, invests the lived-in feel that's so much a part of his own impressive series, and revels in the eye-opening minutiae of being a visitor in a new place learning fresh skills. Storer is back at the helm of Richie's dedicated instalment, but it too benefits from broadening its horizons and getting out of its comfort zone. So does Cousin. In his typically abrasive way, he isn't happy about being sent away, taking it as punishment. In one of The Bear's finest exchanges yet, however, he has his entire perception altered in a touching conversation that adds Oscar-winner Olivia Colman (Secret Invasion) to the season's guest stars.
Well-known names must've been lining up to join The Bear: fellow Academy Award-recipient Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween Ends) also features, likely nabbing herself a 2024 Best Guest Actress Emmy, alongside Bob Odenkirk (Lucky Hank), Sarah Paulson (Ratched) and John Mulaney (Bupkis). That smattering of talent appears in a double-lengthy episode that jumps back to the past, demonstrates how chaos would've been in Carmy's blood regardless of if he became a chef — including when food is involved — and is as nerve-shredding and brilliantly acted as the series gets. You can't just taste the same bites over and over again, season two's detours advise. You're chomping into history whenever you sink your teeth into anything, this particular episode also conveys. The Bear burns brighter thanks to both trains of thought and, even with season one stetting such a high bar, couldn't be more appetising and satisfying. Long may it keep spending time in streaming's kitchen, bettering something that's already proven perfect.
Check out the trailer for The Bear season two below:
The Bear season two streams via Disney+ Down Under from Wednesday, July 19.
Read our full review of season one.
Images: Chuck Hodes/FX.
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