“The Bear” season two review: the most rewarding show on television


Screenshot via FX on Hulu.

“The Bear” poster.

By Ryleigh Lord, Culture Editor

The sophomore slump is notorious and often debilitating for television shows, but it’s something that fans of “The Bear” don’t have to worry about when they tune into Season Two — in fact, the show soars to new — almost unimaginable — heights. 

FX’s culinary dramedy, which first aired in June of 2022, released its second season on June 23 and picked up immediately where season one left off —  prolific chef Carmy Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) has returned home to Chicago to run the family restaurant after his brother commits suicide. With a team that ranges from middle-aged mothers to young chefs to volatile “cousins,” Carmy ended Season One deciding to revamp the restaurant entirely.

Where Season One was nonstop — in particular with a spectacular 22-minute-long episode shot in one take — season two takes advantage of the realistic lull that is bound to occur when gutting and rebuilding a restaurant. 

Season One was always character-driven, but season two gives itself the breadth and space to devote entire episodes to specific characters. Where the first spent its time introducing and endearing the audience to these complex and oftentimes aggravating characters, Season Two was the showrunners’ chance to open up the world beyond the kitchen of the restaurant.

In particular, Season Two gives the audience more insight into Sydney (Carmy’s partner in the restaurant and a phenomenal chef in her own right, portrayed by Ayo Edebiri), Marcus (the soft-spoken and immensely lovable pastry chef, portrayed by Lionel Boyce), Richie (Carmy’s oftentimes offensive and always anxiety-inducing “cousin,” portrayed by Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and Natalie (Carmy’s sister and the new project manager of the restaurant, portrayed by Abby Elliott). 

With the exception of Natalie, all of these characters get their own individual episodes that focus on their internal and external arcs and development. In focusing on the ensemble characters, Carmy himself is naturally given less screen time — but this is the perfect decision for a show like “The Bear.” Opening and running a restaurant is a team effort, after all. 

In particular, episode seven (“Forks”), which takes the audience with Richie as he finds his own self-worth through staging at the best restaurant in Chicago, was steadily tear-inducing. Richie is a character who so clearly spent season one and half of season two hating himself and not fitting into Carmy’s new vision for the restaurant, and the emotional catharsis that comes in episode seven feels not only earned but deserved. 

In an era of television where it feels the audience isn’t ever sure if they should be rooting for the main characters, it is endlessly refreshing to watch “The Bear.” Every single character has their own flaws and grating moments, so it doesn’t feel like they’re unreasonably perfect, but the show finds a way to remind the viewer that these people are worth supporting.

Season Two of “The Bear” is the best season of television I’ve seen this year — and maybe ever. It’s so earnest and in-tune with itself that I found myself crying at moments that are inexplicable to anyone who hasn’t been following this group of people.

I cried when the restaurant passed the gas-line test. I cried when the name of a cannoli was unveiled. I cried when one chef gave another chef a knife (a truly admirable feat when considering the fact that the show is primarily based in a kitchen). 

It’s impossible to talk about Season Two without mentioning the genuinely awe-inspiring episode six (“Fishes”), which takes place three years before the first scene of the first season. It’s a self-contained episode that takes place within the Berzatto’s family home for Christmas dinner when all three siblings were still alive and is anxiety-inducing from first shot to last. 

For a show that often dabbles in flashbacks, this episode is the equivalent of emotional catharsis — the audience finally and fully understands why this family is the way it is. 

And it does so in astonishing fashion, taking the frequently used dinner table setting and heightening the tension, stakes and emotion. It’s hard to watch at times because of how realistic and simultaneously forgiving and unforgiving it is.

The guest-stars of the episode are best revealed while watching the episode in real time, but trust me when I say that “Fishes” is as star-studded as an hour-long episode of television can possibly get. There are sure to be a few Emmy nominations for this episode alone, and more than likely at least one person will actually win. 

If there is one shortcoming of the season, it’s the introduction of Claire (portrayed by Molly Gordon), a love interest and childhood friend of Carmy’s. Their scenes often felt disjointed and separate from the rest of the show, but it’s hard to tell if this was intentional or not. If it was, they accomplished what they set out to do. If it wasn’t, it is the singular critique I have of the entire season, which is still a feat in and of itself. 

“The Bear” is the most rewarding and well-executed show on television at the moment. If you choose one series to watch over the next few weeks, let it be this one.