In its first season, The Bear on Disney+ followed the journey of Carmy (played by Jeremy Allen White) and his crew as they found redemption. The show delved into themes of grief, guilt, ambition, and the desire to escape and return home, all through the lens of food. Whether it was preparing, serving, or selling food at The Original Beef of Chicagoland sandwich joint, or using it as a way to make amends or seek forgiveness after closing time, food played a pivotal role. By saving the joint, Carmy also found a way to reconcile with his late brother’s friends, who he had inherited along with the shop and gradually formed into a cohesive team.
What comes after redemption? A fresh start. A rebuilding, both literal – as the Original Beef transforms into a upscale eatery called The Bear (named after Carmy’s high school nickname) – and figurative. In the second season, each character is given space to grow and develop. Natalie (Abby Elliott) comes into her own as she faces the numerous challenges of launching a restaurant (it speaks volumes about the show that at one point, the audience is on the edge of their seats wondering if a small blue balloon will inflate under the watchful eye of a gas inspector). We meet Sydney’s father (played by Robert Townsend, with Ayo Edebiri still captivating and brilliant as Syd) and learn about the family history that drives her. Carmy begins a new relationship and must navigate the responsibilities and divided loyalties it brings. Marcus (Lionel Boyce) is sent to Copenhagen to train under a master pastry chef, and it becomes a soul-nourishing experience as he explores the city without the burden of caring for his sick mother. Tina and Ebra attend culinary school, showing what is necessary beyond just having an opportunity in order to succeed. Above all, there is Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) who, now that the initial wave of grief has passed but Mikey is still gone, feels lost and adrift. “Do you ever think about your purpose?” he asks Carmy early on. “I’m sorry,” Carmy responds as she is surrounded by piles of paperwork, sample menus, and missed calls, “I don’t have time for this.” But he does. He sends Richie to work at a fine-dining restaurant, where this volatile and unhappy man finally finds peace in standing still – polishing forks – and making sense of his life.
Overall, the second season is not as intense as the first as it delves deeper into the individual characters. However, there is one standout episode, number six, which is a longer flashback to a pivotal and traumatic Christmas in the Berzatto family. This episode showcases Jamie Lee Curtis’ heartbreaking and chilling portrayal of the unstable mother, Donna, along with Bob Odenkirk as her on-and-off boyfriend Lee and Jon Bernthal as Mikey who is struggling with addiction. If you anticipate a challenging family Christmas, it may be best to save this episode for the New Year as it will emotionally devastate you.
The Bear’s scope grew, but it retained all the elements that made it exceptional in its initial release – its intensity, wit, flawless direction, and perfectly natural dialogue that never wastes a moment or misses a beat.
The Bear maintains a traditional set of ideas and values at its core. It values discipline, particularly self-discipline, and only praises talent when it is accompanied by hard work. It promotes humility, redemption, and moments of grace. It rejects the notion that one can have everything in life. To excel at something, one must make a choice and fully commit to it. It also believes in sacrificing individual desires for the greater good. All of this while facing challenges such as bug infestations, black mold, faulty gas lines, and complicated regulations.
In brief, the Bear is still a feast.