‘The Bear’ Still Masterfully Brings The Heat In Season Two, In And Out Of The Kitchen (Hell Yes, Chef!)

Back when I first reviewed The Bear, I appreciated the show’s authenticity and simply hoped that more than a few people would find it in this crowded TV landscape. And sure, I figured that Shameless-heads would tune in for Jeremy Allen White’s return to Chicago, but I didn’t fully anticipate that the masses would soon be firing off thirsty tweets about their lust for line cooks. I also didn’t realize that I’d have a chance to wonder out loud whether sexy times would eventually be in store for Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, the former fine-dining chef who comes home to run his family’s sandwich joint.

Fortunately, people very much tuned in. Perhaps the sex tweets enticed them to do so, and that’s fine because underneath the sweat and the casually tousled hair was a damn good story. The show’s portrayal of a flowing-yet-chaos-filled workspace, the quick-and-dirty style of shooting that makes you feel the steam and the grime and the pounding and whistling, and my god, the sound design on this show — all of it worked. Yes, much of the ordeal was stressful to witness, but it was an addictive brew. As toxic as that kitchen got, viewers grew invested in these characters and how they were swallowed up in this churning world and simply rolling with it.

Much of the entire show’s vibe can be encapsulated in the first season’s penultimate episode, “Review,” where the kitchen went off the rails. Carmy lost it in Tantrum City, Ayo Edebiri’s Sydney accidentally stabbed Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s Ritchie in the butt, and he walked it off like it’s not the worst thing that happened all day. And you know what, he was right. Look, the thing is this: Carmy is the captain, Sydney is the brains, Marcus (Lionel Boyce) brings the donut obsession, and so on. Ritchie, though? He’s the underbelly of the show. He has bite, and we should probably hate the guy, but the show makes him so human despite his assholery. Underneath that exterior, Cousin wants to do better, and he’s got a real shot at achieving something in Season 2.

The Bear Season 2

I’m very pleased with Ritchie’s arc in this sophomore season, but the same can be said for every character on the scene. Season 2 is about taking these souls out of the kitchen and bringing them back together. Many of them improve their professional game, but they also take fruitful side trips outside of The Beef, which is now The Bear. Or it will be, if the revamp ever comes together. That’s what the first season finale promised, and Carmy leads his motley crew again while the restaurant stays closed for most of this season.

Do not mistake this for an absence of glorious commotion.

Everything that can go wrong does go wrong in the course of retooling the restaurant. More than that, the show manages to take us on a journey to Europe for one character and into the hopes and dreams and fears of others. There’s downfall and redemption and inspiration found for them where one least expects it. Carmy shoots himself in the foot by engineering a deadline, which keeps the pressure on, and beneath all of this mayhem, there’s humanity and connection to be witnessed. That last term might cause you to wonder if Carmy does, you know, have time for a personal life. A trailer more than hints at him going there. I suspect that we will return to this subject after people have had a chance to watch. (Let’s do that.)

For now, I can promise you that this season passes with such momentum and so swiftly — despite a few much longer episodes than usual — that you’ll find yourself cursing about the wait for Season 3. And the season’s finale is as tension-filled as the “Review” episode, yet it’s twice as long in runtime. Throughout, we learn more about what “The Bear” truly means as a concept and a sometimes interchangeable label, and hot damn, there. are. so. many. guest. stars. That’s especially the case during an hour-long episode where food not only brings people together but also represents an act of war. Those of you who dug the Jon Bernthal cameo last time will be thrilled to see more of him this year. And there are some guests who were preannounced — like Will Poulter and Bob Odenkirk — but several surprises on the way. (I clapped my hands in glee upon seeing a few of them and am not ashamed to admit this.)

What’s staggering about The Bear‘s second season is that the show takes us to highs and lows that we couldn’t have possibly hoped to see in Season 1, but the production never feels like it’s attempting to be “bigger and better.” Rather, everything unfolds organically, even the offshoot stories, and it’s almost unbelievable that this season fully came together in just under a year. We get to explore endless nooks and crannies with these characters beyond the kitchen, but the writers never forget to place them into scenarios where food is also a manner of expressing one’s self.

The Bear

So yes, Season 2 is on par with Season 1, and in fact, I do think that this season is more enjoyable, to the point where you’ll possibly be inspired to do an immediate rewatch. Also, it’s worth mentioning that the season ends in a way that makes one curious about what’s next for Carmy, but it doesn’t go overboard with a cliffhanger. Again, the interest that this show sparks always feels unforced while it carries the viewer along in the spiraling mayhem. The same goes for transitions between seasons so far.

In other words, The Bear expands breadth of character and does stop to smell the culinary roses, but it never feels like it’s naval gazing for the sake of it. That’s much like Carmy seeking to elevate The Beef into The Bear without regard for status, only for the food itself and the people who enjoy it.

Hell yes, these Chefs are back with another first-rate season.

FX’s The Bear will stream all of Season 2 on June 22.