From the performances to the story, the character development to the guest stars, and the impressive amount of needle-drop moments– The Bear season 2, is a culinary masterpiece.
I wrote about Season 1 last summer after watching it (complete with one of the worst blog titles ever to grace this website)
I started watching it out of boredom, it was summer, and the summer tv slate is notoriously boring, and stale. The show took place in Chicago, starred one of my favorite actors from another show I enjoyed (Shameless), and featured a ton of locations I walked by and frequented every day. Plus it was only 8 episodes.
It ended up being one of my favorite surprises of the year, television-wise.
A few things I loved and hated about this season that won't spoil anything -
- Wilco songs in heavy rotation once again. A great nod to Chicago's hometown band, but they also track very well. You can tell the show's budget increased big time this season. Every song is noticeable or an earworm, meaning they opened up their checkbook to clear them this season. You've got Swedish band Refused (again), R.E.M, Bruce Hornsby, Liz Phair, and Mavis Staples are some others. Here's the season's soundtrack playlist on Spotify. Enjoy-
- Why are we just learning the Red Sox are Mikey and Richie's favorite team? The Fenway poster, the Wally stuffed animal, and the souvenir cups?
- One of the coolest episodes yet was episode 4, “Honeydew”, where Marcus visits Denmark to take in the local cuisine, and broaden his vision and palate for his desserts. He visits the world-renowned Noma, and lands a short but prestigious stage-ship with "Luca", a famous chef played by Will Poulter. It's a really great, heartfelt episode. Marcus is the fucking man.
- It's no secret that the 6th episode of the season, "Fishes" might be the episode of tv this season. Before even getting to see it, all I heard and read was about how many Emmys its going to win. "Fishes" is a standalone episode that brings together a cast so stacked it'll make your head spin. They really went all out with the heavy hitters, introducing none other than the legendary Jamie Lee Curtis as the bipolar, alcoholic Berzatto matron.
It's your normal Italian Christmas Eve dinner featuring the seven fishes, prepared by Carmy and Mike's mom and featuring family and friends played by Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Gillian Jacobs, John Mulaney, and Ricky Staffieri, just to name a few. It features top-notch cinematography, performances, and dialogue. The production was a masterclass in TV magic, clocking in at a whopping 66 minutes and providing a shit ton of heart-attack drama from all the intensity. (Bob Odenkirk's character is a real piece of shit)
In a world where TV networks are pumping out recycled ideas faster than you can say "reboot," and mailed in reality bullshit, "The Bear" boldly went where no show has gone in a long time. And they nailed it.
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Richie boldly utters a line in the second to last episode that manages to define the entire season: "I wear suits now." The brilliant Ebon Moss-Bachrach, who portrays Richard "Richie" Jerimovich, states it simply, but it carries a depth of meaning that'll leave you with chills.
Season 2 of "The Bear" takes us beyond the restaurant's walls and delves deeper into the characters' lives. In Episode 4, "Honeydew," we follow Marcus, the talented pastry chef, on a journey to Copenhagen, where he hones his craft with guest star Will Poulter.
But it's Episode 7, "Forks," as mentioned above, that elevates the show to a whole new level. Even more so than the star-studded "Fishes" flashback in Episode 6, this one steals the spotlight. In "Forks," Carmy sends Richie to work at a prestigious three-Michelin-star restaurant where he once labored. And as you can imagine, Richie isn't thrilled about it.
To understand the power of the "suits" line, we must get to know Richie. Until now, he's been the quintessential corner-cutting, scumbag.
His job at Carmy's old restaurant? Polishing forks. Yep, that's the pinnacle of his culinary career – forking polishing extraordinaire. But something magical happens during his stint at the three-star restaurant. Richie discovers the beauty in simplicity and the significance of each tiny task in the grand scheme of things.
As he masters the art of polishing forks (and later spoons), Richie undergoes a transformation that'll make your heart swell. His newfound purpose and passion for detail culminate in an unforgettable moment when he returns to The Bear wearing a suit. The look of shock on everyone's faces was hilarious. And inspiring.
Richie went from a guy that was impossible to root for to a guy you can't help but want to cheer on.
Sydney, Carmy's CDC, plays a huge role this season. Her creative partnership with Carmy adds a fantastic dynamic, and she saves his ass more times than you can count.
Where season 1 of "The Bear" was like a chaotic war story set in a kitchen, filled with disorganization and infighting. But Season 2 takes a different approach, focusing on teamwork and character growth. As each of the characters embraces their role, and they find themselves, and where they fit in the scheme, the team comes together and forms a beautiful thing.
Similar to a sports story, the team steps up to the plate and rises to the occasion. The camaraderie, growth, and determination make for a compelling narrative and a TV show that actually keeps you interested in how the overall story unfolds, as well as each individual characters.
The show's director, Christopher Storer's intimate directing style, combined with the outstanding performances, creates a truly authentic and meaningful experience. The cinematography captures the essence of food and Chicago, adding to the show's allure.
It's not one of those fugazi shows set in Chicago that does a half-assed job portraying the city. This show is Chicago. And it does a damn good job paying homage to the country's greatest food city by putting some of it's culinary icons in the spotlight. You don't have to be a foodie to spot fantastic spots featured in the show: Pequod's, Kasama, Margie's Candies, Publican Quality Meats, Ever, Kasia's Deli, Lao Peng You, Elske, Superdawg, and Avec. Fantastic brands like Weber's Bakery, and Dark Matter Coffee. And of course, the man Donnie Madia, playing himself, offers sage advice to Sydney in a great scene.
Chicago chef/icon Rick Bayless (brother of Skip Bayless) claims the show's raw and gritty portrayal of kitchen culture has set restaurant staffing "back 20 years." But I disagree. The attention to detail and hard work exemplified by the show's characters demonstrates that there's more to running a restaurant than just food; it's a form of art, and a very noble vocation. And as Richie's character proves, even the smallest tasks can lead to greatness.
The Bear Season 2 gets 3.5 balls.