There’s something deeply satisfying about a second season of a TV series that fulfills the promise of what a Season 2 should do: Recapture what made the first season great while adding something new and perhaps complicating the show’s initial premise.
It’s easier said than done, and FX’s “The Bear” set a pretty high bar for itself. Last summer, the comedy series depicting the staff of an Italian beef joint in Chicago turned into a word-of-mouth hit. Restaurant jargon from the show — like, “Yes, chef!” and “Corner!” — became part of the pop culture lexicon. And the series inspired articles praising its accurate depictions of toxic workplaces and the high-octane stress of working in restaurants (and yes, chef, it also inspired thirsty memes about star Jeremy Allen White).
During its second season, premiering Thursday on Hulu, the show becomes richer and contains more depth, like a memorable dish that’s had time to marinate. While the frenetic pace of Season 1 was thrilling in the way it captured the chaos of restaurant life, the slower pace of this new season allows us to savor each bite and digest the show more fully. (TV and film writers, including those who worked on “The Bear,” are currently on strike for more equitable pay and working conditions in the streaming era.)
It helps that a built-in premise allows the show to try something new and more complex. At the end of Season 1, chefs Carmy (White) and Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) decide to work together and revamp the restaurant from fast-casual lunch spot, The Beef, into something more high-end: The Bear, named after Carmy’s nickname. As Season 2 begins, we’re immediately plunged into the complications and growing pains of building something new. There’s endless paperwork and bureaucracy, the restaurant’s walls are crumbling, there’s a mold infestation, and as always, money is tight.
In Season 1, calling “The Bear” a comedy felt somewhat inaccurate. The most frequent description that would come up when telling someone about the show was how stressful it was in the best of ways. But here, the disarray of the staff trying to create the new restaurant gives the show more opportunities for jokes and physical comedy. For instance, there’s frequently the juxtaposition of characters trying to say something important — while piercingly loud alarms or construction noise blare behind them.
Carmy and Sydney have ambitious goals for the new restaurant. Sydney is intent on getting a coveted Michelin star, and the two have set high standards for everything from the menu to the ingredients and new kitchen equipment.
The first few episodes of the show’s new season are similarly more ambitious and trying to do something new. Much of the thrill of Season 1 came from the way it rarely departed from the action of the kitchen. The stress and claustrophobia were the point. By contrast, Season 2 frequently gets out of the restaurant’s four walls. One episode follows Sydney as she looks for inspiration by checking out different real-life Chicago restaurants, butcher shops and markets.
Pastry chef Marcus (Lionel Boyce) also gets a standalone episode when Carmy and Sydney send him to Copenhagen to gather ideas for the restaurant’s dessert menu. In the episode, directed by Ramy Youssef (who worked with “The Bear” creator Chris Storer on “Ramy”), Marcus takes in the city’s food scene and trains with a renowned pastry chef. The chef (played by Will Poulter, among several guest stars this season) tells Marcus that the best dishes are often not about skill but about making food that’s “really inspired.”
Like its characters, who gain inspiration and insight from being outside of the restaurant and not being in their own heads so much, Season 2 of “The Bear” becomes a richer show by widening its lens and slowing things down a bit. There’s more room for character development and reflection, such as more windows into the characters’ pasts and family lives. In fits and starts, some of them try to grow and change, like Cousin Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), who is attempting to tamp down his penchant for outbursts and offensive language. And in revamping the restaurant, Carmy is trying to improve the workplace culture — and himself.
At an Al-Anon meeting, Carmy describes the pressure he feels as the problems with the new restaurant pile up. He worries he won’t deliver and, therefore, let himself and everyone down.
“I have to remind myself to breathe sometimes. I have to remind myself to, uh, be present, you know?” he says. “Remind myself that the sky is not falling, that there is no other shoe, which is incredibly difficult because there is always another shoe.”
With more space and breathing room in this new season, there’s more time to admire the artistry and precision of what chefs do and, similarly, what the show itself is doing. Instead of trying to keep up with the stress of the show, we can be more present, both for when that other shoe drops and things go wrong — and when things are just right.
Source : Huffpost