Film editor Alice Weltermann reviews the second season of FX’s The Bear, applauding its star-studded cast while delving into the importance of the show’s emotional intensity
FX’s The Bear was an unexpected hit in its first season, with critical acclaim following its sudden popularity and ever-increasing viewership. It stands out for a variety of reasons: its beautiful cinematography, endearing soundtrack, and gripping writing, to name a few. It is one of the best TV shows being made right now, possibly even the best (The Bearst?).
The first thing that is apparent in season two is Andrew Wedhe’s cinematography, which continues to be utterly striking. This show feels like a love letter to Chicago in the way the camera moves; we are swept along with the cold and the wind as it pans across a brutal, yet beautiful cityscape. A series of montages are also notable, echoing the work of Arthur Albert on Better Call Saul. Saul (Bob Odenkirk) even makes an appearance in episode six for an hour-long Christmas flashback. His presence along with Wedhe’s homages feel like The Bear promising its own excellence. It is successful now, it knows there are great shows on TV, and it knows it can be as good as them. As Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) says in season one, ‘Okay, **** you, watch this.’
The number of famous faces scattered through the series is evidence that people are indeed ‘watch[ing] this’; at least enough for Will Poulter, Sarah Paulson, and Jamie Lee Curtis to appear and steal the show. Episode six does feel a little out of place due to its’ sudden influx of big names. But, all of these names are on top form and prove themselves worthy of this very special show. Jamie Lee Curtis as Mrs.Berzatto is excellent, as always. Her constant smoking, drinking, chopping, swearing, shouting, stirring, cooking, and crying create an environment more stressful even than Carmy’s hellish restaurant. The length of this episode is formidable, and it cannot be binged. It will have your heart racing the whole way through. You may just need a cigarette and a drink yourself once it is over.
The stress of this show cannot be understated. For anyone who has worked in hospitality, it will be hard to watch at points. Yet it is also incredibly cathartic, and, above all, loving in everything it does. The love in Season Two shines more than ever as the theme of purpose takes centre stage: why do we cook, why do we do things that are hard when they aren’t always worth it? Episode seven, ‘Forks’, sees Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) stage (help out) in a high-class restaurant straight out of The Menu as he deals with these questions.
Incredible performances from the whole cast truly allow the writing to shine, particularly in episodes written by show creator Christopher Storer and Sofya Levitsky-Weitz. The standouts of Season Two are of course Jeremy Allen White as Carmy and, unexpectedly, Liza Colón-Zayas as Tina and Ebon Moss-Bachrach.
Colón-Zayas especially brings a nuance to Tina that allows the complexity of her character to live in every expression she makes. Her smile in episode five, ‘Pop’, is absolutely infectious. Her joy and newfound confidence in herself feels earnt and is truly heartwarming. Moss-Bachrach, too, is remarkable, as Richie becomes something I never thought he could be after season one: a Swiftie. One particular scene in ‘Forks’ sees him sing along to ‘Love Story’ at the top of his lungs. Watching this with my Taylor Swift cut-out perched next to me felt bizarre, but there was certainly a glimmer of pride in Taylor’s cardboard baby blues when she saw how far Richie had come that made it all worth it.
The decision to send characters away from the main kitchen allows for expansion on these smaller characters the show delves into Tina, Ebra (Edwin Lee Gibson), Marcus (Lionel Boyce) and Richie this season. This decision is so important because The Bear’s kitchen is as much a character as Carmy, acting as the uniting force for a cast of un-united characters.
Viewing The Bear as a sitcom, which it is not, the kitchen is what the Central Perk sofa is to the friends of Friends, what Maclaren’s is to the How I Met Your Mother crew and what the office is for the employees of The Office. It is a constant thing in a deeply stressful place. But season two challenges this constancy and rips it away, which reminds us that this is not a sitcom or a comfort watch, but a blend of many, many things- this is The Bear, and it is undefinable.
Watching this will stress you out, and will deeply annoy you. It will have you saying ‘Yes Chef!’ simply in the act of helping your mum cook dinner. It will make you cry, and laugh, and smile a lot. The Bear is so important, and you should watch it.
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