Film files: ‘The Bear’ season two finds more room on the menu

A drawing of three characters from “The Bear,” Carmen, Sydney, and Richie. They wear white shirts and aprons.
(Lucia Marquez-Uppman • The Student Life)

FX’s hit series “The Bear” shocked and impressed audiences when it was first released in 2022. Set in the fictional Chicago sandwich shop “The Original Beef of Chicagoland,” the show follows Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White), an elite chef who returns to run his family’s restaurant after the sudden death of his brother.

Season one of “The Bear” was filled with chaos, screaming, clanging metal and gunshots — if you’re Richie, Carmy’s cousin, trying to scare a throng of cosplayers into order. Season two doesn’t stray too far from this formula. There are the same kitchen sounds — “Yes, chef,” “Behind,” “Corner” — and lots of dad rock. While season one had a single star, Carmy, the second season dedicated multiple episodes to explore other characters, adding depth to fan favorites like Marcus (Lionel Boyce) or more underrated characters like Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach).

The show’s first season was claustrophobic. Things felt like they could boil over at any second. Certain episodes of season two certainly keep up that high pressure, particularly “Fishes,” a flashback set in a Berzatto family celebration of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, an Italian American Christmastime tradition. Insults are hurled; so are forks. A plate is smashed. Finally, Carmy’s mother, Donna (Jamie Lee Curtis), drunk and feeling unacknowledged for her work on the elaborate dinner, curses out her family and drives her car through the wall of the house.

While the editing in the show’s kitchen scenes perfectly embodies the mayhem each chef is feeling, its full impact would be lost without the chaotic style of dialogue overlaying it. The hard cuts and tight camera angles feel like they’re jumping over each other because the dialogue is, as each chef — even if they’re not involved in the main conversation — is talking, taking orders or joking around with their coworkers in real-time. This layered dialogue is overwhelming for the audience and, when paired with the show’s editing and framing, collides to produce the lifelike chaos “The Bear” has become known for.

What’s more impressive is that, in spite of the layered dialogue used to overload our senses, there are no empty lines. Each line of dialogue is carefully crafted to push the plot forward, stage a new conflict or progress a character’s internal growth. Even the most insignificant lines, like Carmy giving preparatory orders to the rest of his staff before his meltdown in the one-take episode in the first season, serve the narrative.

Likewise, ‘The Bear’ season two isn’t afraid to break new ground and allow its audience a little more room to breathe, at least until the next meal.

While they are less common, the show features the occasional moment of calm to allow the audience and the characters a break from the chaos of the restaurant. However, in true “The Bear” fashion, these moments of stillness are rarely positive celebrations. Instead, they often showcase Carmy poorly processing his grief, either in a quiet room or through the occasional dream sequence.

In season two, episodes “Honeydew” and “Forks” offer more quiet moments, allowing for some of the most significant developments of characters and themes in “The Bear” so far. “Honeydew,” directed by Emmy-winning actor and writer Ramy Youssef, takes pastry chef Marcus to Copenhagen to apprentice under a pastry chef (Will Poulter) at a Noma-like restaurant. In the constant chaos of the kitchen, Marcus’ kindness and patience mean that he’s often the show’s only source of calm. “Honeydew” takes a closer look at the thoughtful interiority that comes with that outsider status.

“Forks” follows likable screw-up Richie through a weeklong boot camp, polishing forks and working the dining room at a Michelin-star Chicago restaurant. Similar to the structure of “Honeydew,” the episode contains training-style montages, most of which feature Richie washing silverware and learning the basics of fine dining. But after only a week of working at the restaurant, Richie is totally transformed. He cares about organizing pens and polishing silverware. He wears suits. He has learned to channel his pettiness and intensity into solving problems and satisfying his guests.

On his last day, Richie has a moment with the head chef as she peels enough mushrooms to feed all of Chicago during the kitchen’s off-hours. This isn’t her first restaurant, Chef Terry (Olivia Colman) tells him. The last one was a massive failure. But, she says, “It’s never too late to start over.”

Likewise, “The Bear” season two isn’t afraid to break new ground and allow its audience a little more room to breathe, at least until the next meal.

Hannah Eliot SC ’24 is from San Francisco, California. She likes to surf and is always looking for more films to watch.

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