What happens when you stop fighting to survive and, instead, let go and start again? After an intense first season, that’s the question season two of The Bear posits, as hot-shot chef Carmy (Jeremy Allen White), rising sous Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) and their team stop clinging on to failing sarnie bar The Beef and attempt to create something new.
When we first met Carmy last year, he had an almost-permanent look of panic on his face. After flying high in some of the best restaurants in the world, he was back in Chicago to take over his brother’s back-alley eatery following his tragic death. The Beef’s sloppy, stodgy sandwiches replaced the elegant fine dining he’d been mastering, and he struggled to sufficiently whip the crew into shape so that they could keep the doors open.
With the help of Sydney, he almost managed it but, after finding stacks of cash his brother had hidden in tins of crushed tomatoes, he had an idea. The Beef, a sign in the window read, was closed, to be replaced by a brand new restaurant designed by Carmy and his deputy. The Bear was coming.
In season two, there is still panic on Carmy’s face, albeit a different kind. We follow him, Sydney and the staff as they immerse themselves in a brand new world – one where there’s constant construction chaos and intense conversations (under)estimating the financial load of gutting The Beef and transforming it into The Bear. If the first season was about survival – and not just for the restaurant, but for Carmy as he grappled with his brother’s suicide, and for the kitchen crew as he and Sydney came in “fucking with [their] system” – then this season is about rising from the ashes.
Rather than hone in on Carmy and his struggles, these new episodes develop the other characters further and give them a chance to grow. Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas) and Ebrahim (Edwin Lee Gibson) are sent to culinary school to sharpen their skills, with one cook much happier about it than the other. Dessert king Marcus (Lionel Boyce) goes on his own adventure to learn more about crafting killer pastries. The fiery-tempered Richie (Ebon Moss Bacharach) is still a loose cannon, but we’re shown another side to him as he takes care of his daughter, and Carmy’s sister Natalie becomes more than a bit-part player – taking on the role of project manager for The Bear’s opening.
As for the chef at the centre of it all, things start to look brighter – in some ways. On a trip to the supermarket, he reconnects with a face from his past, Claire (Molly Gordon). It’s a reunion you root for – at first. But it quickly looks set to distract Carmy from the goal he and Sydney are working towards – much to her chagrin – and could jeopardise the future of not just The Bear, but their newfound family as a whole. It’s another intense ride, but it’s served up so deliciously, you’ll definitely be craving more come the end.
‘The Bear’ season two is streaming on Disney+ now