Minor spoilers ahead
In the smorgasbord of television dramas, “The Bear” emerges as a flavoursome offering that’s both raw and refined, a hearty stew of dysfunctional found- and blood-family, gorgeous food, and the frenetic pace of the culinary world.
Carmen ‘Carmy’ Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) is top chef at a world-leading restaurant but returns to his brother’s sandwich shop in Chicago following a personal tragedy. This shift isn’t just geographical but deeply emotional and symbolic, as Carmy struggles to reconcile his past with his present.
Sydney (Ayo Edebir) is a young, determined outsider, trying to carve her space in the harsh world of hospitality. She knows who Carmy is, and overflows with ideas on how to improve the shop, thinking him a kindred spirit. She’s motivated but frustrated, a compelling narrative of ambition colliding with harsh reality as she struggles to prove her worth, not just to Carmy but to herself.
It’s Richie — portrayed with gusto by Ebon Moss-Bachrach — where “The Bear” really turns up the heat. Richie is unpredictable and difficult, loyal to a fault yet brings chaos to the kitchen. His relationship with Carmy is the show’s secret sauce. They share a bond that’s both strained and strengthened by their shared history, and it’s this complex layering of emotions that adds depth to their interactions. Richie, with his rough-around-the-edges demeanour, is the antithesis to Carmy’s more measured approach. Yet, both characters are united by their love for the sandwich shop and the legacy they are struggling to uphold. It is through Richie we have the show’s greatest episode, some of the best, most satisfying television ever made.
A symphonic narrative
The show’s narrative is like a well-orchestrated symphony in a bustling kitchen, with every character playing a crucial role in the harmony. The writing is as sharp as a chef’s knife, slicing through the surface to reveal the emotional depth and vulnerabilities of each character. It’s in these moments of raw, unfiltered emotion that “The Bear” really shines.
“The Bear” is also a visual feast. The camera work is as frenetic as a busy kitchen, with swift pans and tight shots that capture the chaos and claustrophobia of the sandwich shop. This visual style adds an extra layer of intensity to the show, making the audience feel like they are right there in the heat.
One of the most compelling aspects of “The Bear” is its authenticity in depicting the culinary world. The show doesn’t shy away from the less glamorous aspects of kitchen life, from the relentless pace to the high-stress environment and sometimes, the abuse. This authenticity extends to the food itself, showcased in all its messy, glorious reality. The dishes prepared on screen are not just props but pivotal plot points, symbolising the characters’ struggles, triumphs, and the heritage they carry.
Growth and change
“The Bear” is a masterclass in character development, especially evident in Tina’s (Liza Colón-Zayas) and Richie’s story arcs. Tina initially resists change but sees how Sydney’s skill is a positive influence and begins her own journey to expand her knowledge. Richie begins as a seemingly one-dimensional character, almost the antagonist, but as the story progress, his layers are peeled back to reveal a complex individual driven by loyalty, love, and his own demons. His journey is a testament to the show’s ability to craft well-rounded, deeply human characters that resonate with the audience.
“The Bear” is a rare gem in the current television landscape. It’s a show that marries the intensity of a professional kitchen with the complexities of human emotion, served up with a side of compelling storytelling. It offers nuanced looks at characters who are flawed and fiercely devoted. Regardless if you’ve never toiled in a kitchen or even appreciate the art of cooking, “The Bear” is a must-watch — a culinary adventure that satisfies the soul.