Carmen Carmy Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) is a young and extremely successful chef, an award-winning chef from the best restaurant in the world who, after the suicide of his older brother Michael (Jon Bernthal), decided to return home to Chicago to run a family inn where beef sandwiches are prepared . This is the basic premise of this exceptional, interesting, bitter-sweet and incredibly dynamic humorous drama series that delights equally in the first and second seasons. The brilliant “The Bear”, conceived and directed by television producer Christopher Storer, brings an insight into the chaotic life of Carmy’s family, but also the wild, chaotic and exhausting world of modern cooking.
When he gets home, we’ll realize that Carmy is completely burned out. Not only did he fall from the kitchen of elite restaurants into the dirty, disorganized kitchen of a diner where you don’t know who should do what, but he will realize that his brother has left him up to his neck in debt. And while in the first season “The Bear” and the character study of the young chef is in complete chaos, in the second season we not only get a deeper insight into the family background and story of the Berzatts, but practically all the important characters will also get their own episode. And it is extremely original, and stylistically “The Bear” differs from most series.
All this was filmed with a hand-held camera, which in any case emphasizes the wild, hectic pace in the restaurant where there is never peace, and there are also many close-ups of details and faces of the characters. One of the strongest assets of this series is certainly the excellent characters that are deepened and rounded in the second season so that the viewer becomes clear about their motivation and who they really are. Although at first it looks like it’s a bunch of lunatics because who on earth would normally work in such a chaotic and stressful environment, we will understand what they really want and what their motives are. Especially in the second season when Carmy decides to turn the diner into a luxury, elite restaurant.
The other characters are also great. There’s Carmy’s cousin Michael (Ebon Moss – Bachrach), the restaurant manager and Michael’s best friend who is also a complete mess of a person. Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) is a young and talented but inexperienced and insecure cook who arrives at The Beef to learn from Carmy, but she turns out to be a girl with exceptional organizational skills. They are all strong and interesting characters, so it is not surprising that there will be constant conflicts, frictions, arguments and disagreements between them, but all with the aim of making the restaurant a better place, even though they all have different views and plans on how to do it.
I was particularly delighted by the central episode of the second season, in which we get an insight into the family situation of the Berzzatos in a flashback. Christmas is a few years before Michael’s suicide, and the family dinner will turn into a complete disaster, and that’s when we understand what Carmy’s fears and traumas really are. Relatively unknown, but exceptionally well-chosen actors from the regular cast are joined by a whole constellation of guest characters in brilliant performances by well-known actors such as Bob Oedekirk and especially Jamie Lee Curtis as Carmy’s mother. One of the earlier episodes also features Olivia Colman as a guest, and the second season is also great because we see all the main characters maturing and developing as they prepare for the transition from a sandwich shop to a deluxe restaurant.
It’s a real team of dysfunctional lunatics who are constantly yelling at each other, arguing. They are almost on the verge of a physical confrontation, and the constant stress they are under will occasionally bring them to the brink of breaking. It’s equally funny, but in a subtle, smart witty way, as well as touching, emotional and realistic, and the characters are so great that the viewer just has to root for them and hope for their success. Although I’m not a fan of that modern cooking and those Michelin-starred dishes, I’m more of a fan of classic skewers, baking, grills and stews, you simply have to feel their excitement when they prepare a new, super-sensational dish and when they understand some new cooking tricks. “The Bear” is definitely one of the best series of recent years and certainly deserves all the attention and praise.