Still Tasty, Not as Delicious


  • Season 3 of
    The Bear
    explores new territory with a focus on character development and experimentation, but lacks the punch of previous seasons.
  • The great cast is back, with Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri shining in their roles as two of the best actors on television.
  • The season takes viewers outside the restaurant, delving into the personal lives of the characters, but needs more focus and direction.

There’s a reel on social media featuring an artist perched on a huge industrial swing filled with paint cans. As they begin to swing diagonally over a blank canvas, the splashes of bright colors pour out onto the palette, creating a vibrant pattern. It’s a mesmerizing thing, in fact, and if you appreciate abstract art, all the better. There doesn’t appear to be a singular focus of intention from the artist, just plenty of curiosity and spunk. In many ways, Season 3 of the much beloved Emmy Award-winning FX dramedy, The Bear, feels the same way.

There’s a lot of this and that, a bevy of brave explorations creatively, several things we’ve all grown fond of with this show — spats and angst — but overall, this season feels like one of experimentation and change. It is, perhaps, coming of age, as showrunner Christopher Storer takes the series and storylines farther away from its genesis, the old beef joint that was one hot mess. Things are still a hot mess here on some levels, and while this season lacks the punch of those that preceded it, you really can’t take your eyes off it. Especially if you’re binge-watching it, thanks to Hulu dropping all 10 episodes this week.

The Great Cast Returns but It Feels Like a Different Show

Emmy-winner Jeremy Allen White is still in fine form as Carmy Berzatt, who must now nurture the culinary baby he’s birthed, The Bear. The Chicago portal went from beef sandwich haven to upscale restaurant. (Although those sandwiches find a new home at a back window of the former dive.) Ayo Edebiri, who landed an Emmy for her role as Sydney here, remains resilient as ever. Edebiri goes behind the camera, too, directing a gut-wrenching episode called “Napkins.” Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Cousin Richie is once again a thorn in Carmy’s side, and vice versa.

Collectively, they make up the core trifecta of the show, and while they may anchor the series, what we’re watching is beginning to feel like an entirely new show. It immediately recalls the current season of The Boys. It’s fine, but where the heck are we going with all this? That’s the big question as our favorite characters, and the restaurant they’re banking on, attempt to mature into a new place.


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The Bickering Is Back

You’ll catch the ethereal drift early on. Episode 1 plays out like a fever dream. It’s a bold shift from the norm, as it unravels in a series of memory streams of our dear Carmy. The showrunner is creating “art” here, and while this first entry into the season does little to move any of the plot forward, it does, somehow, succeed in setting up the following nine episodes. If anything, it sets the mood for what’s to come.

We find Carmy arriving at the restaurant the day after his grand test opening. That didn’t go well, if you recall, as Carmy was locked in the walk-in fridge the entire night, the result of which found him overreacting and spewing madness, ultimately directed at new love Claire (Molly Gordon) and cousin Richie. Other scenes float in and out, with hardly much dialogue. We find Carmy in the past leaving for New York or working in various kitchens with different chefs, played by Olivia Colman and Joel McHale. We see how he’s been influenced in the past. Older brother Mikey (Jon Bernthal) and mom (Jamie Lee Curtis) flitter in and out. Big things begin to unfold in Episode 2.

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Episode 2 is a firecracker piece of work, in fact. The bickering is back, and the dial has been turned up high. The writing is sharp, fierce, and focused. Verbal machine guns, firing rounds all over. A long extended scene in the restaurant’s kitchen is something to marvel at. Carmy wants to overcompensate for his personal diaster during the soft opening. He creates a list of non-negotiables the staff must follow, based on restaurants he’s worked with in the past. Also new: A new menu every night. Wait for the look of shock on Sydney’s face.


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Going Outside the Restaurant

As the season moves forward, there are plot markers to track. Uncle Jimmy (Oliver Platt), who’s financed The Bear, wants to save money. Natalie (Abby Elliott) is nearing the end of her pregnancy. Does she really need this stress? The fate of Marcus’ (Lionel Boyce) mother is revealed. You’ll have to have patience and wait for the season to unfold to see if/how Carmy and Claire can come to terms with the major rift in their relationship.

Overall, this season takes us outside the restaurant more and into the personal lives of the characters. Who knew Cousin Richie, a boisterous douchebag when we first met him, had a human side? There’s some interesting character exploration/building as Richie attempts to come to terms with his failed marriage and maintain the tight bond he shares with his young daughter. These are great additions, yet all these creative components wind up being more of a curious mish-mash of themes and ideas, rather than adding to an overall direction for the show. It lacks the kind of focus that made Season 3 of Hacks so riveting, and a season that offered anticipation for another season.


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Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri Are Still the Best

Still, like any restaurant that we’ve come to appreciate and love, perhaps one that went through its own transformation, we’ll likely stick with this. In kitchen speak, the flavors are here, they’re just not all mixed well enough to reach their fullest potential. So, focusing on the good, we’ll shift a bit. Jeremy Allen White once again proves himself to be a viable acting force. Sharply focused, he remains a fascinating actor to watch. Carmy is full of unexpressed emotion, and capable of lashing out at any given moment. The series captures the anxiety and determination of this man (and the act of creativity) so remarkably.

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Ayo Edebiri marvels both in front of and behind the camera. “Napkins” is directed with such richness, and it’s another great showcase for Bernal’s Mikey, revealing things that will turn heads. Edebiri is a fine director, but her Sydney is given an emotional ride this season that’s great to experience. She hesitates to be a major part of The Bear behind the scenes. She is also concerned she’ll get sucked into Carmy’s destructive emotional swirls. Watching her maneuver through that is quite something. Meanwhile, Natalie has accepted her mother’s limitations, more or less, and because there may be nobody else there for her at a pivotal time of her pregnancy, she’ll have to lean on the troubled woman who failed the family.

Other players hit their mark. Liza Colón-Zayas’s Tina is learning to become a more nuanced and patient chef. Matty Matheson’s Neil and the Faks family, overall, figure prominently, although feel a bit overused here when other creative options could have been made.


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We’re all familiar with the concept of “showing, not telling,” and foreshadowing, but The Bear takes this art form to new heights.

The Bear Is Still Foodie Fun but Needs More Kneading

In the meantime, food porn abounds. It’s a master showcase for exquisite dishes, and it should delight any foodie out there, especially fans of cooking shows. The production value is cranked up a notch as a result, and there’s also something to savor with the choice of music throughout the season. There’s a fine swirl of scenes during a busy night at the restaurant featuring sharp editing and quick cuts, all while the pressure is on, and dishes break, and mishaps unfold. Chicago, of course, remains one of the biggest characters in the series. It’s nice to see it featured so generously here.

Bottom line: Showrunner Christopher Storer created a cultural phenomenon. But now The Bear has become its own creative beast, and it must be tracked and guided. Obviously, there’s more room to grow, and while this season feels more like a rich mound of dough that still requires kneading, you get the feeling that the best is yet to come… somewhere in Season 4, perhaps.

The show’s (and the restaurant’s) title may be a wink to Carmy’s family nickname, but it’s also reflective of hidden emotions, family dynamics, grief, and trauma. There’s still a lot to work through for so many of these characters, which is bound to keep us forever curious. The Bear streams on Hulu/Disney+. Watch it through the link below:

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