Review The Bear : Absorbing, Tense Kitchen Dramedy

New Bingeable FX series alert!

The Bear is one for all the hospitality workers, restaurateurs, and chefs out there. If you know, you know! 

If you don’t, “The Bear” provides a realistically searing look into the passion and pain that goes alongside the industry.   

The show follows Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto as he tries to save his brother’s Italian Sandwich shop, “The Beef,” left to him in the wake of a family tragedy.  

Imbued with a healthy dose of Italian – American culinary passion, the show explores the fractured sibling relationship between the two brothers and the work-family relationships forged amongst the kitchen fire.  

The kitchen team sat at a long table receiving a daily meeting

The “The Bear” team gets introduced to the Brigade de Cuisine, credit @ FX.

From Shameless to chef

Jeremy Allen White, who previously completed a 10-year stint playing the character “Lip” on the American version of Shameless, gives a commanding performance as Chef Carmy.  

Chefs are having their moment.

He was nailing the brooding confidence, vision, and dedication to the craft that is required in the cheffing industry. Carmys character has a refreshing calmness in his interaction with the other restaurant staff. He offers his colleagues respect, and it’s clear he finds solace in the kitchen’s structure.  

Find more details on the cast here.  

In the climate of 2022, it’s good to see the portrayal of a chef moving away from the archetype of the angry chef taking out his stress on his subordinates. Instead, Carmy’s character is wholesome, emotionally blunted by grief. He is not perfect, but he’s not an arsehole.  

The gritty reality of the kitchen’s pressure cooker environment

Hospitality’s dark side is addressed throughout the series. In a flashback to Carmy training in a fine dining restaurant in New York, the senior chef verbally assaults and belittles him relentlessly. We also learn that Sydney applied to work at “The Beef” due to her previous negative experiences working in high-end establishments. However, as the pressure mounts, Carmy is not immune to letting his emotions overcome him and his rage out.

Old rusted corrugated iron entrance sign for the Original Beef Sandwich shop

The Original Beef of Chicagoland, The Berzatto’s sandwich shop, credit @ FX

Clear your schedule and get ready to binge

Created by Christopher Store,r “The Bear” delivers episodes in a sitcom format comprising eight short episodes. 

Complete series information on IDMB here

The short length of the episodes moves the plot and character development along in tasty bite-sized chunks, leaving you wanting more.

Warning it is easy to smash this gem in one sitting!

The show’s heart comes from the character’s struggle to reconcile the death of Carmy’s larger-than-life brother Michael “Mikey” Berzatto, giving an honest look at the fallout of male suicide and drug addiction. One of the series’ strengths is the character’s likeability. Written with humor, they are all easy to root for. There are some genuinely funny moments lifting the tone towards drama – comedy. Bumbling handyman Neil Fak does a great job of adding some comic relief to the otherwise darker elements of the plot, and episode 4, “Dog,s” is laugh-out-loud funny.  

Actors Ayo Edebiri as “Sydney Adamu” |and Ebon Moss-Bachrach as “Richie” standing side by side in the deli

Credit @ FX

Ebon Moss-Bachrach gives a nuanced performance as  Richard “Richie” Jerimovich.  Free-wheeling, hard-partying, occasional coke-dealing restaurant manager and best friend of Carmy’s late brother.  

Initial tensions between Carmy and Richie arise as Carmy tries to change how the restaurant is run. However, the love between them is apparent as the season progresses.  

Richie’s dialogue is fast, he is loud, and he is arrogant, but he is human, and he is a good person.  

Towards the end of the series, Richie experiences his moment of reckoning as he is forced to contemplate his position in life and come to terms with the death of Mikey and the fact the restaurant will inevitably change.  

The writing and directing successfully give the show rawness and realism. 

Anyone who worked in the kitchen knows it’s a stressful occupation. When the chips are down, tempers fray, it’s hot, sweaty, and intense, and someone could be losing their sh*t. The writing in the series is sharp and concise. Plenty of shouts of “CORNER, BEHIND, HOT, HOUSEKEEPING” help translate the frantic nature of the kitchen onto the screen.

The reality of operating a food business as an owner and chef is laid bare. 

Chef Carmy scrubbing the kitchen floor

Chef Carmy gets his hands dirty; credit @ FX.

All the problems like failing equipment, dodgy wiring, staff dramas, people’s personal lives, wrong produce orders, and endless bills fall on your head. The financial profit margins are small, and the difference between sink and swim is only one busted toilet or a kitchen fire away from potential ruin.  

The cinematography gives an edginess to the show.

The last two episodes of the series were among my favorites. The writing and cinematography do a fantastic job of ramping up the tension in the penultimate episode. Carmy reaches the end of his rope, and the team starts to crumble under pressure. 

The production team chose to shoot this episode as one continuous shot, which perfectly captures how time moves in the kitchen when the pressure is on. It’s a blur, fast, relentless, and when it falls apart, it falls apart.  

The season finale is both moving, satisfying, and juicy. It provides a feel-good catharsis for the main characters and leaves you excited to see what the future holds for “The Bear” and its work family. 

 

 

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