Yes Chef? Yes Chef!
This review may contain spoilers of Season 2 of FX’s “The Bear,” now airing in full on Disney +
Whether you’ve been following “The Bear” since its first season, or only recently jumped on the hype as season 2 was released, there’s a high chance that your new favorite thing to yell in the kitchen – or anywhere in your household for that matter – is: “YES CHEF!”
FX hit-series “The Bear”, created by Christopher Storer, is set against the gritty backdrop of the city of Chicago, highlighting the darker side of the service and restaurant business – the under-pork belly if you will.
From a 12-minute-long scene, to an hour-long flash back episode, chaos could not describe the boiling points of emotion for this show. There are moments of which dysfunction is so apparent that it almost disguises itself as harmony. This however, is an illusion and a ticking time bomb. There is no reality where a family in the kitchen or home with this deep seated level of trauma, could sustain a gathering for long before spirits or bones are broken. This is a notion that is played on throughout the show through a variety of characters; self-inflicted suffering as means of comfort due to its familiarity. “Carmen”, the main character played by Jeremy Allen White is a chef that has reached some of the tallest heights of notoriety and accolades but you can tell there is an element of pain that goes into the profession. Cooking is an art and for many artists they use their pain to express. In the beginning of Carmen’s career he saw cooking as an escape from the chaos of his family, but with the high stress and demanding nature of the restaurant business it is impossible not to draw parallels. Carmen is addicted to chaos, he doesn’t necessarily enjoy dysfunction in the kitchen, but it’s the uncertainty that can feel comforting. Although this seems like an oxymoron, Carmen’s family’s trauma is so imprinted on him to the point where no matter how hard he tries, his behavior morphs into the family gene pool of mental illness, trauma and low self-worth. To the point where self sabotage makes him figuratively start to drown through his inability to be in the midst of the chaos.
This is a beautifully shot show with visual chaos from Andrew Wehde that perfectly encapsulates the emotions of the characters. This, complimented with great soundtracks makes this show easily digestible within the season binge model. Although, I’d hard pressed not to mention the flash back episode, what I would consider to be the the most dense and chaotic episodes of both seasons- S2:E6. Shot on film with a yellow-saturated look and set in Carmen’s family home during Christmas dinner, at glance this could be mistaken as nostalgic. However, as the episode unravels we see further stylistic choices, introductions to characters and major groundwork that provided catalysts for future events and behavioral choices. The grainy film acts as an air of uncertainty as much like the screen; the next move of some character never remains clear. In addition to this the 1 hour run time is an outlier to the other episodes, another means to set this episode apart from what had previously been a formulaic 25-35 minute runtime per episode. We all know Christmas is family time on crack and with the rogues gallery of personalities in all our families it is easy to empathize with the dysfunctional family dynamic. There is so much emotional destruction in this episode with its fast paced and intense dialogue that could easily make your heart flutter. It is a car crash we cannot help but look away from that resolves in an on the nose way that couldn’t have been predicted upon first watch.
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The Bear S1:E1 begins with Carmen letting a bear out of its cage, a metaphor for Carmen unlocking his ego, anger and flawed self. In the final episode we see a cyclical turn around, Carmen is locked in the kitchen freezer helplessly locked in his own cage. Although Carmen is having a meltdown in the coolest part of the kitchen, the outside is firing on all cylinders in his absence, a lesson in removing ego that proves emotionally taxing.
All in all, “The Bear” Season 2 is a refreshing, intense drama that has beautiful character growth and development, exceptional writing and cinematography that shows how people subject themselves to pain in pursuit of purpose.