Review | The newest season of ‘The Bear’ is questionable 

The new season displays boring plots, characters, and overall lack-luster writing. 

Zhenya Loughney, Arts Reporter

Sweaty aprons, back alley smoke breaks, and a tense kitchen with cooks yelling at each other out of love — Food service industry culture at its truest. 

“The Bear” was released on Hulu summer 2022. The show poster alone had me sold. I didn’t write for The Daily Iowan last year, but if I did, I would have rated it an 11/10. Season two, released on June 22, was questionable, to say the least.

The first season had some of the best television I had ever seen in my life. Jeremy Allen-White of “Shameless” fame plays the lead Carmy. It’s funny to me that the actor is from New York, but every character he plays seems to be a Chicagoan. 

Set in modern-day downtown Chicago, “The Bear” follows Carmy taking over his dead brother’s failing restaurant, The Beef. Carmy is a skilled Michelin star chef out of place in his family’s not-up-to-code kitchen. The drama is juicy. 

What I loved about the first season was that the audience was immediately thrown into the trenches of the kitchen; it was so captivating to watch. Without warning, the audience began to learn the dynamics of the kitchen. Now I say “corner” (what cooks say when they are turning a corner in the kitchen) as a joke. There was so much pain and joy put into every dish made and served. 

The captivating qualities of season one were not present in season two. I’m not a mathematician, but it felt like there was at least 50 percent less cooking this season. Most of the camera shots were incredibly long close-ups of the characters talking to one another. This made their conversations less dynamic and boring. 

With that said, the camerawork was the best part of season one. Episode seven is incredibly impressive in that 18 out of the 20 minutes was one take, meaning that the camera never cut. To put it into perspective: that’s phenomenal. 

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Instead of focusing on the dying restaurant, this season is about building a new restaurant from scratch and the trials of renovating an old Chicago building (mold, mice, asbestos, etc). They didn’t do much cooking because there isn’t a kitchen in the new restaurant yet, so this season follows each character’s individual journeys and that was kind of a wreck. 

I genuinely enjoyed Tina’s journey of going to culinary school late in life, Marcus learning patisserie in Copenhagen, Cousin becoming a Swiftie for his daughter, and Sydney becoming her own chef. Yet, they didn’t have to make those episodes feel like boring filler. I wanted to be more interested, but it didn’t advance the plot at all.

The episode lengths were entirely inconsistent. The sixth episode was almost an hour long. It was jarring to see John Mulaney, Sarah Paulson, and Jamie Lee Curtis as Carmy’s family out of nowhere. This episode was set in the past before the passing of Carmy’s brother and it felt like more filler. The fast-paced-ness from the first season was there, but it made little to no sense and could have been shortened to a normal-length episode. 

Additionally, Carmy didn’t feel like the same character. In the new season, the audience meets a new character named Claire whom the writers want us to root for as Carmy’s partner. They meet at an Erewhon-looking grocery store (yeah right, like Carmy would pay that much for goat’s milk) and they have nearly 10 minutes of the most boring conversation only consisting of extreme close-ups of their faces. 

These are stupid closeups because I wanted to see Marcus and his mentor make the pastries in a beautiful city, not just their faces.

The laziest instance of writing was with Carmy’s sister, Sugar: we first see her on-screen and Carmy says, “Why do you look so pale?” And wouldn’t you know it? Minutes later it’s revealed that she’s pregnant, yet it is a complete mystery to me why she felt she had to keep it a secret or why it was even a point of contingency in the plot. 

There were beautiful moments that reminded me of the first season sprinkled throughout this one, however. My favorite was when Carmy used American Sign Language to apologize to Sydney and explained how his old chefs would use ASL to communicate that they still loved each other in a tense kitchen.

Season two is a 6/10 for me. All-in-all, I do hope that there is a third season, but I also hope that it’s not as sloppy, boring, or disappointing as this season turned out to be.