Anxiety Squared: Our Review of ‘The Bear’ Season 2

Posted in Disney +, What's Streaming? by - July 19, 2023
Anxiety Squared: Our Review of ‘The Bear’ Season 2

The second season of the critically acclaimed The Bear, arriving this week on Disney + in Canada after debuting on Hulu stateside last month, seeks to follow up on the final dramatic moments of Season 1’s finale and delve deeper into the characters that drive the show. The result is a second season that expands the scope of knowledge to the audience of Carmy’s (Jeremy Allen White) culinary background, from Copenhagen back to the US. The season also takes us back in time to explore and fill in the Berzatto family’s complex dynamics. With the first season’s overwhelming success under its collar, this season also sprinkles in many Hollywood stars, ranging from supporting characters to simple cameos.

After discovering the cash at the end of the first season, the second season opens with the closure of Beef as the group starts the ambitious task of converting the restaurant into a fine dining establishment named The Bear. With his crew by his side, Carmy and Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) lead the charge with the menu while Cousin Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) continues being the overbearing jackass we’ve grown to know, trying to insert himself wherever. Marcus (Lionel Boyce), Tina (Liza Colon-Zayas), and Ebraheim (Edwin Lee Gibson) are all sent out for proper training to hone their skill set. At the same time, Fak (Matty Matheson) still plugs away at the demolition and reconstruction of the new restaurant, along with the other chefs.

But soon enough the group realises that, even with the money Mikey (Jon Bernthal) stole and hid away, it’s not enough to build their dream restaurant. Turning to Uncle Jimmy (Oliver Platt) for more funds on top of what Mikey took from him, the group now finds themselves under the gun and under a whole different type of pressure to finish, or else Jimmy seizes control of the building and sells it to the highest bidder. Acknowledging their own lack of business acumen, Carmy and Sydney enlist Carmy’s sister Sugar (Abby Elliot) to run the financial aspects of the rebuild. But as deadlines fast approach and decisions need to be made, Carmy reconnects with his high school crush Claire (Molly Gordon) and develops a relationship. And while Carmy may actually be taking some time and steps towards earning some happiness, the demands of the restaurant will never go away.

The scope of The Bear Season 2 is so much grander than Season 1 that it almost feels like an entirely different show. While the first season was an exercise in building and ratcheting up anxiety and tension, the second season has parts and episodes that allows the characters and audience to relax and breathe. The addition of two episodes to the overall run, going from eight in Season 1 to ten in Season 2, also helps spread out the story a little, which is beneficial considering how much ground it has to cover. 

This new season is also packed with side stories and personal episodes that take us far outside the world of the Bear and show us more of these characters than ever before. One of these episodes is athe star-studded flashback Christmas episode 6 that shows us exactly why the Berzatto family acts as they do. Or two of my personal favourites, the 4th episode where Marcus travels to Copenhagen to learn under Carmy’s friend Chef Luca (a guest starring Will Poulter). And the 7th episode where Richie finally realises his place and why Carmy loves what he does even though it drives him mad, working at the restaurant that made Carmy famous for a week. The finale is classic Bear, where anxiety, pressure, tempers, and problems all come to a head on the soft opening friends and family event.

As was a hallmark of the first season, the acting here is beyond reproach as the cast delivers yet again. The leads are all fantastic here, and it’s a nice touch to see the growing role of Abby Elliot’s character this season. The Christmas episode is a head-turning filling out of the Berzatto family as a phenomenal Jaime Lee Curtis plays the matriarch. Along with a returning Jon Bernthal, there’s also Gillian Jacobs, John Mulaney, Bob Odenkirk, and Sarah Paulson who play members of the Berzatto clan in perhaps the most volatile episode of the entire season, which is saying something. Episode 7 also features a cameo that I won’t ruin here, but all of these guest stars never outshadow the main cast and their accomplishments. Also, it was nice to see the infrequently used Robert Townsend back in front of the camera as Sydney’s dad.

The Bear Season 2 manages to do something follow-up series don’t often pull off well, which is to expand the scope of the setting and characters without losing the intimate feel of the first season. Season 2 is very well written, expertly performed, and runs the exact right amount of time for the season to keep audiences thoroughly engaged. It’s also fun to see the show use its notoriety to recruit star cameos, and Molly Gordon’s Claire is an absolute breath of fresh air for the series. All of this results in a season that will thrill fans of the show and looks to guarantee a third season to come.

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"Kirk Haviland is an entertainment industry veteran of over 20 years- starting very young in the exhibition/retail sector before moving into criticism, writing with many websites through the years and ultimately into festival work dealing in programming/presenting and acquisitions. He works tirelessly in the world of Canadian Independent Genre Film - but is also a keen viewer of cinema from all corners of the globe (with a big soft spot for Asian cinema!)
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