THE BEAR (2022)
Aired On: Hulu - FX
Release Date: 06/23/22
"A young chef from the fine dining world returns to Chicago to run his family's sandwich shop."
There have been less than a handful of shows so far in 2022 that have pleasantly surprised me. Better yet, a show that isn't another franchise IP that exists to sell toys or the latest nostalgia porn trip that safely drives up subscriptions. Although we are still in a peak television series period, with little signs of slowing down, streaming services are consistently shoving new original movies or tv shows down everyone's throats. The result is that it's more challenging for new original stories to reach the audience it deserves, to garner enough attention to justify their existence. FX’s new original series The Bear from creator, writer, producer, and director, Christopher Storer, is a prime example of this. A show that most likely wasn't on anybody's radar, and yet after consuming all eight episodes available to stream now on Hulu, unquestionably should be.
Very few shows come to mind that portrays the behind-the-scenes efforts of a restaurant and its chefs that aren't simply the latest reality cooking show offering, fused with a new fad-riddled flavor that's more tasteless than it is delicious. Although The Bear is a narrative work and not a reality show, viewers will find it just as addictive to watch as those that indulge in the guilty pleasure of modern-day reality cooking shows. The Bear centers on Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, a young, world-renowned chef who suddenly inherits his family's hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop “The Beef” after the tragic death of his older brother Michael (Jon Bernthal). The series opens with Carmy, played by Jeremy Allen White (Shameless, The Rental), anxious and terrified as he stares down a bear trapped in a steel cage placed in the middle of an empty suspension bridge. It would be easy to dismiss the context of this as simply metaphorical and uninteresting. As the series continues, it's clear the imagery serves more than an edgy metaphor or vibe that forgoes being explored further that movies or tv shows have been guilty of before. The Bears' opening moments cut deep, especially with those that have experienced a loss on a similar level that's depicted here and the crippling anxiety that can come along with it.
One of the many aspects of the series that carries through exceptionally is how effortlessly acclimated it is in its story setting. The details involved in running a restaurant, the Chicago surroundings, characters, and their actions, all extend to the authentic quality of the series while avoiding heightening it to an absurd or unrealistic level. Lending a hand with that matter are the superb performances delivered by its cast. The overwhelmed, tense, and closed-off, yet well-intended temperament that Jeremy Allen White produces in Carmy, is not only needed for his character but adds a layer of humanity and rawness to him. These acting choices implemented by White allow the character to be more relatable and represent his sheer talent.
While Jeremy Allen Whites' performance is more than impressive, the performances by Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Carmen's cousin Richie, and Ayo Edebiris' Sydney are just as notable. Richie is a character who is stubborn and looked at as a joke for most of the 8 episode series. Moss-Bachrach keeps those aspects of the character in check enough to avoid being written off as a typical stubborn douchebag two-dimensional character. While there's no doubt that the character of Richie is written to have a deeper emotional layer to him, the way Ebon Moss-Bachrachs personifies Richie's nearly impenetrable jerk-ish public persona. All the while hiding his deeper layers of emotions and tribulations simmering below the surface making the portrayal that much better and therefore the character. Sydney, the newly hired sous chef, is intelligent, hard-working, and creative in the kitchen, but even more so with how quickly she can problem solve all the various obstacles that develop in "The Beefs" kitchen. Ayo Edebiris brings a fierceness to Sydney that is best illustrated in scenes where Sydney is overwhelmed and virtually defeated. These challenging scenarios boil up, such as a verge of a breakdown moment where many onions that Sydney has cut-up “mysteriously vanish” shortly after completing the task. A crucial moment for the character and the actress' talents shines through, effectively exhibiting how well Sydney can handle the craziness, even when frustrated and about to buckle.
While the writing and acting are outstanding, the filming craftsmanship on display throughout The Bear is remarkable. The scenes that take place in the kitchen specifically stand out, capturing the frantic pace and chaotic nature prevalent, through the use of several tracking shots and continuous takes. A perfect example of first-rate filming is episode 7, titled “Review” and its use of a one continuous take is masterful. An episode solely taking place in “The Beefs” kitchen, as the staff prepare for the day and turn on the to-go ordering to make orders where the preorder option was enabled for to-go orders resulting in a vast amount of order tickets print off. A pressure cooker that has been building with each episode finally erupts, as Carmy implodes, lashing out his frustration on his staff, which only causes more chaos. Although continuous takes can be used effectively even if its purpose is more of a stylistic choice, its utilization in “Review” is purely mechanical as it successfully demonstrates the frenetic environment of real life restaurant kitchens.
All these delectable portions that The Bear delivers deserve to be consumed and appreciated. The tight pacing, confidence in its characters, and not only knowledge of the material but its success at telling a compelling story. FXs’ newest series knows precisely what it wants to serve its audience, and it takes its time to perfect it to give you one of the most satiating dishes you've had, and will leave you craving seconds.