Sure, FX’s series The Bear is technically a show about cooking—just look at the way “Yes, Chef” took off across the internet last season. It had viewers craving the dishes made and real chefs and BOH (back of house) cooks commenting on the authenticity of the show. And while this is still true, Season 2 reinforced that the show is also about family—the one you run from, and the one you choose to create.
It’s worth noting this isn’t breaking news. After all, the whole premise of Season 1 of The Bear was Carmy returning home to run his brother’s restaurant after he took his own life. And it was there we met some of the Berzattos. We laughed with and at Cousin. We fell in love with Nat. We got to meet Mikey in flashbacks. Family was always a through-line of the show. But this season, thanks to the smart move of the writers, we got to leave the kitchen with the characters and understand who they were underneath their aprons.
Some of this was literal. We learned more about Sydney’s family—a dad who (understandably) worries about his daughter’s well-being as she strives to make her dream come true. A worry only exacerbated by the fact that he’s raising Sydney alone after his wife—her mom—passed when she was four. But after ‘Friends & Family’ night at the newly anointed The Bear, finally gets “The Thing” Syd has been talking about all this time.
We also learned more about Marcus. Who when he’s not whipping up amazing desserts, is caring for his mother whose health is declining despite outliving the timeframe originally diagnosed by doctors.
And then there was Episode 6, “Fishes,” a flashback episode to Christmas at the Berzattos a few years prior. The episode itself warrants its own recap and deep dive. It was filled with a cast of cameos that should’ve taken viewers out of the world created by the show, but instead was perfectly cast and shed so much light into not just who Carmy, Nat and Cousin are, but why. It was a stress-inducing, emotionally-taxing episode that showed Mikey at the height of his addiction, and Donna—played by give-her-the-guest-star-Emmy-now Jamie Lee Curtis—the matriarch who was clearly suffering from her own issues and psychoses. It explains why Nat is such a worrier, why the fallout of Cousin’s marriage was so devastating and why Carmy chose to ultimately stay away from his family for his own well-being. Above all, though, it explained why the family created in The Bear’s kitchen is so important.
Because family is complicated. It doesn’t matter if you’re brought together by blood or by flour. It tests you. It disappoints. But it also pushes you to be better. It keeps it real. It has your back—even, and especially, when things are going wrong.
It’s about support. Carmy shows this in what he does for his fellow chefs. He sends Tina to Culinary School (!), Marcus to Copenhagen, and Cousin to a fancy restaurant. While Cousin originally thinks it’s because Carmy wants him out of his hair, thanks to another perfectly cast cameo in Olivia Colman, he realizes it’s actually the exact opposite—it’s because Carmy believes in him.
Carmy ends up on the receiving end of that support too. At the aforementioned ‘Friends & Family’ night, Carmy (through a bout of self-induced karma) ends up locked in the fridge as orders and chaos are piling up. While Carmy spirals, his kitchen-family steps up. Cousin, thanks to his stint at the restaurant, puts his new skills and “suit-of-armor” to use and rallies the cooks in a 5-minute sprint to success—even with one cook missing because he was out in the alley doing meth.
It’s about sacrifice. It’s Donna actually showing up to her kid’s big night, only to ultimately not go in out of fear she would ruin it. It’s Nat, managing timelines, projects, and disasters, and agreeing to officially join the family business all the while being ready to pop. It’s Marcus stepping up and being such a team player that he ultimately misses what are likely devastating calls from his mother’s at-home care. It’s Tina putting her pride aside and growing into a sous chef that makes her worthy of keeping Carmy’s fancy knife.
It’s about love. It’s Fak stopping at nothing to figure out the gas and fire system so they could open on time. It’s Nat’s husband lying about Donna showing up, to protect not only Nat but Donna too. It’s Carmy and Syd’s belief in each other and their dreams, despite the odds stacked against them. It’s opening The Bear in your brother’s memory.
It’s about forgiveness. It’s the way Tina understands why Ebraheim couldn’t complete his classes. It’s Cousin forgiving Sydney for accidentally stabbing him in the ass last season, and ultimately looking out for her dad on their big night. It’s rubbing your chest in ASL to apologize when pressure and emotions get the best of you.
Every single one of these characters has grown so much from Season 1, which yes, is the point of TV. But through the second season, we really got to understand why. We got to see that the driving force for all of them was this desire to belong—and not just in the kitchen of The Bear, but as family, to each other.
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