review

The Bear season three: Another flawless season of one of the best shows of this century

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
The third season of The Bear is streaming now.
The third season of The Bear is streaming now. Credit: Disney/FX

You know a TV series is at its peak powers when it can recall big-time guest stars Olivia Colman, Will Poulter, Joel McHale and Thomas Keller and scatter them in an episode of hazy flashbacks in which they’re never on screen for more than 20 seconds.

Now that’s a flex.

The Bear returns for its third season today and it makes another convincing argument for why it’s one of the most universally acclaimed series of this century.

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From the intensity of the performances and the rhythm of its writing and direction to the fact it actually cares about character development, The Bear is a masterclass on how serialised screen storytelling can sustain its quality over time.

Like one of Carmy’s non-negotiables, “You have to be excellent every day”, The Bear is always operating at a heightened level. Although, hopefully, its writers’ room and set are a little more forgiving than Carmy’s kitchen.

THE BEAR  Tomorrow  Season 3, Episode 1 (Airs Thursday, June 27th)  Pictured: (l-r) Jeremy Allen White as Carmen Carmy Berzatto, Ayo Edebiri as Sydney Adamu. CR: FX.
Ayo Edebiri and Jeremy Allen White in The Bear. Credit: Disney/FX

From the start, The Bear has been obsessed with hard work, in its case, everything it takes to run a restaurant – the stunningly beautiful art-like aesthetic of its plating, that you can almost taste the complexity of the flavours, despite the literal impossibility of such a feat, that it luxuriates in scenes of people just being good at their jobs.

But if this was just a show that admired talent, grit and a work ethic, it wouldn’t be as compulsive as it is. It’s The Bear’s examination of the cost of that commitment to greatness.

At the core of that is gastronomy extraordinaire Carmy, played by Emmy winner, the internet’s favourite boyfriend and now Calvin Klein underwear model, Jeremy Allen White.

That first episode with its flurry of celebrity cameos is 36 mins of non-linear flashbacks of Carmy’s life leading up to the day of the previous season’s emotionally explosive finale.

It’s almost wordless, jumping from moment to moment, evoking familiar scenes but previously unseen interactions. It’s also scored to a calming piece of music that wouldn’t be out of place at a day spa but you know that it’s a hypnotic illusion.

Because Carmy is a wreckage of anguish and pain, it’s baked into his very being. The camera lingers on close-ups of his face, focused on the furrowed brow and the tight set of his jaw. Even when he’s winning, he’s not. No perfect plate of food, no impeccable service, will counter that he doesn’t believe he deserves love.

Over the three seasons released so far, we’ve seen Carmy at varying levels of inner distress. Sometimes he’s close to contentment, and then he backslides. Emotional journeys, like the first episode’s flashbacks, are non-linear.

The third season of The Bear is streaming now.
The Bear continues to be excellent. Credit: Disney/FX

He’s able to tell Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) he loves him in a voicemail, something he would not have been able to do in season one, but then in the next episode, the two are bickering like warring dictators.

The kitchen is, again, anarchy – Carmy wants new dishes every day, and the costs are blowing out because he insists on $11,000 butter from Orwell, Vermont, Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) still feels as if her voice isn’t important despite her partnership stake, and Sugar (Abby Elliott) just wants to press pause on her pregnancy.

They’re chasing a Michelin star as if the external validation will somehow plug some other hole they’re too scared to acknowledge. When Carmy is confronted with a wall of images of food critics, he says, “I hate this feeling”.

The Bear is both a celebration and a cautionary tale, and both things can be true. That it wants to hold those seeming contradictions in the same hand and gives you no comfortable answers, speaks to a series that is still curious, maddened and compassionate about messy, messy humans.

Rating: 5/5

The Bear is streaming now on Disney+

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