This past weekend, I got done binge-watching the first season of The Bear on Hulu. The ads for this show are popping up everywhere, and it’s taken social media by storm. People are effervescent with praise about this show, many are thirsting after actor Jeremy Allen White, and I am here to give you my honest review of the first season. Spoilers: I enjoyed this show quite a bit.
There are no spoilers in this review besides basic plot details.
The Wikipedia Description of The Bear
The Bear is an American drama television series created by Christopher Storer. It premiered on FX on Hulu on June 23, 2022, and stars Jeremy Allen White, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Ayo Edebiri, Lionel Boyce, Liza Colón-Zayas, and Abby Elliott.
HOW I WOULD DESCRIBE The Bear:
Jeremy Allen White plays Carmy, a world-class chef attempting to restore and reinvigorate his brother’s classic Chicago Italian Beef shop in the face of financial hardship and the trauma following his brother’s abrupt suicide. Carmy is surrounded by a cavalcade of eccentric characters and family members. Similar to a high-level kitchen, The Bear, feels like a non-stop, fast pace environment not made for the faint of heart. The Bear is anxiety-inducing in a way that’s addicting because it feels like you’re chasing a thrill while watching. It’s that moment when something works or goes right that the anxiety gets flushed away and feels ultimately satisfying. The show is about passion, family, and a lifelong search for fulfillment/satisfaction.
If you watched Shameless, Jeremy Allen White plays a role similar to Lip Gallagher, where he feels like a savant trying to make the best out of a chaotic situation. He is so brilliant and so flawed at the same time.
WHAT WAS MY IMMEDIATE REACTION AFTER WATCHING:
Simultaneously, I had a sense of relief and emptiness getting through this season. The Bear perfectly captures a kitchen’s volume, intensity, speed, and heat perfectly. Kitchens are loud environments from the sound of the grills, ovens, and various machines to the banging of shuffling pots, pans, and plates to the moving feet of all the chefs with all the yelling and shouting to communicate orders. There is a real sensory overload when watching the show that makes for good television because you can genuinely feel something; however, if the noise forced someone to turn off the TV, I wouldn’t blame them.
The loudness and intensity of the kitchen have you cherishing the intimate and quiet scenes where two characters share a moment of close dialogue. You hang on and extrapolate a lot from those small moments because pretty soon, you’ll be hitting a dinner rush where the work and pace will again feel non-stop. Watching these characters struggle and deal with the heat of working in the kitchen gives me goosebumps. But when they cook a good-ass dish and can celebrate what they’ve accomplished, it feels euphoric. Likewise, you feel like gutter trash when characters fail or stumble.
When an episode ends, there is a sense of relief because you get a second to breathe. At the same time, you feel empty because you want to chase the high of that potential good feeling again, and since there are only 8 episodes, you get left wanting more.
WHAT ARE THE SHOW’S WEAKNESSES AND GENERAL CRITICISMS:
I tried to go through Forums to find the most common complaints about The Bear.
To kick-off, I saw people describe The Bear as just a cooking show that’s a bit too self-important. My response is most television characters and humans are self-important. Additionally, it’s not just a cooking show; The Bear uses cooking and food as a vehicle to depict familial relationships, artistic craft, and at the end of the day, food is the basic substance needed to live. Food is something we all relate to — it can be tasty, it can be comforting, and it can be sexy.
Another complaint I saw is that the show is not accurate to Chicago. In all honesty, I was a bit shocked we didn’t get more of Chicago featured in the show; then again, we’ve only had 8 episodes.
The major complaint is the volume and pace are all over the place. As alluded to above, frenetic pace and loudness are purposeful. It is authentic to a fast-paced kitchen; you can’t control when a dinner rush happens or when something breaks and halts production. If you don’t want to feel stressed, don’t watch The Bear.
MY 1 BIG COMPLAINT:
Carmy’s sister Sugar, played by Abby Elliott, is not very likable. I kept waiting for her character to get expanded upon so we get to see a fully dimensional character, and it never happens. I am going to stay optimistic for Season 2.
WHAT WERE THE BEST PARTS OF THIS SHOW:
Jeremy Allen White is a maestro in this show. Watching The Bear hit home how garbage the final few seasons of Shameless were. Shameless became an absolute clown car of chaos lacking total consistency. In The Bear, he feels and looks like a damaged master chef. His character Carmy carries so much trauma and damage, yet is clearly brilliant and ultimately has a good soul. It makes his mistakes feel raw and powerful because good humans sometimes make poor choices. In spite of it all, White acts as a proper head chef when things are rolling, and he feels in control of the role. Not to mention, the guy looks hot as fuck in this show. Every woman I’ve talked with about this show, I try to message about Italian Beef Sandwiches, and they just want to thirst over him like he’s a piece of meat! You go, Jeremy.
While White is the clear star of this show, his sous-chef Sydney played by Ayo Edebiri, is a shining gem and potentially the breakout star of this series. Ayo’s Sydney is eager to learn from White’s Carmy, though she understands her own self-worth as cooking is her passion, and she’s damn good at it. Even though the two characters get set up in the traditional head chef/sous-chef roles, there is something about Ayo’s Sydney where they could easily become co-leads as the show evolves.
The actual second-billed character of this show is Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s Richie, the best friend of Mikey, who helped run the shop before Carmy’s arrival (following Mikey’s suicide). Ebon’s portrayal of Richie is deeply fascinating. Richie is a profoundly insecure character who sometimes acts in an antagonist role; however, he is, at his core, someone who just wants to matter and feel connected to something. Through all the insecurity and issues he brings, Ebon’s Richie is someone who would take a bullet for his family. It’s a unique situation where you’re not 100% sure how you should feel about Richie. Someone who should 100% put a smile on your face is Odd Future member Lionel Boyce and his portrayal of Marcus, the restaurant’s resident baker. Simply a fun, likable guy and someone I hope to see more of in Season 2.
So what does The Bear do best? It’s a high-speed fucking slog of a show — and yes, I mean that in a good way. The show pushes the pace and throws so much at you in any way that’s discombobulating, and because of that, it feels authentic. Anyone who has lived paycheck to paycheck or lived their lives consistently facing an uphill battle will tell you things never slow down. In The Bear, so much shit goes sideways, and they always have to keep pushing through because if you stop, life will run you over. It makes you appreciate all the seconds where life slows down, and occasionally something good might happen. Or, at the very least, you’ll eat a delicious sandwich that makes your life better for a bit.
MY FINAL GRADE: 9.9 out of 10 (A+)