The show, which debuted its second season in June, managed to surpass its great first season.
Last July, I called The Bear, at the end of its first season, the best streaming show of 2022, with a case for the best show overall. Against all odds — especially in these days when so many streaming shows have notable sophomore slumps — The Bear has repeated, with a second season even better than the first.
The first season ended with chef Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) deciding to close The Beef, the Chicago Italian beef restaurant owned by his late brother, and turn it into an upscale sit-down restaurant. The second season of the Christopher Storer-created show, which debuted on Hulu in June, aims a bit higher than the first and hits the mark repeatedly.
Here are five reasons why The Bear remains the best show on television:
More than one kind of acting showcase
The Bear does not feature actors who were especially well-known before the series, with main actors Jeremy Allen White, Ayo Edebiri, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach mostly known previously for a few TV credits; Oliver Platt was probably the biggest name in the cast at the time of the show’s launch.
But the show was expertly cast at the start, with find after find, and the cast got even better in Season 2, with the addition of Molly Gordon as a love interest, one-shot appearances from the likes of Olivia Colman and Will Poulter, and the Episode 6 guest-star blowout — with Jamie Lee Curtis, Bob Odenkirk, John Mulaney, Sarah Paulson, and others — likely to notch a whole bunch of Emmys.
A look at manhood
There’s a lot of talk these days about media depictions of masculinity, and The Bear is rather nuanced about that. It shows a few different ways of being a man, and masculinity in forms toxic and not.
This is best shown in the depiction of Richie, who adapts throughout the season from a freshly divorced rage case to the sort of guy who wears suits and signs along to Taylor Swift in his car.
And while Carmy and Richie both grow throughout the season, it doesn’t stop them from screaming at each other, through a locked freezer door, in the season finale.
A little romance
The first season lacked a love interest for Carmy, and gets one in the second one, in Molly Gordon’s Claire, his high school one-that-got-away-turned-girlfriend. But the show isn’t shy about noting that a man with an executive chef’s lifestyle cannot date someone especially easily.
And throughout, their relationship is scored with different versions of R.E.M.’s “Strange Currencies.” Speaking of which….
All that music
The Bear was notorious in its first season for its fantastic soundtrack, including multiple songs by Chicago’s own Wilco. That continued in the second season, in what it often felt like the showrunners had raided my CD collection and iTunes playlists from the 1990s and aughts.
Beyond “Strange Currencies, the show dropped Weezer’s “The Christmas Song” at the end of the Christmas episode, plus a whole episode that seemed dedicated to The Replacements. Beef had the best needle drops of the year, at least until now. The showrunners talked to Uproxx’s Steven Hyden about their choices.
It knows the restaurant world
The Bear has been described by many who have worked in restaurants as the closest thing to the real thing they’ve ever seen depicted in fiction. And the second season explored a different dimension of the business, of a new restaurant opening.
Sure, the financial details didn’t always make sense, as The Ringer pointed out in a fine exploration of that, but the second season made me care a great deal whether they got the new restaurant up and running or not.