The Bear Season 3: A culinary journey of ambition, alienation and artistry

The bear

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. “Confusing,” “Culinary,” “Excellent,” “Overdone.” If you’ve been watching Season Three of The Bear, these descriptions could be the words that popped out at Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) as he read the long-awaited Chicago Tribune review for his restaurant.

Or it could be viewers’ reactions to the anxiety-inducing, chaotic, and frenetic editing and yelling that can sum up this very blue (referring to the color grading) season.

To call Season Three a rollercoaster, with multiple loops where you grip and scream for your life, would be a vast understatement.

From its debut, The Bear has garnered acclaim for its portrayal of chef Carmen Berzatto’s tumultuous journey in the restaurant industry. Season Three, however, has faced a more divided reception compared to its predecessors, despite maintaining a solid 93% critical score on Rotten Tomatoes.

While earlier seasons focused sharply on specific challenges like restaurant revival and fine dining aspirations, this season took a drive through a hail storm trip into the chaotic aftermath of The Bear’s establishment without a clear narrative anchor.

At the center of this season is exploring themes of artistic ambition and the challenges of personal growth against a backdrop of financial pressures and emotional turmoil. There is a scene early on where Carmy and Cicero (Uncle Jimmy) go at it about Carmy changing the menu nightly and ordering expensive and rare ingredients such as paying $11,000 for Vermont-based Duck Butter. At its core, the season grappled with what it truly means to be an artist in the competitive world of haute cuisine.

Central to the narrative was the pivotal Chicago Tribune review, which catalyzed internal conflicts within The Bear’s kitchen crew. As Carmen faced the fallout of critical assessment and financial strain, his relationships with key figures like his prodigy Sydney became increasingly strained. Sydney, crucial to the restaurant’s success, found herself sidelined and undervalued as Carmen’s relentless pursuit of culinary perfection overshadowed personal connections.

Throughout the season, viewers witnessed Carmen’s descent into emotional isolation, haunted by past traumas and driven by an unyielding pursuit of acclaim. His inability to connect deeply with his team members, compounded by managerial decisions driven by ego rather than empathy, underscored the season’s exploration of the sacrifices demanded by artistic ambition.

Despite Carmen’s struggles, The Bear also highlighted the nurturing influence of other chefs, aside from his abusive mentor David Fields. These mentors played pivotal roles in Carmen’s growth, though he often failed to fully appreciate their guidance and support.

Central to the narrative was a poignant moment in the finale featuring renowned chef Thomas Keller, also of Per Se, who delivers a profound message to Carmen. In a flashback to Carmen’s early days at The Laundry, Keller imparts wisdom on the craftsmanship of cooking, emphasizing its profound impact on people’s lives. “I know people call me a chef, but our trade is cooking, and that, to me, is such a profound profession, because we get to be part of people’s lives in significant ways,” Keller tells Carmen as they prepare a family meal together.

Instead of going down that path, Carmy took the David Fields route, essentially alienating his team.

In a pivotal confrontation at the funeral dinner for the restaurant Ever, where Carmen once worked under the emotionally abusive Chef David (played by Joel McHale), Carmen confronts his former boss. Flashbacks throughout the season have revealed the toxic nature of their relationship, highlighting David’s demeaning treatment of Carmen.

“After f-ck you, I don’t have much,” Carmen tells David bluntly.

“You were an okay chef when you started with me. And you left an excellent chef, so you’re welcome,” David retorts, encapsulating their fraught history with biting sarcasm.

As Season 3 concluded, unresolved tensions and unanswered questions loomed large. The future of The Bear hangs in the balance, with Carmen’s leadership under scrutiny and Sydney contemplating a departure that could signal the end of an era for the restaurant.

With Season 4 on the horizon, viewers are left contemplating the consequences of Carmen’s choices and the possibility of redemption or further downfall. The Bear continues to captivate audiences with its blend of culinary drama, emotional depth, and thematic exploration of artistry and ambition. Fans eagerly await the next chapter in this captivating saga of creativity, connection, and the relentless pursuit of culinary excellence.

BOTTOM LINE: Despite its chaos and lack of substantive hurdles, Season Three of The Bear is a REEL See.