Carmen Berzatto returns from an illustrious culinary career to the humble 'Original Beef of Chicagoland'SAM ALLEN WITH PERMISSION FOR VARSITY

After the credits rolled on the final episode of the final season of Succession, I sat motionless in my bed for at least an hour, tears drying on my cheeks, wondering what on earth I was supposed to do with my life now. Several days of mourning and hours of scrolling on Twitter later, I concluded that there was only one cure for my heartbreak: Jeremy Allen White in The Bear.

The Bear centres around award-winning chef Carmen Berzatto, who returns from an illustrious culinary career to the humble ‘Original Beef of Chicagoland’, the sandwich shop previously owned by his late brother Michael. We bear witness to the unorthodox ways in which he tries to enact his new vision for the family restaurant, but, like all great films and TV shows, it’s not really about that at all. It’s actually a show about grief and the different ways that people deal with it, about attempting to maintain relationships with family members who make it almost impossible to do so, and about walking the line between committing to what you love and making time for who you love.

“walking the line between committing to what you love and making time for who you love”

Jeremy Allen White’s performance is what initially drew me to the series, and I wasn’t disappointed. White maintains a perfect balance between the obsessive, impatient perfectionist who thrives in the kitchen, and the deeply troubled, anxious young man who exists outside of it. His strikingly defined and deeply expressive eyes contain the same range of feeling as Jeremy Strong’s do in Succession, proving invaluable both in his angry outbursts and in his quieter, more vulnerable moments. As the two seasons progress, Carmen’s characterisation only strengthens, as does White’s acting, making for a believable and complicated character study which is rightfully garnering both online hype and critical acclaim, as well as an Emmy nomination for White.

For me, however, it isn’t White who steals the show, but his phenomenal co-star Ayo Edebiri as Sydney, the endlessly likeable sous chef. I want to be Sydney’s best friend, and I find myself rooting for her as though she is. Her chemistry with ‘Carmy’ (which I don’t believe is, or should be, romantic) creates the perfect foundation for the surrounding storylines, providing the stakes for everything that happens to the restaurant. It’s no longer just about selling sandwiches and impressing food critics, but also about what each success or failure does to the temperamental but ultimately tender friendship between them. The two are also backed up by an astounding ensemble cast, including Ebon Moss-Bachrach, who first blew me away as Desi in Girls. Here he plays Richie, the foul-mouthed manager who creates most of the chaos in the restaurant, but who shines in the more emotional scenes which explore his friendship with the late Michael and his struggle to find a place for himself within the team.

Don’t get me wrong, Season One is a great piece of television, but it wasn’t until Season Two that I truly started to see The Bear as existing among the very best series released in the past decade. In its second instalment, the show says goodbye to its format of eight 30-minute-long episodes, and expands into something longer and broader, with several episodes splintering off from the main plot and following individual characters. This includes ‘Honeydew’, a quiet and understated episode which follows shy but charismatic pastry chef Marcus to Copenhagen, and includes a surprising and captivating guest appearance from Will Poulter.


Mountain View

Gazing With Open Eyes at Succession

More incredible guest stars make an appearance in what might be the best episode of the entire show: ‘Fishes’. It’s over an hour long, and takes place half a decade before the main action of the series, as the Berzatto family gather together for an expectedly chaotic Christmas dinner. Thankfully it doesn’t feel at all tacked-on or overly expositional; it succeeds in framing both the episodes to come and the episodes we’ve already seen by exploring Carmen’s extended family and the impact they have had on his life and work. Bob Odenkirk, Jon Bernthal and Jamie Lee Curtis steal the show here, and the absurdity of Bernthal and Odenkirk’s fight over a fork reminded me of the ‘boar on the floor’ scene in Succession. Both shows demonstrate that when it comes to depicting family conflict, the best way to explore its complexity is to start with the absurd and, in doing so, expose what is real.

“the best way to explore its complexity is to start with the absurd and, in doing so, expose what is real”

The Bear stands apart from most other TV shows being released at the moment largely due to the consistent quality of its writing. Apart from one or two scenes with friend-turned-love interest Claire in Season Two, who is perhaps the only poorly written character, the dialogue is realistic, hilarious, and contains a true depth of emotion. There is an equally consistent quality to the cinematography, most notably the now internet-famous montages of the chefs at work (which now play out in my head every time I cook something). I can safely say that by the end of the second season, I’d entirely forgotten that a whole other show had prompted my viewing at all.

The Bear is currently streaming on Disney Plus