The Bear S2E1 Recap: “Beef” — Purpose and Pizza Boxes

Carmy and Sydney watch The Beef sign come down in The Bear Season 2 premiere
Photo Credit: Chuck Hodes/FX

The following recap contains spoilers for The Bear S2E1, “Beef” (written and directed by Christopher Storer)

In the opening minutes of the pilot episode in Season 1 of The Bear, we see Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto staring down an actual grizzly bear that has been freed from its cage. Why that bear kept popping up throughout Season 1 of the FX on Hulu breakout show last summer remains a mystery, but my chips are all in on one theory.

“Bear” was a familial, colloquial name for just about everyone in the Berzatto family or extended family. Carmy, his sister Sugar (Natalie), and Michael—the brother they lost to suicide—all used the nickname at one point. Carmy staring down that bear, as we wait to see who wins, symbolized Carmy finally having to come face-to-face with his family after years apart. The stress, the addiction, the financial trouble, the restaurant, all were a part of the family that was ready to attack Carmy when he came back from New York. Season 1 showed us from the very beginning that this season would be about the showdown with that family name and Carmy’s attempt both rescue and assimilate back into it.

Richie and Carmy talk about purpose
Photo Credit: Chuck Hodes/FX

Similar to Season 1, the premiere episode of Season 2, “Beef,” may have just signaled what the rest of the season will ultimately be about. In the opening minutes when Carmy is brainstorming with his team about the new restaurant, he can’t find Richie. Eventually, Carmy finds Richie in the basement, staring at old family photos and contemplating what may be next for the loud-mouthed “cousin.” He asks Carmy about purpose, and Richie is scared one morning he is going to wake up and everyone else at the restaurant will have realized Richie has no skill, no ingenuity, and no purpose.

He’s terrorized by a story he read about long-time friends who eventually distance themselves from the one who couldn’t ever find his purpose in life. It’s a bittersweet conversation the two have in the backdrop of last season and Michael’s still stinging death, but it also sets the stage for what we will find in this second season of The Bear. Each person in this story has some kind of purpose. What is it, and more importantly, do they follow it?


Maybe it’s no accident that “Carmy” just fits right in with “confident,” “cocky,” “crazy,” “chaotic,” and all the other words he, Sydney and Sugar use to describe the ambition to try and open a new restaurant in three months, much less six. But after days and maybe weeks of planning, demo, and planning budgets on the back of pizza boxes, Carmy doesn’t know what to do with himself when he heads home early one evening. He’s like the kid in the Stanford marshmallow experiment who is told he can’t cook for months. He may have admitted to Richie that none of it is “fun” for him, but Richie calls his bluff and tells him they all know he loves every second of it.

All it takes is one short glimpse of his French Laundry chef jacket with the “CB” emblazoned on it for Carmy grab that marshmallow and devour it. His purpose is to cook. And he can’t cook until he has a restaurant. And he can’t have a restaurant until he starts busting his ass every single day to open it. Vision-casting on a white board in his apartment won’t get a restaurant built, and certainly won’t make it profitable.

Carmy is motivated, hungry, and has cash to back his dream courtesy of a new deal with Uncle Jimmy. With that in mind, I think we fully see the Bear unleashed and uncaged this season as he (maybe tumultuously) leads this group to success.


In the final scene of the episode, Sydney also goes full “No Sleep ‘Til, No Sleep ‘Til Bear” on Carmy and Sugar. In a few short days, we are seeing a new, more confident version of Sydney who isn’t afraid to stand up to Richie, Uncle Jimmy, Sugar, and anyone else who stands in her way of creating a “destination” restaurant that will be better than all those other places you can throw a rock and hit from their location.

Sydney plans a restaurant budget on a pizza box
Photo Credit: Chuck Hodes/FX

Until now, Sydney has always been the Robin to someone else’s Batman in her culinary journey. Even when Carmy turned over the chef role to her last season, she had his experience and expertise always following her and questioning her. Combined with the failed catering business that forced her back into her parents’ house, Sydney has always failed the leadership test.

But she now is responsible for getting the crew together that will make the restaurant hum. Forced into a leadership role, we may find the best, most purposeful version of Sydney. No longer the new girl with a little notebook, she may now finally become the Chef De Cuisine with a big voice.


Early reports and reviews out of Season 2 all hinted that we might be seeing a lot more of Abby Elliott’s Natalie “Sugar” Berzatto as she ramps up her involvement as reluctant co-owner of the restaurant. It becomes clear just when Carmy and Sydney are going down the punch list that they will need a project manager if they want to stand a chance of opening a new place. Sydney spends the episode trying to convince Nat to do it, although it seems that she would have to force down a lot of platefuls of tax codes and regulator policies in this role.

Sydney, Sugar, and Carmy discuss the timeline for a new restaurant
Photo Credit: Chuck Hodes/FX

Is project manager of a new restaurant Sugar’s purpose? Most certainly not. We know from Season 1 that her purpose has been trying to reconnect and save her family after the awful trauma of her brother’s suicide. She likely sees the ability to work with Carmy, Richie, and Uncle Jimmy every day as a way she can walk farther down that road to repair. Maybe if they can all build something together it will help


Even in the short interlude between seasons, things have gotten even better between Sydney and her former adversary Tina. For the first time, Sydney seems to want to be a part of the team instead of an individual who works at a restaurant. Once Sydney publicly declares she wants The Bear to have a star, she knows she has painted herself into a culinary corner where she has to pay an exorbitant amount for someone with that level of skill, or train one of the former ne’er-do-wells from The Beef to play the role.

Sydney’s first choice is Tina, who has come a long way since she couldn’t get the new mashed potatoes right last season. Sydney wants Tina to be her sous chef, which is something that literally leaves Tina speechless. My favorite moment from the entire first episode was the silent focus on Tina’s face for 10 full seconds after she learns Sydney chose her.

Sydney asks Tina to be her sous chef in The Bear S2E1, "Beef"
Photo Credit: Chuck Hodes/FX

We know from Season 2 trailers that Tina and Ebram will be attending some kind of culinary school this season, and I am sure that they are not the traditional students those places churn out. When faced with adversity and isolation, will Tina continue to pursue her newfound purpose and be the person Sydney believes she can be?


The opening scene of the season is Marcus in a hospital room gently caring for what must be an elderly relative. Perhaps a grandmother (who has the deflating toilet seat cover) or mother. He moisturizes her hands, takes care of some items in the room, and then scrapes the ice off his windshield so he can head back to The Bear for another day of restaurant planning.

Music was such an integral part of Season 1, so it may be no coincidence that the first song we hear in the season is “The Show Must Go On” by Bruce Hornsby. The lyrics in this song could define Marcus’ journey this season.

“Everyone watching all along
The show goes on
As the autumn’s coming and the summer’s all gone
Still without you, the show goes on”

Marcus clearly has talent as a burgeoning pastry chef. Even when Carmy was literally ripping his donuts to shreds in Season 1, no one could deny he had talent. But more importantly, he had drive and passion. But will we see the responsibility to family come into conflict with his passion this season? As someone who seems to be an essential part of any new culinary endeavor, can the show go on without Marcus? As I dive deeper into this season, I’m hoping we don’t have to find out.

Questions for the Rest of The Bear Season 2

  • What is Richie’s purpose? He doesn’t really have the restaurant skills or the people skills to fit in at an upscale place like The Bear, so what is he supposed to do? I’m perhaps looking forward to this storyline the most.
  • So what was the deal with the money Carmy found in the KBL cans? It was just the cash Uncle Jimmy gave him so that he could one day franchise The Beef? That doesn’t make much sense, because why would you not just put it in the back or hide it under your mattress? Did he put it in the cans so he couldn’t access the money and use it to buy drugs? That’s the only logical thing I can think of, otherwise it was a very long-term plan to kill himself and leave the money to Carmy to decide how to best use it.
  • How in the world does a Chicago guy like Richie think that it’s Kevin “McAlliper” and not Kevin McAllister?
  • Who is the “L” in KBL? The name Uncle Jimmy uses is “Uncle Lee Layne” whom Carmy immediately says is “not my uncle.” I get the impression Carmy doesn’t want anything to do with this Lee Layne, but he is in deep with him already. Could it possibly be Bob Odenkirk’s character? Odenkirk as an antagonist? Yes, chef!

Written by Ryan Kirksey

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *