The Bear S2E10 Recap: Friends and Family (Season 2 Finale)

“The Bear”

Carmy stuck inside of a walk in refrigerator
Photo courtesy of Chuck Hodes/FX

The following recap contains spoilers for The Bear Season 2 finale, S2E10, “The Bear” (written by Kelly Galuska and directed by Christopher Storer)

If Season 2 of The Bear really was about purpose, and finding meaning in what can often be a mess of a life, the finale for this sophomore season, fittingly titled “The Bear,” showed that purpose can’t come without transformation. That change can’t come without sacrifice. And finding meaning can’t come without denying oneself in service of something greater.

Over the course of just over three months, Carmy, Sydney, Richie, Sugar, and the whole crew transformed what was once a culinary institution into what they hope will be a culinary icon. But all the changes at the restaurant during this brilliant follow-up to Season 1 just served as a lighthouse, shining a spotlight on the many and diverse transformations happening to everyone who was pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into achieving Carmy and Sydney’s vision.

Over the course of 13 weeks, these employees put in Herculean efforts to get rid of mold, bring in new equipment, learn new menus, find the right fixtures, and fine-tune their cooking abilities. But the hardest work they all did was on themselves, and opening night—Friends and Family Night—at The Bear shows just how far they have all come. But it also shows just how far some of them still may have to go.

When it comes to where we find each of our main players at the end of the dress rehearsal first service, The Bear gives us what it does best. This show never fully lets its characters completely overcome their pasts, their mistakes, and their fragile psychologies. We get small steps and little bits of progress. Never would we have expected a finale where all the work and planning from the staff would lead to a flawless dinner service. That’s not real life. Instead of serving us a full five-course meal of perfection, we are treated to what I would call a selection of amuse bouches of satisfaction.

It certainly wasn’t enough for us to sit back and say we are done with this plate of characters (please television gods, let there be a Season 3!). It whets our appetites enough to know what we want much more of whatever they can cook up next.

Tina and Sydney get T-bone plates ready for dinner service
Photo Courtesy of Chuck Hodes/FX

From the opening 15 minutes of the episode (a single take scene that is a call back to Season 1’s “Review”), we witness firsthand the controlled chaos of the dinner service that has just kicked off. The way Christopher Storer brilliantly shoots this scene, we see the service from the perspective of just about every main cast member. Darting back and forth between the front of house and back of house is akin to many of the episodes in this series where the chaos of cooking or construction often leads to quiet, poignant moments between characters in the back alley in previous episodes.

After the stage (or stage) is set, the problems begin to mount. They are running out of forks, a toilet is clogged (perhaps you also saw yourself in Sugar taking out her frustrations on that poor clogged toilet), new line chef Josh (Alex Moffat) is caught in the alley smoking crack (on the first night? Really, dude?), and focaccia bread is running behind. But our team can rise up and handle these challenges because of their various transformations. The back of the house may seem like constant fires to be put out, but in the front of the house, wine is in the glasses and smiles are on the faces because Richie, his new suit of armor, and his commitment to service are in charge.

Richie already knows Sydney’s dad does not drink alcohol, so Fak delivers Bear Pop Service. Later in the evening, Richie delivers a chocolate-covered banana to Uncle Jimmy, a call-back to Jimmy’s story in “Fishes” about good memories of his dad buying him those. Richie knows their names, their stories, their preferences, and he is knocking every possible act of service out of the park.

But all of this is kids’ menu stuff compared to what happens next. With three-fourths of the episode left, Carmy, the executive chef, the visionary, and the restaurant’s namesake, gets locked into the walk-in refrigerator. It’s the long-telegraphed result of Carmy trying to divide his attention between his new girlfriend, Claire, and his insistence to his staff that his focus is still lasered in on the finest details of the restaurant. He promised everyone multiple times he would get the refrigerator repairman out to fix the handle. There was never a follow-through on that and now Carmy is trapped in a cold, dark box of his own regret and self-loathing.

Richie takes over the expo station while Carmy is stuck in the walk-in
Photo Courtesy of Chuck Hodes/FX

Ironically, Carmy’s mistake and absence allow Sydney, Richie, and Tina to shine. This is the moment they have spent this season preparing for (as Garrett describes the experience in Episode 7, “This is the freaking Super Bowl every day”). Sydney takes over all food supervision, Richie runs the expo station (alongside a perfect needle drop with Pearl Jam’s “Animal”), Tina covers crack-head Josh and managers the other chefs, and even lovable loser Fak is able to keep the front of house humming.

Meanwhile, Carmy’s plate of contributions has been removed from the table, and that causes him to spiral. He’s consumed with the abusive words of his former executive chef (Joel McHale), he focuses on everything he’s done wrong since walking back into The Beef, he feels the weight of the love people had for his brother Michael crashing down on him. But most of all he agonizes with the tension that came with trying to love Claire and find the “fun” he was seeking in Episode 2 and being a “fucking psycho” which is exactly what it takes to succeed in the restaurant business.

The debate about Claire’s role in shaping or defining Carmy is an interesting one. This show seems to try to lean into the theme of what it takes to find happiness and contentment in all the things you do and if that’s even possible. Claire essentially is Chekov’s gun for this throughline of the season. From the moment we see her in the convenience store in Episode 2, we know her presence will be the center of the universe in which all of Carmy’s decisions will revolve. I, for one, was hoping Claire would bring a sense of perspective and peace to Carmy’s broken history, and maybe if he hadn’t been locked in the walk-in she might have.

But Carmy’s calculus is that his blossoming relationship with her is what caused him to forget to call the repairman, caused him to make so many mistakes, and caused him to—worst of all—lose focus. He hates himself for it and when Claire overhears him say “no amount of good is worth how terrible this feels,” she is crushed not by just the words she hears, but the conviction with which he says them.

Claire wearing a black dress leans her head against the walk-in
Photo Courtesy of Chuck Hodes/FX.

His final thought about Claire and the relationship that “it’s all just a complete fuckin’ waste of time” proves that despite all Carmy has built, achieved, and conquered, he might just be the one who has the most transforming still to do. Claire’s voicemail he discovers later confirms that. She knows how proud Michael would be of what Carmy has done. But we know Michael wanted Carmy to build up not just brick and mortar, but himself as well.

Overall, this season infused a tremendous amount of heart and emotion into what could have been a deep dive into the dreary and laborious work of what it takes to open a restaurant, especially under a cloud of an uncertain industry. I mentioned to my podcast co-host that I did not expect to tear up during a successful fire suppression test or to Richie singing Taylor Swift lyrics, but here we are. Season 2 delivered an almost flawless follow-up meal to the surprise hit of Season 1. And with a show that is so unique and so different compared to many of its prestige television peers, maybe a departure from chaos and broad themes is how we can best describe this season.

When Sydney asks her father how everything was during his dinner, he simply says it was “absolutely incredible. It is the thing.”

Questions Heading into a Potential Season 3

  • What does the day after for Carmy and Claire look like? How does the voicemail he heard impact him and would Claire even take him back?
  • Assuming something awful has happened to Marcus’ mother, will he continue to travel down the Carmy hyper-focused path to becoming a pastry chef?
  • Carmy wanted nothing to do with food critic reviews in Season 1. Will he need them for the restaurant to survive in Season 3?
  • Considering her past with her own mother, what kind of mother does Natalie choose to be, and does that mean the restaurant suffers without her oversight?
  • Was the Richie/Carmy fight at the end of the finale just another notch in their rivalry bed post or is this a Tom/Shiv type of fight that they can’t come back from?
  • And what is sure to be the MacGuffin in Season 3: Can The Bear become profitable enough in less than 15 months so Carmy can pay back Uncle Jimmy the $800,000 debt?

Written by Ryan Kirksey

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