The Bear Season 3 Review: What Was The Point?

Carmy’s pursuit for perfection is ruining The Bear, both the restaurant and the show.

This review contains spoilers for The Bear Season 3.

Now that streaming shows take multiple years to return, it was too good to be true believing The Bear, one of the only shows to release consistently, would be able to maintain its prestige quality. When The Bear debuted in 2022, it was a critical and audience darling, and Season 2 continued to impress. After sweeping at the Emmys, everyone declared The Bear some of the best television ever made. Unfortunately, this acclaim will be short-lived as Season 3 doesn’t come close to the inspired excellence of its predecessors.

Many, including executives, will try to place the blame for this lacklustre season on Creator/Showrunner Chris Storer. However, Storer and his creative team still produced some of The Bear’s finest moments through these less-than-ideal creative circumstances. The onus was on FX/Disney — not the creatives — to delay Season 3 once it was clear this chapter wasn’t coming together in the limited time given to production due to last year’s WGA and SAG strikes.

Last season, Michelin-trained Chef Carmy (Jeremy Allen White), his sous-chef turned business partner Sydney (Ayo Edebiri), and the rest of The Beef’s staff transformed their humble restaurant into a local fine-dining establishment, re-dubbed The Bear. Carmy was able to do this once he found the missing $300,000 loan given to his late brother Michael (Jon Bernthal) from Uncle ‘Unc’ Jimmy (Oliver Platt). After convincing Unc for an additional $500,000 and crafting a delectable new menu including Syd’s signature Cola-Braised Short Ribs with Risotto, the show seemed ready to return to the kitchen after a season of transformations. 

Shockingly, this season of The Bear is another that’s filled with changes instead of progression, undermining significant character development accomplished throughout the show’s run. Last season’s anxiety-inducing flashback episode, “Fishes,” highlighted the dysfunctional family dynamics Carmy and Natalie (Abby Elliott) grew up in, mainly stemming from their mother’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) mental health issues. This, coupled with the emotional abuse Carmy faced during his training as a chef, provided insight into his apparent PTSD, which often puts him and Sydney at odds. 

To maintain their friendship and partnership, the two developed an open dialogue to help usher them through inevitable conflict. It is disheartening to see so much of this development diminished this season, thanks to Carmy’s incessant need for perfection and, subsequently, a Michelin star. Things between the two chefs feel off right away in Episode 2 when Carmy introduces his long list of ridiculous restaurant non-negotiables to Syd and Richie, including changing the menu daily, meaning Syd’s Short Rib dish is no longer on it.

It’s not an understatement to say that Carmy drives Sydney away this season as she spends most of it contemplating a new Executive Chef job offer mere months after agreeing to be Carmy’s partner. It’s not hard to blame Sydney for wanting to jump ship, especially since she’s inheriting Carmy’s anxiety. The restaurant continues to struggle, especially with all the food waste and confusion from having a menu that changes daily. Richie and Carmy are barely talking after their blowout from last season’s finale, while Natalie, Sydney, and Unc try to reason with Carmy to get him to reduce their costs to stay in business. Perplexingly, that satisfying confrontation never occurs, and almost everything is left open-ended.

The result is that Season 3 feels like five episodes worth of material spread across ten, making it tough to distinguish the season’s main arc. Is it Sydney and Carmy’s deteriorating relationship? Is it Carmy’s drive for a Michelin star? Or is it the impending review everyone is anxiously waiting for? By the end, the season isn’t about anything other than pointing out that working in a restaurant is hard (again), causing the viewer to wonder: what was even the point of the season?

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Past seasons, even when different, felt purposeful and driven, whereas Season 3 feels entirely aimless, most notably proven in the finale, which ends with a private friend/family dinner at Chef Terry’s (Olivia Colman) closing restaurant. It features a slew of cameos from real-life chefs as they talk about their experiences working for horrible bosses in the kitchen, mirroring Sydney and Carmy’s relationship this season. Colman’s return is a welcome one, but even that is not enough to save the episode, whose sweet sentiment comes across as too on the nose. 

However, it’s not all frustrating. Season 3 delivers some of The Bear’s strongest episodes, which deserve recognition. Ayo Edebiri directs the hell out of Episode 6, “Napkins,” a flashback exploring Tina’s struggle looking for work before eventually finding The Beef. Her conversation with Michael at the end of the episode is a tear-jerker. Episode 8  is another absolute knockout. Finally prioritizing Natalie’s storyline, “Ice Chips” sees one of the best characters on the show get her chance to shine with a stunning assist from Jamie Lee Curtis. 

The final moments of the season show Carmy hit with an aggressive email from Unc, notifying him the review is out. Some digital clippings flash on the screen, but it happens so quickly that it’s impossible to know which way the review leaned. However, judging by Carmy’s reaction, things aren’t looking good for The Bear. The finale ends with a black screen and “To Be Continued…,” yet it’s almost impossible to see the path forward when every storyline and character arc is stunted. Still, with a Season 4 renewal already confirmed, there is hope that The Bear has one more transformation in store: a return to form. 

The Bear Season 3 is currently available to stream on Disney+.

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