The Bear just returned for its second season on Hulu, and we threw a party in Brooklyn, home of star Jeremy Allen White. For the uninitiated, and those unwittingly relying on AI bot reviews, we are talking about the show set in a Chicago sandwich shop – not the movie about the beast who snorted his way through a cocaine barrel and threw a party with himself.
But as AI is increasingly used to determine which shows and films we hear about, we rounded up several humans to weigh in on the new season of the FX/ Hulu show – and gathered up their very human, nuanced takes. Here’s what they had to say after two episodes.
What made the show resonate in its first season?
The people who joined us at the Easy Lover bar in Williamsburg had already caught the first season of the show last year and explained why it became an unlikely “watercooler show” for them. A few themes emerged: How the series captures the pursuit of a dream, the stakes of opening a small business, and how life-consuming and financially-consuming it can be. The show’s premise especially hit home for one viewer who grew up in a restaurant and watched how much it took from her father and his business partner.
But the sibling relationships at the core of the story were also part of what kept people engaged and waiting for more. The spoken and unspoken competition between siblings is something a lot of viewers can relate to.
For anyone from Chicago, the draw is nostalgia – and how lovingly the series paints the city and the character’s return home. “The references feel authentic.”
What the algos can’t tell you
AI can’t capture the mood of a show or how it makes you feel. And the streamers simply bucket The Bear as a comedy. But as our event host JR Atkinson pointed out, there’s a level of stress and intensity to the world of restaurants that can make the series feel tense – sometimes too tense for those looking for a fun, easy show to unwind with.
At our Watercooler watch party for the new season, though, viewers felt like the tension was offset by more teamwork in the second season. “There’s a real ‘gang’s all together’ feeling this season,” offered Greg Broe, “almost the Ted Lasso-ification of The Bear.” Though the group generally agreed that the rest of the season would probably complicate that narrative.
Capturing the “brand” of comedy in a show can be tricky, but the second season has elements of slapstick — a ceiling suddenly caving in after being gently poked with a broom handle.
Another resonant scene for the group was when the precocious sous-chef Sydney tries to explain her culinary aspirations to her father, who doesn’t really get it. One viewer found that relatable for anyone with creative drives and families who don’t quite understand the endless sacrifices.
As for the tone, for those who like their shows more uplifting right now, the second season is less about grief, so far, and more about a team working toward a goal together.
The best parts
“I see it as a workplace comedy for the modern era […],” offered Cam Burger. “Watching it in contrast with Atlanta (which shares the same executive producer, Hiro Murai), it feels more earnest and episodic, like every episode ends on a hopeful note.”
But it’s a comedy that is also artistically shot, with believable actors and smart writing. The montages of Chicago are loving and warm, the editing keeps up with its frantic setting while leaving breathing room when necessary, and the jokes hit as fresh and original. For a few viewers, that alone makes it worth the watch.
“It’s a comedy known for its high energy, sometimes stressful or tense tone – but that’s what makes it exciting, engaging, but not too draining,” said JR.
Greg Broe summed it up: “It’s balanced, with short episodes and a lot of heart and soul.”
What makes The Bear different…
…is how the show presents information with very little exposition, which feels more true to real life. “It’s a structural reflection of the kitchen environment, with nicknames and lingo you don’t immediately understand,” offered Dustin Morris. “You’re in it with them.”
For a workplace comedy, it’s also elevated by surreal dream-like sequences, where scenes take on a more emotional logic.
The group looked forward to more in the rest of the season, but we were left with a question after the first two episodes. There were no romantic storylines last season. But restaurant workplaces are known for incubating romances. Will this season introduce a love story?