Season 2 of The Bear continues with the same frantic, intense energy in every episode as the first, but there are new challenges afoot. Fresh off finding $100,000 in hidden cash within oversized cans of tomato sauce that his brother left for him, Carmy is gearing up to turn The Beef into The Bear, an upscale, fine-dining experience.
But starting a business is never easy, as Carmy discovers. He encounters everything from city inspection failures to mold, missing permits, dwindling funds, feuding staff, and personal distractions. The staff grows, and some come into their own (wait, Richie wears suits now?) A star-studded flashback episode, meanwhile, adds context to the fractured family dynamic.
Having the money is one thing; knowing where to put it, and realizing it isn’t enough, is the harsh reality. From new drywall to replacement equipment, IRS fees, wood rot, roaches, dead raccoons, termites, and staff payroll, it all adds up, as Sugar (Abby Elliott), who begins working with her brother to help manage the project, discovers.
Uncle Jimmy (Oliver Platt) comes to the rescue when they plead with him to invest more (and confess that they found the money he gave Jon Bernthal’s Mike in the first place). They cut a deal: if Uncle Jimmy isn’t paid back in full in 18 months, Carmy will hand the restaurant, and the building, over to him to sell. Jimmy reluctantly agrees, seeing the potential win for him either way; as long as the restaurant actually opens.
Everyone is doing their part. Tina (Liza Colon-Zayas) and Ebraheim (Edwin Lee Gibso) attend culinary school (Ebraheim drops out but later returns to run the drive-thru The Beef window that will continue to operate from the back of the restaurant). Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) is working with Carmy on the menu, and traveling all over Chicago, sampling everything from street meat and pizza to fine dining dishes to gain inspiration.
Marcus (Lionel Boyce) is sent to Copenhagen to study under renowned pastry chef Luca (Will Poulter), and Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) is, well, seemingly always going to be Richie. “I’m not like this because I’m in Van Halen,” he repeatedly says. “I’m in Van Halen because I’m like this.” He is, at this point, still trying to find his purpose and lashing out at everyone because of his insecurities.
And then, there’s Claire (Molly Gordon). Carmy runs into the old friend, a clear spark between them. He gives her the wrong phone number for fear of where it could lead, but Fak (Matty Matheson) gives Claire Carmy’s real one and she calls him. The usually laser-focused Carmy is finally paying attention to something beyond work, and he’s falling in love. But it might cost him.
As the team continues their typical frantic pace, building, cleaning, fixing, ordering, and prepping for opening day, Sugar and Richie have a massive fight that leads Carmy to send Cousin off to polish forks at the top fine dining restaurant in Chicago for a week. Richie is initially angered, but he meets a wonderfully inspirational young man who explains to him what serving people means, how passion for the job can change your attitude, and why he loves what he does.
Richie starts to embrace various jobs in the restaurant, soaking in the knowledge and experiencing how a high level of service can make people happy and, in turn, make you happy. He comes back a completely changed man. “I get it now,” he finally tells Carmy.
It appears, however, that Richie at his worst was tame compared to Mike, who could get violent and belligerent when he was drinking and/or on drugs. This is shown through an hour-long, star-studded flashback episode to a family Christmas gathering a year prior. Among the guest stars are Bob Odenkirk, John Mulaney, and Sarah Paulson as members of the Berzatto family, and Jamie Lee Curtis as Carmy’s mother Donna.
It ends in a fork-throwing blow-out between Mike and his uncle (Odenkirk) and Donna breaking down in tears, driving the car into the side of the house. Most notable, however, is a scene between Carmy and Mike where he shows his older brother a drawing of the restaurant he wants to open with him once he’s done training. After Carmy walks away, Mike breaks down in tears.
With only weeks to go, the restaurant is still far from being ready to open, if it can even open at all. Everyone sharing a single bottle of Pepto Bismol is indicative of the stress and stomach-turning worry they’re all feeling. The biggest issue is a Level 2 fire inspection they need to pass. It’s a make-or-break moment, but thankfully, Fak figures out the issue in the nick of time (Mike had bypassed the gas line to allow a fire to happen on purpose, likely for insurance money) and they pass the test. The Bear is about the open.
Preparing for the special pre-opening friends and family night, Carmy and Sydney have a heart-to-heart, both expressing their fears, and appreciation for one another. The new staff is ready to go, the menu is fire (as Carmy would say), and Marcus’ desserts are next level. (That donut, though!)
The tickets start coming in and the frantic panic begins. The harsh lighting and the fast-paced movements in the back kitchen are beautifully juxtaposed by the soft-lit calm of the dining area whenever Richie, Fak, or Gary “Sweeps” (Corey Hendrix) go back and forth through the door. They’re catering to the guests and their personal needs, delivering delicious food, and impressing everyone from Claire, who’s there with her friend, to Sydney’s proud father.
But they hit a snag when one of the new cooks disappears (smoking drugs outside), dishes aren’t up to Syd’s standards, and Carmy gets locked in the walk-in fridge. He was supposed to call the fridge guy (Tony, or was it Terry?) to fix the busted handle, but he was too busy enjoying himself with Claire and completely forgot.
Richie steps up, assuring Sydney he can handle the pass while she rolls up her sleeves and helps cook. He does, ending the service with a massive “fuck you!” when he gets through every ticket in five minutes. But not before sending out a special dessert to Uncle Jimmy: a chocolate-covered banana, a callback to a sweet story Uncle shared with him a year ago at that aforementioned chaotic Christmas dinner.
Despite service going well, Carmy is furious about being stuck in the walk-in, recognizing it was his own fault. While having a conversation with Tina through the door, he expresses that he failed them. “I don’t need to provide amusement or enjoyment,” he says. “I don’t need to receive any amusement or enjoyment. I’m completely fine with that. Because no amount of good is worth how terrible this feels. It’s just a complete waste of fucking time.” Carmy doesn’t know Tina has already left and it’s Claire hearing him say all this. “I’m really sorry you feel that way, Carm,” she says, and tearfully walks away.
Richie runs into Claire in tears, and bangs on the door asking Carmy what he just did. The two get into the most heated argument yet, screaming hate and vitriol at one another, ending with Richie telling his cousin he hopes he dies in the refrigerator.
Marcus, meanwhile, is hanging a gift from Luca on the wall: a sign that says “every second counts” just like the one in the restaurant (a quote from the father of the owner, played by Olivia Colman in yet another A-list cameo). As he does this, however, the screen shifts to his phone where he has missed dozens of calls from his mother’s nurse, suggesting she might have taken a turn for the worst, and he wasn’t there.
While stuck, Carmy listens to an earlier delivered voice message from Claire, wishing him luck on the opening, talking about how much she believes in him, and declaring her love. It’s a big knife to the stomach. Has he made a mistake, or does he have to sacrifice his personal happiness for success? Finally, someone has arrived to free him from the refrigerator. But where does Carmy go from here?
Sydney, however, is feeling on top of the world (after vomiting in the corner outside a few times, that is). She did it. Her father is proud of her, telling her he thinks this might finally be her “thing.” She breathes a sigh of relief, ready for what’s to come next.
Stream all season 2 episodes of The Bear on Hulu.
Love The Bear? Then watch these 5 TV shows that are just like it
The Bear’s season 1 episodes, ranked
Manifest season 4 part 2’s ending, explained
2023’s best sci-fi show is on Apple TV+. Here’s why you should watch it right now
The Boogeyman’s ending, explained