Season two might still have been better released weekly, but there's *some* method to the madness in its storytelling
Putting my comments on The Bear in separate post than the stuff on the release model:
I loved season 2. It is honestly one of the best things I have ever seen on TV. The standout episodes for me were "Honeydew" and "Forks", but they were all great.
But as I've read the conversations at times I have felt like I have been watching a different show than everyone else. Many of the comments I have read say something to the effect that people find the show very stressful to watch (in a good way) because of the intense kitchen scenes and big blowouts a la "Fishes". Yes, those scene are there and make an impression, but I think if you count minutes they don't actually make up much of the running time and to me they are not at all what make The Bear special. For me it's the long conversations: Marcus and Chef Luca*, Richie and Chef Terry, Syd and her dad, any number of quieter conversations from "Fishes". It's people talking quietly and passionately about real things - like Aaron Sorkin but far less mannered. You rarely see that on TV and I thought it was outstanding.
* Another favorite moment from "Honeydew": Marcus's first attempts to make the scoops for the gelato-whatever-it-was dessert and Chef Luca's feedback. "No", "Worse", "Try again", etc. There is layer of tension there - Will Marcus be able to do this? - but there is no bite to the constructive criticism and no offense taken. Two people being professionals. I loved it.
I really think this was one of the best seasons of any show in recent memory. It might - MIGHT - even be better than Succession S4, which is just not something I thought was possible a few weeks ago. Acknowledging that any upcoming Emmy nominations are for S1 (which I still think was the best show of last year), if Ted Freaking Lasso beats The Bear for anything, I'm gonna be throwing a ton of forks.
I thought that Mikey's comment about Odenkirk being in "their father's house" during the fork throwing incident made it pretty clear that Lee was Donna's boyfriend.
I had a very different reaction to "forks" -- Ritchie's transformation was just way too convenient (and sudden). He hated being at this restaurant because he feels like he was being stashed in a nothing position so Carmy could get rid of him. The one (!) conversation with a guy he barely knows about respect and he changes his entire worldview and basically becomes a different person. It was such a weird transition for the guy whose whole persona is "bitter fuckup" to suddenly become the best high-end waiter in existence because another guy told him about how much he likes serving rich people in restaurants.
But man, that "Fishes" episode. As someone from the reserved Midwest who has married into a large Italian family and has had to awkwardly navigate so many fights that I can't even comprehend, I don't think I've ever identified more with an onscreen character than every nervous and unknowing gesture from Mulaney. That part where he tries to save dinner with the grace he desperately doesn't want to be in charge of -- I could feel that on a cellular level.
I'm a bit resistant to any preoccupation with TV release models. I think it contributes to the sense that TV is ephemeral "content" that cannot elicit active engagement for any extended period after it's initially consumed, and so we must remain in the constant, linear now, all consuming TV shows at the same time and pace. I'm unaware of any other art form that people discuss in this way. For instance, I cannot recall ever encountering an argument that an album should've been released one song at a time over the course of, say, 12 weeks, or that a collection of short stories or a novel should've been released one story or chapter a week instead of all at once.
So, outside of business concerns, I don't understand why the release model is such a salient issue regarding TV. I'm still reading about and discussing shows that were released long ago, either because I'm just now catching up with them, I'm rewatching them, or simply because they're rich texts that continue to linger in my mind. The same is true of every other artistic medium I love. And, given the choice, I would always prefer to determine for myself the pace at which I engage with a show rather than have the pace determined for me.
Does Carmy just need to take a break from being a Chef? Just about everyone else grew professionally, he instead focused on having a relationship and drawing/art. He cared more about the one painting he didn't like than any of the issues he was supposed to handle, in particular the walk-in. While he did work on new recipes he also probably spent way more time then he really needed to do the illustrations of the plating.
Also, for someone who seems to have been such a high level chef, he seems to freak out pretty quickly, it could be PTSD from his family previous New York job, maybe he needs a break to figure out exactly what he wants to do. When he got locked in the walk in it probably prevented a full on meltdown for the entire kitchen.
One thing about his relationship that I had an issue was that Claire was in just as time consuming of a profession as he and she shouldn't have had the time either to be so prominent in his life if she was at the hospital as much as you might think she should have been, unless tit was all taking place on her days off.
I prefer the weekly release model as it allows breath and conversation. I just assumed the T swift tickets were another low level mob/uncle Jimmy thing
If Reservation Dogs wasn't returning next month, I feel certain The Bear season 2 would be my favorite show of the year. But maybe there will be a tie?
This season was really enjoyabl, which was nice since I had a hard time picturing where they would take these characters. My wife and I watched one episode per night. I’m not sure I could have handled weekly episodes.
Regarding the music in season one, I think I had Wilco’s “Impossible Germany” in my head for approximately four months.
This season, the one that got me was the montage of Sydney developing ideas while bouncing around Chicago trying all kinds of food. I wasn’t really that familiar with The Durutti Column, but “Future Perfect” fit that scene so well.
Weekly releases were never explicitly designed to enhance audiences enjoyment of or ability to have conversations about television. That's not to say that they didn't or don't still sometimes to those things, but I think it is important to recognize that this release model is very much the product of the environment in which it evolved, and that we are in a whole new world now.
Which is all a long winded way of saying I like binge releases and think that there is rarely much point in a streaming service holding back episodes if they are already in the can. I think streaming TV represents progress, and rather than pushing against it we ought to be updating our expectations and finding ways to structure our conversations to accommodate people watching shows at different rates. For what it's worth, when they did it at the AV Club I used to love following along with reviewers live watching and writing about each episode of a binge release as they went, and I similarly really enjoyed your recaps of Heartstopper here.
And also for what it's worth, it doesn't have to be all or nothing. I wish streamers who do choose to space out their releases would experiment with paces other than weekly.
I was verrrrry apprehensive about a binge release, but in the end I actually feel like it worked very well. I think the point about the episodes being almost like a connected series of short stories is great, and honestly that would not have worked as well for me if it was a weekly release. I can only imagine the discourse in certain quarters around some episodes not featuring enough Carmy if episodes were airing weekly so thankfully we were spared from that
Season 1 is my favourite season of any show ever so s2 was obviously not going to hit those heights, but it was great overall. A few low points (episode 9 wasn't the best, apart from the Syd & Carmy scene under the table) but Marcus and Richie's episodes were beautiful and I loved the finale. Fishes felt so real, and that's why the show is top tier for me. Everything feels real, like you're just dropped in the middle of the scene with the characters. I can't wait for season 3
Really strong season! I liked giving all the characters so much room to breath, and I loved the theme of the kitchen as a family and the importance of supporting family/loved ones and helping to raise them up; it was cathartic and poetic that the folks Carmy and Syd spent the season investing in totally save the day in the end.
All that being said, it's a weird place to end the season (no real resolution) and some of the beats they left off with felt a bit contrived (Carmy and Claire), but I really liked the evolution of the show overall and it'll probably end up one of my top three shows of the year at this point.
I think we need to distinguish between, on the one hand, liking the songs a show or movie uses and, on the other hand, thinking that a show or movie uses music in a way that artfully enhances the moment. I mostly do not think THE BEAR does the latter.
THE BEAR is a heavy practitioner of a tendency that I hate in movies and TV. A song will play during a moment that almost certainly would benefit from no musical accompaniment whatsoever, and--this is the worst part--the song will be so low in the mix that it essentially functions as ambient sound, only increasing my bafflement as to why it’s there in the first place.
I normally would suggest that this tendency indicates that the show’s makers are afraid to allow the audience too much interpretive leeway, lest the audience feels in an unprescribed way. But I know this isn’t true, because season 2 of THE BEAR includes some lovely, quiet moments unaccompanied by music (e.g., the scene between Richie and Chef Terry, and the similar scene between Marcus and Chef Luca).
So why do we have so many instances like the otherwise-terrific scene in which Carmy and Sydney fix the table together while Come Back (Live) by Pearl Jam plays (non-diegetically) at stuffy-dinner-party volume?
This is an aesthetic defect that I’ve always found grating, and I’ve yet to see any comment on it related to THE BEAR.
Now, I do want to acknowledge the one great needle drop I recall from the season: Richie, in the midst of a much needed boost to his self-esteem, blasting Love Story by Taylor Swift while driving. It’s a beautiful connection to his daughter, and, since that’s all his daughter plays in the car, of course he would know all the words and be able to sing along to it triumphantly.
Saving this to read when The Bear actually drops in Australia next week . . . honestly Myles, you should write something about the sheer STUPIDITY of streaming platforms not dropping their shows worldwide at the SAME FUCKING TIME. Avoiding spoilers from all the US reviewers and recappers I follow has been a trip but I've been mostly successful.