The Best and Worst of ‘The Bear’ Season 3

[Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers for “The Bear” Season 3, including the ending. Read our earlier review for a spoiler-free analysis.]

Welcome back, everyone, to the most stressful — and tastiest — place in Chicago. (Well, other than the Dan Ryan at rush hour, when you’ve got a Portillo’s Big Beef in one hand and a steadily disintegrating steering wheel in the other). “The Bear” is back, and Season 3 brings the heat in 10 new episodes filled with yelling, celebrity cameos, more yelling, celebrity chefs, and even more yelling after that.

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FX’s Emmy-minted “comedy” always gives audiences plenty to chew on, and I’m not just talking about when Carmy “basically made nachos” by using “way too many components.” (I thought the dish looked good, little buddy!) There are heart-soaring highs and misery-spiraling lows, some intentionally crafted by creator Christopher Storer and his talented team, and others unintentionally evoked amid the chaos of creating an ambitious, genre-bending TV show.

So with the full season already in our rearviews — what, how long does it take you to watch a six-hour season of TV? — let’s dig in and savor the best and worst of “The Bear” Season 3. And just for fun, we’ll be marking the highs with an affirmative, “Yes chef!” and the lows with the dissenting, rarely heard, “No, chef.” OK, let’s get cooking.

Yes, Chef — Taking a full episode to reintroduce the cast, together, in the kitchen

Ben Travers: I wanted to start with what may be my favorite part of Season 3, which is essentially the entirety of Episode 2, “Next.” From the extended opening title sequence showcasing real-life Chicago service workers through the intimate closing moment between Marcus (Lionel Boyce) and Carmy (Jeremy Allen White), the 27 minutes encapsulated the best of “The Bear” — its incredible ensemble, meaningful one-on-one conversations, a familial yet cacophonous kitchen environment, and a pure love for the city that birthed it all.

But it also set up a way to see Season 3 that I prefer over the perspective provided by the premiere. While “Tomorrow” accurately previews a reflective season where Carmy is trapped inside his own head, “Next” takes that big-picture thinking and spreads it across the whole cast. It feels like a hang-out episode — like the show knows it’s going to slow down from time to time to savor these people, their hang-ups, and their senses of humor — which also makes it feel distinctly like television; like a sitcom, even, instead of a Carmy-centric character study, which I don’t think works as well. In “Next,” Carmy’s inability to separate his healthy aspirational thinking from his toxic need for control gets challenged by everyone around him. It’s as if he could just respond to a few of their thoughts with, “Heard, Chef,” instead of, “No, please, you get fucked,” then The Bear (and “The Bear”) may find its footing.

That sense of hope, of humor, of lightness doesn’t last in Season 3, but here, it’s lovely. Also, Oliver Platt is in this episode, and Oliver Platt is, as Fak No. 2 aptly describes him, a pimp.

Proma Khosla: I’m a sucker for formula sometimes, and while “The Bear” is far from formulaic, this episode is like the opening number of the season and delivers on a lot of what “The Bear” does best. I love the title sequence and would not be mad if that or some equivalent plays before every episode.

One thing I love about “The Bear” is the value it places on platonic relationships (ahem), which is really driven home in this episode with the various professional and personal connections in the kitchen, and the explicit prioritization of Carmy apologizing to Richie over Claire (even if he hates it). The conflicts are timely and intriguing — where many grow stale throughout the season—and the dynamics are welcome even if they’re not new.

Also this episode has possibly my favorite joke of the season, which is Tina referring to Carm as “Joffrey Ballet.”

'The Bear' Season 3 stars Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Richie, shown here in close-up with flowers behind him
Ebon Moss-Bachrach in ‘The Bear’Courtesy of FX

No, Chef — Leaving literally everything unresolved

PK: Truly every single overarching conflict this season was left open, and I’m baffled. The restaurant review! The Michelin star! The DocuSign! Carmy and Claire! I’m glad Carmy got to confront Chef Joel McHale and say what was on his mind but it didn’t exactly have me in suspense — hopefully this is a major stepping stone on his healing journey that helps with all the other stuff.

BT: The parade of celebrity chefs in the finale felt like a rather desperate attempt to mask the fact that so little is settled in the final episode, so yes, I’m totally with you. Honestly, I get them extending a few conflicts into next season, since this was a very meditative set of episodes, but what really got me was that Richie and Carmy were literally scaring their staff in the second episode, and they still hadn’t resolved their shit by the finale. I’m sorry, if you’re going to hold back Carmy apologizing to Claire, at least give us a little family reunion between the Bear and his cuz.

Yes, Chef — Keeping Sydney and Carmy platonic

PK: I learned way too much about the SydCarmy movement this week, especially how many of its leaders are among our peers and colleagues in this noble profession. I’m not going to try to appeal to this demographic, whose minds were made up long before Season 3 premiered and who will persist long after the series finale, but in the show’s defense: These two are SO good as professional partners with bizarre parallels to each other that they don’t have to be romantic! Sydney had instant chemistry and a palpable change in demeanor and body language with Chef Luca, which is the kind of real-life friend-of-a-friend love connection you’d see in real life and which she deserves. I’m more struck by the toxic undertones of Sydney and Carmy’s working relationship this season (fresh off “Hacks”) and curious to see if they can reconcile that moving forward. But please, please, let Syd date someone who is ready.

BT: ‘Shipping Syd and Carmy seems especially extreme after this season, where — as you mentioned, Proma — so much of her arc is dictated by his overbearing demeanor. She’s rightly annoyed that he takes over the menu they built together. She’s having traumatic flashbacks to being shouted at and ignored. The reason she’s wooed over to the other restaurant is because the new chef promises that “the vibes” can be whatever she wants them to be. She hates the vibes at the Bear! She loves the people, sure, and she feels somewhat indebted to Carmy for partnering with her, but she literally has a panic attack in the finale! She needs to get away, or he needs to fix his shit. Coupling isn’t even part of the equation.

Yes, Chef — Josh Hartnett!

BT: Hmm… who should we cast to play a well-off Midwesterner who, initially, you’re desperate to dislike, but who quickly and irreversibly wins you over with his kindness? Josh Freaking Hartnett, that’s who! Duh! Sure, the St. Paul, Minnesota native is having a mini-moment thanks to his starring role in M. Night Shyamalan’s upcoming “Trap” and his celebrated turn in “Oppenheimer” (although, I’d argue his mid-career comeback actually began with 2021’s “Exterminate All the Brutes”), but none of that is what makes him a perfect cameo in “The Bear.” He’s just so damn likable! And earnest! And did we mention Midwestern? Well done, Jeanie Bacharach. Well done.

No, Chef — John Cena

BT: Call it a sound idea that doesn’t quite come together. While I enjoyed the foreshadowing of another Fak family member (or two) when Richie tried to remember how many there were, and even the proudest Berzatto relative struggled to keep track (“Eight. …no, nine! I always forget about Avery.”), Cena is just… too polished for this clan of charmingly schlubby Chicagoans. That’s all I’ll say for now, but IndieWire will have more on this in the coming days.

'The Bear' Season 3, Episode 6, 'Napkins,' stars Liza Colón-Zayas as Tina, shown here sitting on a crowded Chicago bus
Liza Colón-Zayas in ‘The Bear’Courtesy of FX

Yes, Chef — Focusing on Natalie and Tina (via Ayo Edebiri’s directorial debut!)

PK: Another thing I’m a sucker for is a standalone episode devoted to a particular character, story, or setting, and boy does “The Bear” keep this “Ramy” girlie happy. “Napkins” is such a poignant flashback and showcase for Liza Colón-Zayas, as well as a softer side of Jon Bernthal’s Mikey. And “Ice Chips?” Literally a two-person tour de force that tackled heavy emotional issues without being preachy or over-the-top. I’m all for these to continue and for them to have little to no Carmy. Give that man a break.

BT: I also enjoyed “Ice Chips” — mainly as a pared down companion piece to Jamie Lee Curtis’ debut in “Fishes” — and “Napkins,” which felt like an ideal directorial debut for Ayo Edebiri, given that a) she didn’t have to pull double duty by acting in the episode, too, and b) it’s time-jumping, montage-heavy construction gives her an opportunity to shoot a lot of short takes, where she can focus on framing and how they can fit together visually, before toying around with how it all comes together in the edit. Plus, Tina’s conversation with her husband (David Zayas) and Mikey (Jon Bernthal) are actor-dependent scenes, where the dialogue has to feel natural even when it’s reaching for grandeur. Having an actor like Edebiri at the helm certainly helped everyone involved find the right groove.

No, Chef — Can everyone stop pretending to be “Mad Men,” please?

BT: While not as shudder-inducing as the “Unfrosted” movie’s Sterling Cooper fantasy camp, I nearly whipped my sandwich through the TV when Carmy told his abusive ex-mentor (played by Joel McHale), “I think about you too much,” and he responded, “I don’t think about you.” There’s a dozen ways to get that same sentiment across without echoing one of Don Draper’s most famous lines, and any of them would’ve been better because it wouldn’t pull viewers out of the scene.

Yes, Chef — Olivia Colman getting hammered and baking Eggos

Enough said.

“The Bear” Season 3 is available now on Hulu.

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