The Bear Season 3 Review

This review contains spoilers for The Bear Season 3

This review contains spoilers for The Bear Season 3, which is currently streaming on Hulu.

Fans of The Bear have spent a whole year worrying about how Chef Carmen Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) would escape from a walk-in refrigerator – and more importantly, his demons. After methodically building up his support team and tentatively embracing love with his old flame Claire (Molly Gordon), Carmy’s meltdown on the opening night of his new restaurant (also called The Bear) was both a heartbreaking step back for the chef and a hell of a cliffhanger. Unfortunately, a third serving of The Bear doesn’t move Carmy forward: He and everyone around him are still stuck in that fridge, metaphorically speaking. It results in a season that opens with some inventive episodes but the overall progress of the narrative treads water. An introverted shift for Carmy fails to make space for anyone else’s growth or decisiveness.

At least things begin on a high note, with creator Christopher Storer and team continuing to push their unconventional storytelling approach. A fever dream of Carmy’s OCD fixations and memories of his training and mistakes, season premiere “Tomorrow” provides the interior context for where the chef’s head is at. In nonlinear fashion, he cycles through the mentors, familial losses, and pivotal experiences that have shaped him for The Bear. Its musical score is as relentless as Carmy’s brain and drive, a potent reminder of how broken he is after that terrible first service and the way he left things with Claire.

The Bear Season 3 Gallery

The Bear continues to excel at assembling episodes based on the needs of their particular stories, rather than adhering to the TV status quo. In one episode, the passage of time at the restaurant moves to the rhythm of a symphony. Elsewhere, Storer challenges convention by digressing into a self-contained character origin story or by leaning into repeated stream-of-conscious visuals to convey the chaos of the mind. But even a more traditionally structured episode of The Bear can be revealing: In channeling the hostile vibes of The Original Beef of Chicagoland, Episode 2 both sets up a season-long cold war between Carmy and Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and fans the fire of Syd’s (Ayo Edebiri) frustration at having to serve as The Bear’s increasingly toothless chef de cuisine and peacemaker between its two major stakeholders.

Edebiri’s performance remains phenomenal, but she notches one of Season 3’s biggest victories behind the camera. In “Napkins,” she directs a showcase for struggling sous-chef Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas) that gracefully reveals the vulnerabilities that constantly grind on her sense of security and worth. It’s a beautiful and powerful short story about the power of fate and connection. Carmy’s sister Natalie (Abby Elliott) also gets some deserved time in the spotlight in “Ice Chips,” which unpacks her unresolved family trauma on what’s arguably the most important day of her life. The season finale, meanwhile, shines as a means to unite the management factions of The Bear as they mourn the loss of a culinary landmark. Basking in the experiences and anecdotes of real-life culinary titans and now familiar recurring characters restores the show’s focus: the siren song of this difficult profession, and more specifically, why Carmy, Syd, and Richie throw themselves with such passion and sacrifice into their craft.

But all those bright spots, and the show’s continued brilliance at capturing intimate moments, can’t cover up a frustrating refusal to take characters and plots to the next step. While Jeremy Allen White brings his intense best to Carmy, by season’s end, I felt like I missed the character. Carmy is so in his head in these 10 episodes that he barely communicates anything other than menu directives or the occasional job related query. He’s mired in self-doubt, anxiety, and a fixation on the mentor who made his chef’s training miserable. His kindness and countenance is absent, which is both understandable and authentic for someone who uses ambition as a coping mechanism. Yet the shift happens without insight into why one particular voice is suddenly the loudest in his head, or why what he’s done to Claire feels so insurmountable. At one point, he admits, “My life stopped,” which feels applicable to everyone in Carmy’s orbit.

And so, Season 3 is all about life still happening while nobody confronts their problems. There’s another cliffhanger ending, but it’s based on a plot point and not a character’s choices. No one is able to bust through this imposed stasis, a stark contrast to Seasons 1 and 2. Worse, it left me with the same disappointment that occurs when a big blockbuster fades to black with “To Be Continued” (which literally happens here) and it’s not clear why that choice was made. Everything and everyone is left unresolved, something that could’ve been avoided with even just a little advancement for the main characters. Storer and company have left themselves with so much to unpack and address in Season 4. I’m now worried (a first for this show) that they’ll be unable to serve their large ensemble – each member of which deserves the chance to shine as Tina and Natalie get to do in Season 3.