The Bear Season 2 First Reviews: 'A Magnificent Achievement,' Critics Say

Critics say FX's breakout restaurant drama continues to deliver the goods in its second season and avoids the dreaded sophomore slump.

by | June 20, 2023 | Comments

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FX’s breakout restaurant drama The Bear is back for seconds. Created by Christopher Storer and co-showrunner Joanna Calo, the series stars Jeremy Allen White as Carmy Berzatto, the Michelin star–winning chef who returned home to Chicago to run his family’s failing sandwich shop. Working through the grief of his brother’s passing and the challenges of getting the restaurant’s finances in order, making sense of the menu, and turning the kitchen into a well-oiled machine, Carmy had his work cut out for him. And as the crew focus on revamping “The Beef” into fine dining establishment, the work continues with the new season, which drops all eight episodes, on Thursday, June 22, on Hulu.

Starring alongside White is Ayo Edebiri as Sydney, Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Carmy’s “cousin” Richie, Abby Elliott as Carmy’s sister Natalie, Oliver Platt as Jimmy Cicero, Liza Colón-Zayas as Tina, Lionel Boyce as Marcus, Edwin Lee Gibson as Ebraheim, Corey Hendrix as Sweeps, and Matty Matheson as Neil Fak.

Season 1 of the series has held steady with a perfect 100% score on the Tomatometer. As of publishing this article, it’s looking like the new run of episodes will follow suit. Here’s what critics are saying about season 2 of FX’s The Bear:

How does it compare to season 1?

The Bear season 2

The Bear season 2 poster

Creator Christopher Storer’s fast-paced restaurant dramedy returns almost exactly one year after its series premiere with a second season that is just as fresh as, if not improved over, the original episodes. —Fletcher Peters, The Daily Beast

Season 2 does exactly what second seasons are supposed to do: It fine-tunes the storytelling, amplifies what’s working, and digs deeper: both into who these people are and what lures them to this life. —Ben Travers, IndieWire

The trick is to balance the familiar with the new. The second season doesn’t always get the balance quite right, but it usually does. Overall, it’s still well worth digging into one of the best shows on TV. —Bill Goodykontz, Arizona Republic

The new season has its moments, and even whole episodes, that might not be healthy viewing for anyone under a cardiologist’s care, but the tone is often much lighter, and at times plain joyous. It’s also a more frequently funny show(*), where the near-constant series of kitchen calamities are designed to elicit laughter more often than angst — for the audience, at least. Carmy, Sydney, and the gang are still justifiably harried throughout. —Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone

How is Jeremy Allen White?

Jeremy Allen White in The Bear season 2 (Photo by Frank Ockenfels/FX)

White could act just with his eyes — are anyone’s more soulfully hangdog? — but he doesn’t. He digs into the grief and guilt that haunt Carmy, as well as the obsession required to make someone great at something. —Bill Goodykontz, Arizona Republic

Jeremy Allen White remains a king of the confessional close-up in this second season, again guiding this show to its more sentimental and existential passages. He flourishes with quiet moments made of close-up shots and magnetic monologues. —Nick Allen, The Playlist

White, whose forlorn stare and chiseled biceps propelled him to Internet-boyfriend status last year, gets to smile more this season, and the actor brings a sweet awkwardness to Carmy’s tentative emotional expansion. (His eyes, however, remain a wellspring of angst and longing.) —Kristen Baldwin, Entertainment Weekly

What about the rest of the cast?

The Bear season 2 cast

Ayo Edebiri, Corey Hendrix, Edwin Lee Gibson, Matty Matheson, and Liza Colon-Zayas in The Bear season 2 (Photo by Chuck Hodes/FX)

Then there’s Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), Carmy’s volatile “cousin.” Richie can be the most abrasive character on the show, but even he’s changing, reading self-help books, and working on anger management. At one point he’s on the verge of blowing up at someone, only to stop himself to count down from ten. But his insecurities still lurk — he tells Carmy that his greatest fear is that he’ll be left behind while the rest of them move forward. “I’m 45 and I’ve been here a long time, you feel me?” he says, the sadness and regret thick in Moss-Bachrach’s voice. It remains one of the best performances on the show. —Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

Edebiri perfectly captures the self-doubt, frustration and creativity Sydney brings to the literal table. —Bill Goodykontz, Arizona Republic

Carried by magnetic turns from White, Edebiri, and Moss-Bachrach (along with an astutely assembled ensemble by Jeanie Bacharach) and a resolute sense of purpose, “The Bear” flies by once again. Only this time, you’ll be even better satiated. —Ben Travers, IndieWire

How is the writing and directing?

Lionel Boyce in The Bear season 2. (Photo by Chuck Hodes/FX)

These storylines are impressive flexes, and winning nods to the show’s niche. But they also help “The Bear” feel more like television, a medium that rewards cultivating a deep bench and an adaptable approach. —Alison Herman, Variety

As before, every emotion the show conjures is a palpable, potent one, so that the lighter scenes create the illusion that you’re standing right next to the characters, while the heavier ones make you experience the pain right along with them. —Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone

Since we now get 10 episodes with varying runtimes, the script is a little looser, taking the time to flesh out each character’s arc. —Akos Peterbencze, Paste Magazine

Once again, the camera races in long, vertiginous takes around the decrepit renovation site, getting right up in the actors’ faces as they yell at one another. The dialogue is often multilayered and at high volume, like a Robert Altman soundtrack on speed. — Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

The best, though, is Marcus’ standalone episode, directed by Ramy Youssef. In Copenhagen, we get a more quiet, methodical look at the culinary arts—really mirroring Marcus’ character—and how that creativity can distract oneself from larger issues in life. —Fletcher Peters, The Daily Beast

What is the overarching theme this season?

Ebon Moss-Bachrach in The Bear season 2. (Photo by Chuck Hodes/FX)

The 10-episode new season pushes beyond finding a functioning compromise between family ties and individual passions, into what happiness even means when you’re an artistic careerist trapped in a capitalistic society. —Ben Travers, IndieWire

Storer and company (including frequent writer/director Joanna Calo) continue to ask whether that’s worth everything they have to endure and give up in the process. —Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone

As the characters continue to evolve, to grow, to change, to become not different characters but more developed individuals, “The Bear” takes us along with us, guiding us through several courses, each more delectable than the last. —Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

In its first four episodes screened for the press, “The Bear” appeals to us with a different stress–opening a restaurant in Chicago. —Nick Allen, The Playlist

The Bear is a show built by people who care deeply about making great TV and can barely afford to do it about a restaurant full of people who care deeply about making a great restaurant and are perpetually on the brink of financial collapse no matter how great the food may be. — Kathryn VanArendonk, New York Magazine/Vulture

Any final thoughts?

Ayo Edebiri and Jeremy Allen White in The Bear season 2. (Photo by Chuck Hodes/FX)

Another poignant way for this heartfelt show to make us appreciate the pleasure of unforgettable food by matching it with pain from the process. —Nick Allen, The Playlist

It remains a magnificent achievement. —Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone

This time, you’ll be even better satiated. —Ben Travers, IndieWire

A sophomore slump is not on the menu. —Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

The Bear remains one of the best original shows on TV, even if the performances often outmatch and rise above the writing this time around. With such a talented cast, it’s not that surprising that Season 2 lets it rip once again. —Akos Peterbencze, Paste Magazine

“The Bear” is back and — braise the lord and be still a la carte! — its magic is fully intact. No sophomore slump here. —Matthew Gilbert, Boston Globe

A second helping even tastier than the first. —Angie Han, Hollywood Reporter

This is a newer, polished season. It is one that, like the eponymous new restaurant, has evolved past its rougher beginnings to turn out another course that leaves us hungry for more. —Therese Lacson, Collider

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