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‘The Bear’ S3 Review: Less Chaos, More Set Up

If you ask most people in tune with modern TV shows, they would tell you that The Bear is one of the best shows currently on air. Despite some speed bumps along the way, that assertion remains true with Season 3.

The Bear Season 3 / Image Courtesy of FX

In an era where shows take anywhere from one and a half years to three years to release a new season, FX’s The Bear stands out for consistently delivering, but better than that, the quality is always immaculate. 

For a long time, this was the norm. Every show, including the great ones, would have a really good season, and then they’d be back the same time next year to blow the audience away like fireworks on July Fourth. This is one of the many luxuries of TV that has gone away, so it stands out when a show like The Bear upholds that.

The 2023 WGA writer’s strike lasted from early May all the way until late September, for 148 days. Keep in mind that Season 2 was released in June of that year. While it’s hard to say how much this affected the show, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a major factor in the lack of cohesion in the storyline. 

The Bear Season 3 / Image Courtesy of FX

But I can only judge what was put in front of me—while I did love large parts of the season, the season as a whole lacked the connective tissue to power it through. Individually, on an episode-to-episode basis, the show still fires on all cylinders. There are some absolutely incredible moments in the show, both in terms of narrative and technicality. 

One thing that the show keeps getting better at is visuals. Not to say that Season 1 lacked in this area, but there are more daring shots that capture what the show is. The cinematography is the best it has ever been. The editing is fantastic as ever, the sound mixing is perfect, and the acting, as always, delivers. Everything beyond the narrative was nearly perfect.

Season one of The Bear opens with Carmen Berzatto, the lead of the show, and a literal bear in a cage. It represents the part of him he’s trying to hold on to—his trauma from his family, his work as a chef, his deepest and darkest fears, but most of all, the chaos.

The Bear Season 1 / Image Courtesy of FX

The Bear embraces the chaos more than any show I’ve ever seen—it thrives in it. And that chaos usually results in heavy tension, which is exactly where Season 2 leaves off. 

When we last saw Carmy, he was locked in a freezer on the most important day of his newly opened restaurant. He’s now the one caged up—he’s the chaos. The rest of the restaurant staff are trying to figure out service amidst their own chaos. They eventually figure it out while Carmy struggles. 

He’s left to deal with himself. He’s the reason the freezer handle wasn’t fixed, and he knows he’s his own worst enemy. He messes up the one good thing he has with Claire and then takes it out on Richie. This is the darkest moment in the show for Carmy.

The Bear Season 3 / Image Courtesy of FX

The premiere episode of Season 3 opens with a fully Carmy-centric episode, and it is one of the most experimental episodes of TV in a long time. Thin on dialogue but absolutely lush on visuals. It is such a ballsy way to start off the season. It’s such a stunning, visceral, cathartic viewing of various points in Carmy’s life. It’s sort of a montage of his life, but it’s so gloriously crafted that it’s impossible not to make you feel a million different emotions. 

Season 3 is not short on awe-inducing visuals or other absolutely incredible episodes. There’s a lot of that going around, but like some of the dishes the restaurant in the show crafts, less is not always more. There is a lack of a central focus that holds the season together. 

It doesn’t have a Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man tights holding the metaphorical train together. Instead, it relies on setting up. It feels like too much set-up at times, but it does a brilliant job at it. It lays the foundations perfectly for Season 4, but the repercussion of that is it hurts Season 3. 

The Bear Season 3 / Image Courtesy of FX

Carmy and Sydney have the biggest arcs of the season, and for both, it is getting them from point A to point L instead of taking them to point Z. Carmy is at his lowest, which makes him completely change how they operate. He becomes far more cold to the people around him. That affects Sydney the most, which adds a foil to her character. She has her dream job, but she’s stuck with the toll that dream takes as other opportunities arise.

Carmy has been stuck in a limbo of his own chaos, and he finally gets to confront it—or rather, confront what’s behind it. This is the strongest part of the season for me because it offers the most potential for growth for Carmy. The issue here is that it leaves that opportunity for growth for the next season, which means that it could age horribly—but it could also be the turning point for him.

Another major issue is that it does put some characters on the back burner. It feels like Marcus should’ve had a bigger arc—Richie could’ve had more—and Ebra is an afterthought. Claire is a major part of Carmy’s story, but she’s barely a real part of the season. There’s a bit too much of the Fak family. 

The Bear Season 3 / Image Courtesy of FX

The comedy of previous seasons was more of a natural comedy. Blended, using each character and their interactions to build it. Season 3 opts to use more Faks, as the other characters are purely used for dramatic purposes. They are much-needed levity at times, but I certainly preferred the previous brand of humor as it was more of a suitable balance.

I did really like that the show featured more Tina and Sugar as they got their own solo episodes. Tina’s episode in particular had the best conversation in the entire show. The moment in the show is such a poignant, powerful heart-to-heart moment for the characters that it really puts everything from the show in perspective. It elevates and even explains key parts of character motivations and the backstory of the show. The episode as a whole is such a relatable tale. It’s the best parts of The Bear put in an episode. 

Episodes like this are what make the show so great. That’s why it’s so hard to say that The Bear Season 3 is a misstep. Some are using this season to say it’s not a great show, and I find that assessment ridiculous.

The Bear Season 3 / Image Courtesy of FX

Season 3 is still fantastic—yes, it could’ve done some things better, and it does hinge on what it does with Season 4, but it’s still some of the best television out there. I don’t believe it’s just a filler season, but I do agree that it feels like a set-up season. 

This season is going to be looked back upon as a pivotal point in the show, whether Season 4 is the last, or it goes all the way up to 6 seasons. Whatever the next few iterations of the show do will determine how they view it in hindsight. 

If Season 4 builds upon the set-up masterfully, they’ll look back at this season with rose-tinted glasses, but if it doesn’t, it’ll be viewed as a turning point for the worse.

The Bear Season 3 / Image Courtesy of FX

The Bear season 3 stars Jeremy Allen White as Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Richard “Richie” Jerimovich, Ayo Edebiri as Sydney Adamu, Lionel Boyce as Marcus Brooks, Liza Colón-Zayas as Tina Marrero, Abby Elliott as Natalie “Sugar” Berzatto, and Matty Matheson as Neil Fak. It is streaming on Hulu.

Thank you for reading!

An aspiring screenwriter based in California obsessed with the inner and outer workings of Film and TV. Vishu serves as an editorial writer for Film, Music and TV.