“The Bear” follows a man named Carmy, portrayed by Jeremy Allen White, (who is a professional to play a native Chicago at this point after his stay on “Shameless”) as he leaves the fine-dining world, where he is a rising star, to come home and run the family sandwich store after his brother’s shocking suicide. He tries to bring these crystalline high-end moods from his former kitchen to the eternally stained floors of the working class that he now finds himself in, and it goes awry. The family wants to let the place go for good reasons, it’s a money hole, and the memories around it are so bad that his sister Sugar (Abby Elliott) hates to step inside – but Carmy sees it as a fresh start. He wants to turn it around, but at first it does not feel like it is for the right reasons. It feels like he is doing it for the influence that could come with the change. He uses the restaurant’s hopeful future success to show everyone, including his dead brother, that he could do it all the time.
Kitchens are a perfect place for any young white cishet man with an inferiority complex and something to prove to thrive in, and Carmy ticks all the boxes. He has the look and feel of your typical millennial chef – occasional tattoos, constant ruffles, little concern for his physical and mental health – and it all eventually reaches a boiling point. Everyone around him is affected, his childhood friend Richie, whom he calls “cousin” (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) is resistant to any change he tries to make, including hiring the green but incredibly driven Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) to come on as his Sous Chef.
The service industry is also a place where many people – namely women and blacks and browns – are overlooked, overworked and underpaid. Carmy sees the talent in Sydney, her creativity, business acumen and refusal to find herself in Richie’s shit selling him on her, but like any chef, he uses her as his punching bag when he needs to fly away. Ayo uses the series to show us exactly what she is made of. Her recent stay on the much-asleep “Dickinson” – where she wrote and starred in my favorite episode of the series – strengthened my fan status, and she hits “The Bear”, where she makes sure her character is seen as anything but a remark.