Notes on 1.5 Episodes of The Bear

I look at The Bear as the successor to Mr. Robot. Dumped into a situation that is confusing as hell but exciting. A main character, Bear (Carmy, Carmen), who is an expert in his field but is dropped into an environment filled with a cast of novices, smart-asses, and goodie-two-shoes that he must bring together in order to achieve the impossible. A similar thing is going on in Slow Horses, although in that case there’s no obvious hero-leader. Hell, a similar thing was even going on in Community and I’m so happy to see Jeff Winger again!

For now the draw of the show is trying to understand what in the hell is going on. I guess there’s humor, but scenes move so fast there’s no time to laugh. There’s kitchen culture that only those who have worked in it or have been avid readers of Anthony Bourdain would instantly understand. There’s a weird techno-cultural thing going on around a coin-operated video game. Words like “cucks” and “incel” are dropped letting you know this is taking place now or at least within the past few years. And it’s set in a city that gets short shrift in movies and television: Chicago. Probably better that way so that city can maintain whatever shreds of authenticity are left of any American city at this point.

The real test of this show will be what it does with this scenario. Will everyone’s motivation and backstory be explained away revealing that there wasn’t much to this story in the first place? Will it matter? Does Bear have multiple personality disorder that helps him cope with suicide-level anxiety? Will the dream sequences with the sadistic CDC (or is it EC? Sous chef? Assface? ??) continue to appeal? Maybe as with Mr. Robot, a show that garnered praise for getting computing concepts right, it will be enough for The Bear to teach us everything we need to know to fake our way into the French Laundry.

Thank you, chef.

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