The Bear season 3 episode 1 review: Beautiful, atmospheric and reflective

“THE BEAR” — “Tomorrow” — Season 3, Episode 1 (Airs Thursday, June 27th) — Pictured: Jeremy Allen White as Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto. CR: FX.
“THE BEAR” — “Tomorrow” — Season 3, Episode 1 (Airs Thursday, June 27th) — Pictured: Jeremy Allen White as Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto. CR: FX. /

Major spoilers ahead for The Bear season 3 premiere, "Tomorrow"

Coming off the season 2 finale, The Bear writers had a challenge put before them–how to bring us back into the story after the explosive result of Carmy neglecting to get the fridge door fixed. The season 3 premiere, “Tomorrow,” not only rose to that challenge, it cleared it with what looked like ease but was truly thoughtful precision and skill.

The season opens with a train leaving the station and transitions to the Chicago skyline before we’re reunited with Carmy as he stands before an apartment window. But this is not a linear episode. Supported by a beautiful score, the premiere bounces us in and out of the present as we learn more about Carmy’s time in New York and Copenhagen. 

I’m not sure if I’ve ever watched a more reflective episode of television. “Tomorrow” very much feels like we’re in Carmy’s head as he processes and comes to terms with having been trapped in a fridge during the first night his restaurant was open. Dialogue is used sparingly but effectively like in the scene where he apologizes to Sydney for leaving her alone and then calls Richie to say that he’s sorry after she suggests that he should.

There is a beauty to the fine dining experience which the episode highlights. But it is also unsettling in its rigor at times and it obviously takes a toll on Carmy. Not just because Joel McHale’s verbally abusive chef is back. Olivia Coleman’s Chef Terry has a strictness to her while in the kitchen that breeds no nonsense. Her kitchen is spotless, quiet, and perfect. Still, there is a warmth to her similar to Chef Daniel’s tutelage and Chef Terry is the one who gives Carmy the opportunity to experience Copenhagen, which he shares in some part with Mikey.

The cameo appearances in “Tomorrow” are just right as they’re utilized in such a way that the episode often gives the impression that we’re cycling through Carmy’s memories. There are, of course, moments that veer away from him. We are with Richie when he gets Carmy’s voice message, and we cut in just as Carmy says, “I love you,” which along with his apology is the most important piece of that phone call.

The second “I love you” is between Carmy and Sugar as they say their goodbyes before Carmy sets off to New York. But affection and care are on display in the episode even beyond verbal expressions of it. Communication, no matter how small, and attempts to reach out are the doorways to the character’s feelings on one another. In their desire to be there for each other.

It’s in the way Sydney brings Carmy tea and they sit in silence until he’s ready to talk. It’s how she calls Marcus, leaving a voicemail to let him know he’s thought of as he’s at the hospital mourning the loss of his mother. Or in the way John Mulaney’s Stevie takes Carmy’s shoes off when he passes out and puts a blanket over him, grumbling about how he stinks and spraying air freshener the whole time but taking care of him nonetheless. Or how it’s Richie who kept checking in on Mikey with the increasing knowledge that something wasn’t right.

That’s why when we get to Claire it’s apparent how separate she is from this family that Carmy is a part of. The first time we see her, she’s standing away from him while he’s grouped with the likes of Cicero and the Fak brothers. And in the moments with her that follow she’s the only one waiting for him to reach out and he doesn’t. It’s her own friend that comforts her at 4:30 in the morning. No one from Carmy’s camp tries to speak to her and no one attempts to get him to talk to her either. There’s a brief moment when he thinks Sydney is telling him that he should call Claire and he’s unsure if she’d want to speak to him, but she clarifies that Claire wasn’t the person she was talking about. But after he calls Richie there’s no scene of him even trying to call or text her but deciding not to.

It’s a glaring juxtaposition to the rest of the episode and seems to have major implications for where Claire falls in the hierarchy of Carmy’s circle. As in, she’s outside of it, often looking in or him looking out at her. It’ll be interesting to see where The Bear goes with that framing this season as Carmy is hyper-focused on work. I find it difficult to see Claire as a part of this world and I imagine that’s the point since she seems to be kept out of it.

Throughout “Tomorrow” we also see Carmy devise his non-negotiable list. It seems bred from his reflection on what helped him succeed under the three chefs that defined his fine dining career prior to his own restaurant. But it also comes off as a response to the imperfection he feels he displays and how he believes he can rectify it for the betterment of himself and the people counting on him.

The premiere established why Carmy loves this style of cooking beautifully. To him, it is as artistic as drawing. There is a rhyme and a reason to it, but it’s communal as well. Having grown up in a chaotic, dysfunctional home, the order of this world would be attractive especially because he is good at it. He understands how to function in this space and what he doesn’t understand he can learn and perfect.

Yes, this is a field that has traumatized him but it’s also brought him a lot of fulfillment and allowed him to travel, meet new people, and have new experiences. He’s surrounded by art he can eat and by creatives that think like him, want to push like him, and who he can learn from and educate as well. All of the shots of produce, prep work, cooking, and plating highlight this so gorgeously. There’s such an attention to detail

Then there’s the moment that made me gasp because I didn’t think we’d get to see it in the series–the day Carmy made Sydney the best meal she’s ever had. Putting the scene in “Tomorrow” speaks to how transformative good food can be and how connected we all are whether we’re aware of it or not.

Finishing The Bear season 3 premiere made me want to watch it again now that my eyes aren’t so fresh. With how meticulously Christopher Storer and Matty Matheson crafted this story, there are sure to be beats that can’t be caught on first viewing. But what I do know is that this season is going to be defined by “keep f–cking going” the phrase Carmy writes down on his green tape. That’s likely why we began with the train and why the episode rarely rests, slowing down and speeding up just like our thoughts.

Based on this opening, it’s clear we’re in for a season that’s going to push the bar forward, expanding our understanding of what to expect from this thoughtfully told story.

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