The Bear season 3 puts character before plot which could divide viewers

“THE BEAR” — “Children” — Season 3, Episode 5 (Airs Thursday, June 27th) — Pictured: Ayo Edebiri as Sydney Adamu. CR: FX.
“THE BEAR” — “Children” — Season 3, Episode 5 (Airs Thursday, June 27th) — Pictured: Ayo Edebiri as Sydney Adamu. CR: FX. /

Major spoilers ahead for The Bear season 3 episodes 4-5

I’ve reached the halfway mark of The Bear season 3, and I think this is the season that’s going to divide viewers. After a stunningly gorgeous premiere and two subsequent episodes that play with form, and in episode 3’s case sound, episodes 4-5 are comparatively slower. They prioritize character over plot which may deter viewers who are looking for scenes to go somewhere or progress the story in some way.

To be fair, both of these episodes do seed plots that are certain to be explored later. However, they’re primarily about how the characters feel. “Violet” begins with a past conversation between Claire and Carmy. It’s ominous, not because of what they say but because of what their discussion might mean for this season. The scene centers on physical injuries that can hurt so much that you don’t feel it but that paradoxical state of being can happen emotionally, too.

When you don’t deal with something and continue to push it away so you don’t feel it, eventually it’ll come back up and you’ll feel everything. Carmy has not properly dealt with what's happened to him personally and professionally over the years. This season, his foil is Marcus whose recent loss of his mother is sharply felt but he’s not pushing those feelings away.

The two men are from wildly different households. Marcus’ mother, Angela, surrounded him with love. His father wasn’t really in the picture, but he didn’t feel the need to know him because he had a mom who truly saw him and listened to him. They had open lines of communication even when her illness stole her voice. 

In contrast, Carmy’s mom, DD, is a whirl of chaos and frenetic energy. She’s often on edge and the Berzattos only know how to deal with conflict through shouting and unleashed anger. It has led to Carmy struggling to control his temper and his words, though he does try. And, it’s likely the reason why he needs things to be orderly, pristine, and perfect in the kitchen, the place he feels most at home in.

“Children” is an extension of the narrative started in “Violet” about parenthood. In the previous episode, Richie–in scenes that have nothing to do with what’s going on at the restaurant–came to terms with his ex-wife, Tiff, moving on with Frank. He took his wedding ring off and gave his daughter, Evie, leave to call Frank whatever she wants without trying to influence her.

Toward the end of the episode, he and Sugar have a talk centered on not passing their baggage onto their kids. Richie says he doesn’t know how to do that but he’s doing a good job keeping his complicated feelings about Tiff moving on and Frank being in their lives from impacting Evie. And Sugar keeps him from making the mistake of dropping back in his role as a father because he thinks it might be best for his daughter so as not to confuse things.

Sugar tells him it’d be weird if he weren’t around, and she’s right. Being there, being present is a big part of The Bear’s message regarding what it means to care for and love someone. It’s a point Sydney touches on with Cicero in “Children” when he wonders if maybe Carmy’s issues are partly his fault because he didn’t help out enough when the Berzatto siblings were younger. But Sydney assures him that it’s important that he’s here now, and she’s right.

There, however, is an impermanence to life as well which these episodes also touch on. Chef Terry closing Ever rocks both Carmy and Richie. The restaurant is a touchstone for them and Carmy mentions to Sugar that he thought it would be around forever. How shaken they are isn’t entirely due to the building itself but because of the physical representation of the community Chef Terry built and her teaching methods which helped create better service industry professionals. 

I think it’s telling that story beat happened in the same episode Sydney tells Marcus that it’s scary to rely on someone. It’s scary because people can leave, they can decide to move on. But they can also let you down in deeply heartbreaking ways. There has to be trust that won’t happen or at least that there will be a warning before the other shoe drops. And, though The Bear season 3 has yet to answer where Sydney’s head is at on the partnership agreement, it’s clear that she doesn’t have trust otherwise the document would have been signed by now.

I’m not sure where the season is going to go in that regard but episodes 4-5 do quietly build toward compelling stories for each character, particularly for Marcus who is creating a dessert inspired by a white violet in tribute to his mother. They’re just also slow moving and potentially too long in parts like with many of the scenes featuring the Faks.

While it’s nice seeing a healthier family dynamic on the show, outside of Sydney and her dad, the Faks as the comic relief gets pretty heavy-handed in “Children” and takes away from the overall story being told at times, especially when Sammy, Neil, and Ted get too deep in the weeds about being “haunted.”

Next is episode 6, “Napkins,” which was directed by Ayo Edebiri and is said to be very emotional, so if you struggled through episodes 4-5 to get here, that’s okay. Season 3 is a different beast than the previous seasons and much of that has to do with the restaurant finally being established and the characters taking the forefront of the story.

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