Chuck Hodes

SOME viewers of the first season of The Bear, Christopher Storer’s peppy drama about the goings-on at a Chicago sandwich shop, were a little surprised when, in January, it was named best TV show in the “Musical or Comedy” category of the 2023 Golden Globes. Sure there was an energy and charisma to the story of fancy chef Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, played by Jeremy Allen White, as he attempts to save the humble but beloved restaurant left to him by his late brother Mikey, who has recently killed himself, while staving off his own descent into mental turmoil. But jokes? Not so much.

Those same viewers might have been surprised again when, earlier this week, it was nominated for 13 Primetime Emmys, again mostly in the “Comedy Series” categories. But if they’ve had a chance to catch the first four episodes of the second series, all 10 episodes of which are released today in the UK, they may find themselves slightly less confused. For, it would seem, sometimes you’ve got to make the foot fit the shoe. And so, at least in those early episodes, The Bear is very much a comedy now.

We rejoin the restaurant much where we left off – Carmy having inspired his ragtag kitchen crew to help him turn The Original Beef of Chicagoland into a fine-dining establishment of the kind he left behind in his former life, to be called The Bear. Except now, somewhat weirdly, everyone’s… happy? Gone are the scalding pans and frantic chopping and sweary shouting matches; in are supportive colleagues, career opportunities, and even, in the case of previously sworn enemies sous chef Sydney (Ayo Adebiri) and line cook Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas), hugs.

Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Richie offers fatherly wisdom of sorts to daughter Eva (Annabelle Toomey) | CHUCK HODES

In fact, there are more than a few moments when you start to wonder if you haven’t been teleported from the Windy City to leafy Richmond. Carmy and Sydney are working out the bumps in their professional relationship, Tina and her fellow line cook Ebraheim (Edwin Lee Gibson), are off to better themselves at culinary school, and baker Marcus (Lionel Boyce) is sent on a lovely field trip to Copenhagen to sniff the nasturtiums at Noma. While in the city he gets a warm, early-morning masterclass in desserts from Luca, played by guest star Will Poulter, who kindly, and in no way Gordon Ramsay-ly, informs him that work starts at 5am (Luca having seemingly arrived several hours earlier to put product in his hair and apply his temporary tattoos).

There’s also a new clown posse in town: at the beginning of season two, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, whose renegade restaurant manager Richie was one of the highlights of series one, is initially more or less confined to the mid-refurb restaurant, where he, Marcus and Neil Fak (played by chef Matty Matheson, whose now-proven acting abilities have earned him a boosted presence) generally lark about in the debris. He does, however, get to deliver some genuinely funny lines, such as when dropping off his daughter to her mother and calling after her, tormented: “I love Taylor Swift too, I just needed a break.”

The Bear Season 2 Carmy

But wait… As the episodes creep on, so too does the sense of jeopardy, which has so far been restricted to whether or not Marcus can successfully put a wobbly pudding onto a plate (“Don’t try and be a hero,” says Poulter’s Luca, beneficently). The food porn shots get more frequent and more frantic, as do the simmering suggestions of unease. Maybe Ebraheim isn’t jazzed to be at culinary school after all? Sydney’s back on the subway in her earpods looking sad… Could Carmy not be pulling his weight? Perhaps the printing error on the T-shirt that Richie ordered – it reads “The Original Berf” – isn’t the only way he’s going to screw up? And yes, there’s the promise of drama to come in the shape of Jamie Lee Curtis as Momma Berzatto, who’ll be arriving in episode six with her no-good boyfriend “Uncle” Lee Lane, played by Bob Odenkirk, in tow.

So no. It seems likely this will be but a temporary pit-stop in touchy, feely, Ted Lasso-land. In which case, you may as well enjoy the respite of people being nice, and problems being small, and storylines being safe. The Bear still has some drama to come, comedic or otherwise, but it’s just taking its time to get to the boil.

The Bear Season 2 is now available on Disney+

This article originally appeared on Esquire UK.