Like a five-star meal, the ingredients of The Bear are picked, crafted and cooked with utmost care and artistry. Hey, yes, we are talking about The Bear. I started watching it with no expectations, primarily because of the hype. But I was not expecting to be this moved by the show. Mild spoilers ahead.

Carmen Berzatto (Jeremy Allen-White), is one of the top chefs in the US. He returns to his family restaurant, a small joint in a Chicago that is far from the fine dining luxury Carmen “Carmy” is used to working in. We learn through the first season that his older brother, Michael “Mikey” (Jon Bernthal), was previously the owner of The Beef and died by suicide and has left The Bear in Carmy’s custody. Carmy tries to fix the restaurant, meeting many obstacles apart from the logistics. His brother’s bestie, Richard “Richie” (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), currently holds the staff’s favour, who perceive Carmy as a fancy chef who doesn’t understand how real kitchens work. A motley crew, they bring their own quirks and eccentricities to the kitchen. In comes Sydney, played by the talented Ayo Edebiri, who like Carmy, is used to a world of discipline and fine dining. They both develop a camaraderie as they try to earn the crew’s respect while making The Beef one of the best restaurants in Chicago.

What stood out to me the most about the show is its flow. It’s well-paced - not too slow or fast, but rich with the characters’ interior lives, interlaced with humour. We see Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas), Marcus (Lionel Boyce) and Richie bloom into their potential while learning of Carmy’s struggle with grief and mental health. We watch Ebra (Edwin Lee Gibson) struggle against change and fear, and Syd manage the pressure of the restaurant while learning to trust herself and others. Each story is complete, with every character getting an arc they deserve, building itself into a wonderful kaleidoscope of experiences.

The show has some of the sharpest writing, both in terms of humour and drama. And we cannot speak of writing without speaking of the men in The Bear. The men are ordinary men… in that they have trouble with emotions, rage when angry, and struggle to say what matters the most. What makes them extraordinary is their engaging with their flaws. They are receptive, apologise, show up for each other and verbalise their deepest fears. As my best friend put it, these men have been written with care and it shows. It’s an exceptional exploration of the softness of masculinity and how easily it turns toxic. I want men to watch this show and reflect.

Richie is one of my favourite characters because I see myself and many others in him. An abrasive man-child, Richie is sometimes a smooth talker, most other times a shit talker. He works the front of the restaurant, is crass and doesn’t have a specialisation as such. A divorced man with a young daughter, he puts on a tough exterior which hides tons of insecurities within. Maybe he is redundant; perhaps he has no purpose. He thus resists change, fearing the loss of his importance in the restaurant, which exists chiefly because of his people skills. He puts on a struggle against Carmy, dealing with the grief of losing his best friend at the same time. He also struggles to welcome Sydney because she sees him for who he is - a smooth talker with no actual role in the kitchen.

But as he slowly opens himself to change, we see his tough exterior give way to a talented man willing to reinvent himself at the age of 40+. We meet a Richie who is soft like he is with his daughter, who looks himself in the eye, faults and everything, and keeps on going. It is one of the favourite arcs in TV show history because how often do tough, loud, angry, potentially violent men choose to discard these defence mechanisms and embrace love and vulnerability gracefully? The world would be a much better place if more men did that, and I hope Richie inspires them.

With well-written men, it often is the case that the women aren’t. But The Bear leaves no stone unturned with the characters of Sydney, Tina, Natalie “Sugar” (Abby Elliott), and Donna Berzatto (Jamie Lee Curtis). Donna especially. I have a soft spot for enraged and furious women who are slowly unravelling in response to a terrible world. The Bear always turns its gaze towards Donna with love. The Christmas special, running an hour long, is a lovely exploration of the complex family dynamics of the Berzatto family, and it never mocks or attempts to parody.

Tina, like Richie, is an older staff member who is used to doing things a certain way, and being good at them. When Carmy and Syd step into roles of leadership, she loses her footing and makes their first few days a pain in the ass. But when they earn their respect, she sheds her hostility, revealing a curious woman eager to learn, improve and operate at a higher level. She is fearless and bold, and her sincerity makes her character super endearing.

Through the growth of the characters, the show highlights how many people just need the chance and resources to shine. Whether intentional or not, it portrays how social circumstances majorly impact where a person lands and what they end up becoming.

The previous paras might fool you into believing that the show focuses more on the drama than the context. Still, the show manages to neatly tie that information into the episodes as well. As another friend put it, it captures the chaos of a kitchen, the anxiety, frustration and joy very well. Superb editing and sound design have a large part to play in this. One feels they are standing in the kitchen watching the madness unfold. It also captures and articulates the art of cooking and the passion required to pursue it well. It shows AND tells, with profound island-side conversations between our main characters and others.

I wrote over 900 words in one sitting, and after doing content writing as a job, trust me, that is difficult to do. So, if you haven’t already, please watch the show and remember to let it rip.