Spoilers for the second season of the FX dramedy.
FX's The Bear has returned with season 2, continuing its story about a chef forced to take over his family's Chicago-area sandwich shop. Created by Christopher Storer, the Emmy-nominated dramedy stars Jeremy Allen White as Carmen "Carmy" Berzatto, the culinary star who returns home after his brother's untimely death while he works through his personal and professional drama at The Original Beef.
Season 1 saw Carmy bringing on sous chef Sydney Adamu (Ayo Edebiri) while also clashing with longtime staffers, Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas), Ebraheim (Edwin Lee Gibson), Neil (Matty Matheson) and Marcus (Lionel Boyce), as he made dramatic changes to the establishment. In the end, after finding money that Michael "Mikey" Berzatto (Jon Bernthal) had stashed away in tomato cans, Carmy decided to close The Original Beef and open a high-end restaurant, The Bear, in its place.
And following its acclaimed run, the first season garnered 13 nominations, including one for Outstanding Comedy Series as well as nods in the writing and directing categories for Storer, helping to set up an even more delicious season 2.
Picking up with the restaurant under renovation, the new episodes sees Sydney, Carmy as well as his sister, Natalie "Sugar" Berzatto (Abby Elliott), who was pulled into to be project manager, deciding to open The Bear in three months instead of six. This, of course, adds unexpected pressure to everyone as they rush to get everything -- from menus to staffing -- ready.
Like season 1, the second installment, which is now streaming on Hulu, is full of Easter eggs, culinary references and unexpected emotional twists that make The Bear such a satisfying binge watch. After digesting all 10 episodes, here's a breakdown of that chocolate banana in the finale, all those Taylor Swift references, the unexpected guest star-filled holiday feast and more. Warning: spoilers for season 2.
Carmy's Culinary Past
Like season 1, audiences learn more and more about Carmy's culinary background. Prior to the new episodes, all that was revealed was that he used to work for a physically and emotionally abusive executive chef (played here by Joel McHale) in New York City, where his cousin Michelle (Sarah Paulson) urged him to live and work prior to his return to Chicago.
In season 2, viewers get a broader taste of where Carmy's skills came from, as he sends out his own staff on special training missions as they prepare to open The Bear. The first is Marcus, who travels to Copenhagen, Denmark to learn from a skilled pastry chef named Luca (British breakout star Will Poulter).
Later, Carmy sends Richie to spend a week at an upscale fine dining restaurant, where he's tasked with monotonous assignments, like meticulously cleaning forks before the day's service. Over time, Richie learns to appreciate the methodical way everyone approaches life at the restaurant, picking up key skills about putting the customer's experience first. Before leaving, he finally meets executive chef Terry (Olivia Colman), who not only opens up about her own personal and professional setbacks but reveals that Carmy believes in him, which is the reason why she let him come train at her establishment.
Feast of the Seven Fishes
In one of the best episodes of 2023 -- and easily season 2's most standout moment -- the series jumps back five years in time to show the extended Berzatto family getting together for a Christmas dinner. It's during this one hour of TV that audiences see so many connections established, many of which are listed here, as the Feast of the Seven Fishes unfolds during a rocky and emotional evening.
First off, the episode reveals that several A-list guest stars, including Bob Odenkirk, Jamie Lee Curtis and John Mulaney, all play key members of the Berzatto family, with the Oscar winner appearing as the matriarch, Donna, who breaks down in unexpected fashion as the meal unfolds throughout the night. (Read: a full list of all of season 2's outstanding guest stars.)
Secondly, it creates a timeline that helps put things in order for viewers. Like the fact that Carmy has just returned from Copenhagen before his cousin insists he moves to New York City or the first reference to the chocolate-covered banana, which is also explained below, or that all of this happens during Swift's 1989 era.
Taylor Swift References
Speaking of Swift's 1989 album, which is referenced by a shirt that Richie's ex-wife, Tiffany Jerimovich (Gillian Jacobs), is wearing in the flashback episode, it's one of many, many mentions of the music superstar, who serves as a guiding light for Richie's emotional journey in season 2.
In an early episode, audiences see Richie's life as a dad, when he admits to his daughter, Eva, that he needs a break from listening to Swift's music. Later, the story comes back around to that -- and the flashback episode with his ex-wife -- as Richie struggles to buy tickets to the Eras Tour, which included a real-life stop in Chicago in June 2023.
Eventually, Richie has an emotionally cathartic moment, when he sings along to "Love Story" after the song was first used in a montage of him training at Chef Terry's restaurant.
In an interview with Screenrant, Moss-Bachrach addressed all the Swift moments by saying, "Like, I love Taylor Swift, but it's been a lot." Yet, "That's not the last of her, either," he continued. "I'll tease that out. I'm not promising much, but yeah."
One of the best callbacks of season 2 involves Richie and Carmy's uncle, Jimmy "Cicero" Kalinowski (Oliver Platt), who not only is an investor in The Bear but constantly clashes with the hot headed Berzatto "cousin."
In the powerful, midseason flashback episode, audiences learn a lot more about Richie's past, which includes meeting his ex-wife, who is pregnant with their daughter at the time. Unable to eat the fish feast due to constant vomiting, Tiffany reveals that all she can consume is a banana. This leads Jimmy to share a fond childhood memory about eating a chocolate-covered banana.
Unbeknownst to the audience at the time, Richie was paying attention to this conversation, which inspires a sweet gesture made in the finale, during a bumpy opening for The Bear. Inspired by his training, which taught him the importance of listening to and anticipating his customers' needs, Richie has a waiter end Jimmy's meal with a surprise treat: a chocolate-covered banana.
The Restaurant's Name
Although in season 1, it's established that Mikey called his brother, "the bear," it's not the only origin story for the restaurant's new name.
In season 2, there are two mentions to it, with one being made by Carmy's ex-girlfriend, Claire (Booksmart's Molly Gordon), who reveals that she always knew he could call his own place that. "You’re the Bear and I remember you," Claire says, joking that he now owes her money for the idea.
The second, which offers more of a deeper, throughline to the nickname, is shared during the flashback episode, with Michelle (who delivers several key expositional moments in just one episode) sharing a story about how the word bear is phonetically similar to their family name, Berzatto. Apparently, while in New York City, a stranger compared her last name to the apex predator, which in turn became a metaphor for the family itself, especially seen during the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
Seasons 1 and 2 of FX's The Bear are now streaming on Hulu.