Great performances not enough to save meandering script and innumerable cameos

INSTEAD of being a new dish, the third season of The Bear is the same old dish, reheated with some extra ingredient thrown in just so it tastes slightly different.

The show ended its second season with the opening night of The Bear, a dinner for friends and family of the crew. In the front of house, everything ran smooth while in the back, a hellscape blazed.

Accidentally trapped in a walk-in refrigerator, Carmen (Jeremy Allen White) loses himself to his insecurities and says terrible things to Richard (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and his girlfriend Claire (Molly Gordon).

Due to that, Marcus (Lionel Boyce) and Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) take over leadership to commandeer the crew until service ends.

The third season bravely experiments with the television format of serials with its first episode being entirely flashbacks from the first two seasons and new scenes, with maybe only 15 short lines of dialogue.

In the second episode, The Bear starts proper and deals with the fallout from the friends and family night and it quickly becomes apparent that the show is losing its focus.

$!Moss-Bachrach’s Richard has also shown stunted character development.

Prestige acting

Third season of The Bear amplifies the strengths of its first two seasons, along with all their weaknesses.

Not missing a mark, the cast once again bring a bravura performance fit for the kind of prestige television The Bear requires. The third season will not be eligible for the Emmy Awards next year but it will certainly influence the nominations for the second season due to the performance everyone brought for this season.

Just like last season, Jon Bernthal only appears for a single episode as Michael Berzatto (Carmen’s older brother).

Although his screentime was brief, his performance, in which he uses the facade of happiness and optimism to mask his cavernous depression and sadness, was compelling and riveting.

It is impossible he will not be nominated for his performance in the Christmas episode last season. The same applies to the rest of the cast.

However, these moments with the main characters, as great as they are, is where The Bear losses its initial appeal as an award-winning show.

Cumbersome cameos

There is an overbearing amount of guest stars in this season to the point it becomes a guessing game for who will turn up in each subsequent episode.

In the second season, there is one episode that introduces a multitude of new characters played by famous actors in guest appearances. It focused on an explosive Christmas flashback involving the Berzattos and their extended family and it is arguably one of the best episodes in the entire show.

For the third season, the guest star element becomes a ham-fisted gimmick in each episode. In the fifth episode, John Cena quite literally wanders into The Bear as Sammy, the brother of the existing two Fak brothers.

Instead of being a quick and funny cameo for Cena to flex his comedic muscles, it becomes distracting as the scenes whiplash between his antics in the front of house and The Bear’s crew having their finances scrutinised in the back of house.

$!Next season will see Edebiri’s Sydney (left) and White’s Carmen on a creative and professional collision course.

Trim the excess fat

While the aforementioned Christmas episode was full of guest stars, it was also a form of layered storytelling that expanded on many things such as Carmen and Micheal’s deep insecurity and mental illness, along with the latter’s depression and how all of their problems came from their manic, bipolar and suicidal mother Donna (Jamie Lee Curtis).

On that note, Carmen’s insecurities and self-destructive tendencies have overstayed their welcome. The last episode for this season shows he may be making progress in healing but the viewer still has to endure nine episodes of him not only hurting himself but his co-workers and family before making progress.

The kicker is this is not the first rodeo as Carmen’s supposed redemption arc was already seen in the previous two seasons. Every time he is on the verge of overcoming his trauma and mental illness, show creator Christopher Storer makes a hard pivot and the character goes back to his old ways.

This in turn affects how the other characters are written as they work for Carmen and him sabotaging himself also sabotages them.

In the first episode’s fleeting flashback vignettes, the verbally and mentally abusive chef David Fields (Joel McHale) criticises one of Carmen’s dishes, telling him that he is doing too much and he should “subtract”. Rather ironically, the show needs to start taking its own advice.

Wherever The Bear is headed towards in its fourth season, it desperately needs to find its way out of the woods first.

The Bear’s third season is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.