Yes, Chefs, we mean, Fanatics, the sophomore season of The Bear was an absolute rollercoaster ride in emotions, cuisine goals, character development, guest stars, and a kick-ass soundtrack.
While we’re still on the fence about not getting to savor each installment like a fine wine and perfectly seasoned filet with a weekly drop, it certainly still made for an exceptional binge that had us craving more.
And there’s still a lot to be said about this season and what it had to offer in each installment as the second season managed to keep up the momentum of the first, in many ways exceeding it, while heading in a different direction.
There was so much to love about The Bear Season 2, as it managed to curve everyone’s fears and deliver on its breakout success.
And we’re here to rank the season from best episodes to worst, but let’s be real, there wasn’t really a “worst” in the first place. So grab a snack of your choice, cousins, and let’s get into it!
10. The Bear Season 2 Episode 5 – Pop
The second season of The Bear didn’t have any misses, but the least interesting installment of the season probably goes to the midseason episode, “Pop.”
The gang was neck-deep in issues trying to get The Bear ready under their virtually impossible timeline, and our beloved Carmy was dicking around with his girlfriend while everything was falling apart.
By this point, it was obvious where they were going with all of this, but it didn’t make it less frustrating to watch.
On the one hand, it was understandable why we needed to see Carmy experience happiness off the clock in his personal life and have this glimpse of normalcy and fulfillment.
But on the other hand, it was an utter drag and time suck that we had to watch him at some weirdly age-inappropriate frat house party with Claire’s friends while they were on such a strict deadline, and the others were doing all the heavy lifting.
And unfortunately, by this point of the story, Claire’s characterization was at its flattest and least dimensional, which compared to the dynamic writing for literally every other character the series has produced thus far, was disappointing.
The perks of seeing a happier, healthier side of Carmy, which would generally be welcomed, is, unfortunately, coming at the expense of so much of what viewers tune in far regarding the kitchen.
It ironically makes one resent that a character we love and want to be happy can’t manage to do that without dropping the ball on other things that matter.
However, the highlights of this installment most definitely fall on Tina, who absolutely shines and thrives in culinary school, the special moment she has with Carmy as he gives her his knife and her fantastic karaoke scene that leaves you grinning from ear to ear for her.
Tina’s arc was the saving grace of this installment.
9. The Bear Season 2 Episode 1 – Beef
The season premiere kicked things off well and set the pace for the rest of the season and what we could expect.
Some of the tonal shifts from the first season were palpable in the premiere, and it required a bit of adjustment as we launched right into the chaos of Carmy and the gang getting the restaurant off the ground with the money and more from Uncle Jimmy.
Their plan seemed impossible, which is what set such a high bar goal for the remainder of the season.
But for the most part, the first installment merely eased us into things before the real drama unfolded.
The more notable scenes were Sydney asking Tina to be her sous chef, which was easily one of the most precious interactions of the season and showed how far the two had come in their relationship.
We also had the special moment of clearing out Michael’s locker and how that impacted both Carmy and Richie.
Of course, there was the opening scene of Marcus tending to his ailing mother, which established one of the season’s themes as it related to care and service.
8. The Bear Season 2 Episode 2 – Pasta
Pasta was another strong installment for Sydney, particularly with the introduction of her father, played by the iconic Robert Townsend. For a character puzzlingly polarizing to the audience sometimes, season two’s soft glimpses into what makes her tick outside the kitchen have proven to be one of the strengths.
And Edebiri has handled Syd’s trajectory so well.
One of the highlights of the hour was the conflicting feelings that came with Sydney, feeling as if her father didn’t fully support her dream while the two shared dinner in honor of Syd’s late mother.
The revelation that Sydney’s mother died felt like a gut punch, and the intimacy of that dinner between the father and daughter was filmed so well that it felt like we were eavesdropping on a moment.
We also learned more about how Sydney felt like she failed, her inability to make pasta properly, driving her to move in with her father, and why obtaining a Michelin star was important to her.
On Carmy’s front, his mentor role with Sydney was quite strong as they worked on the menu together, which set things up nicely for when there would be tension as the season progressed after Claire entered the picture and Carmy’s interest diverged.
The filming of their encounter by the freezer at a grocery store was ripped right out of an indie rom-com as they played with close-ups and blue lighting.
While Claire became an underwhelming addition as the season progressed, that initial encounter was certainly interesting to watch as both Allen and Gordon sold the romantic encounter well.
We also got the news that Nat was pregnant, which was positively adorable.
And Tina truly shined as she went to culinary school and truly had her late-in-life renaissance. It was utterly magic.
7. The Bear Season 2 Episode 8 – Bolognese
The stakes were fairly high in this installment, with The Bear needing to pass the Fire Suppression test if they hoped even to get the restaurant going in time. It was their last shot at it, but since we could’ve envisioned they’d make it through, it wasn’t as nerve-wracking as other plot points throughout the season.
The installment had some noteworthy moments.
On the one hand, it was a relief to see Ebra return and express to Tina how out of sorts he felt with all the changes, but of all the side characters, his storyline suffered the most and didn’t have as much nuance or room to breathe, so it just sat there.
The tension between Syd and Carmy, by way of Claire, reared its head again as we saw yet again how Carmy’s attention was split between his new relationship and helping the others get this restaurant off the ground with an impossible timeline. But even that was more of the same.
And we had some great moments with Sugar and Richie, who owned up to how horribly he often treated her as he presented everyone with this newer version of himself.
We also had a perfectly endearing scene with Sugar and Uncle Jimmy that showed how much he genuinely loves and even favors his niece.
But overall, it was a solid installment but not the most remarkable offering of the season.
6. The Bear Season 2 Episode 9 – Omelette
The penultimate episode of the season perfectly set things up for the intense finale as it subtly put the spotlight on some key aspects of what would arise. Carmy missing the call from the Fridge guy and routinely being distracted, for example.
We also had so many strong indicators, and the series was at its best at leaving breadcrumbs and planting some seeds for upcoming conflicts and more that would arise.
The installment kicked off with an artfully and tastefully filmed, intimate, steamy lovemaking scene with Carmy and Claire, which served as a reminder of how happy Carmy is with her and what she brings to his life but also how consumed he is by her at the expense of other things.
Ironically, we also get a series of intimate and meaningful moments between Carmy and Syd.
Namely, that mesmerizing table scene that solidified these two as (platonic?) soulmates, him presenting her with a Thom Browne chef’s jacket with her name on it, and an even more intriguing moment of Syd being his metaphorical anchor as she’s who he thinks about to ground himself during an anxiety attack.
The seeds of doubt about the stress of it all are further planted when Uncle Jimmy levels with Carmy about the restaurant and focusing while presenting him with the license.
While Ebra fell in the background a bit more than the other side characters, it was comforting that he, too, found a sense of purpose within the ServSafe certification and still had his drive-thru window.
Marcus and Tina continued to thrive, along with Richie and Fak.
And the omelette that broke the internet likely changed everyone’s breakfast and brunch routine.
Of course, that’s if Marcus’ presentation of “The Michael” didn’t already have you in tears.
In some ways, this installment was similar to Season 1’s Review but without quite as much pressure, and it had its own slick camera work.
5. The Bear Season 2 Episode 3 – Sundae
If you’re watching a series with this deep dive into the culinary world, you must have at least a basic appreciation for food porn.
And Sundae gave us this for days.
It was one of Ayo Edebiri‘s strongest installments and gave us more insight into Sydney and how others in the culinary world perceive her outside of that of The Bear through this mouthwatering food tour throughout Chicago.
The installment felt like a love letter to Chicago’s food scene, one of those episodes that felt so distinctly Chicagoan.
Sundae was a visually stunning hour with fantastic direction and cinematography.
In many ways, we got to see everything through Sydney’s eyes, which was refreshing and provided another layer to the character that made her relatable.
The installment also delivered some gems and interesting plot points, such as the origin of her and Carmy’s “sorry” ASL gesture, the conflict resulting from Claire as “a distraction,” and a heartrending scene of Sydney longingly watching a mother and daughter share an ice cream sundae.
4. The Bear Season 2 Episode 4 – Honeydew
One of the most delightful treats of the season was the way actors of such caliber cropped up throughout it, and Will Poulter was genuinely such a delight to witness in the quiet, intimate Honeydew.
Honeydew is probably one of the most underrated episodes of the season because it wasn’t as flashy, fast-paced, or even chaotic as others. Still, it perfectly matched the energy of our dessert king, Marcus, his laidback, gentle-nature, subdued presence.
Something was soothing about the hushed tones that Marcus and Luca spoke to each other in, the steady routines of having these seemingly menial tasks as they baked together and divulged bits and pieces about their life, the tedious but remarkable effects of them creating stunning desserts.
Honeydew felt like a warm hug, keeping with the theme of service, hospitality, and hope.
It was this wonderful sense of escapism with Marcus in Copenhagen with what we later learned was Chef Luca, the guy who could’ve been Carmy’s rival, but instead, they pushed each other to be better.
Through Honeydew, we learned so much about the easygoing Marcus, how he got into the food service industry, and the background of him taking care of his ailing mother.
While Marcus’ growth and stage experience weren’t as flashy as Richie’s in Forks, it was equally as compelling.
3. The Bear Season 2 Episode 10 – The Bear
Richie may have joked that service night during his stage felt like the Superbowl, but that’s precisely what it felt like during the thrilling season finale.
The Bear had everything coming to a head, with Family & Friends night at the restaurant being the first real test of whether or not Carmy and the gang could pull this dream off his, and so far, things are looking up, at least partially.
The culmination of most of the character’s respective journeys and evolution, juxtaposed with Carmy’s sense of stagnancy, was put in a pressure cooker as everyone came together to get their soft opening of The Bear off without a hitch.
From Sydney overcoming and fighting through her anxiety to the new rockstar of the team, Richie, stepping up and leading the charge when things went awry, and newly accomplished Tina and Marcus rising to the occasion, it was a beautiful display of what this family could do, all while Carmy was heartbreakingly and literally fridged.
There were plenty of moments to send us careening over the edge with emotions, from utter scene stealer and pure of heart Peter sparing Sugar of Donna’s toxicity by consuming it himself like a sin neater to Richie’s touching gesture and Bear Season 2 Episode 6 callback with the chocolate covered banana for Uncle Jimmy.
Carmy’s crushing conclusion that he can’t both be great at work and have happiness with Claire resulting in him breaking her heart was an emotional revelation, and the spit-fueled diatribe between Carmy and Richie through the fridge door was cut to the bone as Carmy faced how he may very well be like his toxic mother.
The finale was filled to the brim with high stakes, angst, thrills, extreme emotions, and tinges of hope, and it was enough to leave us craving much more.
2. The Bear Season 2 Episode 7 – Forks
Placement is everything, and after the emotionally draining experience of watching “Fishes,” the series expertly followed that up with the heartwarming, inspiring breath of fresh air and ’80s-esque vibe that was “Forks.”
The second season did a phenomenal job of developing the side characters, allowing them to breathe and evolve outside of their relationship with the main character boldly and effectively. No character benefitted from this more than “Cousin” Richie.
Ebon Moss-Bachrach showed how capable he is at holding his own with the delightful Forks, which gives us a much deeper insight into Richie, who could’ve come across as a bit one-dimensional in the first season.
In a more hopeful, inspiring season that focused on improvement and evolution through a single episode, we saw Richie go from a 40-year-old divorcee searching for a purpose to a man who found it, not only learning where he fits into this new vision Carmy had for The Bear but recognizing the value in himself that others saw in him.
“Forks” was such a pleasant installment as Richie’s earnestness surfaced that by its end, as his stage at a high-profile restaurant ended, Richie’s journey and his new confidence were enough to leave you brimming with pride and on the verge of happy tears.
It had many standout moments, from the emphasis on service and hospitality and its importance in the industry to the quiet but monumental impact of Richie sharing the screen with Chef Terry as the hour delivered a gasp-worthy guest star with Olivia Colman.
Richie, who reads self-help books, “wears suits now,” and happily sings Taylor Swift, emerged as the greatest character of the season. Richie’s transformation seemed to happen right before our eyes and abruptly, but in The Bear’s fast-paced, detail-focused world, it worked remarkably well regardless.
1. The Bear Season 2 Episode 6 – Fishes
By now, this point goes without saying, but “Fishes” was, without a doubt, the best installment of the season.
It made for a great standalone, providing us with an utterly stacked cast of heavy hitters introducing none other than Jamie Lee Curtis as the Berzatto matron, delivering a performance that most definitely should go on her Emmy reel when this series inevitably sweeps them.
The Berzattto family and friends also consisted of Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Gillian Jacobs, John Mulaney, and Ricky Staffieri, joining recurring guest-star Jon Bernthal and Chicago Med‘s Oliver Platt.
It was a masterful production of fantastic cinematography, performances, and dialogue, topping at 66 minutes of runtime in one of the most intense, breathtaking television displays ever.
As a standalone flashback episode, the hour transported us five years prior to a Berzatto Christmas celebration that was anything but that.
It gave us great insight into the family, how everyone functions, and why these beloved but flawed characters are the way they are, making it an effective and mesmerizing piece of art worthy of deep analysis.
Through the Berzatto matriarch, Donna, we had a tense look at alcoholism and mental illness on full display and the effects of it on her children and family.
It was a biting look at family and generational trauma and toxic, dysfunctional family systems, so raw and real that it probably should’ve come with its own trigger warning.
A simple holiday dinner played out like a tense suspense thriller that practically begged us to turn our eyes away but made it impossible for viewers to do so.
It was an illuminating look at what the Berzatto siblings endured living with a woman like Donna and how that trickled down into all of their psyches and drove their choices.
It also showed how the likes of Donna or Uncle Lee deeply impacted everyone, from Mike’s dwindling self-worth to Sugar’s desperate attempts to fix and repair a broken, dysfunctional family to Carmy’s deep anxiety and penchant for withdrawal and dissociation.
The taut hour used everything in its toolbox, from dialogue, sound effects, and placement of literally everything to deliver the most widely-discussed masterpiece of an episode of the series to date.
To even imply that there’s a “worst episode” of the season would be a fallacy, particularly when “Forks” and “Fishes” were so fantastic that choosing one to surpass the other was an impossible feat.
Overall, the entire season was phenomenal, with few nitpicks.
Over to you, Bear Fanatics. Do you agree with our ranking? What’s your order?
Hit that Blue “Show Comments” button and sound off below with all of your thoughts!
You can binge the full two seasons of The Bear on Hulu.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is an insomniac who spends late nights and early mornings binge-watching way too many shows and binge-drinking way too much tea. Her eclectic taste makes her an unpredictable viewer with an appreciation for complex characters, diverse representation, dynamic duos, compelling stories, and guilty pleasures. You’ll definitely find her obsessively live-tweeting, waxing poetic, and chatting up fellow Fanatics and readers. Follow her on Twitter.