One of the best shows on TV just returned with a terrible season premiere

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Special effects Bear returned for a third season, available in its entirety on the streaming platform on June 27. The stunning food drama starring Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri was one of the best things on TV in recent memory, a feast for the palate full of spectacular camera work and acting. Unfortunately, the Season 3 premiere takes that indulgence to the extreme, resulting in an episode that is good on its own and would have been fine if it had come mid-season, but doesn’t work as a reintroduction to the series.

To recap, the premiere finds Carmy alone the morning after his restaurant opens (as shown in the season two finale), looking back on his life, creating a fresh menu and a list of non-negotiables that will support the restaurant earn a Michelin star. It’s an introspective clip show that offers a peek into White’s mind as he tries to navigate the next chapter of his career. Unlike the often stressful episodes filled with long character interactions highlighted by well-written and comic dialogue, the premiere is a fairly sedate affair, focused solely on Carmy. We see brief glimpses of the past with other characters, but nothing beyond a few lines of dialogue. It’s all about taking a visual trip down memory lane.

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Picture: : Special effects

It plays out like a greatest hits recap and explains why he works so demanding on the restaurant in the first place, but it lacks any significant extras explaining how the audience understands Carmy as a person. In contrast, the season two premiere focuses on the relationship between Carmy and Edebiri’s Sydney and their shared focus on the mission of creating a menu for the restaurant, ending with the pair deciding to open in three months. It sets the stage perfectly for everything that comes next, hitting the foundational pillars of character interactions and attractive food that the show thrives on.

The season premiere should act as an amuse bouche, the first thing a chef serves in a restaurant to summarize and prepare guests for the upcoming meal. The Season 3 premiere forgoes this, diving straight into Carma’s past without giving the season’s momentum a chance to really get going.

The basic problem is how poorly positioned the section is. Bear in previous seasons, it often flexed its unconventional storytelling methods to great effect. The third episode of Season 2, “Sundae,” is a similarly loosely constructed character study of Sydney, told over a daylong tour of Chicago cuisine. Like the Season 3 premiere, it’s meant to show the characters recommitting to their goals, but “Sundae” works much better because it comes after several episodes that set up the stakes of the season it’s in. Many of the best episodes of Season 2 are visually spectacular character studies that feel unconventional in the way they fit into the larger plot of the season. (“Fish” and “Forks,” the sixth and seventh episodes of Season 2, also fall into this category.) While all of these episodes felt like they were in service of the show’s larger scope and established mission of opening a restaurant by the Season 2 finale, the Season 3 premiere feels disconnected from the rest of the world.

Carmy stands in front of a counter full of new dishes

Picture: Special effects

The limitations of a solid premiere and a finale that wraps up the attractive twists and turns that unfold throughout the rest of the season are what make Bearthe risk works. The Season 3 premiere doesn’t do a good job of closing it out. It’s not that I think it’s bad as an episode, but I think it’s bad as a season premiere. It relies too much on the fact that viewers have watched two seasons and are ready for another. The amuse-bouche should sum up what the show is about, and this premiere feels like the main course in the middle of a larger meal. It’s an extended recap that doesn’t really do anything fresh, which would have been fine for the first five minutes of the premiere, but after twenty minutes I was already thinking about moving on to the next episode.

Honestly, I think most viewers should. The second episode of the season is a fantastic reintroduction to the show, setting the stakes and tone for the upcoming season while also bringing back everything you love about Bear. I even think you could watch the premiere a second time and find that it works much better in the context of the second episode. The benefit of releasing all the episodes at once is that fans don’t have to sit through the premiere all week, but can jump straight into something better, which helps hide some of its flaws but shouldn’t excuse them. After the premiere, I just felt tired, but after the second episode, I felt excited to find out what else Season 3 had to offer.

Bear Season 3 is now streaming Hulu AND Disney+.

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