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The Bear’s season 1 episodes, ranked

A promo image for The Bear.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Bear is one of the most kinetic and unique series on television, and the heat is coming back to the kitchen in season 2. The upcoming season, which premieres on Hulu on June 22, will once again see Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri cooking up masterpieces in Chicago’s River North neighborhood.

The first season of The Bear premiered in June 2022 to rave critical reviews and intense fan praise. The show follows Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, a James Beard Award-winning chef, as he returns home to Chicago after the suicide of his brother. Carmy, a reserved and somewhat tortured soul himself, now takes on the mantle of managing the family business: a rundown restaurant named The Original Beef of Chicagoland.

The Bear is not a show for fun and easygoing vibes. Christopher Storer, the creator of the series, instead chooses to ramp up the show’s intensity to create a tone more reminiscent of the insane and stressful hustle-and-bustle of a professional kitchen environment. The kitchen turns into a war zone, a place where screaming and cursing are as common as the cooking itself.

Even though we’ll have to wait just a bit longer to see if season 2 will live up to the first season, let’s take a look back at some of the best episodes from The Bear‘s incredible first season.

8. Hands (Episode 2)

The Bear season 1 episode 2 "Hands"
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Even The Bear‘s weakest entries are commendable and interesting in their own ways; the show never really fails to lose its viewers from episode to episode. However, episode 2 of the show’s first season simply cannot stack up to what the other installments bring to the (kitchen) table. Episode 2 follows Carmy as he really gets into the nitty gritty of running The Original Beef: the new head chef faces resistance from his employees, the restaurant is given a horrible rating from a health inspector, and Carmy finds out his brother owed his uncle hundreds of thousands of dollars.

While Hands isn’t a bad installment at all, it has to do a lot of heavy lifting. It sets up the stakes and the logistical challenges that Carmy and Sydney will have to take on throughout the season, and it only scratches the surface at the character development that will eventually follow.

7. Brigade (Episode 3)

The Bear Season 1 Episode 3 "Brigade"
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Brigade, episode 3 of the show’s first season, signals the beginning of a turn for The Bear‘s characters and plot. After the setup of the previous two episodes, Brigade starts to dive into its characters headfirst. Carmy attempts to better understand his late brother’s alcohol addiction by attending an Al-Anon meeting, a first step in Carmy’s character arc throughout the season.

The emotional core of The Bear‘s first season really rests on Carmy’s relationship with both himself and his brother, and the seeds of that struggle come to light heavily in this episode. Meanwhile, the rest of the kitchen workers start to show some kinks in their hard exteriors. The staff begins to connect in their new roles and embrace Carmy’s vision, even if it’s extremely foreign to them. While Brigade isn’t doing anything outstanding, it features key baby steps for the show’s emotional stakes.

6. Sheridan (Episode 5)

The Bear Season 1 Episode 5 "Sheridan"
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In Sheridan, the staff at The Original Beef is forced to improvise. From a power outage to a serious bathroom mishap, the restaurant is in full disarray. The episode showcases our characters as they are forced to solve crisis after crisis, and it highlights their relentless nature. We have seen them cursing, causing messes, and breaking stuff left and right, but Sheridan showcases that these people really, truly care about this place — even if they won’t admit it.

The episode is not only a look into our chefs as they start to show their true colors, but it’s also a great capsule of Chicago. Also, thanks to an outsized role for Fak in this episode, viewers get to delight in the bumbling yet funny Matty Matheson. Himself an accomplished chef in real life, Matheson was a key behind-the-scenes presence in making sure The Bear was authentic to the real chef experience. Without Matheson, The Bear likely wouldn’t be the same.

5. Ceres (Episode 6)

The Bear Season 1 Episode 6 "Ceres"
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Ceres serves as a great investigation into the tensions present between the characters that make up The Original Beef. From Sydney and Richie’s petty rivalry to Marcus’ intense quest to create the perfect donut, Ceres shows the flaws in each character, big and small. No character is left behind; they’re all complicated, personable, and layered personalities that hold insecurities, hopes, and dreams.

Episode 6 also holds one of the show’s most heartbreaking, yet endearing scenes when Jon Bernthal (the MCU’s Punisher from the Daredevil series) makes a cameo as Michael, Carmy and Sugar’s late brother. Despite being such a central figure in the show’s emotional core, Bernthal only really gets one scene to make his mark. He delivers that and more, resulting in a heart-wrenching portrayal of an inherently flawed, yet lovable human being.

4. Dogs (Episode 4)

The Bear Season 1 Episode 4

Much of The Bear feels like a claustrophobic panic attack waiting to happen, but Dogs is one of the first times the show takes a bit of a step back to peek behind the curtains of the lives of our main characters. The episode follows Carmy and Richie as they cater a children’s birthday party for Cicero, Carmy’s uncle. While Dogs may not be a stress ball brought to life like the show’s other episodes, there’s a certain beauty in the episode’s ability to look into its characters without the kitchen’s chaos.

The episode also holds one of the season’s funniest moments when Richie accidentally drugs every kid at the party. Dogs finds the kitchen staff growing closer as both friends and as a kitchen unit, and it’s a welcome look into the insecurities and flaws of our main characters.

3. System (Episode 1)

The Bear Season 1 Episode 1 "System"
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The Bear‘s pilot episode is a perfect hook. It highlights what is to come in terms of character, narrative, and tone — that is, a stressful and panic-inducing search inside the hopes and fears of a select group of characters. System introduces Carmy into The Original Beef, where Richie and the rest of the restaurant’s stubborn staff resist Carmy’s new vision for the joint.

In order to get some additional support in the kitchen, Carmy hires Culinary Institute of America-trained chef and Chicago native Sydney Adamu. The episode perfectly envisions the series as a stressful interior look at the inner workings of a neighborhood restaurant. It delivers and sets up everything from heart-tugging relationships to annoying characters.

2. Braciole (Episode 8)

The Bear Season 1 Episode 8 "Braciole"
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The season 1 finale of The Bear is a perfect summation of everything that has come before it. After the all-out hellfire that is episode 7, Braciole serves up a welcome concluding sucker punch. The episode’s opening sequence, a seven-minute monologue from Carmy as he lays his heart on the table, is a breathtaking and heart-wrenching moment that finds beauty in life’s worst moments. White is at his best, performing his heart out and never holding back a punch.

Nearly every emotional note that was introduced throughout the series is wrapped up in Braciole in excellent fashion, and the episode is still able to incorporate the stressful chaos that defines its tone. Braciole delivers a lot, from frustration to tears. It’s the perfect conclusion to the show’s first season, a beautifully stressful, yet endlessly earnest investigation into a group of flawed souls.

1. Review (Episode 7)

The Bear Season 1 Episode 7 "Review"
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Review is an all-time episode of television. The entire episode looks to be filmed in one take, a technique that can often feel gimmicky or unnatural. With Review, though, it’s extremely effective. The episode follows the kitchen workers as they try to tackle a new preordering system that results in hundreds of orders piling in at once. What results is all-out chaos. Carmy tries to pull together his kitchen staff in order to get everything made, and tensions flare everywhere.

It’s an episode where the aesthetic of the filmmaking is as bold and kinetic as its characters and dialogue. The incendiary set of circumstances no doubt leaves many viewers almost as stressed as the chefs themselves. It’s a wonder what Review is able to accomplish with both its narrative and its tone. The Bear thrives in its stress, and there is no greater example of that power than in Review.

All episodes of The Bear season one are available to stream on Hulu.

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Carson Burton
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