‘The Bear’ Season 3 Premiere Shows Exactly What Happened in the Fridge

When The Bear season 3 begins, audiences may find it surprising that we start in the past. As traumatized viewers recall, Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) accidentally locked himself in a fridge at the end of the season 2 finale. For the past year, we’ve anxiously waited to find out what exactly happened in there. Carmy spent the entirety of the restaurant’s opening night suffering from a panic attack, screaming, and cursing out his friends. The aftermath? Surely terrible. The FX series will likely reckon with Carmy’s actions this season, but season 3, episode 1 takes time for reflection.

The downbeat nature of the season 2 finale surprised us all, because it didn’t feel like the victory everyone else in the ensemble deserved. Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) went to Ever in Chicago to learn about fine dining; Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas) attended culinary school; Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) expanded her palate; Neil (Matty Matheson) became a waiter; and Marcus (Lionel Boyce) traveled to Copenhagen to work the dough with Will Poulter. But while everyone else left season 2 as a better human, Carmy didn’t leave much time to work on himself. All of his insecurities, trauma, and grief built up inside him until he exploded like a popcorn kernel on the pan. It’s possible—and heavily implied—that he subconsciously self-sabotaged himself. Either way, it’s clear that Carm experienced some sort of ego death that night.

That’s why the season 3 premiere—which plays like the overture before the beginning of a movie—focuses solely on Carmy. The episode is a twenty-seven-minute montage of the chef’s life flashing before his eyes, featuring the most we’ve seen yet of pre-Beef Carm. As with the golden age of movie overtures that played before Citizen Kane, Lawrence of Arabia, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, the idea is to set the tone and emotionally prepare the audience for what they’re about to watch. But on The Bear, we see the main character parsing through his memories to see where it all went so wrong.

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Carmy is in for one hell of ride in season 3.FX / Hulu

In a flurry of vignettes, episode 1 shows Berzatto’s experiences working for some of the best restaurants in the world. Clearly, Carmy’s memories flooded back into his mind during that night in the fridge; they sum up to a cocktail of mouthwatering dishes and abusive workplaces. Even when you see his creative juices flowing through cameos with Noma’s René Redzepi and Daniel’s Daniel Boulud, another Joel McHale jump scare at Eleven Madison Park enters the fray and stifles his fire. The culinary world has damaged Carm as much as it has inspired him to perform at his best. And similar to his night in the fridge, he’s often experiencing a confusing mix of both.

“I wasn’t here,” he says to himself as his love interest, Claire (Molly Gordon), listens through the freezer door. “What the fuck was I thinking, like I was going to be in a relationship? I’m a fucking psycho! That’s how I operate. I am the best because I didn’t have any of this fucking bullshit, right? I could focus and I could concentrate.” Carmy declares that he doesn’t need “to receive any amusement or enjoyment,” because "no amount of good is worth how terrible this feels. It’s just a complete waste of fucking time." Prepare yourself for this reference: Like SpongeBob SquarePants emptying his mind of everything except for fine dining and breathing—and forgetting his own name in the process—Carm symbolically kills the parts of himself that seek happiness.

the bear season 3
How will Carmy and Sydney’s working relationship evolve in season 3?FX/Hulu

I imagine a lot of viewers are frustrated with Carm. And rightfully so! I’m right there with you. Carmy’s downward spiral is exponentially harder to watch as The Bear enters season 3. Plus, the premiere seemingly sets up even more pain ahead for out troubled chef. Carmy needs to evolve over the course of season 3’s ten episodes—and I doubt he’ll reach any sort of conclusion until episode 10. In fact, his new set of rules for the restaurant in the second episode proves that he learned the wrong lessons from his vision quest in the fridge.

Maybe the story of the bereaved chef who drives himself up the wall trying to build a Michelin-starred restaurant isn’t that insane after all. Tons of talented young professionals in the restaurant industry will likely relate to Carm’s decision: the compulsion to suppress your joy just so you can work incredibly long hours cooking up perfectly plated meals. The Bear is still asking which part of the artistic process brings happiness: the work or the reward? Is it selfish to want to enjoy the experience, too, or is it that self-centeredness that drives you to put blinders on in the pursuit of glory? I can’t promise that Carm will find an answer by the end of season 3.

I hope he will. Remember, The Bear is already renewed for season 4—so maybe we’ll see Carmy find himself then. Chefs, it always gets worse before it gets better.

Want to keep reading, chef? Here's our season 3, episode 2 recap.

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