‘The Bear’ S3 is like a sandwich without enough meat

It wilts from the expectations of the previous two seasons and spends too much time setting us up for the next

Warning: Some spoilers ahead. 
The first episode of Season 3 of FX hit The Bear, one of the most-awaited OTT drops of the year, starts with barely any words from its hot, fucked-up protagonist, chef Carmy Berzatto. There are flashbacks from his culinary journey and cameos from some of the best names from the food world (Daniel Boulud and René Redzepi prepare you for all the star chefs that will debut this season), but the episode is like a prophetic trailer to the rest—one where you learn something, but nothing new really.  
You’ll recall, at the end of the last season, Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) and Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) stepped up during the restaurant’s opening night while Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) took a Yoshimi blade to his relationships from the inside of a walk-in freezer. So you kinda knew that in the new season, we would deal with the repercussions of Freezergate, that a very pregnant Natalie (Abby Elliott) would lose her mind crunching numbers, that the Faks would do what the Faks do best, that deadpan Sydney would dispense some cold truths, and that in the middle of all the “Yes, Chef!” hollering, there would be islands of precision and contemplation so quiet that they’d drown out everything else for a few precious seconds. 
We get all that, but in a sandwich season that wilts from the expectations of the previous two and spends too much time setting us up for the next. Season 3 is like a mezzanine where the elevator doesn’t stop...where you can put in things that won’t be missed and where nothing can grow to its full height.

There is none of the stepping-on-clogs strife of the first season’s ‘Review’ (“Are you the face of the working man, Richie? Congrats, it’s huuuge.”), the gravy-on-timer pressure-cooker claustrophobia of ‘Fishes’ in Season 2, or the hygge embrace of ‘Omelette’ and ‘Forks’. Here, conflicts between Richie and Carmy have the air of playground roughhousing, every Faks brother’s comic-relief sequence is a few minutes too long, picture-perfect ceramic plates are regularly flung into the bin with the enthusiasm of Gordon Ramsay in his heyday, and the makers take 10 episodes to put Sydney on a runway to a panic attack.  
Even though things are a lot slower this time, they are no less messy. In the end, everything is as unresolved as it was, and nothing and no one reaches their true potential. Some of the most compelling characters on television spend the season doing nothing but pondering, sighing, and staring at the computers and phones on which they do nothing. (An episode called ‘Apologies’ sees Carmy thinking of apologising.)

There are moments when you are reminded why you’re still watching, like the episode ‘Ice Chips’, in which Jamie Lee Curtis as Donna (Carmy’s mother) takes over and runs away with it. But when ‘To be continued’ appears at the end, you feel as cheated as you did when they divided up Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into two parts (but at least there you were warned). 
I don’t hate Season 3. I will still mark my calendar and likely skip work to watch Season 4 when it comes. But I hope that the next time, Carmy and Sydney just go somewhere, have an internal journey that shows some progression. Demons don’t go away in the time it takes to make the perfect quenelle, but there’s definitely more to these characters. (Also can we please put to rest the endless ‘Will they, won’t they?’ speculation? We can do better.) 

 The Bear Season 3 is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar