The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of Hulu’s The Bear, as well as mentions of self-harm.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Season 1 of The Bear was how much generational trauma Carmen had to fight through to keep the family’s diner going. The young chef was struggling to come to grips with Michael’s (his brother) suicide, his disconnection from his mom and sister, and how he was left this restaurant that seemed to be blighted. It led to Carmen losing control at times, especially after a review came out giving them props.
This created a tense finale, “Braciole,” where Carmen began wondering if he was really cut out to lead. All his doubts from the big city days in New York where he was a five-star chef came flooding back. However, while this crippling mental debilitation paved the way for Carmen’s biggest defeat, it ironically opened a door towards his greatest victory as well.
It occurred after a meltdown nearly shut down shop, painting Carmen as a sadistic villain. They took in too many online orders after the glowing review, causing Carmen to freak out, especially on Sydney, whose dish the secret reviewer loved. Sydney and Marcus eventually abandoned their posts amid the infighting, feeling totally betrayed by the boss. It left the staff two short as Carmen tried to get back to business the next day. However, when he tried to light a cigarette in the oven flame, he almost burned off his entire face.
In fact, as the stovetop and wall caught fire, Carmen became immobilized. He stared at the flames, accepting his downfall at last. This was metaphorical because Carmen tried to be reborn after he left the fancy industry, plus he knew it was unsafe and unsanitary to smoke in the kitchen, especially after the health authorities already came down on them so hard. This entire debacle felt like punishment for giving up and breaching the rules, negating the order and discipline he’d tried so hard to set up. Thankfully, his staff put it out, seeing that Carmen was broken.
When Carmen sat outside, his cousin Richie finally gave him a letter Michael left. Richie held off, knowing that once he gave this letter, it’d officially mean Michael was gone. The letter was simple, with one side telling Carmen to “let it rip” — Michael’s catchphrase, and overall, his belief in his little brother. The other had a recipe for Michael’s spaghetti that Carmen didn’t want on the menu anymore. Many wondered if it was because Carmen condescendingly deemed the dish beneath him, or if he really didn’t know how to make it.
But it’s most likely because it reminded him how Michael made the dish for them, all to celebrate family. As such, Carmen texted Sydney about her own recipe, that same risotto he felt wasn’t ready, despite the reviewer loving it, telling her it needed acid. He finally embraced his mistakes at this moment, how he took out his rage on others, and how he didn’t accept how much Michael’s departure hurt him.
As such, the divisive Carmen finally atoned, cooking Michael’s spaghetti for the staff to unite. But when he popped open the tomato cans, he found wads of cash inside. This was the money Michael left behind that he borrowed from Cicero and which he faked paying on the books with KBL Electric. Now, Carmen could pay his workers, avoid the IRS, cook and make money to pay back the mobster, and fix up the place. To top it off, Sydney returned, with Carmen eager to give her more culinary freedom. All this enabled Carmen to confidently rebrand from “The Beef” to “The Bear.” It was to honor his family’s last name, Berzatto, and also, Michael, whom he remembered as the season closed, with all the staff happily eating spaghetti.
All eight episodes of The Bear are available on Hulu.