The Bear is one of the most stressful shows I've ever seen. It also has a humungous heart. The balance of this show took people by surprise in the first season. and it helped get the show a ton of followers who loved being swept away in the world of a sandwich shop in Chicago.  

The second season took a different turn. It's about the stress of opening a new restaurant and managing your life and your family at the same time. 

Hulu drops all the episodes at once, so reactions to the show come out staggered as people watch. But it was clear early on that the sixth episode of the second season was the one that was rocking everyone when they go there. 

Well, I just got there, and it rocked me too. 

The episode is titled "FISHES," and we're going to talk about it today. Needless to say, there will be a ton of spoilers for the first six episodes of season two in this article. But if you're caught up or finished the season, this conversation is for you. 

Let's dive in. 

Spoiler Warning: This article contains details for Episode 206 of The Bear.

Background of The Bear

The Bear is a compelling drama series set in a struggling Chicago sandwich joint inherited by the protagonist, Carmen "Carmy" Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White). The story explores Carmy's battle with grief after the death of his brother and his attempts to escape the bankruptcy and failure of his brother's restaurant, which serves as the backdrop. 

The series was created by Christopher Storer and stars Jeremy Allen WhiteEbon Moss-BachrachAyo EdebiriLionel BoyceLiza Colón-ZayasAbby Elliott, and Matty Matheson.

The Unconventional Narrative

Even in the first season, the show's unconventional narrative is what drew me in right away. We're bouncing between characters, we have flashbacks, and there are no narrative constraints. It felt free and breezy even when the subjects were dire. 

Well, in Season 2, this gets escalated with an entire episode that's a flashback. It's a famous Christmas Eve dinner at the Berzatto family home where things all went sideways. 

The Power of the Ensemble Cast

A significant factor contributing to the success of The Bear is its ensemble cast. In its flashback episode, that lesson upholds. We have an extensive cast of cameos, including Jamie Lee Curtis as Donna Berzotto, John Bernthal reprising as Michael, and then family friends played by Gillian Jacobs, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, and John Mulaney. 

In a worse show, this level of cameos would be distracting and take away from the narrative, but in this show, we see the need for this caliber of actor to carry the emotional range of where this episode goes. 

The-bear-206-11-649f402979954'The Bear'Credit: FX

What's the Story of Episode 206? 

Carmy is returning home for the first time after completing his apprenticeship in Copenhagen. However, his brother Mikey and his mother are upset with him for acting superior and leaving his family behind.

Mikey is struggling financially, dealing with The Beef, and is displaying signs of depression and addiction. His interactions with Uncle Lee are strained and tense.

Meanwhile, Richie and Tiffany are facing the news of Tiffany's pregnancy, and Richie is looking for a new job from Cicero to support their growing family.

The Fak brothers are also present, hammered and naive, attempting to sell a get-rich-quick scheme involving baseball cards.

Amidst all this, Donna Berzatto is overwhelmed in her messy, sauce-covered kitchen as she strives to complete the enormous task of preparing the Feast of the Seven Fishes.'The Bear'Credit: FX

How The Bear Episode 206 Opened up the Storytelling Scope of the TV Show

In the episode, it's Christmas Eve and this family is working on making it through the event while people's issues are simmering under the surface. Let's look at a few of them. 

Donna, the mother, is dealing with mental illness and we see the tenuous relationship she has with herself and her family. At any minute, she can explode, and at any minute she can be warm and kind. Everyone has to navigate her and that makes every scene in the kitchen intense. Donna loves her kids and her family but is constantly pushing on their last nerve. The family wants to help her, but asking if she is "OK" will set her off. Everyone has to walk the balance beam around her, and we get a glimpse into why all our characters are the way they are in the present. 

Going back in time for this extended period is a really fun way to get us through a ton of expository "Why are these people like this?" questions by showing us instead of telling us. It also opens up the idea of what a show like this can do. It's not just about a restaurant or making a restaurant. 

This is a show about what makes this chef the way he is. It's all the ingredients that give Carmy his point of view when it comes to food and fine dining. 

Carmy undergoes a significant evolution throughout the series. In the second season, he is faced with the daunting task of making the restaurant work while battling his personal demons.

In this flashback, we see how he deals with the pressure of breaking into the culinary world balanced against how he can be there for his family when spending so much time away from them. 

This question of, "Is the greatness achieved worth the cost paid?" is the theme of the entire show and pulled out in this immense episode. 

While the series is indeed a testament to the power of great television, it also serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by those who create it.

The-bear-season-2'The Bear'Credit: FX

Summing up How The Bear Episode 206 Opened up the Storytelling Scope of the TV Show

The unique writing style, complex character development, and thoughtful exploration of themes make The Bear a standout addition to contemporary television. As the series continues to evolve, it promises to keep challenging narrative conventions and providing viewers with a compelling, emotionally resonant experience.

Let me know what you think in the comments.