The Bear was all the hype last year; the show just swept six awards at the 2024 Emmys in the comedy category. Show creator Christopher Storer deserves all the praise, but the intro should probably read a warning for people prone to anxiety: the show is intense, raw, and chaotic. To award it Outstanding Comedy Series makes little sense to me.

The Bear follows Michelin-starred chef Carmen Berzatto, played by Jeremy Allen White, as he navigates through his dead brother’s restaurant in Chicago, The Beef. The plot immediately promises to scratch an itch: A high-class chef, equipped with skills and precision, at the top of his game, trying to fix a disorganised kitchen. One expects a satisfying montage of transformation, with before and after reels playing in parallel. Instead, all hell breaks loose.

We have a staff that refuses to cooperate, a kitchen still reeling from the baggage of the death of its previous owner, financial problems, and too many emotionally volatile agents bickering with each other. It’s a recipe for disaster, but the brilliance of The Bear lies in its use of controlled chaos, stacking one problem on top of another. The result is impeccable, and you have interpersonal conflicts, hinged on the central conflict, that is, the survival of the restaurant.

The Bear’s best ingredient are emotions. If the first season doesn’t play out the transformation of the The Beef’s kitchen, where all the ‘chefs’ coordinate seamlessly, it definitely promises a well-fleshed-out trajectory for each of the characters. The interpersonal relationships between the characters have their own arcs, and while the kitchen reaches a literal boiling point, the characters converge towards each other.

From the very first episode, The Bear promises potential, and I became invested in both the characters and the restaurant. Will Carmy manage to turn the restaurant around while dealing with his grief and shame? Will Sydney (played by Ayo Edebiri, who can convey many shades of a single emotion just by a movement of her lips) gain the respect of her colleagues? Will Tina stop hazing her? Will Marcus make the perfect donuts? These questions seem trivial at first, but the universe of The Bear, with its tender characters and their high aspirations, hooks you in. But do not for a second get fooled. This is not a wholesome show, the tensions are rising, and the stakes are high.

It all comes crashing down in the seventh episode of Season 1, titled ‘Review’. The whole episode is one big meltdown shot in a single take, with no hidden cuts. Carmy, who addresses everyone as ‘chef’ as a sign of respect, is now flinging pots about, overriding all the rules he tried to establish since the beginning. Throughout the episode, I sat on the edge of my screen, watching as the characters charged at one another. The close shots bring in a sense of chaotic urgency and intense claustrophobia, but you can’t dare pause to catch a breath, you are trapped with the characters.

The Bear is a masterclass in depicting generational trauma. In Episode 6 of Season 2, titled ‘Fishes’, you will probably for the first time associate the words ‘I love you’ with trauma. The Berzatto family’s love language is cooking, and what could go wrong when your love language is in acts of service? It turns out a lot of resentment, chaos, anger can unfold in the course of a Christmas dinner (no surprise there). But The Bear uses the familiar setting of a tense family dinner and pushes it up several notches. You get introduced to Donna, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, who does an amazing job at tipping to the breaking point every time the timer on top of the oven sounds. You see her breakdown coming from a mile away, as alcohol and a high-pressure situation make for a perfect train wreck that packs chaos in a small kitchen with the gut-punching scenes of family dysfunction. Nonetheless, the episode surpasses all expectations with its climax.

There are small moments of comic relief brought in by the goofy handyman Niel Fakk, played by Matty Mattheson, or in Richie’s childish behaviour, but the other shoe is always ready to drop: perhaps a cigarette box left untended is round the corner with a fresh set of disasters. Don’t let the misguided categories stop you from watching this show. Carmy, despite his self-sabotaging tendencies, is worth rooting for in the end.

The Bear, erstwhile The Beef, is balancing the aspirations of all its characters. Will Sydney and Richie seize their second chance at life? Will Cramy, troubled genius, manage to save the restaurant under a deadline? We have to wait for Season 3 to find out, but till then, I recommend watching The Bear, not for a laugh, but for a rollercoaster of emotion, packed with chaos without descending into confusion.