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Jamie Lee Curtis Is a Scene-Stealing Star in ‘The Bear’ Season 2 (and a Secret Key to the Show’s Story)

*Warning: Major spoilers ahead*

Season two of The Bear amped it up in almost every aspect, perhaps most notably due to its surprise star cameos. Olivia Colman appears as an esteemed but humble chef. Will Poulter portrays a skilled baker. Bob Odenkirk transforms into a harsh and unforgiving uncle. But imagine our surprise when episode six, titled “Fishes,” queued up, and the foul-mouthed, emotionally erratic Berzatto matriarch was played by none other than Jamie Lee Curtis.

Curtis has been having a bit of a renaissance as of late, thanks to her Oscar-winning performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once. Now, her role in The Bear acts as a continuation of her laudable roles (and don't be surprised if she ends up getting an Emmy nom down the line). Curtis's turn is an illuminating and nuanced one that paints a more detailed portrait of the Berzatto kids, most specifically Carmy (Jeremy Allen White).

Fans of The Bear are probably aware by now that the dramedy never offers easy or immediate answers. Often, viewers are left to fill in the blanks or bide their time until a character's actions are better understood with a newly-revealed slice of their past.

In season one, we watch as Carmy deals with the death of his brother, Mikey (Jon Bernthal), while struggling with his own substance abuse, isolation and depression. As Carmy tries to revive the struggling restaurant left behind by Mikey, he is also trying to piece together their complicated relationship (all the while trying to understand himself). Not to mention, he is also learning to navigate his business relationship with his new partner, Sydney Adamu (Ayo Edebiri).

Prior to season two, we were introduced to a few of Carmy's family members, like Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), his unpredictable but well-intentioned cousin, Natalie (Abby Elliott), his sweet but reluctantly-helpful sister, and Uncle Jimmy (Oliver Platt), who is the main investor for the Chicago-based beef joint. In one small moment from the first-ever episode, Natalie tells Carmy that their mother would love to see him, but we never actually get to see their mother, Donna Berzatto...until now.

Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

“Fishes” is a flashback that takes place approximately five years before the events of season two. The episode follows a Christmas where Carmy comes home for the holidays and we watch as chaos unfolds for the family.

It's an episode of bravura performances, with Curtis being one of the scene-stealers. As Donna, she helps us finally understand where both Carmy and Mikey get their love (and their talent) for cooking.

Now, Donna's kitchen wouldn't exactly pass health inspections—she spreads butter on slices of bread with her manicured, red-painted nails, drops food on the floor and even chain-smokes cigarettes over boiling pots. Meanwhile, she keeps roughly ten timers running all at once and yells “f*ck!” whenever one goes off, as she tries to remember what dish it was tracking. But when it's time to sit at the table, Donna delivers a gorgeous and ridiculous amount of food: Branzinos, lobsters, stuffed artichokes, cannolis. Somehow, she transforms that kitchen full of sauce-covered timers into an awe-inspiring feast.

Yet, despite this impressive feat, it's clear that Donna is struggling with issues greater than a messy kitchen. Throughout the episode, she alternates between sheer moments of joy and utter bouts of sadness. As she cooks the grand meal, she downs an untraceable number of wine bottles, which doesn't go unnoticed by Natalie. And perhaps most heartbreakingly, Donna continually mutters to herself that no one sitting at her dining table actually cares about her, or cares whether she even joins them for dinner.

As Donna suffers with her depression, quite visibly, it becomes clearer as to why her children endure similar struggles. “It's just f*cking hard,” she says to Carmy late in the episode, as he tries to coax her to join the family at the table. “I make things beautiful for them, and no one makes things beautiful for me.”

The parallels between Carmy and his mother reach a climax in the finale of season two, when Carmy and Sydney's new restaurant, called The Bear, has its grand opening. Donna stands outside and realizes she can't go in, because she doesn't know how to be there for her kids.

Meanwhile, Carmy gets locked in the walk-in fridge and starts to spiral, ultimately saying unkind things to his girlfriend, Claire (Molly Gordon), and cousin Richie, who even notably says, “Okay, Donna,” to Carmy in the middle of a shoutout.

Like Donna, Carmy ends season two by isolating himself even further. Even though he can't see it, the opening night of the restaurant is a success, but while he's able to make things beautiful for others, he still can't seem to find any joy for himself.

We're still keeping up hope that things will change for Carmy in season three (and let's hope we get more scenes with Curtis too).

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A Former Chef Fact Checks ‘The Bear’ on Hulu



Joel Calfee

Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Joel is the Associate Editor for News & Entertainment and has been reporting on all things pop culture for over 5 years. Before working at PureWow, he served as a Features...
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