The Bear, a Christopher Storersbuzzy series, is a series of animated series that takes viewers inside a tense, drama-laden kitchen in Chicago. But both the pilot and the first season finale start inside the protagonist's head, running concurrently with Carmys' reality as he prepares to rebuild his dead brothers' Chicago sandwich shop.
As the clock ticks, the series opens with a dream as Carmy gently releases a bear from a cage on a bridge in the late evening. Everything Carmy says is fine, and I know as he slowly walks backward in a crouched position. Cut to a medium shot of Carmy unnerved as the bear charges, and zoom in on him falling.
Starting with Carmy's back gives off strong anxious signals, and the sound of the stove indicates how Carmy has connected the kitchen to his fear, and the intense close-up of his eyes establish the intimacy that the show thrives on. Both from previous experience and from losing his brother Michael (Jon Bernthal) he still has no idea how to utilize his energy for a productive and healthy work environment.
In the very next episode, a flashback to a year earlier shows Carmy in his New York kitchen. The overly white background and lighting combined with disturbing, lower octave piano music toward the end makes him feel smaller, almost as he is drowning in the blown-out white lights. As we hang on to a closeup of Carmy's lifeless eyes, the show quickly switches back to The Beef's frantic energy.
The moment in question isn't a dream sequence, but it's so different from the present timeline it feels like one. It illustrates why Carmy is still uneasy in a kitchen. Even if that wasn't exactly what his days were like in New York, Carmy's discomfort with those memories and his emotions comes out. Seeing brief flashbacks throughout the episode only reinforces that.
Carmy screams through the kitchen in a dream-like state as the camera gets closer. A montage of very brief shorts sort through Carmy's face, his old head chef, overdue bills, random shots of his new kitchen, and order printouts saying negative thoughts like He never loved you, He didnt love you, and You killed Michael.
Carmy's many pent-up memories and feelings are mixed into one frightening dish. He's subconsciously tying his negative energy in the kitchen to Michael's suicide, and his guilt in escaping Chicago for so long. Yet here, Carmy's tension grows more acute, even as he admits he never went to work at The Beef. It's early on in the scene when Carmy confesses that he never let him work there because he loved him deeply.
Then there's the last dream, which starts off the season finale. The first scene we see after Michael spirals and Carmy abuses staff members is quite weird, as he recalls the first dream when he sits on a bridge, the bear, his old chef, and Mikey's face, which is recurring throughout the dream.
Carmy wakes up in his apartment and the images keep streaming through of him shouting at Marcus (Lionel Boyce) and his sister, Sugar (Abby Elliott), and he only calms down seeing images of beautiful food while hearing Mikey whisper let it rip. It's the most direct and moving commentary Carmy has ever made about his life, and it's all on display here.
Carmy to vent his thoughts to Al-Anon and apologize to his team in unexpected and shocking ways. Yes, dreams are often used in shows to describe characters' psyches in intense and visual distinct ways. The Bears are amazing because they effortlessly navigate so many paths and blend seamlessly with the more grounded tone of the show.