The Bear Season 2 Spotlights Richie in a Cathartic and Inspiring Episode

TV Features The Bear
The Bear Season 2 Spotlights Richie in a Cathartic and Inspiring Episode

“To get better, you change limits.” 

Season 2 of FX’s The Bear is all about tearing down and starting over again. After finding money stashed away in cans of tomato soup, Carmy (Jeremy Allen White), Sydney (Ayo Edebiri), and the staff of Chicago’s The Beef decide to transition into an upscale restaurant. The decision to move on from a traditional sandwich shop to exquisite dining leaves cousin Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) wondering exactly what his purpose is. His skills are lacking, and he doesn’t have the right personality, all stunted by his legitimate fears of being left behind. That anxiety is a trap, making the lies in his head a reality, and in the seventh episode, titled “Forks,” we’re shown what he’s actually capable of.

“Forks” begins with a misdirection. Sydney is shown developing her dishes, but the words from former Duke Basketball coach, Coach K, really set the tone for the episode. Seen in an interview, Coach K is asked, “What are the most important lessons of leadership that you’ve learned?” He explains how failure is not a destination, but rather a tool to show how we can change. When Richie wakes up to head to his new job, he doesn’t yet understand that concept. Carmy has given Richie a fantastic opportunity to learn from some of the best, working as a “stage” for Ever Restaurant (a real two-star Michelin restaurant in Chicago) to learn some new skills that will hopefully prepare him for the family’s new endeavor. Instead, Richie’s narrow focus only allows him to see this new gig as some kind of punishment. 

The decor of Ever helps lend an otherworldly effect to Richie’s experience—it’s as if he’s stepped foot into an alternate dimension. Nothing less than the best is expected from the staff at Ever and that perfection travels down to the person responsible for shining the forks. That’s the important job that Richie has been tasked with during his time at Ever: making sure those forks are as perfect as can be. For his part, he fails to see the point in keeping meticulous care of the cutlery, and believes that this task is below him. 

Richie’s supervisor, Garrett, loves his job. He loves being able to provide the kind of dining experience that their customers can only dream of. “Every day here is the freaking Super Bowl,” Garrett explains. That kind of quality drills down the whole staff, even including the lowly person cleaning the forks. Getting that kind of speech from his supervisor is deflating, but that’s not the only setback Richie will face, as he takes a call from his ex-wife Tiffany. This call puts the kibosh on the idea of reconciliation, severing that connection. He’s finally hit the end of the teardown, now comes the cathartic rebuilding of Richie. 

After being freed from cleaning forks, Richie begins soaking up the opportunity that’s in front of him. He learns that it’s important to dress for success, and that wearing a suit can not only show he’s someone worth taking seriously, but that it helps his self-esteem. He takes in the responsibilities required of front-of-house management, including the extensive note-taking and care that goes into customer relations. It’s a big win for Richie, and shows that he’s capable of this line of work if he puts his mind to it. 

Throughout the season, there’s an emphasis on Taylor Swift. Richie talks about getting tickets to the show, hoping that Uncle Jimmy (Oliver Platt) can come through so that he can take his daughter Eva. He hopes to bridge the gap between him and his daughter by sharing her love of Taylor Swift. Another connection comes in the form of Tiffany’s Taylor Swift shirt in the previous episode. Richie originally has the big idea that he’ll take Eva and Tiffany to the concert, but that devastatingly falls apart. Instead, he finds his “Love Story” in himself. While working briefly at Ever, he found his purpose and finally understands the role he can take on to help this new restaurant endeavor succeed. So when Richie is sitting in that car, belting out the lyrics to “Love Story,” all those little moments culminate into a euphoric sing-along. 

“Forks” follows the nightmare-inducing Christmas episode “Fishes,” which included an onslaught of guest appearances. “Fishes” will likely stand out due to those guests and its increased length, but  “Forks” is like a soothing balm after such an intense episode. The strongest episodes this season spent time away from the kitchen, not only with Richie but also Marcus (Lionel Boyce) in an earlier episode “Honeydew,” where he traveled to Copenhagen to learn more about becoming a pastry chef. Instead of retreading much of what we were familiar with from the previous season (the stress-inducing kitchen work takes a back seat for the most part), The Bear transitioned into something more subtle and ultimately rewarding, expanding on some of its most intriguing characters. 

On his last day on the job, Richie finishes up and notices Chef Terry (Olivia Colman) doing meal prep. It’s a much more subdued appearance compared to some of the guest stars in “Fishes,” but Colman leaves her mark on the show in her brief appearance. She’s peeling mushrooms, and explains to Richie that it’s just a little detail so that people will know the effort that goes into each dish. That kind of thinking is what makes Chef Terry’s business so successful, and helps Richie discover that even the smallest of gestures can leave a big impact. This revelation brings his storyline full circle, allowing him to finally understand the impact of the seemingly insignificant task of shining forks. 

That’s what The Bear on the whole feels like as well. There’s a lot of power in these tiny conversations—whether it’s Carmen and Syd, Marcus and Luca in “Honeydew,” or Richie and Chef Terry. There’s intrigue in these chefs explaining how they came to this business, and why it’s so rewarding for them. That’s when The Bear itself is at its most rewarding. Richie’s personal growth in “Forks” helps to create what is arguably the season’s finest episode, and I can’t wait to see how Richie continues to let it rip.  

Max Covill is a freelance writer for Paste Magazine. For more anime, movie, and television news and reviews you can follow him, @mhcovill.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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