You should watch the bear finale first

Photo: Matt Dinerstein/FX

The commercial and artistic benefits of the “all episodes available at once” arrangement have been debated ever since Netflix gave us the opportunity to binge on the unique pleasure of Kevin Spacey speaking to you directly. But really, there are no rules. At a time when religious observance is at an all-time low, streaming makes it possible to play God. So gods can I offer you the chance to start FX on Hulu the bear with its finale if you want to see the series definitely as a comedy.

I did this by accident. (If you’re reading this, FX PR, please order your filters in ascending, not descending order.) A finale makes for a very strange pilot, but there’s an intro quality to a monologue that a main character gives in his first moments and essential exposition in a conversation another main character has about his food background. Then, at the very end, Something happens that I will not spoil. Just know what was apparently the season two cliffhanger that plays like an inciting incident for a TV series. Again, I won’t spoil what happens, but from now on I will discuss how the ending makes the viewer feel and how that influences the series. If you don’t want more information, please stop reading now. LAST WARNING.

Knowing with certainty that things are working for this motley group of Original Beef of Chicagoland employees dramatically changes the way the series plays out from the top. The pilot throws you into the chaos of the restaurant, with everyone being disrespectful, if not downright hostile, towards each other. Everything is messy. The beef shipment is late and wrong. People shout “Behind!” “Corner!” “Hands!” “Fire!” There is, literally, fire and so much boiling hot liquid. Cuts are fast and clean. Ironically the knives are dull and they are everywhere. The opening riff of “New Noise” from Refused plays. It is as if Uncut Gems was placed entirely in the trunk of Howard’s car. Many of my colleagues found these early episodes stressful. Some have considered quitting the show if it wasn’t for the outpouring of those of us who followed it. I found it amusing. I found it funny.

There is a comedy theory called “benign violation” which suggests that for someone to find a joke funny, it must violate some kind of expectation, belief or taboo, and this violation should be perceived as non-threatening. Watch the final done first the bearThe first episodes seem less threatening. In the pilot, Carmy (played by a simmering, interior Jeremy Allen White), the former head chef at the nation’s top restaurant, has returned to run his late brother’s Chicago Italian beef shop. The deceased brother’s best friend and employee, Richie (played by Ebon Moss-Bachrach, giving one of the best and most natural performances on television), hates everything about the changing world around him and calls Carmy “Bobby Flay” in response to his attempts to change the Beef’s operating “system”. There’s no pause in the music or a reaction hit, nothing to suggest it’s a joke. Just a frenetic close-up of Carmy dicing celery as he says, “Don’t call me Bobby Flay.” I laughed. I know how utterly insulting it is for a chef with Carmy’s pedigree to be compared to TV’s most famous sauce distributor, but I also know the background of Carmy and Richie’s relationship, and more importantly, where it ends. More benign violation.

For days on Slack, Vulture employees wondered if the bear is a comedy or drama, comedic drama or comedy-drama, or potentially a post-comedy. The show itself offers no easy answers in its first season until the final five minutes of the finale. It’s a comedic ending in an almost Shakespearean sense, as two characters embark on a sort of professional marriage. These last five minutes also bring information that completely changes the pilot. Above all, at the very end of the first episode, Carmy makes not do something that would have changed everything for the character and the restaurant. This would prevent all of the conflict and most of the heartache that takes place for most of the season. It’s a small thing and it’s right the. Knowing what I know, it plays like a hilarious irony. So much so that if you decide to watch the series in chronological order, I suggest you go back and watch the final five to ten minutes of the pilot after finishing the finale. I promise you’ll find it funny. (Or watch the whole season again: you’ll notice they’ve peppered ending hints throughout.)

If my colleagues have found the bear funny or stressful, all agreed that they enjoyed the show. They thought it was good and it made them hungry. Like, literally hungry for food. And eager for more episodes or to rewatch episodes they’ve already seen. Yes, there’s the creator’s vision of how the story should go, but it’s a testament to the show’s episodic craftsmanship that you can watch any episode at any time and feel better understand the characters and their world. So, from today, you will have all the episodes in front of you. It will be no different when you order delivery and what was once an appetizer, entree and dessert are now all presented at the same time. You can eat dessert first if you think it will make the whole meal sweeter. It’s your frenzy.

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