Since The Bear first arrived on the scene back in June of 2022, the series has made waves for being one of the best television programs to depict kitchen life in modern memory. The series, which is available to stream on Hulu provides a deep insight into the frantic action and behind-the-scenes mania driving your favorite eateries, be they low-grade fast food or high-end fine dining. Though each episode stands out in its own way, amassing fans all over the globe, the sixth episode of The Bear‘s second season, “Fishes” stands above all others for an hour-long anxiety attack that will leave you reeling… and begging for more.
As the show continues to progress through its second season, the audience becomes reacquainted with its main cast and their ongoing struggle to better themselves, better their environment, and find happiness amidst generations of familial trauma. Throughout both seasons of The Bear, we are constantly given reminders of the highly toxic background that Jeremy Allen White’s Carmy and Abby Elliott’s Natalie have suffered through, as the pair grow closer while trying to refurbish their deceased brother’s beloved restaurant.
Though each episode stands out in its own way, amassing fans all over the globe, the sixth episode of The Bear‘s second season, “Fishes” stands above all others for an hour-long anxiety attack that will leave you reeling… and begging for more.
The episode that brings all of these small idiosyncratic reminders to a head, of course, is Season 2 Episode 6, “Fishes.” “Fishes” is a double-length flashback episode of The Bear that focuses on a Christmas dinner set five years earlier than the present day, allowing us to see Carmy and Elliott interacting with their brother Mikey, as portrayed by The Walking Dead‘s John Bernthal. Though Bernthal appeared in previous episodes to give us brief glimpses into the character of Mikey in the past, his presence looms large as a specter over the entire series, pushing each churning motion of the narrative further with his charisma and sudden absence.
Fishes” gives us the opportunity to finally see the siblings together, allowing us a fresh perspective on their dynamic within their incredibly dysfunctional family while also treating the audience to a number of unexpected celebrity guest cameos.
Better Call Saul‘s Bob Odenkirk shows up, in an appearance many fans had eagerly awaited since it was first announced that he’d taken on a guest role in The Bear before the season’s premiere. Within seconds of Odenkirk’s on-screen arrival, fans are treated to a barrage of new faces, including Community‘s Gillian Jacobs, Sarah Paulson, John Mulaney, and Academy Award-winning actress Jamie Lee Curtis.
The Bear’s best episode, “Fishes,” brings with it a seemingly never-ending parade of guest stars, from John Mulaney to Jamie Lee Curtis.
Curtis, who plays the mentally unwell and perpetually self-medicating mother of Carmy, Natalie, and Mikey, has taken it upon herself to cook a humungous spread of food for her awaiting guests, comprised of the seven titular fishes. As she continues to overload herself with work, drink to excess, and berate anyone who dares to step foot in her raucous kitchen, we are treated to a series of vignettes of the Berzatto extended family, ranging from scenes of playful ribbing to scenes of outright bullying.
Like many episodes of The Bear, “Fishes” gives way to so many layers of nuanced family dynamics it almost begins to feel as though a camera has been placed in the living room of a real-life family.
The episode has been praised by critics for its dynamic writing, high-intensity performances, and claustrophobic directing, marking the final dinner scene one of the most heart-thumping moments in recent television history.
When the family arguing all comes to a head before the enormous feast, the burbling tension lying just beneath the surface causes an explosive conclusion that’s impossible to see coming. After catching this episode of The Bear, there’s no shame in taking a few moments to lie down in the dark and cry or call your mom and tell her you love her.
After watching The Bear’s second season, go back and catch all the details from Season 1 that foreshadowed the events of “Fishes.”
Perhaps most importantly, “Fishes” recontextualizes the entire series by providing deep insight into the upbringing of our main characters, as well as the source of many of their anxieties, mental health issues, and substance abuse problems. Scenes from as far back as the pilot are given a great deal of additional weight after witnessing the Berzatto’s chaotic Christmas special, allowing fans to see the full scope of the writer’s longstanding vision for The Bear played out before them.
Both seasons of The Bear are available to stream now on Hulu. While you’re almost sure to be hooked by the first episode, be sure to go back and rewatch the series after finishing Season 2 to catch the dozens of well-placed moments foreshadowing the second season’s sixth episode.