The Bear follows chef Carmen Berzatto as he takes over a beef sandwich joint in Chicago to work through his issues – but what about that ending?

There was definitely an ending to the high tempo restaurant drama The Bear. We know. We watched it. But with The Bear, there’s always so much going on, it’s easy to miss the clues as to what really happened. And how it came about. And what it meant.

The Bear, from FX, is one of 2022’s best received shows. It’s easy to see why. Carmen “The Bear” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) is charismatic and compelling. This highly-strung, uber-meticulous chef throws away a career at the world’s most exacting restaurant to take over his brother’s scuzzy beef sandwich joint in Chicago.

There’s more to his story than that, of course. The restaurant was left to him by his addict brother, Michael (Jon Bernthal), who killed himself without leaving a note.

And Carmy was burnt out and on the edge way before this family tragedy struck.

Yup, the Bear was working through a l-o-t of stuff.

The Bear on a knife edge

And if you don’t know what that feels like, watch the episode 7, called Review, where the whole delivery system collapses, food is tossed and sampled off the floor and key staff storm out.

That’s what a breakdown feels like in real time.

And add a cast of idealists, misfits, a**holes, slow coaches and cleaners to the high-stakes drama, with everyone talking at cross purposes at 100mph with clattering pans everywhere, customers waiting outside, an order system on the blink… it’s a recipe for chaos.

So let’s just remind ourselves how it ended.

And see how the writers carefully set up the finale from the very first episode

The end of The Bear explained

After eight episodes watching Carmy wrestling with the legacy of Michael’s money mismanagement – including the involvement of the mafia – we see him hit the jackpot.

A surprise apparently out of nowhere.

He was churning out tomatoes into a pan and, lo and behold, there was a wad of hundreds all sealed up watertight among the juice. He opened another tin and there was more money. It kept on coming too.

It was the Chicago Bank of Tomato.

Soon the entire staff were covered in tomato juice, shelling out wraps, each figuring out what they’re going to do with their likely bonus.

What about Carmy? Well, he’d had enough of Michael’s dysfunctional beef joint. He’d worked through his grief and come out the other side. So his plans involved closing down the restaurant and planning the next one – called The Bear.

There was a sign in the window saying as much.

Cue Season 2. (And, frankly, we can’t wait. Only give us a breather for a couple of minutes, will you?)

What was going on?

But this sudden surge of cash wasn’t a lottery win. The storytellers didn’t pluck it out the air because they couldn’t figure how to wrap up Season One.

No, the writer Christopher Storer and his team, set up this finale right from Ep 1.

Let’s see how they did it.

The clues to the end

Rewind to Episode One and the Bear is picking through all of Michael’s mess which, apart from his untimely death, included a heap of money problems. This included a $300,000+ loan from uncle Jimmy Cicero, the frenemy who has eyes on The Original Beef of Chicagoland, Michael’s domain.

Michael wanted the money to franchise his operation, but there’s no sign of the expansion or the cash. And Jimmy’s hovering, beginning to ask questions, ready to swoop.

The tomato tin scene

A key set-up scene comes in the very first episode.

Carmy’s in the store room, checking out Michael’s tomato purchases.

“Yo, Ebra!” he asks of a co-worker. “Hey, uh, any reason Michael wasn’t ordering number 10s of these?”

“[In] English, Carmy.”

“Okay, this is a 28-ounce can, alright? So why wasn’t Michael buying number 10s, which are 102 ounces? They’re cheaper per ounce.”

The exchange is throw-away. I mean, the whole series is Carmy questioning what’s going on around him. So what’s new? Carmy simply moved to the cheaper-by-the-ounce cans.

Here’s the clue (and a pro-writing tip). You notice how Ebra doesn’t know what Carmy is talking about? So he asks him to explain it again in simpler language – in “English, Carmy”. That’s the writer making sure WE pick up this clue, even if we don’t understand what it means yet.)

The letter from Michael to the Bear

We move forward from this little exchange.

Later in the season, cousin Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) finds the missing letter to Carmy in Michael’s handwriting. It’s dropped behind a counter or something. Richie slots it back where he found it. It’s just too explosive to be given to Carmy right now.

But we know it’s there – a ticking emotional timebomb, ready for to hit Peak Carmy.

Final episode, when Carmy’s is near the edge again and he can’t take any more, Richie slips the envelope into Carmy’s hand.

Kill or cure.

Carmy braces himself and reads it.

Front of the index card it says, “I love you dude. Let it rip.” That’s the three-word phrase that was his motto. Carmy’s in tears.

We all are.

On the reverse, there’s a recipe for “family meal spaghetti”

  • 10 garlic cloves
  • Basil steeped in oil
  • San Marzano Tomatoes… the smaller cans taste better

Wait, what?

Carmy wonders why the hell he would add a spaghetti recipe to what is, in effect, a suicide note. And what’s that about the smaller cans? He’s been using the bigger ones, remember.

The magic recipe

The recipe takes us back to another section of that early episode when Carmy said he didn’t know how to make the family spaghetti.

Again, the writers were making sure we know why he never touched those tomato tins – and when he does make that recipe, it’s going to be a big deal.

Where are we up to?

A quick summary.

  • We have Michael’s financial mess and Carmy picking up the pieces.
  • We have the weird spaghetti recipe that Carmy’s never made, including the crucial invitation to use the small tins.
  • And we have this third one… regular payments to KBL Electrics totally $330,000.

Carmy finds a record of the payments in the books. No-one knows who KBL Electrics is and why Michael would be paying them. Is it a coincidence he’s paying KBL the same amount he borrowed from Cicero?

Course not.

It all comes together in that final sequence, when Carmy, having read Michael’s note, decides that, yes, it’s time. He will use the smaller tins to make the spaghetti recipe he’s been avoiding. Just like his big brother told him from beyond the grave.

And that’s where he finds the money.

And on the tins we see the letters “KBL”.

That’s how we’re building up to Season Two of The Bear.

7 Famous Food Scenes in Movies

  1. Ratatouille – the scene where Remy prepares a dish for the food critic.
  2. Goodfellas – the scene where Henry Hill and his friends enjoy a dinner at the Copacabana.
  3. The Hundred-Foot Journey – the scene where Hassan prepares a meal for Madame Mallory.
  4. Big Night – the scene where the brothers prepare an elaborate feast for their restaurant.
  5. Julie & Julia – the scene where Julia Child prepares boeuf bourguignon.
  6. Chocolat – the scene where Vianne serves her chocolate creations to the townspeople.
  7. Hannibal – the scene where Hannibal prepares and serves a dinner of human offal to his guests.

Images: FX