[Editor’s note: This story contains a spoiler from Episode 8 — the Season 1 finale — of FX’s “The Bear” on Hulu.]
FX’s “The Bear” on Hulu is a strong candidate for Show of the Summer. Its fight scenes, meanwhile, are lower-quality than a round of 32-bit game “Ballbreaker.”
The Christopher Storer series’ first fight scene comes during the pilot (fun fact: the only episode filmed inside an actual kitchen). Perfectly, the one-sided, (seemingly) one-punch brawl takes place because of a raucous “Ballbreaker” tourney at our favorite fictitious Chicago sandwich joint. (Also fictitious outside of the world of “The Bear,” “Ballbreaker” is essentially “Street Fighter,” though it somewhat oddly presents more like the side-scroller “Streets of Rage.”)
Anyway, main character Carmine “Carmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) gets beaten up, sort of, by some gaming cosplayers lined up outside The Original Beef of Chicagoland. It appears the beef joint’s new owner takes a shot to the gut from either a carrot or a hammerhead shark. Doubled over as passerby vehicles block much of our perspective, Carmy grabs his elbow in some pain and becomes flush throughout the face. Cousin Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) saves the situation by firing a gun into the air. Nobody batted all that much of an eyelash at that, though to be fair, some of the waiting participants were wearing brown paper bags over their heads — a nod to a “Ballbreaker” character whom we later learn gets sad “sometimes.”
In the next scene, Carmine can be seen rubbing his nose a bit, either a continuity error or an explanation of what went down in the split-second behind a city bus. By the way, the “Shameless” alum isn’t a tall man, but he ain’t a small fry in terms of build either. In other words, Carmy definitely could have handled the root veggie, which feels sort of glaring and took this viewer right out of his suspended disbelief.
Everyone then peacefully enters the store and deposits their quarters into one of three “Ballbreaker” cabinets (well, one is a Fugazi “Ballbreaker” cabinet) for the chance to win free Italian ice for a year — the perfect compliment to Italian beef sandwiches (the tournament’s entry fee). Business as usual, which isn’t very usual after being assaulted for seemingly no reason in front of your own business. A few episodes later, it is those very hoagies in freebie form that solve what appears to be a Chicago-mafia turf-war conflict. (The very turf of the show, which is set in River North, has also been called out for being maybe not the most accurate depiction ever.)
You read that right: Due to construction on the gangsters’ usual side of the street, some of the velour-clad tough guys post up a little too close to the Beef for Richie’s liking. Soon, the real beef plays out. Weirdly, amid the loud and lengthy argument among apparent mobsters, not so much as a shove is shoved. The shout-fest eventually gets solved by Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) and her tray of free sandwiches. (The warring Windy City factions also requested — and were granted — free “pop” to wash the sandwiches down. Maybe not the toughest of street toughs.)
Neither of those were particularly mean fights on the mean streets of Chicago. The season finale frenzy brought back a little street cred to those downtown sidewalks.
Episode 8’s bachelor party fight scene is not all that bad, comparatively, save maybe Richie’s huge sweeping left hook and Carmy again getting manhandled by someone who doesn’t appear to be his physical equal. The subsequent serious concern about Richie facing possible manslaughter charges from that lone, widely-delivered punch doesn’t seem to make much sense considering the cousins were defending both their property and persons. This isn’t a legal drama, it’s a kitchen dramedy. (“The Bear” is more of a comedy than a drama in length, at least.)
Anyway, Richie’s victim (he hit his head on either the restaurant’s counter or the floor, which is how people tend to be killed in a street fight) eventually wakes up in the ICU, and the charge is downgraded to simple battery. This otherwise-excellent show has several (over-)simplified battery scenes; fortunately, they’re not enough to downgrade “The Bear” overall.
“The Bear” is available on Hulu. The series was renewed for a second season on Thursday.