The Biggest Unanswered Questions Ahead of “The Bear” Season 2

"Can you really hide cash in tomato cans?" and other concerns

June 21, 2023 7:04 am
The Bear
What are we supposed to do with ourselves until "The Bear" comes back this week?

After becoming the surprise hit of last summer and bringing Chicago’s beloved Italian beef sandwich the nationwide respect it deserves, The Bear is finally back for its second season. The new batch of episodes drops on Hulu on Thursday (June 22), and while most fans are eager to plow through them faster than you can say “Yes, Chef,” it’s important to take a moment to remember where exactly we left off with Carmy, Richie and the rest of the gang at The Original Beef of Chicagoland last year.

Season 1 left us with a pretty major twist — a bunch of cash tucked away in tomato cans and a plan to turn the Beef into the restaurant of Carmy’s dreams. But there are still plenty of unanswered questions the show will have to address in its sophomore season. With that in mind, we rounded up some of the most pressing ones below. Consider it a little amuse-bouche ahead of your inevitable Season 2 binge.

Will KBL Electric come back to haunt Carmy?

Carmy spends much of The Bear‘s first season working to pay off a $300,000 loan that his late brother Mikey took out from their Uncle Jimmy before he died. Eventually, in trying to make sense of the restaurant’s books, he notices that Mikey had been making payments to a company called “KBL Electric” — one that, by all accounts, does not actually exist. The KBL mystery is solved in the season finale, when, thanks to a hint from Mikey’s suicide note, Carmy discovers $300,000 in cash hidden inside the cans of tomato sauce that have been sitting unopened in the kitchen since he 86’d the spaghetti from the menu. He decides to use the cash to revamp The Beef and turn it into the restaurant of his dreams. But of course, there’s no way he can do this without raising suspicions, right? Uncle Jimmy wants his money back, and he’s bound to notice that Carmy mysteriously has the funds to redo the restaurant. And Carmy can’t be the only one to notice that something’s screwy with The Beef’s accounting; will his sister — or hell, the IRS, for that matter — notice that things aren’t exactly kosher?

Can you really store cash in sealed cans of tomato sauce?

The big twist at the end of Season 1 required viewers to suspend disbelief, and it’s the show’s flimsiest plot point. Are we really to believe that a small, family-owned shop like The Beef has the necessary machinery to reseal metal cans after opening them? (Creator Christopher Storer explained it thusly: “There is a semi-automatic electric can-seamer at the restaurant, which is a quick process and very easy to use. Michael was most likely instructed to not put the money in the bank for myriad tax reasons. In his scattered state, the processing of the tomato cans really felt like he was starting to build something.”) Are we really to believe that there was no better hiding place for the cash? And is storing something as filthy as money that has been handled by countless people — even if it’s wrapped in plastic — for months on end in a can of sauce that you will eventually serve to guests a health code violation?

Will we ever meet Carmy’s mom?

We don’t hear much about Carmy’s mother in Season 1 — just one brief reference to the fact that they’re possibly estranged. It doesn’t appear that Carmy has spoken to her since he returned to Chicago from New York and took over The Beef, which means he likely also hasn’t spoken to her since the death of his brother Mikey. Presumably, they have a lot to talk about. Now that Carmy’s in therapy and taking steps to work through his trauma, might he finally get the courage to reach out to her?

Does anyone really want to get an Italian beef from a fancy restaurant?

This is arguably the biggest unanswered question. What will The Beef 2.0 — officially renamed The Bear — look like, and what will be on the menu? The season finale saw Carmy and Sydney kicking around ideas of a basic concept: “family-style, two tops, booths,” “Danish design, tasting menu at the bar,” and a “window at the side for sandwiches.” But what the show’s first season highlighted so beautifully was that not everything demands to be “elevated”; it might not look like much when you unwrap it, but there’s a simple elegance to an Italian beef. Who exactly are Carmy and Sydney courting with The Bear? Who’s going to want to order risotto from an Italian beef spot, or order the sloppy, giardiniera-laden sandwich from a restaurant that’s fancy enough to offer a tasting menu? And how will The Beef’s dedicated customers react to the revamp? If there’s one thing Chicagoans love, it’s tradition; so many of the city’s most beloved spots are local institutions — beloved dives or hot dog stands that have been around, unchanged, for decades. If Mr. Beef, the real-life inspiration for The Beef, ever decided to rebrand as a fine-dining establishment, there’d be riots in the streets.

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Why did Mikey kill himself?

We know the nuts and bolts of this, of course. Over the course of The Bear‘s first season, we learn that Mikey had a pretty bad drug problem that was spiraling out of control, and he was involved with some shady characters. He was probably feeling desperate, unhinged and fearful of losing his restaurant. But we still don’t really know much about Carmy’s older brother besides what we’ve seen in a few brief flashbacks. so far. Will Season 2 bring us more insight into Mikey’s tragic ending and the circumstances that led him to it?

Will we get any romance this season?

In Season 1, the show’s primary romance was between Carmy and The Beef. He’s married to his work — as is seemingly everyone who works for him — and he’s got of personal baggage to come to terms with before he’s going to be capable of devoting any kind of time and attention to someone else. But the teasers for Season 2 seem to hint that someone from his past might turn up to flirt with him a little bit. There’s also whatever’s been going on between Sydney and Marcus; in Season 1, we saw them hanging out and cooking together outside of work. Is their relationship just a strong friendship, or will it evolve into something more?

Will someone find the last can of tomato sauce?

Season 1 ended with a lingering shot of one final, unopened can of KBL-labeled tomato sauce — presumably also containing a giant wad of cash like the rest of them — on the floor, unnoticed by Carmy and the rest of the Beef crew. Will someone else stumble upon it, open it up and discover that the restaurant hasn’t exactly been doing things above-board? That final shot of the can feels too intentional; it’s a Chekov’s gun waiting to go off. But who could find it? It’d have to be someone with access to the kitchen (and a random desire to open up an industrial-sized can of tomato sauce) who doesn’t already know about the money. My money is on Sugar, Carmy’s sister.

Which Wilco songs will make an appearance this season?

There has to be at least one, right? Last season, we got some incredible needle-drops featuring Chicago’s preeminent indie rock band, including “Impossible Germany,” “Via Chicago” and most memorably, all 11 minutes of the Kicking Television version of “Spiders (Kidsmoke).” Which tracks might make an appearance in Season 2? Based on absolutely nothing but the trailer for the new season, my guesses are “Misunderstood,” “A Shot in the Arm” and “Hate It Here.”

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