On the award-winning series from FX, The Bear season 2 episode 6 features a flashback to Christmas dinner at the Berzatto family 5 years ago, when Mikey was still alive, in what must be the worst and most stressful family holiday gathering ever. At the start of the episode, the siblings Berzatto, Mikey, Nat, and Carmy, are in front of their family house smoking.
It’s Christmas Eve dinner and they’ll be having plenty of relatives over tonight. Something that obviously gives them the great fear like nothing else.
Mikey gives Natalie some advice about not asking “her” if she’s okay since it’s a trigger. We later find out it’s their mother Donna he’s referring to and boy do we find out why.
Carmy’s just back from his stay in Copenhagen and clearly there’s some resentment with Mikey that he hasn’t been picking up Carmy’s calls.
The Bear season 2 episode 6 – Bears at Christmas time
Inside the house there’s an all-star cast of guests as family members. Donna Berzatto is played by Jamie Lee Curtis as a terror of an alcoholic, with tightly strung nerves and a penchant for cooking her a@# off, with the most resentment a mother could have for a brood of three. American Horror Story’s Sarah Paulson is cousin Michelle, that relative who’s glamorous and yet still just enough of an outsider to make you feel like she’s always welcome at your table, yet not really a part of the family.
John Mulaney is Steven, cousin Michelle’s partner. Bob Odenkirk is Uncle Lee, who apparently was the ex of Donna after Carmy and co’s father died or disappeared, who the heck knows and the fam aren’t discussing that.
Notable is Tiffany played by Gillian Jacobs, Richie’s wife pre-divorce since this is 5 years ago. Frankly the number of family members on this warped family tree is like a confusion of branches in 100 Hundred Years of Solitude, if it was Italian-American with alcohol and mental issues.
There’s also our usual recurring cast like another garrulous Fak playing hijinks with Neil Fak (in matching Cosby sweaters), the moneyed Uncle Jimmy Cicero, and Pete aka Natalie’s wallflower husband.
The Bear season 2 episode 6 – Calm before the crash
All in all, the vibe is still upbeat even if it’s hectic. People are having fun in the living and dining rooms.
But it’s a different energy altogether in the kitchen where Donna, the mother superior tigress of this abode, is cooking up a storm and has been since the early morning. The feeling of being harassed to perform and being frustrated because of said harassment is high and seems to be centered on the traditional family dish called The Feast of Seven Fishes.
Sadly, despite its relatively high cooking difficulty, Carmy points out nobody actually eats the seven fishes. Once she steps into the kitchen, Natalie can’t help but start again on asking if her mother is ok.
The stress levels of everyone just skyrocket from there.
The Bear season 2 episode 6 – Fistful of forks
This is one of the most intense and fast-paced episodes and the whole production team nailed the vibe just like they would a car crash leading to a hundred vehicle pile-up. From the writers to the set design, I applaud them.
I can hear you asking: really now? A Christmas dinner that feels like an action scene?
But having suffered through big family dinners with exactly this scenario and energy, how quickly a holiday turns dark must be watched to be believed. When it’s finally time for the sit-down dinner, we understand why Carmy is as neurotic as he is.
Suspicious of any kind of success and unused to asking for help or admitting he is in over his head. Especially when violence nearly breaks out at the dinner table when Mikey starts throwing forks at Odenkirk’s Uncle Lee, after he attempts to tell the origin of why Italian-Americans celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
There is still a healing wound there that, from experience, seems like it was rubbed raw over many an awful encounter. Any interaction with each other, for folks already as nervy as Uncle Lee and Mikey, easily comes to a boil right away.
Certainly, Uncle Lee doesn’t do anything to defuse it, preferring to mock and cajole Mikey into being an asshat in front of his whole family. Still, someone throwing a fork at me wouldn’t sit well either.
The Bear season 2 episode 6 – A tradition for Chicago Italians
For the record, the said feast is an Italian-American tradition for Christmas Eve. Specifically for Roman Catholics to celebrate the midnight birth of Jesus, or “La Viglia” in Italian.
Sadly, even if Donna makes a big effort to cook it out of “tradition”, nobody much likes it. The biggest culprit trigger though is Natalie as she simply cannot stop asking her mother is she’s ok.
Catastrophic results are cashed in when Donna finally has enough of her daughter’s queries. The good thing is her outburst defuses the coming brawl between Lee and Mikey.
Bad news is she table flips and walks out. Everyone is aghast, shocked and freezes like deer in headlights.
Another item of note is how Mikey has been shamed continually for his entrepreneurship. Even Carmy takes potshots at him.
The Bear season 2 episode 6 – Donna brings the destruction
This is a great episode that clarifies Mikey’s mental state and why he eventually committed suicide. He was also very obviously high on something at that dinner.
It’s like the acting Olympics as Odenkirk, Bernthal, Curtis, and even Jacobs (who’s a delight as Richie’s soon-to-be estranged wife) all play against each other to ratchet up the heat in the oven that is the Berzatto family dinner one Celsius higher every minute that passes. The inevitable boiling point of this holiday cataclysm catastrophe is reached, and Donna is the first to blow her atomic top.
She’s also got the greatest explosion of them all, breaking plates and cursing her children. Carmy, Mikey, and Natalie are stunned.
Their greatest holiday fear has come true. Donna walks out and comes back in through the wall, driving her car into the house and destroying the Christmas tree.
The Bear season 2 episode 6 – Should’ve stayed in Denmark
Details to note for the viewer include: the deep sorrow in Mikey’s eyes hidden behind a veneer of guido swagger, the thinly veiled contempt of Uncle Lee for the whole Berzatto clan, and the disgust and fear of Tiffany at these recurring family ruckuses that we know contributed to eventually making her tap out and divorce Richie just so she can be out of the Berzatto orbit. By the by, it was great to find out that Richie really isn’t related to the Berzattos by blood.
He was a kid who grew up with them in the neighborhood and so is like a “cousin” by affinity and proximity and so is always welcome at family events. Like family, except he’s not family.
Also, Sugar’s full name is Natalie Rose Berzatto. As a distraught Mikey is banging on the window of the car that Donna crashed in, I am reminded of Carmy’s throwaway line at the start of the episode: “This is why I didn’t want to come home.”
What a s%^&show of a holiday. Truly the best episode on this season, even if there’s four more left!
You can stream season 2 of The Bear on Hulu.