Can We Talk About Forks?

As a 45-year-old sud­den­ly adrift on the job mar­ket, the “Forks” episode of The Bear hit dif­fer­ent. Sure, “Fish­es” was an absolute tour-de-force, cap­i­tal “P” per­for­mance, and “Hon­ey­dew” was a pow­er­ful med­i­ta­tion on growth, but “Forks” spoke to me so direct­ly and hope­ful­ly. Watch­ing Richie trans­form from a lov­able, but deeply flawed dirt­bag liv­ing in an eter­nal present into per­haps the most self-actu­al­ized char­ac­ter on the show was com­plete­ly unex­pect­ed and absolute­ly wel­come. The moment Syd says “Dri­ve,” he’s a man pos­sessed and ful­ly in his ele­ment, con­fi­dent and self-assured, will­ing the team forward.

What I think I espe­cial­ly love about this on a per­son­al lev­el is how Richie and oth­ers are giv­en oppor­tu­ni­ties to grow into them­selves. Carmy sees their poten­tial and puts them in spots to real­ize it. If you’ve ever been stuck or lost in your career, it res­onates deeply, espe­cial­ly when you know what you’re capa­ble of doing, but won­der if you’ll ever get the chance. That’s why Richie’s sto­ry has meant so much to me. The pur­pose he seeks is the anti­dote to “qui­et quit­ting,” or if you’ve tak­en an entry lev­el soci­ol­o­gy class, alien­at­ed labor.

Is there a show I’m more con­cerned about falling apart as col­lat­er­al dam­age of the writ­ers’ strike? No, not like­ly. Maybe it’s just me adopt­ing the Indiecast mind­set, but I lost a taste for most pres­tige TV when Mad Men end­ed. Most of it just feels too self-impor­tant to be gen­uine­ly engag­ing. Like, I know I’m sup­posed to like it, but what even is pres­tige TV in 2023? Is Myth­ic Quest pres­tige TV? I liked that. Are FX shows still pres­tige TV? Is pres­tige just swear­ing and sex on basic cable? Or is it just TV from pre­mi­um services?

The Bear was engi­neered in a lab for young Gen X. “Strange Cur­ren­cies” was my nation­al anthem in 1995. Mon­ster, as I’ve writ­ten else­where, is a cul­tur­al touch­stone with­out equal from my teenage years. The yearn­ing expressed in that song con­nects so per­fect­ly with the mood of sea­son two. But nowhere is it more real­ized than in Richie’s tra­jec­to­ry from “Forks” for­ward, cul­mi­nat­ing in his Jesus-take-the-wheel moment in episode ten and his lac­er­at­ing tough love for Carmy, trapped help­less­ly in the walk-in.

Some­thing I thought about, espe­cial­ly dur­ing “Fish­es,” was Bunuel’s Dis­creet Charm of the Bour­geoisie, where the din­ers await a meal that’s nev­er served. In that sense there’s a real poet­ry to The Bear end­ing before open­ing night and I can be hap­py if it does. Mean­while I will be absolute­ly floor­ing it down back alleys to “Love Sto­ry (Tay­lor’s Ver­sion)” from here on out.

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