FX’s The Bear has returned with its third season, dropped in its entirety on the streamer on June 27. The stunning cooking drama starring Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri has been one of the best things on television in recent years, an indulgent feast of spectacular camera work and acting. Unfortunately, Season 3’s premiere takes that indulgence to an extreme, resulting in an episode that works fine on its own merits and would have been fine if it landed midseason, but fails as a reintroduction to the show.

To sum it up, the premiere sees Carmy alone the morning after his restaurant’s opening (as shown in the season 2 finale), looking back on his entire life while he creates a new menu and a list of non-negotiables that will help the restaurant earn a Michelin star. It’s an introspective clip show offering a glimpse into the mind of White as he seeks to start the next chapter of his career. As opposed to the often stressful episodes filled with lengthy character interactions highlighted by excellently written and humorous dialogue, the premiere is a fairly quiet affair focused solely on Carmy. We do see short sequences from the past with other characters but nothing that goes beyond a couple of lines of dialogue. It’s all about the visual journey into the past.

Image: FX

It plays out as a greatest hits recap of why he is working so hard on the restaurant in the first place but it lacks any meaningful additions to how the audience understands Carmy as a person. In contrast, Season 2’s premiere centers the relationship between Carmy and Edebiri’s Sydney and their shared focus on the mission of creating a menu for the restaurant, and ends with both deciding they will open in three months. It perfectly sets the stage for everything that follows while hitting on the core pillars of character interactions and beautiful food that the show thrives on.

A season premiere should function like an amuse bouche, the first thing a chef serves at a restaurant to summarize and prepare diners for the meal to eat. Season 3’s premiere forgets that by diving straight into Carmy’s past without giving the season’s forward momentum a chance to really get underway in the first place.

The core issue is how the episode’s placement feels off. The Bear has often flexed its unconventional storytelling methods in past seasons to great effect. Season 2’s third episode, “Sundae,” is similarly a loosely structured character study of Sydney told through a day-long tour of the food of Chicago. Like the Season 3 premiere, it is meant to show these characters recommitting to their goals, yet “Sundae” works much better because it comes after a couple of episodes that set the stakes of the season it resides within. Many of Season 2’s best episodes are visually spectacular character studies that feel unconventional in how they play into the larger arc of the season. (“Fishes” and “Forks,” the sixth and seventh episodes of season 2, also fall into this category). While all of these episodes felt like they served the larger arc of the show and the established mission of opening the restaurant by season 2’s finale, the season 3 premiere feels divorced from the rest of the world.

Carmy stands in front of a counter full of new dishes

Image: FX

The bookends of a solid premiere and a finale that pays off the beautiful detours that happen across the rest of a season are what make The Bear‘s risks work. The Season 3 premiere fails to function as such a bookend. It’s not that I think it’s bad as an episode, it’s that I think it’s bad as a premiere for a season. It relies too much on the audience having watched two seasons and being ready for another. An amuse-bouche should summarize what the show is about, and this premiere feels like a main course in the middle of a larger meal. It’s an extended recap that doesn’t bring anything new to the table, which would be fine for the first five minutes or so of a premiere but by the twenty-minute mark, I was already thinking about skipping to the next episode.

To be honest, I think that’s what most viewers should do. The second episode of the season serves as a fantastic reintroduction to the show that sets the stakes and tone for the season ahead while bringing back everything you love about The Bear. I even think you could watch the premiere second and find that it works much better with the context of the second episode. The benefit of all episodes being released at once is that fans don’t have to sit on this premiere for a whole week, but can jump right into something better, which helps cover some of its flaws but shouldn’t excuse them. After the premiere, I just felt tired, but after the second episode I felt excited to find out what else season 3 has to offer.

The Bear season 3 is streaming now on Hulu and Disney+.