One of the best TV series is back for its third season, though lacking the same spice as before.

The Bear returns for another season of exquisite food and non-stop yelling. But, like all things with age, it’s gained a maturity that has dulled some of it’s more outlandish qualities.

To recap: across two seasons, this dramedy has given us a captivating yet stress-inducing look into the inner workings of an up-and-coming restaurant in Chicago. Each episode pits the crew of cooks and servers against an endless stream of mishaps, mistakes, and outright disasters in managing a restaurant in the ever-competitive culinary world. At times, watching chef Carmy Berzatto gave audiences a thrilling ride that could equate to anxiety porn.

Rather than continue on the manic pressure of the previous seasons, the third season dials back the heat and poses a question: what is all of this for? Why put yourself through this never-ending parade of abuse and anxiety?

Picking up right where season two ended, the crew has now successfully re-launched their Chicago sandwich into an up-market eatery; but now comes the painful march to earn a Michelin star. As the harsh reality of their undertaking hits in, the characters must ask what brought them here, and whether they want to keep going.

That existential question marks this season: while there are still plenty of bombastic screaming matches and over-the-top insults, these 10 episodes lacks the clear drive that kept us so hooked on the first two masterpieces.

The show moves from one plot point to another, leaving plenty of words unsaid and unsure of the direction it wants to go.

Fortunately, this move has given creator Christopher Strorer more breathing room to simply sink in and stew with this motley crew, giving us greater pathos and motivation for many of the characters.

Instead of 24-style races against time, The Bear season three is defined by the willingness to try something new, with many episodes delving into more abstract and even melancholic concepts.

Like the dishes in the show, episodes such as Tomorrow and Doors show off the willingness to break form and experiment with something new, with the former described closer to a tone poem than narrative television that is both captivating and a powerful gut-punch.

Meanwhile, Napkin and Ice Chips demonstrate the incredible highs that the series achieves by focusing not on the hurricane of the kitchen, but the smaller character moments that make the heartache worth it, that touch of humanity that colours every bite.

The ensemble cast (led by Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri) are sensational, finding a comfortable rhythm with each other that folds and grooves like a loose pie crust. And, without revealing too much, several fan-favourite characters return bringing much needed catharsis to the proceedings.

The scripts are as punchy and intriguing as ever, featuring some of the best comedy the show has ever served. All the ingredients are there, it just lacks enough of the high-octane moments that boiled this show into a heartwarming and heart-pumping favourite.

Yet if you can ride through the ups-and-downs, you’ll be in for a meditative meal that brings in new flavours to this now iconic show.

The Bear Season 3 is available to stream now on Disney+.

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Feature image: Jeremy Allen White as Carmen ‘Carmy’ Berzatto, The Bear. Image via FX Networks.