The lengths we go for family.

Amidst the loud, garish, Italian-American Christmas festivities of s2 ep6 of The Bear: “Fishes”, a darkly mesmerising – “car crash”, if you’ve watched you’ll get it – psychoanalytic tale unfolds.

The story through aptly-erratic camera work dives into the hidden struggles of a family on the brink of emotional collapse. As the Berzattos gather around the “Feast of the Seven Fishes”, a volcanic scene ensues, simmering with steam and splashed-sauce, where emotions collide, forks are thrown, and love and responsibility intermingle with shame and death.
The Feast of the Seven Fishes, a symbol of unity, morphs into an undulating liquid mirror reflecting the family’s deepest desires and the hidden turmoil swimming beneath. The Christmas tradition becomes a vessel for the unconscious to manifest, and the archetypes emerge in the festivities, vibrating within their shells barely able to contain their parameters. The holiday cheer is many layers removed from the most perceptive characters and only enthusiastically performed by those too drunk to notice their surroundings.
The disturbingly incessant ticking and ringing of kitchen timers promising some kind of eruption or climax, only to be reset again and again and again with increasingly frayed nerves.
The episode serves as a visceral portrayal of big family dynamics and the invisibility of internal struggle, emotional pain and suicidal ideation under the veil of performing and mirroring one’s family’s perceptions, responsibilities and expectations. It’s a masterpiece in showing how love and the familial bond is not enough when we feel the person we’re loved for being, is no longer our genuine self – or perhaps the blended average of our many selves – in that moment.

As the pots boil over in the Berzatto family Christmas kitchen, we witness the human psyche laid bare, simmering with untold confessions, good and ill-wishes and the splitting of selves; confrontation and escapism seem to impossibly become one. We’re left pondering the knife edge that shame, familial connection and death dance on. And the lengths we go to, not to let that, that pains us, into our conscious fore… even if it means what we’re desperately hiding becomes unwittingly visible to those we love.

Within so many families, love is expressed not by words but in the making of food, in fussing, in “making things lovely”. But where does that leave us when we have no appetite?

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