Season 2 of The Bear on Hulu included some Emmy-worthy performances from its central cast, especially Jeremy Allen White as Carmy, but the most talked-about aspect of the season was the plethora of impressive guest stars. Whether they were showing up and stealing the entire show in a single scene like Oscar-winner Olivia Colman or going viral on Thirst Twitter like newly-minted Marvel star Will Poulter, the new cast of supporting characters helped to build out the world of The Bear and make it feel all the more real.
That is never more clear than in the pivotal mid-season episode “Fishes,” which takes viewers back in time five years to an incredibly tense Christmas dinner with the Berzatto family, where years’ worth of resentments and complicated relationship dynamics unfold—and implode—in near-real time.
While Jamie Lee Curtis gets some of that episode’s meatier guest star material as the unpredictable family matriarch Donna, the ensemble—which also includes Sarah Paulson and stand-up comic John Mulaney—all have crucial parts to play.
Enter Uncle Lee.
We learn almost immediately that Lee is not a blood-relative, but that “uncle” is an honorary title bestowed on him by Carmy’s mother or father at some undisclosed moment in the past. Lee’s most notable moment in the episode comes in conflict with Carmy’s late brother Michael, played once again in the flashback by Jon Bernthal. Much of these two actors’ screen-time in “Fishes” is shared, as the tensions between the two men builds up over dinner, ending in a hard-to-watch confrontation.
While much of Uncle Lee’s history with the Berzattos is left in mystery, likely to be explored in future seasons, his presence in the episode helps to fill in some major gaps in the story. Those KBL tomato cans filled with money, for instance? The L in those initials stands for Lane, as in Uncle Lee Lane, who put up a third of the $30,000 in cash which Carmy is now using to fund the new restaurant. It stands to reason he will return at some point to either reclaim his share of the money, or to demand a stake in the business.
Uncle Lee is played by Bob Odenkirk.
In an episode filled with familiar faces, you will almost certainly have recognized Bob Odenkirk. He has been a comedy mainstay for years with roles in cult shows like Arrested Development, but better known these days as a dramatic actor with impressive range thanks to his performance as unscrupulous lawyer Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad, which earned him his very own spinoff, the critically acclaimed Better Call Saul.
Philip Ellis is a freelance writer and journalist from the United Kingdom covering pop culture, relationships and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV.