The Bear Is Not A Romance. Believe It Or Not, That's A Good Thing.

Even the cast appears to be growing annoyed by the subject.
Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) and Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) are shown in season three The Bear.
Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) and Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) are shown in season three The Bear.

This article contains minor spoilers for Season 3 of The Bear.

In one of the most discussed scenes near the end of the acclaimed second season of FX’s The Bear, chefs Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) and Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) take a moment to fix an uneven table together, a brief reprieve from the intense stress of preparing to launch their new restaurant. As they do so, Sydney confides in Carmy about how she’s terrified of causing the restaurant to implode upon arrival.

“You could do this without me,” she says.

“I couldn’t do it without you,” he says. “I wouldn’t even want to do it without you. You know, you make me better at this.”

“You make me better at this,” she responds.

“What if I just, like, completely melt? Like, I just fuck up and fail?” she asks him later.

“I won’t let you,” he says.

Carmy also presents Sydney with a gift: a monogrammed chef’s jacket, a token that marks her ascension as the new restaurant’s head chef.

I found the scene incredibly moving. As my heart swelled, it reminded me of Mad Men character Don Draper (Jon Hamm) placing his hand on top of Peggy Olson’s (Elisabeth Moss) as a sign of respect at the end of The Suitcase. It was one of the AMC show’s most memorable episodes, following the two during a tense and emotionally draining night of meeting a deadline for an ad campaign. The Bear scene also made me think of the dynamic between Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), her boss and mentor, on 30 Rock. And it brought to mind moments from my own life, in which I’ve been lucky to have some wonderful mentors. I love seeing a relationship that’s built on wanting the other person to succeed in their work.

But judging from the exhausting internet discourse clamouring for a romantic plotline involving Carmy and Sydney, many people did not interpret the scene this way at all. Instead, they considered it further evidence of will-they-won’t-they romantic tension between the two. This feverish “debate” among The Bear fans has annoyed me from the start, and distracts from the show’s many, many strengths that are actually there on screen, not just projection or speculation.

Somehow, all of this nonsense has only continued into the series’ third season, which is now streaming on Disney+. At a press conference earlier this week, Jeremy and Ayo were asked if there’d been talk among the show’s writers and cast about a possible Carmy-Sydney romance. The two, who understandably seemed annoyed at the subject, quickly dismissed it. “There was no talk in the rooms about any romantic implications,” Jeremy said.

Let’s put the matter to rest, once and for all. The Bear doesn’t need romance, full stop – and it’s a better show without it.

In fact, the weakest part of the series’ otherwise stellar second season was the one overtly romantic plotline: Carmy reconnecting with his childhood friend Claire (Molly Gordon) and beginning an intimate relationship with her. It’s doomed from the start because Carmy, consumed by the stress of the new restaurant and the trauma of his past, is absolutely not in an emotional space to be dating – something we did not need an entire season-long storyline to learn.

The whole plot also felt thin and shoehorned in, and Claire was such an underwritten character. Unfortunately, in season three, the show is still trying to make Carmy and Claire happen, to its detriment.

Sydney and Marcus (Lionel Boyce) appear in Season 2 of FX's "The Bear."
Sydney and Marcus (Lionel Boyce) appear in Season 2 of FX's "The Bear."
Chuck Hodes/FX

In addition to the incessant Carmy-Sydney shipping, fans also have shipped Sydney and pastry chef Marcus (Lionel Boyce). This originated in season one, when Sydney encourages Marcus to develop his own recipes, and the two become close. He presents her with a slice of his delicious chocolate cake, which impresses her. In the season one finale, after the two have a disastrous day at the restaurant (thanks to Carmy blowing up at each of them), Sydney makes dinner for Marcus. Why assume these are romantic gestures? You can make food for someone you care about in a non-romantic context.

The show’s second season did briefly tease some potentially romantic vibes between Sydney and Marcus. Marcus asks Sydney if she wants to grab dinner, leading to an awkward exchange as each of them seems to have misread the other. On some level, I respect fans who may be rooting for them. (For one thing, Marcus is much less toxic than Carmy.) But again, this doesn’t need to be a romantic plotline. This is a relationship primarily built on collegial respect: Sydney supporting Marcus in his pastry ambitions. That doesn’t have to be interpreted romantically.

Thankfully, in season three, it’s pretty clear that there’s nothing romantic happening. Marcus apologises to Sydney for “making things weird”. But something tells me that many fans still won’t stop shipping them (or Sydney and Carmy), straining to read non-romantic moments — like Sydney and Marcus bonding over each having lost a mother — as romantic ones. Or when Sydney widens the margins of the restaurant’s menu because she knows Carmy writes in them, or when Carmy compliments her outfit. When we notice details about people, we’re demonstrating care. Why automatically jump to romantic conclusions?

Not every show needs to have a will-they-won’t-they story, or a romantic plotline in which work presents an obstacle. The Bear is a series primarily about a workplace and people’s relationships to their jobs and their colleagues. It’s about the care and precision of serving people good food, and the care and precision of trying to build a better and healthier work culture in restaurants.

Throughout its three seasons, the show has thoughtfully explored these issues. Carmy is trying – in fits and starts – not to replicate the toxic hierarchies and abusive bosses he’s worked under in the past. Central to his personal growth is respecting Sydney and treating her as his equal, though he often doesn’t succeed.

Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas) and Sydney are shown in Season 2 of FX's "The Bear."
Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas) and Sydney are shown in Season 2 of FX's "The Bear."
Chuck Hodes/FX

This extends to the rest of the show’s characters as well. At various moments, different sets of characters serve as mentors to each other and facilitate each other’s personal growth. Both Carmy and Sydney mentor Marcus. Marcus goes to Copenhagen to learn from Carmy’s old colleague Luca (Will Poulter). Sydney mentors Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas), and Tina mentors Ebraheim (Edwin Lee Gibson).

There are so many of these formal and informal mentorships on the show that they could fill an expansive diagram. The best scenes in season three often involve the care that goes into being a mentor, from Carmy thinking about the chefs that taught him, to several of the characters considering the legacy they want to leave behind. It’s where the series soars.

The depth of the show’s platonic and work-related relationships makes for better television. And along with other pop culture portrayals of non-romantic bonds, this may reshape how we think about the wide array of relationships in our personal lives. It often feels like romantic relationships have an outsize influence in our society, while other types of connections get short shrift. Many of the most enriching relationships in our lives are not romantic ones. They’re the kind we have with our friends, colleagues, mentors and mentees, and many that don’t easily slot into a category or under a label. It has been rewarding to see series like “The Bear” really fill those out on screen.

“You’re not alone,” Carmy tells Sydney when he hands her the new jacket in season two. The Bear shows us that when we surround ourselves with people of many stripes who support us, we’re not alone either.


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