Should The Bear Avoid Romance Altogether?

In a recent interview with Variety, Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiris talked about their characters' relationship in "The Bear." Throughout the eight-episode run of its hit debut season, White's Carmy and Edebiris's Sydney go through a lot together. As the only two chefs in the kitchen with lots of professional training, Carmy and Sydney are both trying to improve the way the restaurant is run, but don't always agree on the best way to do it. Their relationship almost falls apart completely in the stressful penultimate episode, but they manage to reconcile at the very end. The final scene is the two of them making deep, prolonged eye contact from across the room as they discuss their plans for the new restaurant.

But as heartwarming as that final scene is, and although Carmy and Sydney have great chemistry as chefs working together, neither actor sees any romantic chemistry going on between them. "I know there are people who are very invested in that, and I understand and I appreciate it, but it was not that for me," Edebiris said. White concurred, saying that any sort of romantic storyline between the two was "never discussed."

The show's creator, Christopher Storer, also poured some cold water over this idea. "We wanted to make something that was about friendship and a partnership," he explained. "Selfishly, I hadn't seen a show without a romantic plot and was like, that could be kind of cool and interesting."

The Bear's utter lack of romance

Christopher Storer was right, and this approach was a big part of what made "The Bear" feel so fresh. Much like "Mad Men" with Don and Peggy, or "Parks and Rec" with Ron and Leslie, this show clearly signals to its audience that it has no interest in encouraging any sort of shipping between its main male character and its main female one. But "The Bear" goes a step forward: it doesn't seem to be interested in depicting any sort of romantic relationship between any of these characters at all.

This hasn't stopped fans, of course. You can scroll through forums and subreddits on "The Bear" and find no shortage of people pushing for Carmy and Sydney, Marcus and Sydney, or (for some reason) Richie and Sydney.

Because the show itself is so uninterested in romance, shippers have to dig far deeper than usual. The scene in the finale where Marcus and Sydney are hanging out together is a big example of this: it's just a normal conversation between two friends, bonding over food and their shared annoyance at a specific person, and it was enough to convince some fans that Sydney and Marcus might be the show's endgame couple. In any other show, Marcus and Sydney's conversation wouldn't raise any eyebrows, but because nobody on "The Bear" has even the slightest hint of a romantic life, this one scene feels almost scandalous.

Not a choice made from realism

While there is a loud section of fans who try to look for romantic subtext in any scene, the majority generally seem to agree with the point of view of the show's cast and crew — the lack of any love subplot is for the best. Some go a step further, however, arguing that a romantic storyline would actively hurt the show. The word "shoehorn" gets thrown around a lot, as if such a storyline would be inherently unnecessary, inherently out of place.

In a thread asking people with kitchen experience what details "The Bear" got wrong, one of the top responses was "No sexual tension in the restaurant," and I think most people working in the food service industry would agree with this. I for one have never worked at a restaurant where at least one coworker wasn't dating another coworker at some point. 

As seen constantly throughout "The Bear," these jobs involve long hours where everyone's constantly interacting with each other whether they want to or not. Not only does this make dating people outside the kitchen harder — because you're working most at the times when everyone else is off work — but it also provides countless opportunities to get to know your coworkers more than you would in a regular job. With that in mind, the showrunners' decision seems less motivated by their desire to create an authentic kitchen atmosphere, and more to do with their goals for these specific characters. 

Why Carmy's not dating anyone anytime soon

There's a line in Carmy's monologue about his life in the season finale that certain fans have clung to, where he mentions, "I didn't have any girlfriends." It's a line that begs the question: didn't, or haven't? He follows it up with "I don't think I'm funny," a present-tense statement. By the sound of it, Carmy's life has only gotten more chaotic since high school, so it would be believable if season 2 confirmed that he's never been in a relationship before, especially not a serious one. 

That makes sense, because the Carmy we meet in season 1 is definitely not in a good place for a relationship, and he himself seems perfectly aware of this. He spends most of his waking hours at work, and the rest of his time grieving his dead brother or arguing with his sister. Even his time at work isn't exactly promising in this regard, because he constantly seems on the verge of a total mental breakdown. 

"I really wanted Carmy throughout the season to feel really fragile," Jeremy Allen White explained in an interview with Uproxx, "to feel like one wrong turn or somebody says the wrong thing and he could kind of pop." It's not a good mental state to be in for a relationship. When he screams at Sydney in episode 7, the show's making it abundantly clear that these two have a long way to go before a romantic relationship would be anything other than weird and unhealthy. Carmy understands better than anyone that if he wants to get a girlfriend, he has to work on himself first.

The case for a slow burn

Of course, Carmy is working on himself first. We don't know how many seasons "The Bear" will go on for, but it's easy to see a version of the show that follows Carmy on an upward climb. Maybe by the end of season 2, or some point in season 3, Carmy will reach a point where him attempting a serious relationship wouldn't be a terrible idea. Perhaps by that point, his dynamic with Sydney will have smoothed out to the point where we don't have to worry about a repeat of the pre-order fiasco happening again. 

If the show ever gets to that point, then wouldn't a romance between the two be kind of fun? It would have to be a very slow burn, built up to through a bunch of little moments throughout several seasons, but this show is good enough to pull it off if they wanted to. It would be the sort of storyline that takes full advantage of TV's longform, episodic nature, requiring an approach that's been a little forgotten in today's media landscape of miniseries and seasons written as 10-hour movies.

I'd also advise fans who hope for a Sydney/Carmy romance to not be too disheartened by the showrunners' recent comments, because we've heard this sort of thing before. The showrunner of "Scrubs" famously hated the idea of JD and Elliot ending up together, but the fans and the network wanted it so bad that he basically had no choice. For better or worse — admittedly, usually for the worse — fandoms do have an influence on shows that go on for a long time. Just because the creators are against a Sydney/Carmy romance for now doesn't mean this will always be the case. 

In the meantime...

While it's unlikely a Carm and Sydney romance will go down in season 2 or 3, this is hardly the only opportunity the show has for a romantic subplot that fits in naturally with the show. Sydney and Marcus is still a definite possibility, although there's a slight chance that Marcus is (as some fans speculate) in a relationship with his roommate. The fans who want an enemies-to-lovers storyline between Sydney and Richie also have some cause for hope, although I'm still not sure why'd they want that to happen. And of course, there's the possibility that the first love interest on the show will be a character who doesn't even work in the restaurant, who we haven't even met yet. 

The most likely case is that the only hint of sexuality in season 2 will continue to be in the cooking itself. "The only moments of real pleasure come from food: making it, eating it, selling it, having enough money to make more of it," wrote pop culture blogger Danielle Cohen, as she described "The Bear" as "the hottest show of the summer" despite its lack of sex. Marcus seems more in love with his doughnut recipe than he is with any living person right now, just as Sydney's biggest passion is her risotto dish. No matter what "The Bear" chooses to do romance-wise, as long as "The Bear" stays mostly focused on the cooking, it's going to be fine.