I Just Watched The Bear Season 2
While I'm glad The Bear won awards again (congratulations, Ayo Edebiri!!!), I'm gonna be honest...Season Two was not better than Season One. There were questionable dips in the writing that could've been easily avoided if Hollywood wasn't so addicted to cheap male fantasy.
In a show where every angle, every color, and every song choice is so carefully chosen, there's no room for cheap male fantasy. This show is better than that; The Bear itself is literally a gourmet offering in television, and the Carmy/Claire "romance" was like day-old McDonald's wedged between elaborate courses. For me, it caused Season Two to drag at times, and what's wild is that with a few tweaks, their interaction could've been so much more meaningful.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a Sydcarmy shipper. That being said, I don't expect them to become canon, and I mainly ship them out of spite because we've already been down this road, without countless other fandoms, so many, many, many times before.
Let's start with a titan of Gothic television, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
No seriously...let's go back to Season Four, when Faith Lehane, the infamous Dark Slayer, wakes up from an eight-month coma and magically swaps bodies with her archnemesis, Buffy Summers. Once Faith becomes Buffy, there's a line she repeats over and over again: "It's wrong." First, she says it sarcastically, while rehearsing to be Buffy. Then she says it flirtatiously to the vampire Spike. By the third time she says it, shit has it the fan, and Faith is staring down several vampires in a church where a bunch of people are about to be massacred. As she tells the vampires she can't let them kill those people "because it's wrong," the audience can see Faith finally understands what it means to be a Slayer.
And while she says she has to do this because she's "Buffy", one could interpret it as, "I have to do because I am (also) a Slayer. Because I am me."
Now back to The Bear. The Claire/Carmy romance disastrously ends with Carmy locked in the refrigerator at his own restaurant opening, when Claire overhears Carmy telling himself he can't be in relationship because he needs to focus on his restaurant. I believe that he could've still arrived at a similar conclusion, just in a slightly different way (but still locked in the fridge because he totally deserves it).
Before I sat down to write this, I was gonna start with the fake phone number scene, but as so many people have pointed out, the problem goes back further to the characterization of Claire herself. Claire should've been written differently altogether, as a smart, confident, accomplished doctor who remembers Carmy (and his family, and all the Faks), but doesn't care to get involved with them all over again. Just as Carmy is not the same kid he was in high school, neither is Claire.
So she wouldn't be trying to get his phone number in the first place. Carmy would be trying to get hers.
And that should've been the theme of their relationship throughout the season: Carmy trying to woo a highly resistant Claire. I know this isn't what men fantasize about, and I really don't care. Male fantasy ruins shows. By writing Claire as this needy, immature woman not only begging for a man's phone number but willing to accept the disrespect of a fake one, the writers detoured from the harsh realism that made The Bear an instant hit. You think men are starting new podcasts every five minutes because women are throwing ourselves at them? Come on. Claire exists to "reassure" the audience that Season Two Carmy is very much a red-blooded, heterosexual man who can easily pull a woman, and not the ambiguous, awkward, potentially asexual icon he was Season One. Because gods forbid.
Writing Claire as unattainable would've kept their "romance" much more in line with the rest of the show. So Carmy would be trying to get her phone number, trying to get her to go out on a date, trying to get her to taste his cooking--it should've been an all-consuming quest which distracted him from the restaurant, to the point that everyone around him voiced concern. And throughout the doomed courtship, Carmy would reiterate over and over again to Claire, "Listen...I'm Carmen Berzatto."
He would try to get her phone number, because he's no longer an awkward kid from a dysfunctional family; he's Carmen Berzatto, a famous chef with tattoos and muscles. He would offer to take her to an exclusive restaurant most people can't get into but he can, because he's Carmen Berzatto and the owner is a fan. Carmy would invite Claire to his restaurant opening, guaranteed to serve her the best meal she's ever had, because he's the Carmen Berzatto.
While Claire would agree to attend (I mean, hey...free food), she's obviously still not that into him. And once he's locked in his fridge on opening night, Carmy would finally realize just how much effort he's sunk into chasing shadows. It's Season One all over again; he's still trying to rewrite history. He couldn't fix his relationship with his late brother Mikey, so he took over Mikey's failing restaurant in hopes that fixing it would substitute fixing things with Mikey. He's chasing Claire, not because he loves her, or even likes her. He doesn't know her anymore; he just regrets not having asked her out all those years ago. He wants to make up for being a shy geek from an unhinged family.
And here, alone in the fridge, Carmy would suddenly realize that even though he originally came from a dysfunctional family, it's not as dysfunctional now. His brother is dead, he doesn't interact with his mother, he's rebuilding a much healthier relationship with his cousin Richie and his sister Natalie, and to top it all off, he's soon to be an uncle. Even his formerly toxic work family has evolved and pulled together to form a cohesive team. And while everyone deserves credit for their own evolution, Carmy would realize that he was the catalyst, he took the first step, he was essential for the miraculous rebirth of The Beef, because despite all his flaws he really is, in fact, Carmen Berzatto. Before, it was just a line to get a woman. But now, it's a life-changing epiphany.
All those accolades and articles never meant anything before because Carmy lacked the ability to process the true extent of his own achievements. In this moment, his immigrant heritage would show most of all, because in many immigrant families, achievement is not optional, ergo it's not perceived as laudable.
Now, I still see him and Richie getting into that screaming match because 1) it's Carmy and Richie, and 2) Richie is still desperately stuck in the past. But instead of that leaden speech of not needing fun or enjoyment, instead of humiliating Claire (AGAIN), the season would still end on high note because it would show significant growth in Carmy, because out of all the characters, he evolved the least this season.
I'm just hoping that now we got the cheap male fantasy out of the way, we won't see similar blunders in Season 3. Personally, I prefer the old days of "Carmy does not fuck" because that same ambiguity which frightened the usual demographic made him irresistably mysterious. If I were a writer on this show, I would've milked that for SEASONS, hear?