Thursday, June 23, 2022

REVIEW: 'The Bear' - Carmy's Attempts to Break From the Typical Routine Cause More Chaos for the Restaurant Staff in 'System'

FX's The Bear - Episode 1.01 "System"

Carmy attempts to retrain the employees of The Original Beef of Chicagoland, but is faced with resistance. In need of backup, he brings on a talented young chef to help.

"System" was written by Christopher Storer and directed by Christopher Storer

The kitchen at a restaurant is a chaotic place. This dramedy captures that energy perfectly in every single action. Carmy feels the stress of the day preparing the food. He's only two weeks into leading The Original Beef of Chicagoland. It's not where he wants to be in his career. He's a James Beard-winning chef. He has plenty of opportunities. He could be cooking anywhere. Instead, he feels obligated to be in Chicago for his family. His brother died. He gave the restaurant to Carmy. And so, Carmy feels the pressure to make this place great. People in the community have fond memories of this place. They still fall into the pattern of going there to experience the food and the company. It's special. As such, people have mixed emotions about Carmy changing the routines. He wants to do things his way. The system as Michael set it up doesn't make any sense. Carmy can't make heads or tails of it. It worked for a long time. The employees and family members question what Carmy is trying to do. They don't need his fancy training. They just need him to do what has always worked. And yet, the system doesn't start when the chefs enter the kitchen to prepare the food. So many things have to go right leading up to that moment. It's easy to blame Carmy for the chaos and confusion. He's new. He's not doing things the way they are suppose to be. Sure, the meals he creates are incredible. He wins over the staff with his cooking. He knows what he's doing. He's simply at a weird dichotomy where he is in over his head when it comes to leading this restaurant while the actual job is beneath him given the training he's received. That complexity could create a rather nonsensical narrative. And yet, it adds to the overall sense of chaos. Carmy is in this location. This is where he has chosen to be. It may not have been entirely in his control. He wants to go all-in. He won't entertain the idea of selling the restaurant. That's not rational. That's not what is expected of him. His brother gave him the restaurant for a reason. Carmy has to believe that. If things were suppose to continue the same as always, Richie would have taken the reins. He still tries to do that. He's such an arrogant man who believes he can always bulldoze into any situation and get what he wants. He understands the time crunch. It stresses him out from time to time. It's a direct reaction to what Carmy is doing. Everyone has a method to their madness. That doesn't evoke appreciation from those who don't want to change. And yet, that's all this environment can provide right now. They can't continue following the same path. That led to the death of one of their own. They can barely process that grieve because they have to continue doing the job.

Carmy barely has any time for his sister. Sugar can't step into the building. She can't engage in this space that was once populated by the brother she lost. She's glad to have Carmy home. She expected to see him more often. Now, he only reaches out when he needs something. It's him trying to keep everything afloat. He has to hustle just to gather the necessary ingredients to prepare what's expected. He has to think creatively. People sympathize with his plight. Michael was well-known in the community. People share their condolences. They don't extent that courtesy to Carmy regarding the bills and deliveries. This is still a business after all. Carmy has to take charge and make these creative decisions. Richie wants to worm his way into every single one. Carmy relies on his cousin at some points. He needs a trained staff in order to make any of this possible. He shows his respect for each of them by referring to them all as chef. He wants everyone to be seen as equals. Sydney is the only true newcomer to this environment. She applies for a job simply because she too has fond memories of this place. Plus, she aspires to be in close proximity to Carmy. She too wants to know what he is doing here. It seems too good to ever be true. It's what reality is though. People have to deal with the circumstances presented to them. Carmy believes he can promote the business to draw in new customers. He can't control the crowd when it builds outside the building. He's expected to bring in money to pay everyone and keep the business running. In two weeks, it all seems like it's crashing. That's because of Carmy. At least, that's the perception. It's what Richie wants everyone to believe. He too enjoys the meal when no one is looking. He talks a big game about Carmy disrupting the natural flow of this environment. However, Richie wants all of this to be a success. They owe it to Michael. They do everything to honor him. And yet, they may simply be falling down the same path he did. They are hitched to this ride knowing what the outcome was for him. Instead of processing that, they want to focus on the work. They can't deflect from their feelings forever. They can't even enjoy the release of a job well done. The episode ends before that satisfaction occurs. It's simply one problem after another. Carmy has to decide how to handle each of them. He has to stick to his decisions in some cases. He has to bend elsewhere. He must be firm in what he wants from this business. Others have to respect him. The various personalities are still set to clash. That's inevitable because tempers are high in the kitchen. It's a high pressure situation. One Carmy may even liken to facing off with a bear. In that metaphor, he's terrified of the creature he unleashes from its cage. That seems like an on-the-nose warning of his relationship with this restaurant and how daunting the pressure truly is even when he refuses to stop long enough to acknowledge it.