The rage in “BEEF” is delicious, but so is its heaping serving of consequences
“To fuck around is human, to find out is divine” is a quote that lives rent-free in my head, something I pulled from rare moments I scroll through TikTok comments. The line pops into my head whenever I press “Next Episode” on Netflix’s BEEF, the newest limited series by A24 and showrunner Lee Sung Jin. Fronted by Steven Yeun as Danny Cho and Ali Wong as Amy Lau, these two Asian American 30-somethings get entangled in a constantly escalating, personal war that bursts into flames. So Amy and Danny screwed around, had their five minutes of fun and dealt with the consequences of finding out. Did they survive? Spoiler alert: barely.
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Birthed by an almost accident and fueled by road rage, Danny and Amy go on an all-out war to make each other’s lives a living hell. But in the process, their schemes get worse as they learn more about each other and look for ways to survive and, at the side, how to make each retaliation worse. While they’re not chasing each other in cars and running over bushes, the two lead extremely opposite lives.
Amy, the self-made CEO of boujee plant brand Kōyōhaus, is in the middle of an acquisition that would guarantee her a steady stream of income and more time for her family. Yet, despite all this, she tries juggling her presence as a mother to Junie (Remy Holt) and wife to her stay-at-home-husband-slash-art-nepo-baby George Nakai (Joseph Lee). Meanwhile, Danny works as a small-time contractor to provide for himself and his younger brother, Paul (Young Mazino). But his projects are small and far off in between, often leaving him broke and ready to jump in with his cousin Isaac (David Choe)’s wild (and often illegal) businesses.
Let me nip this in the bud: BEEF wouldn’t be what it is without Steven Yeun and Ali Wong’s amazing performances. The trailer does a good job of giving us a taste of the prime rage and leaving us wanting more. But it leaves out the fact that they play the part of two angry people really well. Nonetheless, they deliver equally moving performances when push comes to shove. A24 retains the art house-ness of it all with a pristine soundtrack and abstract titles that sound equally confusing and philosophical, all underscored by Daniel Choe’s original artwork for BEEF. After all, who doesn’t want “The Rapture of Being Alive” tattooed on their back?
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Even though BEEF leads us with the rage war against Danny and Amy, the two still have a lot on their plates that puts them irritable and on edge—all products of their existence and identities. You have Amy, who seemingly has everything in the world but is faced with problems at work and at home. Meanwhile, Danny is a man pushed by circumstance to get by and resents people who can’t see the joy in the things they already have. But he fails to acknowledge that behind all the glitz, glamour and money, the behind-the-scenes situation isn’t all that great. Overall, they’re two validly angry people who don’t exactly know what to do with their emotions—another product of their histories.
They say revenge is best served cold, but the sizzling rage keeps the prime beef going. BEEF makes all the playing around look so satisfying and delicious, like we’re living our anger vicariously through their actions. At that moment, we were all Danny pissing on an immaculate bathroom floor as a gotcha moment. We were all Amy tagging Danny’s cars with abhorrent insults we don’t want to verbalize. It scratches the itch of finally seeing unabashed anger on a TV show, one that lets emotions else lead our decisions above all else—without thinking of the consequences.
But alas, in an ideal world, karma’s still a hot-headed bitch. In those bits of fury, Danny and Amy let their guards down as they saw each other as targets they needed to shoot. All they had going for each other was the need for vengeance and victory. But then, they see what happens when their anger and desperation get the better of them—was that bout of emotion worth all of this? Amy and Danny lose everything they worked for, crash into rock bottom and discover that they only have their extremely charred beef and lonely company. The divinity of finding out? It’s facing the music when they had so many times to make amends and end it once and for all. It’s this wheel-of-life cycle that keeps going on and on that adds another layer of taste to the show.
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Everyone has things that make them tick. Pile them up, and you get a timebomb. We all know that it doesn’t take much for us to fuck around. But are we brave enough to royally find out? BEEF makes us think twice.
Stream “BEEF” on Netflix.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver