Beef: it’s a rage-fest

Steven Yeun and Ali Wong in Beef

Beef tells a road rage story starring Steven Yeun and Ali Wong. A momentary horn honk turns into a full blown obsession that changes both their lives in unexpected ways. There will be spoilers, but I’ll save them to the very end and warn you when they are about to start.

Beef didn’t charm me as much as it did some people. It’s good – don’t get me wrong – but I’m not sure it’s the best series of the year. It’s deep, philosophical, metaphysical, and funny. It has plenty going for it. Plus Steven Yeun and Ali Wong turn in outstanding performances.

Danny (Steven Yeun) is backing out of a parking space when Amy (Ali Wong) honks to let him know she’s behind him. But she doesn’t just toot and get out of the way. She stops behind him so he can’t back up and lays on the horn, then flips him off.

He chases her, driving like a fool. He gets her plate number and finds her house. He pretends to be a contractor (he is a contractor). He gets inside and pees all over her bathroom. From this beginning, the fight is on. They do worse and worse things to each other. Other people get involved and hurt by their actions. They keep going.

Ali Wong in Beef

Amy is married to George (Joseph Lee), who is supposedly a sculptor. He is the world’s worst sculptor, but his father was a famous designer so he thinks he has to be in the arts, too. They have a daughter, June (Remy Holt). Amy’s mother-in-law, Fumi (Patti Yasutake), encourages her son’s fantasy that he’s an artist. Fumi should be a saleswoman – she really knows how to sell.

Amy and George have a rocky marriage. She works constantly and he stays home with little June. Amy’s goal is to sell her business for $10M to Jordan (Maria Bello) so she can stay home with June. In this majority Asian cast, Maria Bello is one of the few white characters.

Danny has a younger brother, Paul (Young Mazino). As part of her campaign to destroy Danny, Amy catfishes Paul and they end up having an affair. Paul is a slacker, monitored by Danny to the point of smothering him.

Danny’s cousin, Isaac (David Choe), is fresh out of jail and full of ideas for ways for Danny to make money – most of them legally questionable. His attempts to steal from Amy or from billionaire Jordan lead to some problems.

Steven Yeun and Ali Wong on the Beef poster

The show’s episode titles are bits of quotes from well-known writers. I mentioned that the story was both philosophical and metaphysical. The episode title quotations are part of that depth and help fill in background about what the story means.

Steven Yeun sings in this series. He has a good cry in church. He’s very good in both those bits, too. Ali Wong, on the other hand, masturbates with a great big pistol. Unpack that one, all you therapists out there.

Danny and Amy are a lot alike. Both are lonely, empty, dark, broken and mad as hell. The aim of this imaginative series is to help them face their own darkness.

Lee Sung Jin created the series. A woman, Hikari, directed 3 of the 10 episodes.

Now for the spoilers

I really have to talk about the last two episodes. If you don’t want to know spoilers, stop reading now.

Danny accidentally kidnaps June. He wants to give her back to Amy, but Amy is at Jordan’s mansion off in the remote hills. He tries to return her while Isaac and some of Danny’s other cronies are planning a heist at Jordan’s to steal all her big money artifacts.

At Jordan’s, there are guns fired, police, people run and hide, and plenty of mayhem. When it’s all over Danny and Amy are driving home in their respective vehicles. They start up with the road rage again and drive over a cliff. They survive.

Later they try to walk out together. Danny pushes Amy down another cliff. She survives. So much unbelievable surviving. They eat some berries that make them hallucinate. They mind meld, go inside each other, see each other’s darkness, and speak as each other. It’s a surreal experience but it bonds them in ways they thought would never happen. Finally, somebody sees them, understands them.

They cooperate after that, walking toward what they hope is a road. George sees them (finally, rescued!). George shoots Danny. Not everyone is rescued, apparently.

The final scene is Danny in a hospital bed with Amy in a chair next to him. She’s in her own hospital gown. She crawls up into the bed to lay beside him. He raises an arm to hold her. The end.

I think some people see this last scene as romantic. To me it was something else. I thought it showed that these two empty shells of people had found empathy and compassion. There was finally a true human connection to another person for both of them. Some of their black emptiness had been filled. That is love, yes, but I’m not sure it’s romantic love.

This Netflix series is definitely worth the watch. Let me know in the comments what you thought of it.

2 thoughts on “Beef: it’s a rage-fest”

  1. It took me a moment to get into this one.. I almost didn’t continue it..but glad I did. I like it..not loving it like a lot of people..but you can’t deny the acting.

    1. Glad I’m not the only one who didn’t think it deserved all the stars. My granddaughter, who is a road rage queen, absolutely loved it. It is good, and is in contention for the Emmys. Maybe there will be some Asian faces accepting Emmys this year. That would be nice.

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