Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
In a time when there’s so much content available to everyone at all times, it’s refreshing to come across something that’s just different. That’s what “Beef” is. It’s different.
Billed as a comedy/drama, the Netflix miniseries comes off more like a chilling thriller. It follows the story of two millennial-age Asian Americans who are, in quite contrasting ways, navigating life in modern Los Angeles.
Our introduction to main characters Danny Cho (Steven Yeun) and Amy Lau (Ali Wong) is through an intense, road-rage-fueled car chase following a fairly run-of-the-mill parking lot interaction.
As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that neither driver can forget, much less forgive, the other for the continuous drama that transpires (a “prank war” with a malicious undertone).
The two unintentionally involve family members and friends, wreaking chaos around everyone involved. All of a sudden, the onetime road rage incident becomes a culmination of two people’s obsession with tearing each other down, personally and professionally.
Over time, we find that Amy, a successful potted plant retailer who’s on the verge of selling her business for millions, and Danny, a handyman who’s struggling to support his brother and parents after the family motel closed down, actually have a lot in common.
What the two characters share is experience with depression, anxiety, stressful responsibilities, and the heavy burden of being the firstborn child of two Asian immigrants.
Amy’s husband George (the son of a prolific furniture designer) and Danny’s brother Paul (a Gen Z instagrammer, free of worry) both lack the empathy (or firsthand experience with mental illness) that’s necessary to really understand their loved ones’ struggles.
What makes the series so enthralling is the relatability of the two main characters, who, without fail, make horrible decisions — over and over again. Some of them have far-reaching impacts, great enough to destroy lives.
Despite their differences, Danny and Amy are both weighed down by a mixture of pressure to exceed the status quo, meet cultural and societal expectations, and navigate generational trauma. Their anger that prompted the road-rage incident is really just a symptom of something much greater — an existential truth, that if pushed just enough, anyone is capable of doing evil things.