“BEEF” takes trivial road rage incident to extraordinary heights

"BEEF" takes trivial road rage incident to extraordinary heights

The series follows two foes who, in an effort to bring the other down, only make each other's lives more insufferable.
Published: May 8, 2023
Netflix's "BEEF" follows the consequences of a seemingly innocent road rage incident.

Caution: Spoilers Ahead

The word “beef” typically describes a minor feud over a somewhat inconsequential encounter. Like when a person cuts another in line at a bar or shoves someone a little too hard when walking through a crowd.

Netflix’s BEEF takes this concept a step – or five – further. Think kidnapping-your-foe’s-child type of beef. The series follows the main characters, Amy Lau (Ali Wong) and Danny Cho (Steven Yeun), through a road rage incident all the way to being stranded in a California desert.

BEEF depicts the true dichotomy of human nature as Lau and Cho display anger and sensitivity simultaneously. The first episode kicks off with pent-up anger that reaches a boiling point when Amy – or Danny (both blame each other and accept none of the shared responsibility for the chaos that ensues) – cuts the other off in a parking lot. The short break-checking incident quickly snowballs into a high-speed chase through town and eventually leads to the two attempting to destroy the other’s life. When they aren’t planning each other’s demise, the two leads deal with their own very different, but serious all the same, issues at home.

Anger consumes Amy and Danny throughout the ten episodes, leaving little room for more pressing matters.

Wong plays a wealthy workaholic who can’t seem to figure out the golden balance between motherhood, marriage and work. As she puts more and more energy into tearing Danny down, the tensions within her household only rise. 

Yeun’s character lives a much less luxurious life while job-hopping in search of one that will bring his Korean parents to America and provide a better life for him and his younger brother (Young Mazino). While his newfound enemy can afford to make pricey mistakes, each one Cho makes creates new problems he simply can’t solve.

Opposing tax brackets may be one of their only differences as the two realize they’re much more similar than they’d like to believe. It takes ten episodes to reach this conclusion and Lau and Cho get there by the skin of their teeth. In the dramatic final two episodes, their beef escalates to extreme heights. Lau and Cho lose nearly everything important to them including Lau’s custody of her child and Cho’s relationship with his entire family.

Amy's marriage begins to crumble as she devotes more and more time to tearing Danny down.

If anything is taken away from this series, it’s to let that shit go. Behind each character is a deeper story of hardships and trivial beef should never be the reason for any of those. The actors remarkably carry hate and love all at once, posing that perhaps one can’t exist without the other. 

At the risk of celebrating something that shouldn’t have to be normalized, it is important to note that BEEF has a nearly all-Asian American cast. Each character faces a unique set of problems in their life and is affected by their heritage differently, squashing racist stereotypes. The egregious “polite and quiet” trope that has historically plagued Asian Americans is nonexistent in the series. In fact, the entire show – from the title to the rage-fueled plot –  combats this phenomenon. Decent job, Netflix.

The show doesn’t deny the stereotypes faced by American minorities either, though. We catch a glimpse into Danny’s upbringing when he dips his toes back into his religious past. He recalls the Christian expectations of attending church and finding a “nice Korean girl” in episode 3. Amy’s childhood also explains her current anger when she reveals that she was taught to repress her feelings and hide emotions. Flashbacks to her father’s affair and mother’s complacency eerily mirror the mistakes Amy makes throughout the season in her own marriage. 

While nodding to the character’s pivotal ethnic backgrounds, the show does not make it the main focus.

Amy and Danny barely make it out alive at the end of their beef.

In addition to the positive attention and praise the series has received, disturbing and sad headlines have also littered the internet since its premiere. Supporting actor, David Choe, has faced criticism over a podcast episode from 2014 where he talked jokingly about his “rapey behavior.” The show has since condemned Choe’s actions but the question remains why they’d cast an actor with this past.  

Despite the disturbing words from Choe, the actors serve BEEF to its viewers on a silver platter. Grave decisions and deep dives into the characters’ deepest worries keep their audience engaged and hanging on to every episode.