‘BEEF’ Leaves The Aftertaste Of Existentialism – Review
Created by Lee Sung Jin, BEEF is a dramedy series that stars Steven Yuen and Ali Wong as Danny and Amy, two very different people who, after an incident of road rage, unleash their pent-up anger by constantly trying to one-up each other. While, on the surface, all interactions between Danny and Amy seem to be based on pure spite and hatred toward each other, the series cleverly explores and emphasizes a profound reflection on mental health and the occasional ugliness of humanity.
The main characters, Danny Cho (Yuen) and Amy Lau (Wong), meet after an incident of road rage in a parking lot that escalates into an endless obsessive cycle of revenge. Through these spiteful duels, it becomes clear that Danny and Amy have much more in common than they do with differences. The series explores the grip capitalism has on everyone—the necessity to survive versus the pursuit of achieving and obtaining more, all of that is based on the power money holds on people. Not only that, but the show also highlights the deep sadness and loneliness that everyone feels and often tries to hide from others. Each character believes their sadness and worries to be unique; however, in doing so, they miss the chance to empathize and understand each other. As the audience, it is in that loneliness and those struggles that we see the characters, and perhaps even ourselves, are not as alone as they thought.
At its core, BEEF explores what it might be like if we let our anger and frustrations fester and consume us. As much as we might try to control and keep our emotions and stresses to ourselves, ultimately, these feelings will spill over, leading to consequences that affect our daily lives and spread out to those close to us. Despite the initial slow pacing, the series is compelling and binge-worthy, easily keeping viewers on the edge of their seats about what the characters will do next. However, the show is simultaneously wild and, at times, hard to watch because of the questionable decisions the characters continue to make and the harsh consequences that follow. Often, I had to stop watching and take a break from the series before I allowed myself to be confronted with the darkness of the series.
In the end, once the dust settles from revenge after revenge after revenge, Danny and Amy are left to confront each other and their actions—that they are more alike than they might care to admit. They, and the audience, are confronted by the characters’ flawed humanity, extreme existential despair, and, perhaps, a glimmer of empathy for each other. Neither Danny nor Amy is a bad person (although some of their decisions might beg to differ in such a conclusion. They sacrifice a lot for their family, rarely for their benefit. Instead, they are decent people who wind up making (continuously) bad choices that have consequences.
The series cleverly weaves through comedy and drama. Ultimately, while the show is not for my taste, I cannot deny the compelling and smart storytelling and the cast’s stellar performances.
Leave a Reply