What drives a person? Arguably, in the moment, we are all simply reacting to external stimuli. Longer term, there could be elusive internal motivators that drive behaviour. Beef, in which a minor road rage incident escalates far beyond the foresight of either party, charts the gear changes on the road to revenge.
Fancy episode titles like ‘I Am Inhibited by a Cry’ and ‘Such Inward Secret Creatures’ suggest an intellectual treatise on the human condition.
Yet, like its characters, Beef presents you with face value first and slowly suggests relatable complexities later. Not that any of this occurs to Amy or Danny as she flips him off and he drives aggressively after her.
What Is Beef About?
Amy Lau (Ali Wong, Always Be My Maybe) is a successful business woman in the midst of a long running deal to sell for millions. Her stress over the deal exacerbates a feeling of lack of connection in her marriage to affable artist George Nakai (Joseph Lee).
This boils over when she needlessly aggravates struggling contractor Danny Cho (Steven Yeun) in a minor parking lot incident.
That Danny totally overreacts speaks to his own plateful of problems he is dealing with. Thus starts a tit-for-tat war that shifts from petty to outright dangerous.
It's no surprise that many of the most entertaining scenes in Beef are Danny and Amy raging at each other. Be it surreptitious soiling or coquettish catfishing, the inability of either of them to let anything go gives the first half of the show a vivacious energy.
Revenge may be best served cold, but hot thoughtless actions mean that neither get to claim the moral high ground.
Beef Official Trailer
Is Beef Worth Watching?
Yeun imbues a deep sadness into Danny that permeates his less raging scenes. Anyone who has been unexpectedly overwhelmed by emotion will relate to his sheepish church visit, where the power of communal song hits a raw nerve.
Similarly, Amy’s struggle to hide the darker sides of herself from those closest to her creates an emotional dissonance for Wong to sink her teeth into.
Aside from the knockout central performances, the supporting cast and plots are anything but rump cuts. Danny’s antagonistic relationship with younger brother Paul (Young Mazino) plays out in far reaching ways.
Listless, bitter, but seeking validation, Paul seemingly brings out the best and worst in those around him. George grins an amusingly cringe sincerity into his scenes, whilst Danny’s shady cousin (David Choe) escalates events with his cocksure swagger.
Beef takes time out in the last few bites to deconstruct what came before. Even Roald Dahl knew in The Twits that endless action and reaction alone can’t power a narrative.
The last few slices act as a two hander. First the flambé burns all that it touches; second, the finish on the palate is savoured and examined.
Seasoned to perfection, Beef is a delight to chew on. Yeun and Wong are a complimentary cuisine and over the course of the season are plated up in all manner of ways.
Settle in and enjoy being served this selection of high-quality cuts.
Words by Mike Record
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