“Seek revenge and you should dig two graves, one for your enemy and one for yourself.” -Confucius
Many of us have heard the phrase “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about”. That’s the first thing that came to mind after watching the first episode of the hit Netflix original series "Beef". A dark comedy explores mental health, relationships, morality and the toll that our decisions in life takes on us. The world we live in today is angry, but that anger is complex, and this Netflix Tale is the perfect conversation starter as to why the world is in a current state of Flux.
A series of unfortunate events leads to the start of our journey. Danny (played by Steven Yeun) frustrated by not achieving the simple task of returning some items at a hardware store sits in his truck ruminating. When he finally decides to head home, Danny backs the truck up to quickly and almost hits a luxury white SUV that's speeding by. The driver of that car Amy (played by Ali Wong) slams on her brakes and lays on her horn in anger. Danny looking confused tells her to move out of his way, Amy drives off but before she gets too far, she gives him the middle finger. This triggers Danny and what ensues is a somehow comedic rage fueled car chase. Speeding through the streets attempting to get a look at her (Wong’s) face, Danny must settle for getting Amy’s license plate and thus our epic story of revenge begins.
Beef tells the story of people with two very starkly contrasting backgrounds. At first glance Amy has it all. She is successful at her botany and decor business, has a progressive loving husband and an artistic creative daughter. However, looks can be deceiving and beneath the façade there are many cracks in the foundation. Amy is struggling to sell her Art business to spend more time with her husband George (Joseph Lee) and her daughter, Junie (Remy Holt). Her Mother-in-Law is overbearing, condescending and dismissive, her husband seems to have an inappropriate romantic connection with another woman, she is disconnected and estranged from her own parents and Amy seems to have past issues with anxiety and childhood trauma.
Danny a Korean immigrant is surviving on odd jobs as a contractor while being at odds with his free loading brother. The importance of family is at the forefront of his story as well. Danny longs to build a home for his parents who were forced back to South Korea due to his cousin Isaacs scheme that landed him in prison. A traffic incident that should have been minor, entangles Amy and Danny together on a course of grossly misplaced anger and revenge. Danny and Amy both struggle with Depression and lack of proper emotional regulation. This is evident in the lengths and depths they are willing to go to in an effort to one up each other in destroying the others life.
Mental health issues wreak havoc, and we see how each of our main characters deals with them. Danny is seemingly angry at everyone and Amy smiles through every instance of discomfort and worry. Without a doubt the best thing about Beef are the performances of Ali Wong and Steven Yeun. Wong best known for her work on "Fresh off the Boat" is remarkable in her depiction of a sexually repressed middle class businesswoman with a fetish for guns. Her character makes these over-the-top choices, but she manages to add layers that humanize the character and make her still feel relatable despite the life her wealth has afforded her. Steven Yeun best known for his role as Glen from "The Walking Dead" shines in his role as Danny. Beef gives us another opportunity to take in Yuen’s astounding acting skills and boy next door looks.
On the surface Danny could be seen as a villain, a person whose bad breaks in life have erased much of the goodness from him. However, what Steven Yeun does so well is portray the complexity of the human experience. There are many people who at their core are wholly good but have been beat down by life. In the character of Danny, we see a man who just wants to help his family, make a good living and enjoy the simple things in life that seem so unattainable to him. There are many people who can relate to that level of exhaustion.
Life's issues effect people from all walks of life and all economic backgrounds, but it’s easy to see that Amy disproportionately has advantages over Danny. The great equalizer being that we are all human.
Everyone can find themselves in a dark place in life. We are nothing if not the culmination of our experiences. A well rounded, talented cast brings this 10-episode lesson on life into fruition. The supporting cast built a solid foundation for this ensemble to display humanity in all its flawed beauty. I found myself not only laughing but also tearing up as I peered into the frustrations of just trying to exist and pursue the things, we believe that will ultimately bring us peace. Beef is not only Delicious and refreshing, it's also a must add to your current watch list.