29th April 2023

Look no further, Beef is your new favourite show

Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers
Look no further, Beef is your new favourite show
Steven Yeun and Ali Wong in Beef. Photo: Netflix

A24 and Netflix have found themselves as the makers of the show of the year. Beef gets its title from the show’s opening scene, where lead stars Ali Wong and Steven Yeun’s characters, Amy Lau and Danny Cho, road rage at each other. From this seemingly small event, the show’s creator, Lee Sung Jin, takes the viewer on a wild journey, exploring the consequences of hurting others, delving into family trauma, and exploring the effects of diaspora.

Warning: spoilers ahead!

Wong and Yeun’s performances are the crown jewel of the show, with their characters’ relationship, and what each character symbolises for each other, giving the viewer a lot to delve into, even when something is left unsaid. Where Danny Cho struggles with supporting his family financially, and with his cousin’s criminal schemes, Ali Wong struggles in a world completely removed from this, with privileged housewives, like Ashley Park’s Naomi, and multi-millionaires, like Maria Bello’s Jordan. Despite their differences, both characters find themselves alienated in similar ways, haunted by their pasts, their decisions, and their families, navigating what it means to be an Asian American in modern America. The show is deeply sympathetic in this portrayal, knowing when to bring some levity to dark situations with humour or to portray horrific situations in stark realism.

The show’s supporting characters help bring the world of the show to life too. Young Mazino’s Paul is endearing in his cluelessness in the reality of events taking place around him, coddled and controlled by his brother and Joseph Lee does a great job of playing the frustratingly overprivileged George, a character who has never truly worked at anything, save on some vases that not a single character views as valuable. George’s mother, played by Patti Yasutake, even sees him as useless, as she clings to her late husband’s money. These side characters allow Lee Sung Jin to explore the nuances of Amy Lau and Danny Cho’s pasts, but they never feel like accessories to our leads’ growth, as the script treats them with care and imbues them with their own feelings and motivations. Not a word of the script is wasted, but we are given a range of characters to love and hate, as the script flips our perspectives on a whim.

There is a meticulous attention to detail in the show’s construction, right down to the soundtrack. The show’s characters rage to Tori AmosCornflake Girl’, just as Danny watches his house burn and Amy eats burger king to Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’. The best use of the show’s soundtrack is with Bjork’s ‘All Is Full of Love’, where the solemn otherworldly song accompanies Amy and Danny’s final stand-off in their drive off of a cliff. As both cars fall slowly in California’s hills, the intense drama of the scene is delivered in striking quietness, another example of one of the show’s greatest strengths: the ability to know when to shout, and when to whisper.

Beef is simply one of the best shows to come out of Netflix in years. With A24’s unique, sharp perspective on film and tv making, the show is shockingly honest in its depictions of diaspora and class. The bond between Wong’s Amy Lau and Mazino’s Paul is a truly great scene, as characters, despite their economic differences, find some common ground in giving each other a moment of joy. The destruction of this bond, because of Lau and Cho’s desire to reject their family history, but succumbing to it anyway, is heartbreaking and reflects the impact of generational trauma.

We’ll withhold from telling you too many of the details, because the best way to see the show is to strap in and let the plot take you on its twists and turns. It’s rare for a show to make you laugh and then make your jaw drop at the drop of a hat, as Beef does. If you haven’t seen Beef yet, it’s time to get a snack, set some time aside and dive in.

Owen Scott

Owen Scott

Head Arts Editor at the Mancunion and culture journalist

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