SERIES REVIEW – What would you do if a stranger’s car damaged your pride in your car? If a minor traffic incident turned your whole life upside down? If your rival, in an escalating vendetta, turned your whole life upside down – even if it meant potentially ruining his own? And then, occasionally, you’d realize that your sworn enemy might not be so hostile after all? These are the questions that Netflix’s latest comedy-drama series, Beef, starring the brilliant acting of Steven Yeun and Ali Wong, seeks to answer.
A new series recently debuted on Netflix called Beef, which is not just the name of a food, but also a slang term for conflict or conflict in English. The main characters in the series are Steven Yeun and Ali Wong, who turn on each other after a car incident and resort to increasingly violent means to teach each other a lesson. Beef is a black comedy that shows the dark side of human nature in a humorous and grotesque way.
It all starts with a simple car problem…
The premise of the series is simple: one day, Danny (Yeun) and Amy (Wong) almost have a car crash in a mall parking lot. Amy was in a hurry to get to work, and Danny’s character parked the wrong way. Neither of them wants to apologize or give in to the other. A stunning war and vendetta ensues in which both lose their sense of proportion and self-control. Over eight episodes, the series follows the struggle between the two parties, in which they not only use physical violence against each other, but also attempt to make each other’s lives miserable through psychological terror.
Beef is not a typical comedy: it does not aim to make you laugh or cheer you up. Rather, it is a reminder of how easily we can become consumed by anger and resentment, and how far we can go to be right or to get satisfaction.
Steven Yeun: the versatile actor
The strength of the series is one of the two main characters, Steven Yeun, who, after The Walking Dead and Minari, proves once again that he is a versatile actor, capable of playing both serious and comedic roles. Yeun’s character is an initially not very successful building contractor who works hard and takes on odd jobs to earn more money. He lives with his brother Paul (Young Mazion) in a shabby apartment, who plays PC video games all day at first, but soon plays an important role in the story… When Danny almost collides with Amy in the parking lot, something changes in him. Yeun’s character loses his head and his common sense, desperate to punish Amy in an almost surreal car chase, but Paul almost gets the short end of the stick. Danny, however, is not to be deterred and exacts his revenge in his own unique way and from here a vicious “war” between the two characters begins. Both characters are examples of people who are too attached to their right and their pride and cannot forgive or let go of the other or the conflict.
Yeun does a great job in this role: he authentically portrays the character’s transformation from a normal person to a madman. Yeun also plays well with humour and drama: he is able to make the audience laugh with the character’s absurd behaviour, but at the same time make them feel sorry for the character’s suffering. Yeun is an actor who isn’t afraid to experiment and take risks, and that’s why he’s worth watching.
Ali Wong: the stand-up comedian
The other strength of the series is Ali Wong, who is known for his stand-up comedy, but also holds his own as an actor. Amy is the spoiled millionaire wife of a wealthy sculptor, who works alongside her husband as a businesswoman: she negotiates and manages their business. Amy doesn’t want to get into trouble with anyone at first, but when she runs into Danny in the parking lot, she doesn’t let up and unexpectedly hits back pretty hard during their car “duel”.
Her character is at first sympathetic because she is unafraid of Yeun’s threats and attacks, but it soon becomes apparent that she is also an endlessly frustrated, vengeful and calculating woman with serious emotional and sexual problems with George (Joseph Lee), her otherwise handsome and talented, but basically rather bland and impressionable husband. Amy is obsessed with getting back at Danny, over and over again, and won’t let go of the “rubber bullet” even when she’s had enough of Danny and his brother.
Wong is also great in this role: she is able to mix humour and drama in her character. Wong is funny in her portrayal of the character’s frustrations and plans for revenge, but also shows the character’s sensitivity and vulnerability. Wong is an actress who can not only tell jokes, but also convey emotion.
A simple, yet powerful story
The series’ story is simple: after a car incident, two people turn on each other and use increasingly violent means to teach each other a lesson. The series follows the struggle between the two over ten nearly half-hour episodes, in which they use constant psychological terror and intrigue to make each other’s lives miserable.
Yet despite the story’s simplicity, it is powerful: it shows how easily we can be overcome by anger and resentment and how far we can go to be right or to get satisfaction. The story highlights the thin line between civility and madness and shows the consequences of a small conflict: how it can affect relationships, work, health, and mental health.
But the plot is imperfect: ten episodes seem too many for such a simple idea. Over time, the conflict loses its power and interest, and the viewer can become bored with the constant battles between the two sides. It also fails to maintain suspense and excitement; some episodes feel unnecessary or forced. And at the end of the series, we get no real closure or conclusion, just an open ending that does not satisfy the viewer.
Great visuals, exciting action, good music
The visuals, the action sequences, and the music are varied and impressive. The series is set in several locations that fit well with the story and characters, and several action sequences are surprisingly exciting and original. In addition, the musical score complements the story and the atmosphere well, as it often not only underpins the scenes but also sometimes creates contrast or irony, for example, with the songs that play at the end of each episode. The series’ visuals, action, music, and sound help you immerse yourself in the story and feel the characters’ emotions.
Beef is a bold and provocative series that is not afraid to show the dark side of human nature. The series seeks not to educate or moralize, only to entertain and make you think. However, the series does have its flaws and shortcomings in terms of plot and its believability. Still, overall it is an exciting and witty series that shows how thin the line is between civilization and madness.