By: Bill Cushing, 6-23
This month’s recommendation is perhaps the year’s most addictive new series.
Netflix’s ‘Beef’ pulses with tension right from the start. The show opens with two strangers almost colliding in a retail store parking lot, which triggers an intense car chase between contractor Danny Cho (Oscar nominee Steven Yeun) and plant entrepreneur Amy Lau (Ali Wong) through the streets of Calabasas and sets in motion a season-long game of cat and mouse.
The strain of each of their lives has both Amy and Danny at the end of their rope. Their chance road rage encounter causes these ropes to snap. Soon after, a tense rivalry begins interlocking their lives in ways they cannot imagine.
In 10 intensely fierce and funny half-hour episodes, the intricately plotted twists and turns of this series show how Danny and Amy’s determination to destroy each other entwines innocent family members: Danny’s sweet kid brother Paul (Young Mazino), and Amy’s equally sweet but spoiled husband George (Joseph Lee). Adding even more spice are David Choe, playing Danny’s criminal cousin Isaac, and Maria Bello, as Jordan, the billionaire businesswoman Amy sees as the savior for her small business.
As Amy’s and Danny’s tactics escalate, the show transforms itself, too; what begins as an edgy domestic comedy becomes an increasingly serious drama and then, in the last few episodes, verges on a nightmare. Humor is there throughout, but by the end, you’re watching between your fingers in case something horrific happens. I won’t give anymore away, because this show is best to enter into without knowing too much about it.
‘Beef’ is a show that thrives on upending the viewers expectations. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, the show will pivot to an unexpected moment. Keeping us grounded throughout the constantly upending plot are Amy and Danny, who are both fantastically written characters. Both are complex individuals with opposite economic comfort levels. However, they share a commonality in dealing with loneliness and holding in the frustrations of life.
The entire cast is terrific, and ‘Beef’ gives so much humanity and depth to every single character so that none feel like a device or a caricature in this comedy of horrors. But Steven Yeun and Ali Wong are the strongest forces here, transfixing from start to finish. Their characters shift between being confident, vulnerable, and messy, as all of us are. They may hate each other, but as an audience member, you can’t help but love them. All of the show’s suspense and intensity is held in this pair’s performances, which are very physical on top of being complex and emotional.
As Yeun’s character aptly says: “You’re born. You make choices. Then suddenly you’re here.” This quote perfectly encapsulates what the series is really about. How each choice we make in life leads to something else and if you’re not careful it can have serious consequences.
There has been no word yet on further seasons, however in an interview with Rolling Stone, the show’s creator Lee Sung Jin said that he’s plotted out three seasons in his head. Whether there are more seasons or not, do yourself a favor and watch ‘Beef.’
All 10 episodes are available to stream on Netflix.
If you have any questions about TV, you can email me at BillsTVTalk@gmail.com. I will answer all of your questions and will feature some of the questions I receive in a future Mailbag column. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @BillsTVTalk and on Facebook at BillsTVTalk for daily up-to-the-minute TV news and discussion. ◊