Review “Beef”


JC Ramirez Delgadillo

Ali Wong (middle) and Steven Yeun (right) answer questions in a QnA session after the Beef premier. Beef had its world premiere at SXSW on March 18, 2023. photo by JC Ramirez Delgadillo.

Whether it’s due to running late, heavy traffic, or a person cutting you off, there will be times where you want to curse out the other driver in a fit of road rage. No series exemplifies this feeling better than “Beef”, a Korean-directed TV show where two people’s involvement in a road rage incident pits them against each other, leading to both parties becoming increasingly involved in the other’s life.

The dark comedy series’ first two episodes aired at South by Southwest (SXSW) this March and received highly positive feedback. The series makes the two main characters relatable by showing contrasting aspects of their personalities, such as their different reactions to stress and their different economic backgrounds. Each character deals with issues that the other doesn’t know about, which allows the audience to empathize with each of them and adds to the humor when they interact with hostility. Amy Lau (played by Ali Wong) is a chronically busy, hard-working business-owner and mother “in a zen maze of her own creation” as described by the actor during a Q&A after the screening. Meanwhile, contractor Danny Cho (played by Steven Yeun), is also hard-working but bitter at his inability to afford bringing his parents to the United States because of his cousin’s illegal actions. Their first encounter, in which Amy blocks Danny’s path and flips him off, sends both of them into a state where they take out all of their pent-up stress and anger at their situations on each other, all road rules be damned. The audience watches as their ensuing obsession with vengeance becomes entangled in their lives, subverting even their own expectations of themselves.

Wong and Yeun both do an amazing job at portraying a character that is trying to keep their cool through stressful problems that life throws at them and yet is slowly cracking under the pressure. For the most part, “Beef” does a great job of balancing the emotionally heavy elements with funny dialogue and facial expressions on the part of the actors. During the screening we watched on March 18, laughter punctuated a good portion of the characters’ reactions to their own emotions and situations, including a scene where one of the characters is visibly battling urges of self harm. While their struggles with mental health are portrayed in a realistic and relatable way, the laughter can feel unsettling due to the serious nature of the topic.

Overall, “Beef”’s first two episodes were well-executed and fun to watch. We definitely recommend this show to anyone interested in dark comedies or media connecting to deep internal struggles.