“One of the best explorations of obsession I’ve ever seen,” wrote one critic about Netflix’s new hit series Beef.

“A cosmic tragedy and one of the best shows of the year thus far...” wrote another.

Another surprised critic concluded: “I did not expect to take a deep dive into the meaning of life in the form of a dark comedy about road rage.”

Almost out of nowhere, Netflix’s high-stakes comedy series Beef has become one of the most talked about TV series of 2023.

Starring Steven Yeun and stand-up star Ali Wong, Beef is created by Lee Sung Jin (Dave, Tuca and Bertie), who admits the original idea stems from a road rage incident from their own life.

The far-from-ordinary show is almost impossible to pigeon-hole into any genre because describing it merely as a ‘dark comedy’ doesn’t begin to do it justice.

Beef - Rated and reviewed

Steven Yeun in Beef Netflix

Beef cast: Steven Yeun, Ali Wong, Joseph Lee, Young Mazino, David Choe, Patti Yasutake

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 99%

Similar TV shows: Dead to Me, Barry, Killing Eve

Critics verdict: “I challenge you to find another series that channels the spectrum of fury as wildly, beautifully and crazily while, for the most part, maintaining its focal clarity.” Salon.com.

Beef has a simple premise. Two strangers - struggling contractor Danny Cho (Yeun) and self-made entrepreneur Amy Lau (Wong) - clash in a wild road rage incident. After tracking each other down, the pair enter an ever-spiralling revenge feud that feeds a deep sense of unhappiness which eats away at both their lives.

Ali Wong in Beef Netflix

What begins with a few expletives on the road and simple pranks on each other escalates into a wild battle of rage and obsession that threatens to derail both their lives and those of their families.

Although the chaotic story of revenge is a great source of dark humour, the show is far more than a feuding comedy. It's experimental, enjoyably weird and refuses to play by the rules of any traditional TV genre.

Delving into social satire, philosophy, depression, religion and family, all while dishing out wild set pieces for two characters at breaking point, the show is enchanting, addictive and original.

Yeun and Wong are beyond brilliant. Yeun is about as good a guarantee  of a high-quality TV show or film as you'll get these days. And Wong, best known for her Netflix stand-up specials, matches her co-star’s performance and manages to bring a subtlety and nuance to a character that should, on paper, be rather detestable.

Who is Steven Yeun?

After rising to fame playing Glenn Rhee in The Walking Dead, Yeun went on to get an Oscar nomination for Minari and the lead in the acclaimed Prime Video animation series Invincible.

Best TV shows and films

The Walking Dead, Minari, Okja, Nope, Tuca & Bertie, Invincible.

In their darkest and most outrageous moments, we might not fully sympathise with these characters, but we can understand why they're acting as they are. 

Danny and Amy’s mutual fury is so explosive and thrilling to watch because they hold up a mirror to each other. They are two characters already on the verge of a breakdown and their meeting on the road is the blue touchpaper that pulls away the public selves they’ve been hiding behind.

Believe the hype, Beef is going to be near the top of Best of 2023 lists at the end of the year.

Steven Yeun in Beef Netflix

What do the Beef artwork and episode titles mean?

One of the first unusual things to strike viewers of Beef is the mysterious episode titles and distinctive artwork used for the title cards.

The first episode uses the Renaissance painting ‘A Meat Stall with the Holy Family Giving Alms’ by Pieter Aertsen. The other nine episodes use art from David Choe, who plays Isaac in the series.

The episode titles are quotes from famous writers and figures which were used to inspire the theme of that episode.

  • Episode 1 - “The Birds Don’t Sing, They Screech In Pain” (Werner Herzog)
  • Episode 2 - “The Rapture of Being Alive” (Joseph Campbell)
  • Episode 3 - “I Am a Cage” (Franz Kafka)
  • Episode 4 - “Just Not All At the Same Time” (Betty Freidan)
  • Episode 5 - “Such Inward Secret Creatures” (Iris Murdoch)
  • Episode 6 - “We Draw a Magic Circle” (Karin, from 1961’s Through a Glass Darkly)
  • Episode 7 - “I Am Inhibited by a Cry” (Sylvia Plath)
  • Episode 8 - “The Drama of Original Choice” (Simone de Beauvoir)
  • Episode 9 - “The Great Fabricator” (Simone Weil)
  • Episode 10 - “Figures of Light” (Carl Jung)

Beef music and the soundtrack?

If you grew up in the ‘90s, the Beef soundtrack is a perfect sweet hit of nostalgia.

Who is Ali Wong?

A stand-up comedian and actress, Ali is best known for her Netflix stand-up specials Baby Cobra (2016), Hard Knock Wife (2018) and Don Wong (2022).

Best TV shows and films

Always Be My Maybe, Fresh Off the Boat, American Housewife, Big Mouth.

It features a classic collection of alternative hits from acts including The Offspring, Incubus, The Smashing Pumpkins and Bjork. 

And who would have thought Hoobastank's The Reason would be soundtracking one of the best TV series of the year?

The score for Beef was composed by The Haxan Cloak, also known as artist, music producer and composer Bobby Krlic.

Music Supervisor Tiffany Anders (Reservation Dogs, Pen15) worked closely with Lee Sung Jin on the music choices for the series. All the finest alt-rock moments from the 90s and 00s can be enjoyed on the official Spotify Playlist.

Will there be a Beef season 2?

Although the ending of Beef season 1 felt like a perfect finale for Danny and Amy, the show's creator Lee Jung Jin has confirmed that he has a story which could take the show into season 2 and 3.

Find out everything you need to know about Beef season 2

Beef season 1 ending explained

After spending the majority of season 1 provoking, pranking and intensely feuding, Amy and Danny were forced to work together in the final episode of Beef season 1, 'Figures of Light'.

After Amy and Danny’s respective families learned shocking truths about their behaviour, the pair had one final car battle on the road and crashed their vehicles off into the LA hills.

Battered, bruised and badly injured, the duo had to help each other in order to survive in the wild. Without food (except one bag of Skittles), water and phone reception, and still emotionally fraught, things get even worse for the pair when they munched on some wild berries that gave them extreme vomiting and hallucinations.

Steven Yeun as Danny, Ali Wong as Amy in episode 107 of Beef Netflix

In their lowest and most desperate moment, the duo suddenly begin to share their innermost feelings, fears and regrets, giving them a shared bond.

After they both survive their bout of illness, the pair stumble and help each other up to the roadside and find their way back to civilisation.

However, before they can find help, the pair are met by Amy’s husband George in a tunnel who shoots Danny.

In the closing sequence, Amy sits by Danny’s bedside in hospital and then ends up curling up next to him in his hospital bed. Danny is wired up to various machines in hospital, but in the last second, we see his hand flicker, which suggests he might have survived.

Talking about Danny's hand movement, the show's creator Lee Sung Jin told Elle: "I just wanted that little extra something that makes you wonder what's going to happen next, or what does this mean for Danny? What does it mean for Danny and Amy that he’s moving?

"I knew that just rhythmically, almost as a song, I knew that there needed to be just something that gets cut off right before credits."

Touching on whether the Amy and Danny could potentially be lovers in season, he added: "I think any time two people have that deep of a connection, it’s easy to extrapolate that. But I honestly don’t know.

"I’m very curious what would happen to Danny and Amy once they leave that room. I have my own feelings on the romantic side of their relationship, but I certainly welcome all interpretations."

Beef trivia and Easter Eggs

Ali Wong as Amy and Joseph Lee as George in Beef season 1 Netflix

1. The '90s soundtrack was chosen to match Danny and Amy's mental states.

"Part of me feels that because these characters are stuck in their ways and are clinging to things in the past and can’t seem to move forward - it felt appropriate to use these older songs that we haven’t heard in a while," said creator Lee Sung Jin.

2. That is really Steven Yeun singing Amazing Grace in episode 7

"I loved it," said Yeun. "I still enjoy playing and singing. I grew up in the church and used to sing in the praise band, so recording that scene wasn’t necessarily scary or difficult to do, but it was really strange for me to do that on camera in this context."

3. Danny's apartement represents his life

Production Designer Grace Yun said: "Danny’s constantly in this transient space of struggling and never getting a win. He’s had such aspirations for his life and so many dreams for himself and his family, and his apartment shows that he probably moved in thinking, 'Oh, I'll just be here for five years, develop my business, then I'm going to move out,' but he’s never really been able to get out of that stage.

"He's not exactly a hoarder, but there’s a scarcity mentality of saving things, of not knowing when or where you’ll end up at the end of a project or something. So he has construction materials from past jobs piling up and a mix of different furniture — and so he’s tripping over everything, all these things he feels are necessary for his life that he can’t let go of.”

Ali Wong in Beef Netflix

4. Joseph Lee who plays George is an artist

And Ali Wong owned a painting by him prior to filming Beef.

5. The witch in episode 8 is played by Ione Skye

The terrifying character was based on childhood book characters that Lee Sung Jin read.

Ione Skye is best known for roles in River's Edge, Wayne's World, Fever Pitch, Arrested Development and La Brea.

6. Ali Wong tried 40 wigs before getting the blonde bob

Talking about the show's fashion choices, costume designer Helen Huang (Station Eleven, Birds of Prey) said: "With Amy and George, nothing they wear is by mistake, even their leisure wear. I think it shows a more arty side of Asian Americans, people who are influenced by art and architecture, especially George, who captures a more international side of Asian men’s fashion. A more androgynous look that you’d find in Seoul or Tokyo."

All Steven Yeun's costumes were purchased from Goodwill.

Beef cast list

  • Steven Yeun - Plays Danny
  • Ali Wong - Plays Amy
  • Joseph Lee - Plays George
  • Young Mazino - Plays Paul
  • David Choe - Plays Isaac
  • Patti Yasutake - Plays Fumi
  • Maria Bello - Plays Jordan Forster
  • Ashley Park - Plays Naomi
  • Justin H. Min - Plays Edwin
  • Mia Serafino - Plays Mia
  • Remy Holt - Plays June
  • Andrew Santino - Plays Michael
  • Rek Lee - Plays Bobby

Watch Beef now on Netflix.

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