Disclaimer: This review of Netflix’s BEEF contains plot spoilers.
The new Netflix series BEEF introduces Danny and Amy as angry, elder millennials who get into a dramatic, high-octane road rage conflict that sends the pair spiraling down an intertwined unraveling of their life circumstances.
Danny, portrayed by Steven Yeun, is a construction worker who is trying to turn his life around. After his cousin Isaac was caught conducting illegal activities in the family motel, Danny’s parents lost the motel they owned and had to go back to Korea. His aspirations are to secure enough money to buy land on which to build a dream home for his parents to return to.
Amy is a highly successful, wealthy business owner of a popular plant store (it’s an LA thing, don’t ask!) looking to unload the business to a wealthy investor. By selling her business, she hopes to be able to spend more time at home with her daughter June. Amy’s husband, George, is a stay-at-home father and artist who fails to live up to the famous legacy of his own artist father.
If you have yet to watch Netflix’s BEEF, watch my spoiler-free review here:
Having watched the series ahead of its general release, I was immediately struck by the heavy waves of nostalgia induced by various creative choices. A dramatic conflict involving a bathroom at the end of episode one is punctuated by “The Reason” by Hoobastank. Another episode ends with “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane. Music is wielded to enhance the story’s intention of transporting the audience back in time. Although the show is set in the present day, the deeply introspective quality of the storytelling works to visit integral moments during Danny and Amy’s childhood that shaped them into the deeply damaged characters viewers meet in the present day.
BEEF speaks to the elder millennial generation that has jump-started a more aggressive form of self-reflection. Though the concept of trying to not repeat the mistakes of your parents isn’t new, millennials seem especially prone to wanting to break cycles. The labour required to break a cycle of trauma is enormous. What makes Danny and Amy so unique is that the show is unflinching in showing the ugliest parts of both characters. Every selfish decision, every denial of wrong-doing, and every failure to make better decisions is shown up close in HD.
Watching the series for the first time feels like a roller-coaster. It’s hard to predict just how far Danny and Amy will go or how badly their lives will derail. Even so, nothing can prepare you for the turn that things take in the final two episodes. An accidental child kidnapping, a botched robbery, a hostage situation, the death of Amy’s investor, and Danny and Amy having yet another road-rage conflict that sends them driving off the road and crashing down a hill.
Being forced to team up with each other to increase their likelihood of survival, spending several hours speaking with one another, and accidentally getting high off of some very questionable berries all culminate in Danny being shot by George, who believes he is holding Amy hostage.
The final shot shows Amy curled up to Danny’s body which is hooked up to a respirator in a hospital bed. It is equally tragic and cathartic. The weight of this moment comes from the genuine connection the two were able to forge while lost in the heated LA wilderness. The entire series consisted of Danny and Amy struggling to be understood or fully connect to the loved ones in their lives. Ultimately, the much-needed connection they had been searching for all along was with each other.
The payoff of Danny and Amy’s conflict and unexpected connection in the series finale sends a message that even the most damaged, wounded, lonely people can find a meaningful human connection.