Netflix’s new hit TV series “Beef” reminds viewers that regardless of one’s station in life, nothing in the secular world, whether anger, revenge, money, status, or even relationships, can fill our inner void. Faith is our only salvation.
“Beef” is a dark comedy about road rage gone wrong. Called one of the best-ever shows on Netflix, “Beef” received the rare 100 percent Rotten Tomatoes score in its first week. Presently, the show’s scores on Rotten Tomatoes have dropped to 98 percent for the average Tomatometer and 87 percent for the average audience, which is still impressive.
The show begins with an ordinary incident. A contractor, Danny Cho (Steven Yeun), almost rear-ends a Mercedes SUV driven by botanical designer Amy Lau (Ali Wong). Although they are both Asian, Danny and Amy live very different lives.
Danny is poor, while Amy is rich. Danny drives a beaten-up truck and shares an apartment with his younger brother in a motel their parents once owned. Amy lives in an affluent neighborhood with her husband and daughter. Danny’s construction business is struggling. Amy’s plant business is thriving. At the start of the show, Amy is in the process of selling her store for $10 million. Amy has it all by many measures, while Danny seems like a failure. Like a snob, Amy often won’t let Danny forget about their wealth gap.
Yet Danny and Amy are more alike than they care to acknowledge. The show unfolds like a psychoanalysis of these two characters. It even dedicates an entire episode to detailing how their upbringing in immigrant households and their childhood traumas have shaped their psyches.
Danny and Amy both work hard to be the provider for their loved ones. While they sometimes resent their roles, they also need their loved ones’ dependency on them to fill their inner emotional void and make themselves feel good about who they are.
Danny and Amy were overworked and stressed from trying to live up to other people’s expectations. They feel burned out because “there is always something else” — a saying Danny often repeats on the show. Danny and Amy deal with disappointments and frustrations by putting on an act, even to the people closest to them. Danny lies about his competence and business failure to his brother. Amy hides her frustration and anger behind fake smiles and phony positivity, even when with her husband.
Bottled-Up Anger and Seeking Revenge
When the road rage occurs, Danny and Amy have bottled up their anger and frustration for a long time. The incident and the score-settling afterward became an outlet to manifest their emotions, and they become addicted to scheming and avenging like drug addicts. The 10-episode show sometimes feels like a thriller as Danny and Amy’s revenge quickly gets out of hand.
Danny and Amy are selfish people who are so self-absorbed in their own emotional needs that, for most of the show, they fail to notice how much people around them are fighting their own battles in life too. “Beef” is a show full of unhappy characters struggling with their own inner demons, even those who appear to have it all as Amy does. The only group of people (with one exception) on the show who are genuinely content with life are those who attend a Korean church. Interestingly, the Korean church also plays a vital role in Danny’s emotional development on the show.
When Danny’s business hits rock bottom, he goes to a Korean church his ex-girlfriend attends to find work. It was an act of desperation. Danny stumbles upon the worship team’s singing practice. He initially pretends to sing along with other churchgoers. But soon he can’t stop crying like a baby as the songs draw out all his pent-up emotions. It’s a very touching scene and something I can relate to. More than once, I have welled up inside church, moved by a song or a verse, as if God knew I needed to hear from Him at that moment.
As the story unfolds, Danny finds work and a sense of acceptance and belonging in the church. He becomes the leader of the church’s choir and finds a lovely girlfriend. His involvement with the church enables him to put his vengeance against Amy on hold.
Unfortunately, Danny’s newly found peace and joy don’t last very long. In a moment of weakness, he lets the dark force lure him back into revenge mode. He and Amy’s reckless behaviors eventually get out of hand.
Yeun and Wong’s performances in “Beef” are excellent. The show’s scriptwriter, Lee Sung Jin, accurately captures the complex psyches of lonely and stressed individuals. No wonder the show resonates with viewers from diverse racial and social-economic backgrounds, despite having a predominantly Asian cast.
Whether or not “Beef” intends it, it confirms something many Christians already know. People cannot fill their inner void with drugs, money, relationships, revenge, or anything else this secular world offers. Faith is the only thing that can bring us long-lasting peace, happiness, and fulfillment.