Beef Review; Finding Pathos in Pettiness


Bryson Christopher, Staff Writer

A horn honks. A man yells. A woman sticks her middle finger out the window.

Though the event may seem commonplace, these few actions build the premise of the 2023 television show, “Beef”. As these two strangers start their intense feud, ten episodes unfurl of gradually more intense situations, revenge plots, one-ups, and general “beefing.” As each characters’ lives are shown more in-depth and clarity, the lines between right and wrong fade and eventually fall completely. Throughout the episodes, we are presented with, more than anything else, a show about trying to understand each other as humans and deeply failing to do so.

Though the central feud of the show is apparent within the first few minutes, the show is much more complex than its titular “Beef.” The characters Amy and Danny have vastly different lives. Hers is one of wealth and fame. His is one of poverty and financial struggle. However through their intensely different situations, they have more in common than they can realize — they are both at their breaking points, on the verge of everything in their lives being too much to handle. Their beef takes them down many different ridiculous paths, but at the core of the show are two people searing to simply be understood.

The themes of the show are rich and acutely displayed. Modern stress, depression and anxiety, absurdism, obsession, and deep human connection are painted across a canvas of the Asian American experience. Every decision each character makes digs them deeper into their revenge fantasies, deeply flawed but deeply sympathetic.

As the show ventures into a more dark and depressing territory, it keeps its balance of drama and comedy consistent, always knowing when to poke fun and when to hold back and let the emotional strings be pulled. The comedy never entirely gives way to the grim parts and it never leaves the viewer feeling emotionally drained. The tension is never fully present, and it’s never fully gone.

Tension is something that “Beef” completely masters. It ebbs and flows entirely naturally, knowing just which punches to pull and which to let swing. As the show ventures more and more into surrealism, it keeps its tight pacing consistent, there’s never a minute that feels wasted. Even as the situations become more and more absurd, however, the show manages to keep its grasp on reality.

Where it allows itself to become most abstract, though, is the title cards; Each accompanied by a piece of deeply beautiful and at times almost terrifying art. Each piece showcases the overwhelming and depressing situations each character faces, a harsh slap in the face before dropping us into each episode.

These cards showcase the character’s inner portraits better than anything and are a perfect representation of the tortured beauty of each one of them. Everyone in the show is complex, flawed, and deeply relatable. None of them understand each other but they all yearn to be understood. It is beautiful, dark, desolate, and hopeful all at once, and is the best television show of the year and one of A24’s best works ever.