Walking Dead star Steven Yeun’s Beef is uncomfortably brilliant

Beef spoilers will not be found in this review.

Before the show release, Beef told star Ali Wong The Hollywood Reporter: “I was prepared to not have a ton of fun on the show”. And on paper, it’s easy to see why.

Produced by A24 for Netflix, Beef follows two strangers named Danny Cho and Amy Lau who are deeply, deeply unhappy in their own separate lives. Steven Yeun’s entrepreneur struggles with a lack of work and money, while Wong’s entrepreneur faces the opposite problem, losing herself in a seemingly perfect life that exhausts her on all fronts.

Just when it looks like things can’t get any worse, the pair are faced with a whole new level of misery and bitterness when they both get caught up in a road-rage incident that neither can let go of on.


“I’ve been busy all my life… and look where it’s gotten me,” Danny says early in the series, in the midst of hustle. Amy also works hard and works to support her family and her business, but she also just struggles to get some time for herself as well. What the incident does is distill every negative feeling they both have into one desperate need for revenge that drives them even when they’re running on fumes.

Now, that doesn’t sound like “a ton of fun,” but this revenge that drives Danny and Amy is often a petty, sadistic kind of revenge that will elicit as many laughs as it does gasps of horror. Telephones, cars, even “European oak floors” are all victims of this ongoing beef in increasingly absurd ways.

Trust earlier It’s always sunny in Philadelphia writer Lee Sung Jin for finding the fun in such reckless conceit. Like that show, Beef also takes a playful delight in cruelty at times. Still, that doesn’t mean we completely agree with Netflix’s description of Beef as a “comedy”.

You will of course laugh at the points, but the horror of what is really unfolding here will also make you deeply uncomfortable. Despite a few meme-friendly moments, including a particularly uplifting gun scene, which you did not do watch in the trailersome will find Beef relentless nihilism just a tad too relentless, even with the humor spread across it.

Questions around class and mental health, and how all of that plays into life as an Asian American, hit hard here, precisely because they are so realistic to the revenge arc they are hooked on. And even the rage itself is also quite relatable, as it is derived from the same kind of helplessness that we all inevitably feel at one point or another. “We live in a society,” as the meme goes.

This constant, underlying tension could have created Beef a tough sell if it weren’t for Yeun and Wong. Reunited on TV again after Tuca & Bertie’s cancellation, their new roles here couldn’t be more different from Bertie and Speckle if they tried.

ali wong, beef


Steven Yeun continues his enviable streak of roles with Danny, channeling the innate charisma we’ve seen him pull off so effortlessly in e.g. Nix, to the pain and The Walking Dead. This time, however, his star quality is deliberately muted and damn near suffocated by the circumstances his character finds himself in.

Maybe things would have been different if life had just dealt Danny the right hand. Or maybe it’s really his fault that everything worked out the way it did. This nuance is a credit to both the writers and Yeun, who plays with notions of fate and responsibility with this downtrodden man who tries but often fails to do the right thing.

“I’m so tired of smiling,” Danny tells his brother just as he answers a call from their mother, complete with a signature Yeun smile. Except that the cracks in this facade are all too obvious.

Amy’s smile is similarly used as a mask and also as a defense mechanism. How else can she survive the endless pressures of her life when everyone around her keeps telling Amy how much they envy what she has?

Wong’s comedic skills are perfectly pitched here, swinging between comedy and tragedy and the shades of gray between them in any given scene as well. Whether you’re laughing with Amy, getting frustrated with her privilege, or just can’t believe what she’s doing, will believe it all thanks to what is easily Wong’s best performance to date.

The success with Beef ultimately lies with both Wong and Yeun, of course. Neither Danny nor Amy are particularly likable in what they do, but it somehow makes us root for them more, even though we know their compulsive need for revenge will only lead to pain and ruin for everyone involved.

steven yeun, ali wong, beef


“I was prepared to not have a lot of fun on the show,” Wong said in the aforementioned interview, and you might not be depending on your bandwidth for visceral, uncomfortable storytelling either.

But if you give it a chance, Beef is as bold and unpredictable as the genres it navigates, shifting from drama and comedy to tragedy and even horror in one beautifully shot, exceptionally well-acted show that may well end up among the favorites of the year.

Just don’t hold it against us if you disagree.

Beef will be available to stream on Netflix from April 6.

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