The new comedy-drama show on Netflix, “Beef,” enthralls not just with its plot and ridiculous situations but also through its range of characters. Starting off, Steven Yuen and Ali Wong play their parts as the protagonists, Danny and Amy, respectively, with sheer brilliance. While their performances draw out the short-sighted actions of their characters very well, it is also the writing of these characters that makes them and the show overall more convincing, all credits to creator Lee Sung Jin. This article is a short summation of the main characters, trying to put some of their actions into perspective.
Danny And Paul, The Cho Brothers
Danny Cho’s is the first perspective that “Beef” places itself in at the beginning when the man has a frustrating experience trying to return the hibachi grills. Danny is filled with outright hatred and disgust at his own life, as is clear from the scenes that follow. When Amy cuts him off while he is backing out of the parking lot, Danny sees it as an indication of the very world acting against him, as he says that there is always something or other in his way—a belief that he repeats numerous times throughout the series. Therefore, his retaliation against the white SUV driver, Amy, is, in many ways, a vent against his own life and fortune. Such is Danny’s animosity against his own life that the man tries killing himself with carbon monoxide poisoning by running the hibachi grills. He is perhaps even more frustrated at the fact that he cannot do this successfully either and has to keep living a life he feels is a burden.
The noble side to Danny’s character is that he is not motivated by dreams of any personal fortune or luxury; his whole point of existence, at this moment, seems to be getting his parents back to the USA from South Korea. Danny genuinely wishes to build a house for them, one that would strengthen their position as American citizens, and he is almost blindly driven toward this target. Danny’s sincerity in his desire to build the house is quite evident when he breaks down at the church, as the man feels lost and stuck in his current situation. In multiple ways, he falls prey to his anger and desperation, further complicating his life, from registering his business in Isaac’s name to hatching a false kidnapping of June. Through scenes from his childhood, there are suggestions that parental expectations created pressure on Danny, the elder sibling, because of which he feels compelled to make his parents’ dream come true. This goes along with the fact that Danny is ready to throw himself into trouble in order to get the house built. His false confidence ultimately gets the house burned down too, but his anger and frustration once again blind him from accepting the accident as his own fault.
The younger brother, Paul, initially keeps to himself quite literally, playing video games in his own room and investing in cryptocurrency. While Danny is not accepting of this, the man is himself in need of money and intends to keep all the earnings from the investments. Paul’s vision in life is starkly different from his brother’s, also because of his younger age. To Paul, life is all about enjoying and pursuing matters that would give him joy, and a romantic relationship is among these. When he first starts chatting up Amy, who pretends to be someone named Kayla, the idea of a white woman showing interest in him is what attracts Paul. Both he and Danny have faced enough discrimination because they are Korean, and Paul finds it adventurous to have a white girlfriend.
Danny is quite stringent in this regard as well, believing that no matter what, they are supposed to have a Korean wife after all. However, Paul has no such beliefs, and he is just in search of love, which becomes apparent when Amy reveals her real self to him. Instead of dismissing her, Paul continues to develop his bond with her, and they eventually spend time as a couple too. But once that breaks away and Paul is told by Danny that Amy was only faking their relationship to seek revenge for the road rage incident, the younger brother himself goes on a path of seeking silly revenge. Without telling Danny anything about it, he goes and tells George about the affair he had with his wife. There is also a reason behind Paul’s act, as he was always told by his elder brother to stand up for himself. Danny used to often ridicule Paul during their childhood and then say that he had to learn to stand up for himself, but the elder brother had never really shown him the way. Danny’s definition of such an act is perhaps fighting the driver of another car, leading to road rage, and so it is perhaps better that Paul does not learn that from him. But what he does instead also does not help their situation and instead further escalates the whole scenario into an uncontrollable mess.
The relationship between the two brothers, Danny and Paul, had always been an unstable one, perhaps similar to many usual sibling relations. But the fact that Danny had even caused harm to Paul’s life by throwing away his college acceptance letters is something that sets this relation apart from any usual sibling rivalry. Ever since Danny and Paul had been living in the USA without their parents, or maybe even before that, Danny had assumed the role of a guardian or parent to Paul, and he was ready to act at any level in order to exercise this control. Danny did not want to live by himself and therefore threw away Paul’s college acceptance letters, knowing that the younger brother would have to move away. Believing that he had not been selected to attend any of the colleges since he found no letters from them, Paul had switched his life full of potential into one of obscurity and sulking in one corner of the house. But despite all this, Danny and Paul are brothers, and all Danny worries about after the shootout is the safety of Paul. Although Paul survives and texts Danny that he is blocking his number once and for all, an eventual reunion between the brothers can very well happen in the near future.
Amy Lau And Her Quest To Find Happiness
The character of Amy is even more layered than Danny’s, possibly because she finds herself amidst wealth and luxury and yet cannot find happiness in life. While Danny’s frustration is easy to consider an effect of his financial distress, Amy’s anger clearly cannot be attributed to the same. Amy instead feels stuck at having to keep working hard even though she wants to quit and spend time with her family. She is frustrated with having to live with a husband and mother-in-law who are extremely phony and pretentious in certain regards. Her husband, George, genuinely believes that the vases he designs are great works of art, even though they do not sell. Being the son of a famous Japanese artist, George can indeed have such beliefs, but Amy comes from a modest background, and whatever she has achieved in her life is to her own credit. Glimpses from Amy’s childhood are also shown and are even at times contrasted with that of Danny’s. Amy had learned at a very young age that she was born only because her parents had no other option and that they had not intended to have a child at the time. This feeling of unwantedness found its way into Amy’s mind and keeps haunting her even to this day, in the shape of a long-nosed, scruffy-haired woman she had seen in one of her childhood books. It is perhaps stemmed from this feeling that Amy is overwhelmed whenever she finds herself in any romantic situation.
Amy’s anger is also rooted in the fact that George and his mother, Fumi, do not really value her presence and contributions to the family. Although George loves his wife, or at least seems to, and is quite dependent on her, he often says hurtful things, like when he suggests that his life could have been different and better had he not met Amy. What is perhaps worse is the fact that George does not seem to even realize the impact of his words. It is only gradually that he, and especially Fumi, acknowledge the true worth of Amy in the family and make efforts to help the woman out of her plight. Fumi does so in a rather indirect fashion, making her almost a stereotypical Asian mother-in-law—one who is very boastful of her late husband and son in public, but whatever support she has for her daughter-in-law is only in private. The reason why Amy feels much more at peace in situations when she is away from her family is that she has a firm belief that they, especially her husband George, do not understand her. This is also the reason why Amy does not confess her affair with Paul to George, even when the husband admits it and apologizes for being attracted to Mia. But this turns out to be another miscalculated decision by Amy, especially because she has to eventually come clean to him after the mess that follows.
Ultimately, though, George does turn up for his estranged wife, even though it seems like both he and Fumi are pushing for divorce from Amy. Despite such a decision, George is still concerned about Amy, making it clear that Fumi’s earlier comment about her son being deeply in love with Amy and also rooted in life because of her was genuinely true. At the very end, when Danny and Amy have ironed out their animosity and have ended their beef once and for all, both the characters seem to be out of their frustrated, anger-driven mindsets, which had created all this trouble for them for so long. However, George seems to be bitten by the same bug now, that of acting before properly assessing any situation, as he shoots Danny, believing him to be Amy’s attacker. It is not like George’s action is completely illogical either, for the man had always known, or had been told, that Danny was someone who wanted to hurt his wife and her reputation.
The ending of “Beef” does not spell out what happens with the protagonists or what they choose in life. Perhaps Danny and Amy will not have much choice in life in the near future either, since the two were guilty of not just road rage but also the deaths of multiple people. The only choice they have, perhaps, is with regard to their own relationship, and it is clear that Danny and Amy choose to be in close contact with each other. Even if George does divorce Amy, he would still definitely stay in touch with the woman, and no animosity between the two can be imagined. Danny’s parents had already wished to return to Korea, and now, while the man recovers in the hospital, what exactly happens with Paul is not revealed. After having somehow miraculously survived the shootout, Paul might return to a life of academics and professional potential at the cost of not keeping any contact with his elder brother.