Let’s Talk About That ‘Beef’ Ending
The antidote to toxic positivity, the cathartic response to therapy-speak, the ugly truth–that’s Beef. Netflix’s latest hit series from A24 and creator/writer Lee Sung Jin follows two antagonists drowning in the throes of humanity’s ugliest emotion, rage. Over the course of 10 episodes, Ali Wong and Steven Yeun play cat and mouse, routinely swerving and passing each other on the road to eternal misery. In the world of Beef, the mean shall inherit the earth.
We enter this world through Danny Cho, expertly played by Steven Yeun, who is walking back his plans of suicide, attempting to return three hibachi grills and a carbon monoxide detector to a hardware store. He is saving up money to bring his parents to California from Korea, is taking care of his crypto-brained younger brother, and dabbles in binge eating disorder. A passive aggressive employee and a missing receipt send Danny back to his car, grills of death in tow, a painfully poignant moment, which he interprets as a sign from a world that doesn’t want him. On his way out of the parking lot, a moment of parking lot controversy inspires a miles long destructive road rage with the driver of a white SUV. The driver, we learn, is Amy Lau, played by comedian Ali Wong.
Amy is, in short, overwhelmed. She is seemingly moments away from a multi-million dollar acquisition of her designer plant business by the same hardware store where Beef began. She has just completed a massive home renovation, is dealing with a tricky mother-in-law, shares space with her artist husband whose talent is questionable, and on top of all of that, she’s a mother with a bad case of mom guilt.
The opening moments of road range inspire a season-long feud between Danny and Amy, who take turns taking shots at each other’s lives, tightrope walking the line of moral depravity. Amy catfishes Danny’s brother, tags his car, and poisons the Yelp reviews of his construction company. Danny pees on her hardwood floor. What begin as petty hijinks devolve into complete chaos, ending in an art heist, a police shootout, and the kidnapping of Amy’s daughter.
The final episode of the season, “Figures of Light,” is imaginative and ambitious, two words often synonymous with “confusing.” Save your “What happened at the end of Beef?” Google searches. Let’s unpack it.
Episode nine ends where episode one began, with Danny and Amy road raging into the night, flashing each other an emotional middle finger before following each other off the side of a cliff. The pair continue to feud, chasing each other through the California hills before eventually calling a desperate truce. Danny carries Amy on his back, our girl suffering an ankle injury from being pushed down the hill, and the two continue to bicker and banter, despite their dire straits. Resigned to their status as missing persons and accepting the fact that absolutely no one may be looking for their wretched souls, the pair decide to forage. They consume poisonous berries–a beautiful moment of irony considering Amy made her millions by portraying herself as a plant expert–and proceed to vomit everywhere.
What follows is the ultimate ego death. Amy and Danny have found themselves at the point of delusion, hallucinating from the berries. These two mortal enemies, whose beef has literally ruined the lives of many, find common ground in their shared voids. Believing they are mere moments away from death, Amy and Danny accept each other, and ultimately themselves.
But wait! The next morning, the sun rises and Amy and Danny wake up, laughing maniacally at the realization that they are, in fact, alive. Leaving the melodramatic high behind them, the pair continue their search for human life, making their way to safety. As they are walking through a tunnel, Amy’s husband (who appears to have been searching for her) shoots Danny under the impression that Amy is in danger.
We find ourselves in a hospital room, where Danny is hooked up to life sustaining wires and monitors. Amy sits at his bedside, reflecting on the chaos of the last year, all of which began with a moment of irrational road rage. Amy climbs into the hospital bed and embraces an unconscious Danny, a rare moment of embrace between two broken people. Moments later, we see Danny lift his hand and place it on Amy’s back. In that moment, the pair give each other the only thing either of them ever really needed, tenderness. That is where Beef leaves us.
If you’re asking, “Are they in love now?” No. If you’re asking, “Are they dead?” probably not. If you’re asking “Will there be a season 2,” we hope so. Lee Sung Jin has said he has story arcs planned for a second, and even a potential third season, and if the success of the first season is any indication, we’ll be seeing Amy and Danny again.
'Beef' is available to stream now on Netflix.
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