Enemies-to-lovers romances can be tricky to pull off. Make one side of the couple too cruel, and you’ve got a bit of a toxic relationship. Instead, the level of anger towards one another needs to be completely equal, then paired with off-the-charts chemistry. And the story beneath the enemies-to-lovers arc should be strong enough to keep these two lovebirds apart—but, at the same time, bring them together.
With all that considered, Beef might be one of the greatest enemies-to-lovers stories in recent memory. This claim may seem ironic, considering the new Netflix drama isn’t a romantic comedy in any sense. But watch the show to the end of its 10th and final episode, and you’ll find that there’s no hyperbole here.
Let’s unpack the ending—and why it feels so much like a classic rom-com.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead for all 10 episodes of Beef.)
WHAT’S UP WITH THAT ENDING?
Before diving into that wacky finale, let’s discuss the penultimate episode, “The Great Fabricator.” Toward the end, Danny (Steven Yeun) and Amy (Ali Wong) end up in another car-based brawl, leading to their ultimate tumble off a cliff. This moment feels like a bookend to the show, which began with the two engaging in a violent road-rage incident. But this is only the beginning of the end.
In Episode 1, Danny and Amy’s cars were both so different from each other’s—Amy drove a pearly white SUV, clearly a more expensive car than Danny’s beat-up pickup truck flaked with red paint. By the end, though, Danny and Amy drive similarly swanky cars, and in the darkness of night, it’s hard to tell them apart. Yet their differences remain: Danny’s car is still red, and Amy’s is still white. They’re still two different people with very different backgrounds, but that they could be easily mistaken for each other is a sign that these two finally recognize that their lives aren’t all that different.
In Episode 10, “Figures of Light,” we see the fallout of Amy and Danny’s big crash. Now stranded in the desert, wounded, and hungry, they’ll have to rely on each other to get out of this mess. At first, they really go head-to-head. But after ingesting some poisonous berries—Amy thinks they’re boysenberries; guess again—the pair follow up some vomiting with a delirious, acid-like trip. Amy sees hallucinations of Danny all around the desert. Eventually, they fall to the ground, wrapped in each other’s clothing, staring up at the sky with their heads pressed together. Then, the most berserk thing happens: Amy and Danny seem to undergo a body swap.
Though this doesn’t mark the end of the episode—scenes like Danny discovering his brother Paul (Young Mazino) is still alive and George (Joseph Lee) shooting Danny in a tunnel follow—this Freaky Friday moment feels like the most pivotal scene in the entire show. Danny speaks as if he were Amy, explaining the reasoning behind her tattoo back to her, while Amy talks about Danny’s life as if it were her own. They’re tripping on something, yes, but it’s a brilliant way to show that these two finally, against all odds, understand each other.
“We should have done this more often,” Amy, who is actually Danny on the inside, says about their chat. “At least we did it once.”
Later on, in Beef’s final scene, Danny lies in a hospital bed, in critical condition from his gun wounds. Amy sits beside him, checking his vitals. But in the very final shot, Amy crawls into bed with Danny, who wraps his arm around her—he’s alive! But what is their relationship now? Are they in love? Have they just become friends? Why did we end on a cliffhanger? So many questions!
THE CLUES WERE THERE ALL ALONG
Beef ends on a rather romantic note, which is a pretty warped end for a vitriolic series. But be it intentional or not, the show had been dropping clues that Danny and Amy would fall for each other, by using—believe it or not—rom-com tropes. Sure, the show has action, violence, a trip to jail, blood, sweat, and tears. Hidden beneath that layer of grit, though, is a complex layer of romantic chemistry drawing these two characters together.
Think about when Amy and Danny first met. Though it may not be charming by any stretch of the imagination, their parking lot encounter was almost set up like a meet cute. As they dodge cars in traffic, these two appear to have unspeakable amounts of chemistry—which is at first channeled into anger.
Other rom-com tropes pop in and out of Beef, as the larger enemies-to-lovers plot plays out. An array of needle drops soundtrack Amy and Danny’s brawl; while needle drops are a part of most TV and movies, the songs selected for Beef (like “The Reason” by Hoobastank and, at the end of the show, “Mayonaise” by The Smashing Pumpkins”) feel ripped straight out of an early ’00s romantic comedy. Plus, they’re featured over moments where Amy and Danny engage in typical rom-com behaviors: In the former instance, Amy chases after Danny in slow-motion, as he speeds away from her. In the latter, she climbs up into his hospital bed with him.
There’s a flurry of other rom-com tropes scattered throughout the show: Amy catfishes Paul, who becomes a brief love interest for her. It’s a big fake-out, because he’s not her ultimate selection. And that body-swap portion feels ripped straight out of a rom-com—not only is it Freaky Friday-esque, but the same trope has appeared in everything from It’s a Boy Girl Thing, to Big and 13 Going on 30.
It’s unclear if these tropes were deployed intentionally, but they do sort of lead us to root for Danny and Amy to stick together. All of this makes even more sense when considering what creator Lee Sung Jin had to say about the body-swap scene and the rest of the finale.
“They have seen the true versions of themselves, and there’s something very freeing about that, when someone sees you as you actually are and there is no judgment there,” Lee told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview this week. “We have to stare at ourselves and at reality and all the non-light parts of it. And if someone can see that in you and not be repulsed and be like, ‘Actually, that’s me, too,’ that is a true connection, and the only thing that can help us move forward and grow.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR DANNY AND AMY?
Danny and Amy’s story feels far from over. While Netflix is billing the show as a mini-series, and it’s set to enter into the Emmys race as a limited series, the creator is hungry to make more Beef.
“I wanted it to have a conclusive feel, just in case,” Lee told Rolling Stone, “but there are a lot of ideas on my end to keep this story going. I think should we be blessed with a Season Two, there’s a lot of ways for Danny and Amy to continue. I have one really big general idea that I can’t really say yet, but I have three seasons mapped out in my head currently.”
Netflix hasn’t officially renewed Beef for a second season, but seeing as the show has skyrocketed in popularity—as of this writing, it’s at the top of Netflix’s most popular TV shows list—there’s no reason why Netflix should stop with Season 1. Hopefully, we’ll get to see this connection between Amy and Danny blossom into something larger-than-life in more episodes.