THE SHORT VERDICT:
Show takes the idea of what it would be like to have a protagonist who’s on the autism spectrum, and yet, who’s got savant-like brilliance in the law, and gives it all a wholesome, warm, almost treacly sort of shine.
Park Eun Bin is, hands-down, THE star of the show, bringing her character Young Woo to life, down to the smallest quirks and ticks. I found it worth watching this show, if only to see her excellent performance. 🤩
Show does feel more uneven in its second half than its first, and therefore the watch experience can feel a bit patchy at times.
But, Show still works out to be a pretty easy, feel-good, heartwarming sort of watch, given the right lens.
THE LONG VERDICT:
When it comes to this show, I feel like there are two main camps of viewers; those who love it and think of it as one of the best shows to come out of Dramaland this year, and those who feel distinctly underwhelmed by it.
I have to confess that as much as I tried, and as much as I instinctively found this show all kinds of wholesome and endearing from the get-go, I am admittedly feeling a touch of that underwhelmed-ness, as I emerge on the other side.
Just to be clear, however, I don’t think I am feeling as disappointed or underwhelmed as some of Show’s more vocal detractors.
It’s just that I think that there are things that Show could have done differently, that would have made this a more satisfying and gratifying watch experience overall.
I hope you’ll indulge me, as I talk about it all, in this review. 😅
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it as you read the review.
While I can’t say that any single track lingered with me extra, overall, I thought the OST was well curated for this drama world, in that I did feel that the tracks helped to bring across a sense of gentle quirk, which I do think is what Show was going for, in terms of its overall vibe.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a few things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. This is Young Woo’s journey
More than a legal drama or a romance, this is a story of Young Woo’s (Park Eun Bin) journey, and is written as such.
Everything in this drama world, including the cases and the romance, is conceived in order to support the story of Young Woo’s journey. I think it’s helpful to keep that in mind.
2. Show can vibe simplistic
Whether it’s in the resolution of the legal cases, or the development of characters and relationships, Show does have a tendency to vibe simplistic.
I think adjusting your viewing lens to accommodate that would be helpful too.
3. A manhwa lens can be useful
Even though Show isn’t based on a manhwa, I feel like a manhwa lens can be useful, because there are times when people’s reactions lean on the more.. unbelievable side of things.
A manhwa lens – or at least, an adjustment of your expectations – can help it all go down a lot easier.
4. Show’s tone
In general, Show takes a slightly comic, lighthearted, family drama-esque slightly treacly approach to its storytelling.
I do think adjusting your lens for this is useful too.
MY TAKE ON SHOW AND ITS PORTRAYAL OF AN AUTISTIC CHARACTER
I’ve seen comments that indicate that this show isn’t doing a good job representing those on the autism spectrum, with some viewers who are themselves on the spectrum saying that this has caused them to feel misunderstood even further by the people around them.
I’m no expert on the topic of autism, but for what it’s worth, this is my take.
Because there is an entire spectrum on which people with autism exist, it’s basically impossible for a show featuring only one character on the spectrum, to be expected to represent that spectrum in full.
In order for a show to do that, it would need to feature multiple characters on different parts of the spectrum, in order to demonstrate the differences and nuances between the various parts of the spectrum.
Therefore, my only requirement of Show, is that this one character, is believable somewhere on the spectrum. If this character can exist somewhere on the spectrum, and Show is treating this character with sensitivity and respect, then I have no complaints on this whatsoever, really.
However, like I said, I’m no expert on autism, and therefore, I can’t make a formal statement about whether the characteristics that Young Woo displays are credibly from within the spectrum.
However, based on the little that I know, it does appear that Young Woo is being written with characteristics that are associated with people on the spectrum.
Like the discomfort with noise and physical touch; like a deep fixation on a particular chosen item (in this case, whales); like the tendency to repeat phrases that she hears.
These behaviors may not be shown by ALL people on the spectrum, but as long as these behaviors are known to exist on the spectrum, I have no issue with Young Woo showing these behaviors.
She should be allowed to be who she is, not only by the other characters in her drama world, but by viewers at large too.
Does Show infantilize Young Woo as a character?
Another issue that I’ve heard talked about, is the alleged infantilization of Young Woo.
Overall, I don’t quite see that.
Sure, Young Woo’s young and pretty and cute, but so far anyway, I don’t see that Show is infantilizing her.
She speaks with the higher registers in her voice, but I don’t think that alone would qualify as infantilizing Young Woo.
More importantly, Young Woo shows a desire to be independent, not only in taking up this job as an attorney, but also, when she’s offered the option to have other attorneys speak on her behalf, on her first case, in episode 1.
She declines, despite knowing that this is not her strength – and then she seeks help from her friends, to practice her speech, so that she’ll be more ready for her first court hearing.
Generally speaking, I would say that Show is about Young Woo and her journey of growth and her desire for personal agency and independence. There’s nothing infantilizing about that, in my opinion.
IS SHOW’S KOREAN TITLE INSENSITIVE?
I thought I’d go on a tangent for a bit, to weigh in on one of the more recent accusations that’s come out against Show.
Essentially, there are people taking issue with Show’s Korean title, which translates literally as “Strange Lawyer Woo Young Woo.”
Apparently, these people, including some who are themselves on the spectrum, are saying that the use of the word “strange” is disrespectful and hurtful, and that Show should have chosen a better and more respectful title.
In my view, I don’t believe that Show’s makers intended the title to be disrespectful or hurtful.
I feel that you can see their intention, in how Show itself is written and made, with so much care and compassion seeping through in each episode.
Based on that alone, I can tell that Show’s makers had always intended to bring people in, and shine a brighter light on the autistic community, and the people who make up that community, in all of their variances.
I think that they had titled the drama from an outside-in, starting point sort of perspective, ie, you start out thinking that Woo Young Woo is a strange person – until you get to know her and understand her, after which you realize that she’s not strange at all, after all.
It’s kinda like how 2017 family drama Father Is Strange was titled.
The exact same phrase 이상해 is used in that title, with much the same intent, I feel, where Father appears strange at the beginning of the show, but when you get to understand him and the situation around him, you don’t think he’s strange anymore.
That said, I understand that when you have a raw nerve and anything falls near or on that nerve, it can hurt you, whether the intention had been to hurt or not.
So for example, if a person with autism has been bullied in the past for being strange in the past, the title of this show would naturally be a trigger, whether it was intended or not.
All that to say, (I think) I understand both sides in this debate, and I hope that people will see Show’s gentle hand and understand the heart behind the title.
STUFF I LIKED
I’ll be doing a quickish macro look at the things I liked and didn’t like so much in this show, before delving into characters and relationships.
When Show is well-balanced
I like that Show is warm and feel-good in the watch experience, because that makes me want to watch more episodes, and soon. It’s.. approachable and pretty easy to digest, I feel.
At the same time, I appreciate that Show doesn’t appear to gloss over the difficulties or awkwardness that come with Young Woo being an attorney on the spectrum.
We do still get some spotlights on the challenges that face Young Woo as well as the people around her, and I think that’s important, not only for education, but also, for empathy.
I like that balance a lot.
For example, even though we’ve seen the Jun Ho has been friendly to Young Woo, and states that he doesn’t mind whale talk when it’s just the two of them, in episode 2, we get a glimpse of just how intrusive Young Woo’s random calls can be, on his life.
Kudos to Jun Ho, for remaining good-natured and patient about it, even though it must be quite perplexing to receive calls at all times of the day, which are mainly pure bursts of whale trivia, and not an actual invitation to talk.
Su Yeon’s advice to Jun Ho, to draw some boundaries, is actually pretty wise, because I don’t see how this could go on long term, unless Jun Ho is a legit saint (which, maybe he is?).
Her point, that Jun Ho should draw some boundaries unless he’s prepared to listen to Young Woo forever, is a rather poignant one.
The question inherent in that, is how it would affect Young Woo, if / when Jun Ho eventually is unavailable to listen to her the way he is now.
Very tangentially, it occurs to me that this also raises some poignant questions about what would happen to Young Woo, when her father is no longer able to care for her the way he is now as well.
When Show feels cohesive
To be brutally honest, I feel that the writing in Show’s first half is stronger than in its second half (which I’ll talk more about later).
When Show’s writing was at its best, our story felt cohesive and well thought-through.
For example, I liked the way Show tied its themes together, taking from the cases of the day, and Young Woo’s personal journey.
And, I also liked the way Show would tease out the various angles of Young Woo’s concerns and struggles, so that we arrived at an understanding of Young Woo’s reactions and decisions, that felt organic and natural.
I liked that very well.
E2. I love how Show ties its themes together, when Hwa Yeong (Ha Young) wonders aloud why she hadn’t withdrawn the lawsuit earlier, and Young Woo provides the answer, which is something that she herself has been mulling over, this episode – that Hwa Yeong isn’t psychologically independent from her father.
I thought that was nicely done.
E3. There are various things that give Young Woo pause, this episode, and Show does a nice job of layering them on, I feel, such that by the time we get to the end of the episode, we understand why Young Woo would choose to resign.
For a start, it does feel like a rather shortsighted decision on Myeong Seok’s (Kang Ki Young) part, to assume that just because Young Woo is on the spectrum like Jeong Hun (Moon Sang Hoon) is on the spectrum, that she would therefore automatically understand how to communicate with him.
As viewers, we immediately see that that’s not the case, but I suppose it’s an important learning point for Myeong Seok, and it’s also something that Show feels that many of us need reminding on, to not put people into boxes.
And then there’s how Jun Ho’s (Kang Tae Ho) hoobae (Baek Soo Min) mistakes Young Woo for a disabled person for whom Jun Ho’s doing volunteer work.
Young Woo shrugs it off in her trademark noncommittal manner, but it definitely leaves its mark, particularly when stacked with the other things that happen this episode.
Additionally, there’s the incident when Jeong Hun shows up at Hanbada, and the taxi driver ignores her even though she’s right there, as he looks for someone to solve the issue of Jeong Hun not paying his taxi fare.
These are all “small-ish” things that add up to a not-so-small thing for Young Woo, over the course of the episode.
It’s nice to see that Chairman and Mrs. Kim recognize that the smooth wrap-up of the case has everything to do with Myeong Seok’s and Young Woo’s contributions, but it soon becomes clear that the happenings around this case have come to weigh on Young Woo.
As we see her printing out her resignation letter, I feel really bad for Young Woo, because she’s done outstanding work, and yet, I can see why she would feel convinced that she’s of no help to her client.
I thought that was nicely done.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Show is particularly inclusive, given that its protagonist is someone on the autism spectrum, but I thought that I should still give Show a shout-out, for taking pains to be sensitive and inclusive.
E2. It’s quite the surprise, when Show reveals that Hwa Yeong’s in love with another woman, and shows her walking off proudly with that Unni, hand in hand.
This is rather unusual by kdrama standards, so kudos to Show for choosing to be the voice of the underrepresented.
Not only does it give an autistic savant like Young Woo the spotlight as our story’s protagonist, but it also chooses an arc featuring a LGTBQ character, and then gives it a liberating, empowering sort of treatment.
E3. I mentioned earlier, that people with autism exist on a spectrum, and how it’s impossible for a single show to represent every part of that spectrum.
Well, this episode, Show works to get around that, by showing us a character who’s on the other end of the spectrum from Young Woo.
It’s a pretty effective approach, actually.
With Young Woo on the extreme high-functioning end of the spectrum, and with Jeong Hun, the defendant in this episode, on the other end of the spectrum, it becomes possible for us to mentally fill in the gap between them, and imagine that there are many other people on the spectrum, with their own unique sets of abilities and behaviors.
I feel that this is a nice idea, because we can see that Show is making an effort to represent people with autism as a group made up of varied and unique individuals, rather than a group of uniform androids.
STUFF THAT WAS OK
The cases of the day
Going back to what I said earlier in this review, adjusting expectations for this does help. Still, it’s true that the cases of the day worked out to be a mixed bag, for me, which is why I thought I’d mention it in this section.
For the record, I understand that the cases selected for our story, are all inspired by real-life cases.
Therefore, even the more outlandish cases have their roots in real life. As they say, fact can be stranger than fiction!
Some cases felt more interesting than others, to me. That’s one thing. However, Show does work to make each case some kind of catalyst for our main emphasis, which is Young Woo’s journey.
Another thing is, the treatment of the cases tends to feel quite simplistic, where the loopholes that Young Woo spots in the case, which then lead the team to victory, feel like things that shouldn’t have been overlooked by any decent legal team in the first place.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
Certain narrative arcs feel underdeveloped
Show introduces a variety of narrative arcs into our story, to increase dramatic interest and tension.
At the same time, I have to admit that I thought some of these could have been better developed, to increase cohesiveness and have a better impact overall.
For example, CEO Han’s agenda against CEO Tae is introduced as a pretty important thread, in that it serves to push some Very Important Developments into place.
However, Show never makes it clear what grievance CEO Han has against CEO Tae, that she would go to such lengths to take her down.
I thought that was strangely lacking.
As another example, I also thought that CEO Tae’s arc was underdeveloped, but in a different way.
We are introduced to CEO Tae as Young Woo’s mother, but we aren’t given that much insight into CEO Tae’s thoughts and feelings around this, and around motherhood in general.
As a result, when CEO Tae meets with Young Woo in our finale, and is moved by Young Woo’s words, to give up her political ambition in order to be a better mother to her son, it feels oddly disconnected and sudden.
Many of the relationships feel underdeveloped
This is one of the key things that I think Show could have done better at.
Without getting into spoilers, the truth of the matter is, many of the relationships just aren’t given enough context to support the relationship developments.
What this means is that when these relationship developments occur on our screens, it’s hard to really get behind said developments, because it kinda feels like these developments came out of nowhere, almost.
Specifically, I’m thinking about the two lovelines in our drama world.
I feel like Show could have done more to build a context where I could believe the purportedly strong feelings between Jun Ho and Young Woo.
Similarly, when Show teases a loveline between Min Woo and Su Yeon in its second half, I also feel that more context would have helped, particularly in relation to Min Woo’s eventual turnaround.
Generally speaking, Show’s second half, compared to its first half
I have to be brutally honest; I felt less engaged with Show, as I got into its later stretch.
Somehow, it just didn’t grab me as much as at first.
Maybe it’s the odd cases; maybe it’s Show’s insistent feel-good sheen, which, for me, started to wear a little try-hard and thin; maybe it’s because I just did not take very well to the almost cartoony vibe Show tends to reach for in its second half.
Altogether, I felt that while Show’s first half felt effortlessly charming, its second half felt labored and scattered and less effective, in comparison.
Show’s use of (comic) musical cues, especially in its second half
This is related to my previous point, in that, in Show’s second half, I started to notice Show’s use of musical cues, specifically to prompt laughter around Young Woo’s behavior.
This didn’t sit very well with me, even though I reasoned with myself, that Show was only making affectionate digs at Young Woo, and didn’t mean any harm.
Now that I’ve finished the show, I still count this as one of my not-so-favorite things in this show.
E11. For example, I get that the scene where CEO Han (Baek Ji Won) asks Young Woo about her worries in the elevator, and Young Woo reveals that she’s worried about how one breathes while kissing, is meant to be quirky and funny.
But.. I somehow didn’t find it funny, when I watched it.
I wonder if it’s because it feels like Show is treating Young Woo’s love life as some kind of weird and novel exhibit?
I rationalize that it might not actually be intended as a cheap laugh, since Young Woo, like many other people on the autism spectrum, does tend to take things very literally, and therefore such a situation could plausibly occur, where she says something unintentionally inappropriate to her CEO.
That said, I do think it’s Show’s comic-leaning musical cues during the scene, that make me feel like Show might be milking this for a cheap laugh.
That same lighthearted, you’re-gonna-want-to-laugh-at-this sort of music plays too, during a number of scenes exploring Young Woo’s new relationship with Jun Ho, and similarly, that makes me feel like Show’s gunning for a cheap laugh.
Like in the scene where Young Woo tells Jun Ho that she’d waited for him in the lobby because she’d wanted to see him, and now that she’s seen him, it’s all good. The same musical cues play, and it perplexes me.
I feel like it’s indirectly poking fun at Young Woo, albeit in a gently affectionate sort of way. But it’s still in the region of poking fun, nonetheless, which just doesn’t sit well with me, unfortunately. 😅
E13. I’m still noticing those comical musical cues, like when Young Woo’s struggling to eat that mouthful of bossam and hwe, and again, it’s making me feel like Show’s poking fun at Young Woo.
I get (hope?) that Show’s trying to be affectionately funny, but it does seem to gloss over the fact that this is a legit struggle for Young Woo, and is as uncomfortable for her (or more so) as it is for the people sitting with her.
Ultimately, that doesn’t strike me as the most sensitive way to handle a the delicate topic of our protagonist being on the autism spectrum.
SPOTLIGHT ON CHARACTERS & RELATIONSHIPS
Park Eun Bin as Young Woo
Young Woo’s journey of growth and self-discovery is THE backbone of this entire show, and it’s no surprise that Show puts a lot of effort and focus on this, so much so that everything else in this drama world seems to exist only in support of this arc.
Like I mentioned earlier in this review, it really helps to think of this as Young Woo’s story, where her journey is of primary importance, and everything else exists to support the development of her journey.
On another note, I can see why the PD had been so set on having Park Eun Bin play Young Woo. She does an amazingly nuanced and consistent job of bringing Young Woo to life.
From start to finish, I could see that Park Eun Bin is fully committed to the character, so much so that it feels like she’s disappeared into the person of Young Woo altogether.
For example, all of Young Woo’s little ticks and quirks feel like natural extensions of the character.
Like when Young Woo is hugged by other characters, the way she receives the hug, with a stiffening of her arms and a curling of her fingers, is consistent, and shows her discomfort with physical touch, while also showing a general shy awkwardness in her expression.
I thought that was nicely done.
For all that I’ve said (and will say 😅) about Show’s shortcomings, I do feel like Park Eun Bin’s brilliant delivery of Young Woo as a character, makes this entire watch worthwhile. 🤩
In this spoiler section that’s coming up next, I talk about all my various thoughts around the different aspects of Young Woo’s journey.
E2. This episode, Show touches on the idea of independence, through the wedding dress case, and this tangentially shines the spotlight on how Young Woo is still very much dependent on her father (Jeon Bae Su), even though she’s an adult.
Since it’s becoming clear that Young Woo does desire independence and agency, this does provide a bit of a poignant dilemma in the background, even as we see Young Woo make progress in other areas.
The important thing though, is that Young Woo does make progress.
And, it’s satisfying to witness, whether that progress is personal, like the way she proactively decides to only talk about whales to people who are interested in listening, or professional, like the way she comes up with new angles of approaching the case at hand.
I also like that when it comes to seeking advice on how to drop the lawsuit, it’s Young Woo whom the client, Hwa Yeong, seeks out, and not anyone else on the legal team.
This, despite Young Woo’s rather unusual non-conforming behavior, and even though Young Woo isn’t leading the case.
I like this idea, that in just being herself, Young Woo manages to establish credibility and inspire trust in others.
I’m also pleased to see Young Woo hit on a key point of the case, which her colleagues haven’t yet thought of, that actually propels them from struggling to find ways to achieve the compensation amount the client is asking for, to being more than on top of the compensation amount.
It gives me a thrill, that in the context of Hanbada Law Firm trying to prove itself a worthy competitor to Taesan Law Firm, which is the #1 law firm in the country, it’s Young Woo who enables Hanbada to come out of this an effortless champion.
Would it be a stretch to say that Young Woo’s arguably among the best lawyers in Korea, then? 🤩
I’m also glad that Show remembers to tie up Young Woo’s issue of independence, a little bit, by the end of the episode, with Young Woo circling back to the topic of marriage with Dad.
It’s poignant to hear Young Woo say that she’s unlikely to get married because she’s autistic, but that if she were to get married, she’d like to walk down the aisle with her husband-to-be, rather than be walked down the aisle by her father.
But, how thoughtful of Young Woo, to also have put in thought about Dad and what she’d like for him.
I love that her conclusion is that she would give Dad her bouquet, because she’d like Dad to get married too.
E4. I do love that we’re starting to see a bit of sass coming from Young Woo in court.
Like when the opposing attorney smugly states the law about perjury, with a smug question of, “Did you not study?,” I love that Young Woo soon quotes another section of the law right back at him, and then follows up by echoing his exact same question back to him, “Did you not study?”
Gosh. I love it. 🤩 I love that she’s starting to get comfortable enough to show a bit more of her personality, while in court.
I also love that this case gives Young Woo the confidence to request to keep working at Hanbada.
The way she shows so much joy at returning to her office, is truly heartwarming to witness. YAY Young Woo! ❤️
E5. This episode, we’re introduced to some of the struggles that Young Woo faces, as a person with autism. Like looking directly into a person’s eyes, or being able to discern whether a person is lying.
This setback in Young Woo’s journey to becoming the best attorney she can be, feels like a narrative pitstop that’s designed to educate us a little bit, on what some typical struggles are, that face people with autism.
I’m in no way an expert on this, but I feel that Show does a nice job of explaining it to us, via Young Woo sharing that analogy with Jun Ho, in an effort to answer his question on why she says that people with autism are easily fooled.
Yes, it does sound a tad like Show’s using an exposition fairy technique, but at the same time, it feels reasonably organic to the story, because I believe Jun Ho is sincerely interested in getting to know Young Woo better.
This episode, I’m more interested in how Young Woo struggles to conform to the behavioral norms that are expected of her as an attorney, and how that affects her, in terms of her own personal baseline.
It honestly broke my heart a little each time Young Woo tested the water by giving in to the situation, thus getting more and more involved in the lie that the case is perpetuating.
The discomfort and regret in Young Woo’s face is pretty clear to see, and I feel bad for her, that her experiment of trying to fit in, is making her feel so uncomfortable.
In the end, this whole thing concludes on such a poignant note, because even though Young Woo frames that letter as a reminder to herself that she wants to be an attorney that does the right thing, it’s still probable that CEO Oh (Shin Hyun Jong) will go out of business.
That is a very sobering thought, and it does take away some of this show’s feel-good shine, which had felt so clear to see, from episode 1.
But, it does feel like an important growth milestone for Young Woo, to understand herself and her environment better.
She now not only knows better the kind of environment she needs to exist within, and she also understands why she had given in to her environment, in this case; because she’d wanted to win.
It’s a hard lesson to learn, but I’m glad that Young Woo learns it, and I’m glad she’s resolving to do differently, going forward.
E6. This episode, Myeong Seok assigns Young Woo to share the case with Su Yeon (Ha Yoon Kyung), because he believes that she will be more logical than Su Yeon.
The reason he believes that isn’t overtly stated, but I do think that it’s implied that he believes that, because of Young Woo being on the autism spectrum.
Because of this, it gives me a bit of a thrill, to see that Young Woo defies his expectations, and ends up being even more passionate about the case than Su Yeon herself.
I like that Show gives us little beats like this, to reinforce the idea that Young Woo shouldn’t be put into a box, just because she’s a person with autism. I like the idea that she’s just as unique and colorful as everyone else.
I also like the detail that now, when Young Woo’s introduced to a new client, there is no mention of her autism, like there had been, in the beginning of the show.
Lately, I’ve noticed that Young Woo’s simply introduced as another attorney who will be working on the case. I like that too.
While it does mean that people might be surprised at Young Woo’s ticks and quirks, it also means that the Hanbada team expects Young Woo to be treated normally, like everyone else, and that’s a plus, I do feel.
Of course, part the reason Young Woo is so passionate about the case, is because Hyang Sim’s (Kim Hieora) fierce desire to be with her daughter, touches a nerve.
Young Woo may not talk about it, but from the flashback that we’re shown, we can see that even as a child, she’d felt the absence of her mother keenly.
And from the wistful little moments where we see Young Woo lose herself in thought, this episode, it’s safe to say that Young Woo is wistful for her mother, even now.
On another note, I also wanted to say that I love how Park Eun Bin is so consistent in her portrayal of Young Woo, even as she fleshes her out with different nuances and emotions.
Whenever we see Young Woo show a new shade of emotion, it’s always filtered through the range of physical ticks and quirks that are part of Young Woo. I love that.
For example, this episode, when Myeok Seok tells Young Woo to show the Diagnosis Doc what she’s got, her little badass reaction face is so great. It’s a little fierce, and at the same time, it encompasses Young Woo’s natural ticks. It’s adorable and consistent and I love it. 🤩
E6. By far, the most poignant moment for me, this episode, is when Young Woo wonders aloud, if she’d still have been abandoned by her mother, if she’d been a whale.
Ack. That really made me tear up.
It’s so heartbreaking, particularly in the context that Young Woo’s just painted, that a mother whale never abandons her baby, even if she knows that staying with her baby means certain death. Sob. That’s so touching and sad, at the same time. 😭
This comparison coming from Young Woo makes me feel like I understand her a little better now.
Perhaps this kind of loyalty-to-the-death quality, is one of the reasons that Young Woo loves whales so much, and loses herself in whales so much. Maybe this is why she seems to want to be a whale, at least a little bit?
E7. I honestly never fail to get a thrill out of watching Young Woo do well.
For example, I loved that quick little beat, where we see a sped-up reel of Young Woo reading materials through the night. I love how focused she is, pausing only to apply some eye drops.
And then, the way she does that little stretch at the end, makes me feel like the all-nighter was easy-peasy for her. I dunno, I found that very cute. 😍
I also like how focused Young Woo is, while she’s reading the material. I’m rather awed by her unflagging concentration and stamina, it seems almost superhuman, at this point.
And of course, there’s the way Young Woo is able to quote the exact lines from the evidence, while quoting that exact piece of evidence, during the trial. That’s one of Young Woo’s superpowers, and it always gives me a thrill to see her impress everyone when she taps on it.
E8. This episode, we get less screen time focusing on the case itself, and we get more scenes of Young Woo grappling with this idea of wanting to be independent from her father.
That’s a very poignant topic for Woo Young in particular, because Dad is so protective of her, because of her being on the autism spectrum, and it’s true that she needs more help and guidance than the average person.
And yet, she does sincerely desire personal agency. We see that in how she tells Dad that she wants to face her difficulties alone, and we also see that in how she runs away to stay with Geu Ra Mi, with the intention of getting her own place, once she can afford it.
This makes me feel like the person that Woo Young is, on the inside, is trying to break out of the Woo Young that she is, on the outside, ie, she’s trying to break out of the limitations set by her physical body.
And, I would like her to succeed, because Woo Young deserves to live her best life, according to what she thinks is her best life.
At the same time, this episode, as we explore that idea a bit, we see that it’s not so simple, after all.
The little moments where she feels like she’s making progress are great, though. Like that little beat where she is so happy that the makeshift kimbap that Geu Ra Mi (Joo Hyun Young) made for their breakfast tastes delicious.
The way Young Woo muses happily that the kimbap is strangely delicious, makes me feel that it’s that feeling of being independent, that’s adding to her enjoyment of breakfast. That was really nice to see.
E8. I’m honestly blown away by the mature, restrained and thoughtful way Young Woo responds to the reveal, that CEO Tae (Jin Kyung) is her mother, in terms of her decision to not work at Taesan.
The way she tells Mom what she knows and what she’s going to do about it, and how she feels, is nothing short of amazing.
“I’m… Woo Gwang Ho’s daughter. Do you not recognize me?
I was planning on leaving Hanbada. I wanted to move firms if Taesan accepted me. But recently, I found out who you are. So I don’t think I can work at Taesan.
I was trying to leave Hanbada to be independent of my father and be a real adult. But I can’t leave my father just to join my mother’s firm. Especially not when my mother gave birth to me, but abandoned me, and doesn’t recognize me at all, even now.
Thank you for offering me to join Taesan. But I’m going to continue to work at Hanbada and I will stay by my father’s side.”
It’s not just the words, but the manner in which Young Woo says everything.
She’s muted and respectful, and there’s no anger or resentment about her; only tears welling in her eyes, from all the longing that she’s done over the years, for her mother.
Park Eun Bin really knocks it out of the park in this scene. I know I’ve said this before, but the way she’s able to impart so many layers to Young Woo, while retaining the core essence of Young Woo’s ticks and quirks, is just masterful. 🤩
She makes it look so natural and effortless, when there’s really so much going on, in her delivery.
And then, again, Young Woo blows me away with her considered response to CEO Tae’s question, of whether Young Woo resents her.
“It was nice when we looked at the tree together on top of the hill in Sodeok-dong. I wanted to meet you at least once. It was nice to meet you.”
Instead of blaming CEO Tae for making her grow up without a mother, Young Woo chooses to focus on the positive.
Guh. That requires so much grace and maturity; I am completely blown away.
Kang Tae Oh as Lee Jun Ho
I honestly don’t have a lot to say about Jun Ho because, while Show makes him kind and pleasant, Show also doesn’t spend much time developing him as a character.
Mostly, it seems like he’s in our story to function as Young Woo’s love interest, and aside from him being in that space, there isn’t much that we learn about him, really.
Because of that, my comments about Jun Ho will be mostly made in our next section, where I talk about the loveline between him and Young Woo.
What I will say, though, is that while I haven’t truly loved Kang Tae Oh in any role that I’ve seen him in yet (like Run On and Doom At Your Service), and I can’t say that I actually love him in this role, I do like him the most here out of the various shows I’ve seen him in, comparatively speaking.
That’s something, yes? 😅
Generally, I like Jun Ho is very pleasant, understanding and kind. And, the way he approaches Young Woo without prejudice, is really nice to see.
E2. I like how Jun Ho takes Su Yeon’s advice about drawing boundaries with Young Woo, and manages to use it, without taking away his offer to Young Woo, to listen to her talk about whales.
Making it into a lunchtime thing, where they can eat and talk about whales, is sweet, I feel.
It maintains the promise of whale talk time, while also creating a routine that involves spending time together, which I think is nice.
E3. And then there’s the way Jun Ho’s getting into the groove of having lunch with Young Woo and listening to her wax lyrical about whales.
As Min Woo (Joo Jong Hyuk) correctly notes, Jun Ho doesn’t actually look like he minds listening to all things whale, from Young Woo.
I like that he’s open-minded and open-hearted that way.
Plus, there’s how he sincerely feels bad for how his hoobae had treated her like a disabled person, and wants to make it up to her. I like that too.
Young Woo and Jun Ho
I am quite probably in the minority here, but I have mixed feelings about this loveline.
I will elaborate more in this next spoiler section, as well as in my section on Show’s finale, but basically, I like it more in concept than in execution
I like that Show is brave to explore the delicate topic of an able-bodied person and a person on the autism spectrum falling in love with and having a relationship. That’s not an easy topic at all, so I appreciate that Show is willing to take this on, with all of its delicacies and nuances.
That said, I do think that the writing around this relationship is rather weak.
Even though I understand that this relationship arc exists in service of Young Woo’s personal journey, and therefore enjoys less focus and attention, I still feel that there were areas that could have been fleshed out more fully, that would have made the entire arc land with better emotional heft.
That said, I did enjoy certain aspects of this loveline, and certain scenes of this OTP, so it’s not like I dislike it, or anything.
I just feel that this could have been better written and handled, is all.
In this spoiler section, I’ll talk more about all of that.
E2. This episode, it’s cute that Young Woo matter-of-factly describes her relationship with Jun Ho as close, because they have a specific topic to talk about when they’re alone.
She’s.. not wrong about that? 😁
It’s unfortunate for Su Yeon that she appears to suffer from digestive issues, because that effectively makes her unable to go through with the bride and groom role-play with Jun Ho, that she’d been so looking forward to.
Of course Young Woo gets called in as a replacement bride, and of course, there’s that pretty tropey entrancing reveal moment, when Jun Ho sees Young Woo in the bridal gown.
I’m not complaining though, because Park Eun Bin really does look beautiful in that gown, and the smile that Young Woo flashes, is so radiant.
Just, lovely. 😍
Show does appear to hint that this is the beginnings of some level of hyperawareness on Jun Ho’s part, when it comes to Young Woo, since later in the episode, Jun Ho does also try to get Young Woo’s attention, while she’s on her way home.
I’m not opposed to Show introducing a loveline, since Young Woo as a character isn’t being portrayed as someone with the mentality of a child.
If that were the case, then I would be weirded out by her having a loveline, since, if she had the mentality of a child, she wouldn’t really be able to understand things like romance, commitment and consent.
However, because Show is presenting Young Woo as a young woman who is on the spectrum, but doesn’t have the mentality of a child, I’m fine with the idea of her potentially having a loveline.
E4. I do like all the various little indications that we get this episode, that show that Jun Ho cares about Young Woo.
He doesn’t say much, but you can see it in the way he perks up whenever Young Woo’s name is mentioned.
And then there’s how he looks quietly thrilled when Young Woo actually shows up at the Hanbada cafeteria, because Myeong Seok had told her to come.
And then, there’s also the way Jun Ho gets all excited when he sees Young Woo standing in front of the revolving door, and rushes over to talk to her and tell her that he’s missed having lunch with her.
Plus, he then looks helplessly wistful, when Young Woo bows and leaves, when Geu Ra Mi comes along to hurry her home.
I also like the sunset date that Jun Ho and Young Woo end up going on, in that I like the quiet, relaxed tone of it all.
I like how Jun Ho kinda looks happy just to be in Young Woo’s orbit, even if he’s just listening to her talk about whales.
And, I appreciate that he asks her about her decision to resign, and I like that Young Woo answers honestly, that she sees herself as a weak link because of her autism.
Her statement is based on experience, and so there is truth to what she says, but I do like how Jun Ho, without discounting her statement, tells her that he’d like to be on the same side as she; that he’d like an attorney like her, on his side.
Aw. That is the sweetest, most earnest thing that he could have said to her, and I do love that.
It’s literally the thing that Young Woo needs to hear the most, at this point in her life, so it’s no wonder that she looks a bit speechless and starstruck, in response.
And then there’s the way Jun Ho takes Young Woo to the main conference room, to show her the huge picture of a whale on the wall.
Heh. This guy sure knows the way to this girl’s heart, is what I’m thinking. It literally takes Young Woo’s breath away, and I love that she has such a special personal moment, in the midst of work.
E5. Through all Young Woo’s struggles at work, I appreciate that Jun Ho’s watching out for Young Woo, and is doing what he can, to make things better for her.
From little things like helping her to open that bottle of juice during the meeting, because no one else notices that Young Woo struggles with tasks like this, to offering to practice with her, before they actually meet the client.
And of course, there’s the way he gives Min Woo a taste of his own medicine, by not playing fair during their basketball one-on-one, although the message does seem lost on Min Woo.
Heh. I did get a small stab of satisfaction from that.
E6. I have to admit that I’m not yet on the romance train when it comes to Jun Ho and Young Woo.
But, it is good, I think, that we see Jun Ho mulling over this, this episode.
Interestingly, he’s not agonizing over whether or not he likes her, and whether or not it’s ok for him to like an autistic person; he’s agonizing over the fact that he does like her, but has given her the wrong impression, that he doesn’t.
Ok, that is admittedly rather charming. I just like the idea that even though a lot of people see Young Woo as being different, Jun Ho seems to just see her as the person he likes.
I’m not so hot on the misunderstanding that Jun Ho likes Su Yeon, but I rationalize that this really is the conclusion that most people would jump to, and so, having Min Woo jump to that conclusion makes sense.
It’s just.. it’s rather sad to see that misunderstanding being passed on to Young Woo.
And, it’s also rather insulting that Min Woo says that throwaway thing, that of course Young Woo wouldn’t know about these types of things.
Again, I rationalize that Show’s designating Min Woo to represent the everyman, in the sense that his reactions, at least in this situation, are quite typical of most people.
And, while it’s important for Show to demonstrate to us that Young Woo is unique and special, just like everyone else on the spectrum is unique and special, it’s also important for Show to point out that folks on the spectrum tend to be misunderstood quite a lot, by the people around them.
E7. In terms of the scene of Jun Ho and Young Woo in the office, where she asks permission to touch him, I’m not sure if Show intended that to be swoony; it actually made me uncomfortable.
Specifically, while Young Woo asks Jun Ho permission to touch him, and is honest and upfront when he asks her why, his response feels.. almost predatory?
That’s probably the wrong word, but while watching him walk closer to Young Woo, I didn’t find it romantic.
Instead, I felt strongly like he was invading her space without her permission, and given that she’s specifically uncomfortable with physical contact, his action comes across as intimidating rather than romantic, from where I’m sitting.
I’m pretty sure Show means it to be romantic, however, since Jun Ho is meant to be Young Woo’s love interest. 😅
E9. I have a confession to make about the loveline between Young Woo and Jun Ho.
This is likely an unpopular opinion, but I have to confess that so far, I’m not really feeling the romance between Young Woo and Jun Ho.
I just.. don’t feel any romantic tension between them, even when Show is serving up moments that ought to be laden with romantic tension, like the scene of Jun Ho moving in to remove that stray eyelash from Young Woo’s face.
Instead of feeling any sense of squee or swoon, I found myself feeling rather awkward and uncomfortable, and I’m not sure why.
I think it has to do with the fact that Young Woo generally doesn’t like physical touch, and so I think that I’m bracing on her behalf, in anticipation of his hands touching her face, but I’m not really sure if that’s the reason.
I don’t think my discomfort is because Young Woo’s on the autism spectrum, while Jun Ho is not, but I can’t dare be too sure about that right now, because maybe I really am not used to the idea and just haven’t realized it yet?
I do appreciate that Young Woo’s being true to her feelings, now that she thinks she’s figured out what those feelings are, and decides to be nice to Jun Ho, to show that she likes him.
I’m not super amused by the running gag of Young Woo doing all these traditionally gentlemanly things, because that’s what Chef Hairy says he does for girls he likes.
I mean, I get that it’s in Young Woo’s nature to take it literally and apply it exactly as shared, but for one thing, you can see the running gag coming from a mile away, and for another, I feel like Hairy (Im Sung Jae) or Geu Ra Mi should’ve translated that for Young Woo, so that she wouldn’t just apply it exactly as shared.
In that sense, I feel like they (and Show) let her down?
The thing is, it mostly seems like Young Woo herself doesn’t appear to be super sure of her feelings for him, so far.
Her conclusion that she likes him, is based on a simple experiment to do with her heart rate when she’s around him, but it sounds more like a scientific experiment where she accepts the findings, rather than an actual confirmation of her feelings.
However, maybe that’s just how some people on the spectrum are wired? I don’t know, really, and I think that’s accounting for some of my bemusement at the loveline.
All I know is, I’m not quite feeling it.
And so, when Jun Ho arrives at the revolving door at the office, to seek out Young Woo to tell her that he likes her too, my brain says that I should probably squee or something, but my heart’s just not feeling it. 😅
E10. Young Woo’s desire to take the case, because she would like to believe that Yang Jeong Il really does love the intellectually disabled Hye Yeong (Oh Hye Soo), is very telling.
Isn’t this an indication that Young Woo would like to believe that it is possible for an able-bodied person to truly love an intellectually disabled person?
And, isn’t that because she would like to believe that it’s possible for Jun Ho to truly like her, even though she is autistic?
I do think that there’s a difference between Hye Yeong’s case and Young Woo, however.
Although Show has never specified Young Woo’s mental age, I’m reaching for the conclusion that if she’s able to function in a corporate setting as an attorney, then her mental age is higher than Hye Yeong’s, which has been determined to be that of a 13-year-old.
And because Young Woo’s mental age is higher, I would further conclude that she’s more able to discern and make decisions than Hye Yeong. And therefore, I would have more confidence in Young Woo understanding love and consent, than in Hye Yeong.
Sure, the going is still kinda finicky and awkward, but that doesn’t undermine the foundation of the feelings driving this relationship forward.
I like how matter-of-fact and honest Young Woo is, as she figures out the various steps, like when she asks Jun Ho what he thinks of the idea that they go on a few dates before becoming an official couple.
She’s so earnest and endearing; I can totally see why Jun Ho would find it hard to stifle his amused chuckles.
The specific challenges to their relationship start to come out pretty early, like when Jun Ho and Young Woo talk about holding hands.
It’s a fact that Young Woo struggles with physical contact, and it’s actually pretty poignant to hear that she can only bear to hold her own father’s hand for 57 seconds. Aw, poor Dad. He probably would love to be able to hold Young Woo’s hand for longer than 57 seconds.
I do like how forthright Young Woo is, about her struggle with handholding, and I also like how open she is, to trying a 57-second handhold with Jun Ho, if he doesn’t mind.
It’s all pretty stilted and awkward, with her using her phone as a timer and everything, but you can’t fault them for not talking about it, or not trying it, eh?
Importantly, I’m glad that Jun Ho is pretty unfazed and understanding at the fact that she can’t even manage a 57-second handhold with him, at the moment, and I’m glad it doesn’t deter him from continuing to pursue this relationship.
And then there’s the other complication, of how other people might view the relationship.
Just as people around the case find that they can’t understand or empathize with the relationship between Yang Jeong Il and Shin Hye Yeong, Jun Ho’s friends can’t understand his relationship with Young Woo either.
It’s pretty sad for Young Woo, that the first conclusion they reach for, is that Jun Ho is just too nice, and simply feels sorry for her, and that’s why he’s dating her.
And then, the verdict on the case, where the judge pronounces that Yang Jeong Il will be imprisoned for two years for preying on Shin Hye Yeong, who’s unable to defend herself due to her intellectual disability, casts what I think is a questioning shadow, over Young Woo’s budding relationship with Jun Ho.
Essentially, the impression I get from this, is that even if some people are understanding of Jun Ho and Young Woo’s relationship, most people will not, and there will even be some who might fault Jun Ho for taking advantage of a woman with autism.
That’s a sobering undercurrent, as we head into the scene of Young Woo and Jun Ho’s first kiss.
Although I’ve said that I find myself not really getting sucked into this loveline, I have to admit that the way this first kiss scene was handled, is nicely sensitive.
I like that Young Woo talks about her feelings that arise from the case, where she feels that even if she says it’s love, other people might say that it’s not, and other people’s opinions would carry more weight than her own opinion on the matter.
And it’s nice that Jun Ho tells her that what she says, counts, and that even if other people say it’s not, as long as she says that it’s love, then that’s what it is. This feels like Jun Ho affirming Young Woo’s personal agency, and I do like that.
I also like that they talk about how loving Young Woo is hard, and it’s pretty great that Jun Ho says that even so, he’ll continue to, anyway.
Even in its simple form, this feels like an important and weighty conversation, and I’m glad that they’re having it.
I also like that Jun Ho doesn’t make the first move when it comes to the kiss, but lets Young Woo lean in to kiss him, when she feels ready to.
It’s also pretty endearing, how Young Woo asks for clarification on how to execute a better kiss, and Jun Ho actually gives her some pointers.
The kiss itself is sweet and tender, and very prettily filmed, with us seeing mainly their shadowy silhouette.
I’m a little shocked to say this, but weirdly, this kiss scene actually makes me feel more on board with this loveline than I’ve felt, so far.
E11. I thought it was quite sweet, the way Jun Ho puts his hand on the window of Young Woo’s office, when he gets waylaid by someone else while on his way to see her.
This way, she gets to “touch” his hand without actually touching him, and that feels thoughtful and sweet.
And, just as a side note, the music that plays in this scene, has a sweetness and charm about it, which contributes to my feelings towards the scene, I’m sure.
That aside, I do like that we’re getting little snippets of their newly minted relationship, and we get to see how Young Woo and Jun Ho are communicating and making adjustments as they go.
This episode, I’m glad to see Jun Ho being patient and understanding, in explaining to Young Woo that perhaps it’s not enough for him, that she’s seen his face, and perhaps he’s not quite ready to hang up, and would like to talk a little longer.
These little calibrations feel small but important, and it feels like Young Woo’s slowly but surely taking mental notes of how to navigate similar situations in the future.
I also appreciate the idea that when Young Woo starts to have that panic attack due to sensory overload, Jun Ho’s able to more or less get in the region of being helpful without needing to be told what to do, and Young Woo’s able to articulate to him, what would help her.
This feels important, and I feel like if they could build on these foundations, their relationship would be all the more healthy and solid for it.
E12. Generally speaking, I feel like Jun Ho’s been doing a solid job of being sensitive to Young Woo’s specialized needs when communicating with her.
However, everyone’s only human, right, so it’s not surprising that Jun Ho would slip up at some point.
Which, I think, is the point of the misunderstanding between him and Young Woo, where he assumes that they’re already in a relationship (most likely signaled by the fact that they’re on kissing terms), while Young Woo’s still operating on the last spoken agreement they’d made, which is to date for a while before officially starting a relationship.
This is the kind of social assumptions that might come naturally to Jun Ho, but which are opaque and mysterious to Young Woo.
While Jun Ho says that he feels rather hurt and upset that Young Woo doesn’t consider them to be in an official relationship, it’s important for him to remember that with Young Woo, a lot of things need to be specifically communicated; ie, he can’t expect her to pick up on social cues like the average person.
I don’t see this as a dealbreaker, certainly, since Jun Ho’s been doing solidly well at communicating with Young Woo, and this feels more like a slip-up rather than his general approach to doing things.
E13. There’s the thing where Jun Ho takes Young Woo to visit his sister and brother-in-law.
It honestly seems rather premature in their relationship, for Jun Ho to be taking Young Woo to meet his family. After all, they still haven’t even worked out whether they’re officially dating, right?
On that point, it does feel like Jun Ho’s being more obtuse than his usual self, when it comes to communication issues with Young Woo.
Normally, he seems much more in tune with what Young Woo needs, which is specific communication where everything is laid out and made clear; there is no room for assumption, presumption or misunderstandings.
At the same time, I do cut him a bit of slack, in the sense that when we are in a relationship, it’s not unusual for us to have certain unspoken expectations about how we’d like to be understood.
I can believe that Jun Ho might not be functioning at his usual thoughtful communicative best, because he’s got relationship blinders on.
Sometimes we just become more obtuse and stupid, when our love and dating cells are at the helm, y’know?
Because of this, even though I do think that Jun Ho needs to recalibrate how he approaches communication with Young Woo, I don’t think he ought to be judged too harshly either.
He just needs to wake up to the fact that he just can’t make certain assumptions about Young Woo understanding him, unless he’s been clear and specific in his communication.
Back to the thing with Jun Ho’s sister, I do think that it was premature and therefore quite unwise, for Jun Ho to introduce Young Woo to his sister like this.
At the very least, Jun Ho should have had some kind of conversation with his sister beforehand, to explain the situation, and help Noona have a better base understanding of Young Woo and how she operates.
I think that would have been helpful.
Again, I rationalize that Jun Ho’s treading new and unfamiliar ground, AND his judgment appears to be clouded by his dating cells, so I wouldn’t judge him too harshly on this, in the sense that I think many other people would likely make the same mistake.
Still not helpful to either Young Woo or Noona, though, to be clear.
E14. In terms of Young Woo breaking up with Jun Ho, I think I might have an unpopular opinion about this.
The reason that Young Woo is triggered into calling her father to ask him why he’d wanted to meet Jun Ho, is partly because of what Jun Ho’s sister had said, but it’s also triggered by her conversation with Ji Su, where she learns that Ji Su had been lonely, even while with Myeong Seok.
That does echo what Dad had said before in the past, that it had been quite lonely, loving Young Woo.
It’s a fact that Young Woo is different and has specialized needs, and it’s also a fact that her partner would need to have a great deal of love and patience, and an extensive understanding of how she’s different, particularly when it comes to communication.
When Young Woo tells Jun Ho that she doesn’t think that they should date, she’s just being herself. As in, she’s not deliberating being mean or withholding, in the way she communicates to Jun Ho that she doesn’t think it’s a good idea for them to be together.
The fact that her thoughts wander right after, because of something Jun Ho says, is also just her being herself. She can’t help that this is how her brain works, right?
But, Jun Ho can’t see that.
I understand that he’s upset that she’s breaking up with him without giving him a reason, but to my eyes, the fact that he can’t see that Young Woo’s not being malicious, and not treating him like a joke, makes me feel that he’s not quite ready to be Young Woo’s significant other.
For this reason, I’m actually in support of the idea of them breaking up – at least for now.
Kang Ki Young as Myeong Seok
I really, really liked Kang Ki Young as Myeong Seok; this might possibly be my favorite role of his, to date. 🤩
I love that Myeong Seok’s a kind and good-natured person, and is a pretty great boss, on top of that.
Even though he’s technically a supporting character, I found myself growing very fond of him, such that I wanted only good things for him, always.
E1. Myeong Seok is proving to be a good boss, in just one episode.
He might have started out wanting to get rid of Young Woo, but he’s quick to see Young Woo’s strengths, and importantly, he’s also quick to see when he’s been wrong, and apologize.
I really like that about him, particularly since he’s Young Woo’s supervisor, and therefore might understandably have reservations about apologizing to her. But he doesn’t, and I totally give him brownie points for that.
E3. I like how Myeong Seok feels unjust on Young Woo’s behalf, when Chairman Kim requests that she be taken off the case, and even steps down from the case himself, in solidarity, when CEO Han challenges him to do so.
E4. How shrewd of Myeong Seok, to refuse to take on the case himself, and tell Young Woo that the only way would be for her to represent them herself.
From the way that he tells her that he won’t get involved in the case at all, and will leave everything to her, I get the feeling that he senses the reason for her submission of her resignation, and wants to give her a chance to prove to herself, that she is absolutely helpful to her clients.
On top of this, I really like the way Myeong Seok speaks up for Young Woo, when Min Woo goes to see him in private, to express his discomfort at how Young Woo isn’t being held to stricter standards, regarding attendance, because of her disability.
I love how Myeong Seok is so firm in stating that Young Woo isn’t receiving special treatment, and that she’s doing very well, and that Min Woo could likely learn something from her, if he would stop to listen.
Aw. I’m growing to really like Myeong Seok, I have to say.
(And on a shallow note, I honestly don’t think I’ve seen Kang Ki Young looking this handsome, ever. 🤩)
E9. I’m glad that Myeong Seok tells Min Woo off to his face, for requesting that Young Woo be given some kind of penalty for going rogue in the courtroom, against their original plan.
Gosh, I think my affection for Myeong Seok goes up a bit more, every time he speaks up for Young Woo, or demonstrates an appreciation for her, in spite of her differences and quirks.
Ha Yoon Kyung as Su Yeon
I was very pleased to see Ha Yoon Kyung playing Su Yeon, because I’ve enjoyed in her various outings in Hospital Playlist Seasons 1 & 2 (reviews here and here), as well as She Would Never Know.
As a character, I found Su Yeon really, really decent and good-hearted, and I couldn’t help but grow more and more fond of her, as I got deeper into the episodes.
My favorite thing about her, is how decent she is, towards Young Woo, which I’ll talk more about, in an upcoming section.
E1. Su Yeon might be annoyed with Young Woo sometimes, but she strikes me as having a good heart, since she does want to help Young Woo, despite feeling perplexed at Young Woo struggling with little everyday things like the building’s revolving door.
E3. I like the way Su Yeon smiles at Young Woo basking at the sight of her new name plate, and offers to take a picture for her.
I thought that was sweet, and the kind of thing that friends do.
E5. I appreciate Su Yeon for being a friend and an altogether decent person, for how she’s got her eye on Young Woo, and is looking out for her.
In fact, if Su Yeon hadn’t thought to check with Young Woo to see if Min Woo had told her about the case being a shared assignment, it’s very possible that Young Woo wouldn’t even have been present at the first client meeting.
YAY Su Yeon. 🤩
Joo Jong Hyuk as Min Woo [SPOILERS]
I was actually quite happy to see Joo Jong Hyuk as one of the attorneys at Hanbada, because he’s a familiar face from Yumi’s Cells Seasons 1 & 2 (reviews here and here), and so it felt like having another friendly face in the office.
What I hadn’t expected, was for Show to make him a token baddie, in the way he saw Young Woo as a threat and tried to get rid of her.
That wasn’t so fun to watch, but I could accept that as a necessary evil, in the service of narrative tension.
I was on board with the idea of Show redeeming Min Woo as a character, and humanizing him, (because that’s what kdramas tend to do, right?) BUT, I do think that Show’s execution was clumsy, such that Min Woo’s turnaround didn’t end up feeling natural or organic, in the end.
I thought Show’s effort in episode 13 to humanize Min Woo by giving us a bit more context and backstory, eg, financial trouble at home, was a good idea, but it just wasn’t enough, unfortunately.
In the end, we don’t really get enough information to paint a proper picture of Min Woo the person (versus Min Woo the office villain), and therefore his turnaround during Show’s finale feels forced and rushed.
I think if more time had been spent on Min Woo’s context, it would have helped.
Su Yeon and Young Woo
Although the friendship between Su Yeon and Young Woo isn’t a main focus of our story, I had a big soft spot for this relationship, and I would perk up every time Show gave us an indication that these two women got along, despite their very different personalities. 🥰
Mainly, this would take the form of some kind of gesture of encouragement or affection from Su Yeon to Young Woo, even though, in Young Woo’s own words, she’s not that easy to love.
This endeared Su Yeon to me in a big way, and she’s literally one of my favorite characters in this drama world, because of this. ❤️
E2. I’m glad to see Su Yeon actually lean towards Young Woo in a gesture of acknowledgement and encouragement, when the client expresses delight at their adjusted approach to the case, thanks to Young Woo’s observation.
I like the idea that Su Yeon’s actually nice enough to give credit where it’s due, even though she’s expressed in other moments, that she’s annoyed with Young Woo sometimes, and jealous of her as well, for always being #1.
E4. I like the expression of amused affection on Su Yeon’s face, when Young Woo arrives back at the office, and I’d like to think that Show is going to develop this friendship further, going forward.
E5. I really enjoyed that scene between Young Woo and Su Yeon, where they talk about nicknames.
I love that out of this innocently playful start to the conversation, we get such a heart-hitting, lovely moment of honesty from Young Woo, when she tells Su Yeon that to her, Su Yeon is like spring sunshine.
Su Yeon looks taken aback that Young Woo’s remembered every single occasion when Su Yeon had looked out for her and helped her in the past, and has taken each one very much to heart.
To my eyes, it seems like Su Yeon had assumed that all of her little acts of kindness would be forgotten or taken for granted, but it’s the complete opposite, and I totally love the stunned, moved expression on Su Yeon’s face, as she processes what she means to Young Woo.
Augh. I love it so much.
E6. I am loving the glimmers of growing friendship between Young Woo and Su Yeon.
That little quirk, where Su Yeon gets all skinshippy with Young Woo, and Young Woo dances out of Su Yeon’s reach without missing a beat, seems to be becoming A Thing between them, and I think it’s very cute.
E7. Even though Su Yeon likes Jun Ho, and can see that Jun Ho’s affections seem to be leaning towards Young Woo, she doesn’t allow that to cloud her friendship with Young Woo.
For all intents and purposes, she’s still firmly on Young Woo’s side, and is ready to defend Young Woo, when Min Woo complains that Young Woo got her job through connections.
And, she even pushes Young Woo to take that car ride with Jun Ho, even though she herself likes Jun Ho, because she can see that Young Woo is the one whom Jun Ho likes.
So far, Su Yeon checks all the boxes for me, as a true friend. She’s really endearing herself to me; I find that I like her more and more with each passing episode.
E8. I find it touching to see how Su Yeon stands up for Woo Young, with no thought to what it might do to her own reputation.
I mean, everyone at the firm is gossiping about Woo Young, thanks to Min Woo’s anonymous post on the bulletin board, and Su Yeon, in response, raises her voice when she tells Young Woo that she’s done nothing wrong, and that it’s fair that she joined the firm with her outstanding grades, so that everyone can hear her, loud and clear.
That’s so great of her; I love that she doesn’t hesitate to stand up for Young Woo, never mind what anyone else might think.
Su Yeon and Min Woo
At about Show’s halfway mark, it starts to tease a potential loveline between Min Woo and Su Yeon.
While I’m in-principle ok with this, like I said earlier in this review, I do think that Show could have done a better, more robust job of teasing out the connection between them, so that this could have all landed in a more natural, organic sort of fashion.
E13. It seems like Show is hinting at a more amiable connection between Min Woo and Su Yeon, rather than the strongly bickery tone we’ve had between them so far.
I don’t hate this idea, because taking two people out of their usual surroundings / context can help nudge their conversations into new and relatively more personal spaces, which in turn provides additional personal context, thus promoting mutual understanding.
That said, it does seem like Show’s pushing this in the direction of an enemies-to-lovers sort of situation, with Su Yeon suddenly becoming self-conscious and snappy around Min Woo.
E14. I’ve seen some rumbles of dissatisfaction around how this potential loveline is introduced.
The idea I get, is that the attraction is sudden, and goes against their previously established characters.
Again, I think I might have an unpopular opinion on this.
As I talked about in my notes on our previous episode, people do tend to show more facets of themselves, when taken out of their office contexts. We aren’t only who we show ourselves to be at the office, after all.
Therefore, this trip to Jeju Island, where they’re away from the office, and in the midst of nature and beauty, and where everyday worries seem blurrier and farther away, it makes sense to me that we’d get to see parts of Min Woo’s character that we haven’t seen thus far.
And of course this would be surprising to Su Yeon, in a startling, do-I-even-know-you-anymore sort of way.
With Min Woo showing that he’s got some thoughtfulness and soft corners about him, it also makes sense to me, that Su Yeon might reconsider how she feels about him, after all.
And then, that awkwardness as they try to move back into work mode, makes sense to me too. How much of this personal self, that only shows up in non-work situations, can they take back to their regular office environment?
That’s something that needs to be grappled with, and for now, Min Woo and Su Yeon agree to forget that they ever moved beyond the confines of strict work mode.
The lingering wistfulness is easy to see on both sides, though, so I’m actually curious to see how this maybe-loveline maybe-develops, when we get back to Hanbada.
Afternote: Unfortunately, Show seems to drop this thread somewhat, once we get back to Seoul, which is why everything that goes down in the finale feels strange and unnatural, at least to my eyes.
Jin Kyung as CEO Tae [SPOILERS]
It doesn’t take Show very long to unveil to us that CEO Tae is actually Young Woo’s mom. That’s not the most interesting thing about CEO Tae, to my eyes.
To me, what was more interesting, was what CEO Tae would do, once she realized that Young Woo was her long-lost daughter, whom she’d given up in infancy.
Of course, given CEO Tae’s political ambitions of becoming Minister of Justice, that question of what she would do, felt all the more interesting, to me.
The other thing is, I was hopeful that Show would take some time to explore the mother-daughter relationship between her and Young Woo.
I’d say that all in all, Show doesn’t quite do either of those things, or at least, not to the extent that I’d been hoping for.
We do get a lovely scene in episode 8, of CEO getting all emotional at the realization that Young Woo is actually her daughter.
I loved this, and therefore hoped that this mother-daughter relationship would have a chance to heal and actually grow into something positive, in the episodes that we had left.
I really-really hoped for this, because this is the relationship that I found myself most interested in, aside from Young Woo’s friendship with Su Yeon.
Unfortunately, CEO Tae soon comes to her political senses, and spends many episodes trying to move Young Woo and Dad out of Korea and therefore out of the way of her political plans.
I was really disappointed by this, both in terms of CEO Tae pushing aside her motherly instincts, and also, in terms of there not being any real healing of the mother-daughter relationship between her and Young Woo.
I’d just thought that we’d get at least a bit of healing between them, given the kind of feel-good show this is.
And yet, when we get to the finale, CEO Tae does put aside her political ambition, not for her daughter, but for her son.
Sigh. This just felt rather weird and unnatural to me, unfortunately.
Overall, I just felt like CEO Tae’s character was treated pretty unevenly, and that ultimately hurt my general opinion of the show.
Jeon Bae Su as Young Woo’s Dad
Rather like CEO Tae, I also felt like Dad was rather uneven, as a character. Again, I feel that it’s the fault of the writing, because at least in the earlier episodes, when we do get some good focus on Dad, I found those scenes poignant and touching.
It’s mostly in later episodes that I found Dad’s character a bit uneven and therefore rather whiplashy.
Here’s a few examples of scenes where I liked Show’s treatment of Dad as a character.
E3. I thought it was really poignant to hear Young Woo’s dad’s perspective, when she goes to him for advice on how to communicate with Jeong Hun.
The way Dad says rather ruefully, that it’s been lonely living with her, particularly when she’d been younger, really brings across how much Dad has sacrificed, to give Young Woo the support and care that she’s needed.
That flashback of how Dad had cried, lying on the floor, is so full of pathos; it really makes my heart go out to Dad, for all that he’s been through.
E8. I actually hadn’t expected Dad to be honest with Young Woo about her mother, so I’m glad that when Dad realizes Young Woo’s intending to work at Taesan, Dad comes out and tells her the whole truth.
That earns Dad a brownie point from me.
The thing that helps to even things out, is that I can see how Dad had made a very sacrificial decision, in wanting to give Young Woo a chance to come into the world.
If Dad hadn’t chosen to put his own career aside to take care of her, Mom would have never agreed to give birth to the baby, and the world would have never known Young Woo, which would have been such a loss.
And even though Dad is now berating himself for not having made something of himself, so that he’d have a law firm to pass on to Young Woo, I do think that there are practical parenting factors that would have prevented him from doing that, even if he’d thought to.
How could he have cared for Young Woo the way he’s done all these years, if he’d been busy building his law firm, right?
On this point, I think that if Young Woo wouldn’t have preferred a successful but absent father, over the father that she did get; someone who’s always been there for her, all these years.
E11. I feel a stab of sympathy for Dad, when he asks Young Woo if she’d have liked him to have found her a dedicated doctor specializing in autism, and she honestly tells him about the times when she’d thought to herself that that would have been nice.
Young Woo absolutely doesn’t mean it maliciously; she’s just trying to answer Dad’s question, but Dad can’t help but feel like he’s failed her somehow, as a parent – and I think that’s why he looks over CEO Tae’s offer again.
I think he’s tempted by it, because she’s offered to give Young Woo things that he hasn’t been able to provide.
Joo Hyun Young as Dong Geu Ra Mi
I just wanted to give Geu Ra Mi a shout-out, because I do like her bold and sassy personality, and that she isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and others – particularly if others means Young Woo.
I love the backstory of how Geu Ra Mi and Young Woo became friends, and I also love that the two of them have managed to stay friends even in their adulthood, long after graduating from high school.
What a great little odd couple they are. 🥰
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Because the finale case is spread over Show’s last two episodes, I thought it would make sense to talk about it together, in one space, since it essentially makes up one narrative arc.
Overall, I have to admit that my reaction to these two episodes is pretty mixed.
For one thing, I have to admit that I felt rather disengaged by the Raon case in our penultimate episode, and only really sat up with more interest, in our finale, because we learn that CEO Tae’s son, Sang Hyeon (Choi Hyun Jin) had been the hacker behind the data theft.
That thickened the plot enough, that I felt more engaged with our story in the finale. But again, I have to admit that my attention wandered a fair bit, during the penultimate episode.
And while I understand that the intention behind making Attorney Jang (Choi Dae Hoon) as unpleasant and sycophantic as he is, is to create a contrast between him and Myeong Seok, as well as to create some dramatic tension, but.. I have to say that I found his characterization rather too cartoony and OTT for my taste.
Perhaps I was also getting impatient, because these being our final two episodes, I felt like we could have spent the screen time in more useful ways.
For one thing, the resolution of our main loveline between Jun Ho and Young Woo, and for another, the fleshing out of Min Woo’s sudden change of heart, where he decides that he’d like to live like a fool, for once.
Generally speaking, I felt like both of these arcs could have been strengthened.
In terms of the loveline between Young Woo and Jun Ho, I’d first like to say that I really enjoyed Park Eun Bin’s delivery of Young Woo’s response, when Jun Ho approaches her in episode 15, to ask her why they can’t be together.
The way Park Eun Bin plays the moment is so beautifully poignant.
The tears in her eyes; the hesitance in her body language; the sadness, regret and sincerity in her voice, as she finally tells Jun Ho that she doesn’t have the confidence to make him happy.
My heart really went out to Young Woo, in this scene, and on this point.
At the same time, I feel like Show hasn’t done enough to create a robust context, so that I can understand where Jun Ho is coming from, where he’s so desperately in love with Young Woo, that he simply cannot be happy without her.
It’s a romantic notion, yes, but.. I also feel like it kinda came out of nowhere, because, where is this coming from, really??
We’ve seen them dabble in some mutual attraction, and we’ve seen them going on a few dates, and we’ve seen Jun Ho help Young Woo during sensory overload episodes, but.. when did that become, “I can’t live without you”? It just felt very sudden to my eyes.
If Show had been able to create more context around this, so that, even before Jun Ho says the words, I already know how much Young Woo means to him, that would have made it easier to buy into the moment.
As it is, I felt that it came across as a bit.. incomplete, if you know what I mean.
In the end, though, I did like the makeup scene, where Jun Ho talks about his love for her being like an the unrequited love that owners have for their cats – and Young Woo replies that cats do love their owners.
That’s a pretty great analogy, I feel like.
Cats can be difficult and finicky pets, but cat dads and cat moms love them dearly anyway and would do anything for them, and most importantly of all, understand that even when their cats don’t show it, there is love and affection coming through too, in their own ways.
As for Min Woo’s turnaround, I get where writer-nim is coming from, but again, I think that there’s just not enough context to make it feel organic or complete.
I think that’s probably why there were such howls of frustration around the dramaverse, around Min Woo’s change of heart.
In principle, I get the idea that writer-nimi’s leading with; that people can and do change for love.
Unfortunately, as far as Min Woo’s relationship with Su Yeon goes, there’s not much that’s given to us, beyond those personal moments on Jeju Island, and the odd personal moment back at work.
Min Woo’s attraction to Su Yeon is implied in little throwaway moments, in glimpses, and not something that Show delves into at any length.
And that’s why, when Min Woo makes a marked change, because he wants to be the kind of guy that Su Yeon likes, it feels unnatural and inorganic.
So, I’m ok with the idea, but I do think that the execution could have been better.
I feel similarly when it comes to CEO Tae’s decision to drop out of the political race in order to be a better mother to Sang Hyeon.
I try to reason with myself that we’ve seen glimpses of her mother’s heart, like when she’d first realized that Young Woo was her daughter.
And, we’re also told that Sang Hyeon’s seen her search history, which had all kinds of things to do with Young Woo.
Plus, Young Woo’s appeal to her mother is truly heartfelt and poignant (kudos again to Park Eun Bin, for a stellar delivery).
Piecing that together, I can believe that she would choose her son over her political career, if I squint a little.
But, it really would have been nice, if Show had spent more time teasing out CEO Tae’s more humane layers, instead of focusing so much on her political ambition. That would have made her final decision feel that much more organic, I’m sure.
All’s well that ends well, though, and I’m glad that Show leaves us on a positive note, almost on all fronts.
Importantly, Myeong Seok’s doing ok after his surgery, and he’s mending his relationship with his ex-wife Ji Su, while considering whether to continue with his career at Hanbada.
Also, very importantly, Young Woo doesn’t need to leave Hanbada or Korea, in order to live a fulfilled and peaceful life.
And, since, this was always about Young Woo’s journey, rather than anything else, it feels fitting, that as we close out this show, we see Young Woo reveling in a sense of fulfillment, as she continues to grow where she chooses to be planted. 🥰🌻
THE FINAL VERDICT:
A little uneven in its second half, but still wholesome and warm, overall.
FINAL GRADE: B+
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Extraordinary Attorney Woo, is Love In Contract. I’ve taken an initial look, and I’m happy to say that I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about this one. My E1-2 notes on Love In Contract can be found here.
Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!
Foundation Tier (US$1): k-ent tidbits + E1 & E2 notes of all shows covered on Patreon
Early Access (US$5): Love Like The Galaxy [China]
Early Access Plus (US$10): +Little Women
VIP (US$15): +Love In Contract
VVIP (US$20): +If You Wish Upon Me
Ultimate (US$25): +Love Between Fairy And Devil [China]
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