10 June 2021

K Drama Review: Law School (2021)

I needed an on-air drama that would help me move on from Song Joong Ki, whom I loved so much in Vincenzo. When we were looking for its replacement, we were intrigued to see Law School, a drama starring Ryu Hye Young, one of the actors in our super favorite Reply 1988. We gave it a try even if Oppa felt that it was quite similar to How to Get Away with Murder, which he did not like. 

Admittedly, we struggled a bit during the start of the show. It was too fast paced for us. And it was difficult to follow if you attempt to understand all the legalese. But I was able to appreciate it more when I stopped focusing on the details and I just concentrated on the bigger picture. And oh, don't expect this to be about the daily lives of law students. Law School shows a bit of that, but it's definitely not the main focus here. 

Plot


Law School is about the lives of freshmen law students and professors at Hankuk University. Their worlds turn upside down with the death of one of their professors, Seo Byung Ju (Ahn Nae Sang of Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol, Ms. Hammurabi, and Wonderful Days). Almost all of the main characters seem to have motive to kill Seo. The show takes us through how the characters uncover the truth and how they find meaning in their lives in their quest for justice. 

Ryu Hye Young as Kang Sol A


We saw traces of Sung Bo Ra in Kang Sol. She was still funny especially when she was angry. But Ryu Hye Young was able to show us more here as Kang Sol. Apart from her funny and angry faces, it was nice to see gentle, helpless, scared, frustrated, and unsure Kang Sol. We loved the range that Ryu Hye Young showed us here. 

I loved Sol A because of her passion, stubbornness, and feistiness. She just never gives up even if the odds always seem to be against her - making it to law school despite being poor and average, barely passing her classes while surrounded by very smart people, etc. I loved how Sol A was living proof that having passion and a good heart are sometimes better than being intelligent. Your heart just needs to be in the right place and eventually, things will be okay. 

And while we were so used to seeing unkempt Sol A (with a number of nosebleed episodes too!), it was refreshing to see her as Kang Dan, her twin sister. She looked so smart and elegant. 

I hope Law School would be the start of bigger and better things for Ryu Hye Young. She might not be your typical girly female lead but we need strong women like her in our dramas too. :)

Kim Beom as Han Joon Hwi

We are Kim Beom newbies. And after watching him here, I can conclude that I still have a lot of treasures to uncover in my K drama world. :D

Kim Beom resembled Go Kyung Po, Ryu Hye Young's love interest in Reply 1988. So there was a bit of confusion. But as the show progressed, I realized that Kim was actually a better version. He should probably make it to my list one of these days. :)


As a character, I loved how Joon Hwi was always smart, sensible, and practical. He looked so cool when he didn't mind or he didn't take it personally when his friends suspected him of killing his uncle, Seo Byung Ju. 

Right from the start, you'll see that Joon Hwi is one of those who will succeed as a lawyer. He has the brain and the confidence to do it, without being arrogant. With an angelic face like his, I won't be surprised if female suspects would voluntarily confess to their crimes. 

I loved how Joon Hwi was the ultimate sidekick for their criminal law professor, Yang Jong Hoon (Kim Myung Min), helping the latter unearth the truth. 

But the thing I loved most about Joon Hwi was how he always teased Sol A but at the end the day, he always got her back. He was the perfect and sensible balm to the impulsive and emotional Sol A. Yes, I had my reservations about how the show was reinforcing gender stereotypes here. But I managed to forgive that because Joon Hwi and Sol A looked so cute together. 

It's unfortunate that we didn't actually see them end up together. But the stolen glances and secret smiles were enough to make me feel giddy. 

I loved Kim Beom and I definitely need to watch another one of his dramas. 

Kim Myung Min as Yang Jong Hoon 


Kim Myung Min was a very convincing terror law professor, earning him the nickname Yangcrates (because of how he used Socrates' Socratic method in his classes). 

Prof. Yang was a very interesting character. He was quiet but he was very insightful and perceptive. And of course, he was very brilliant too. 

I loved his unorthodox style of teaching and lawyering. Like how he put on sunglasses during his trial to secretly remind his student, Ye Seul (Ko Yoon Jung), who was going to testify against him, that he also knew her secrets. Or how he tricked the court with the USB that supposedly had the favorable testimony of his other student, Yoo Seung Jae (Hyun Woo). And how cool he was during the jury selection for Ye Seul's trial when he didn't bother asking questions. And the Assemblyman Ko (Jung Won Joong who had a cameo in Reply 1988) web on his wall at home. 

My most favorite Yangcrates moment would probably his direct examination of Ye Seul during the latter's trial. The girl was obviously too traumatized to talk about the abuses she experienced from her boyfriend (Lee Hwi Jong as Ko Yeong Chang/Assemblyman Ko's son). And this was affecting her stability as a witness. Yangcrates then went on to turn the direct examination into a recitation, giving Ye Seul's case as the scenario that they had to resolve. Ye Seul was now a bit more comfortable to speak since she now had to use the third person to refer to herself. 

Another thing I loved about Yangcrates was how overprotective he was of his students. Yes, he would criticize them a lot. But he went over and beyond his duty as a professor to make sure they don't get into trouble. Like how he made sure that Joon Hwi was not indicted. Or how he threatened Yeong Chang that if Ye Seul ever has to wear sunglasses to attend his classes again, he'll make sure that Yeong Chang would have to wear sunglasses for the rest of his life. Or how he arrived in a grand manner to represent Ye Seul as her special defense attorney. I can totally imagine a criminal law professor doing the stuff Yangcrates did. 

Apart from "shipping" Joon Hwi and Sol A, I was also rooting for Yang and Sol A. Not in a romantic way, of course. But I loved their love-hate relationship or Yang's tough love for Sol A. Sol A resented that he was too hard on her. But she finally had her epiphany during the final episode when she realized that he was actually motivating her, in his own strange way, when he told her that there's no such thing as a legal mind. Meaning, he was reassuring her that anyone can do law. 

I definitely enjoyed watching both Kim Myung Min and Yangcrates here.

The Other Students

Although the number of characters were quite confusing to follow in the beginning, I got to know all of them eventually. And I even warmed up to most of them. 

Kang Sol B (Lee Soo Kyung who had a cameo in Reply 1988), Sol A's roomie, is your typical law student. She's smart and confident but very uptight. She's proof that helicopter parenting is never good for children. I liked how she eventually transformed into a less uptight version of herself - admitting that Sol A did a good job in the mock trial competition and she even joined her team's huddle afterwards even if they lost. And how she was now bold enough to defy her annoying mother (Park Mi Hyun of Record of Youth). 

I loved, loved Ye Seul. She was soooo pretty. And she played the role of the abused girlfriend really well. It was unfortunate that she was associated with a bad guy. But I was proud of how she overcame that obstacle. And how she was even helping other victims like her through the school's legal clinic. I was hoping she'd eventually end up with Min Bok Ki (Lee Kang Ji) who seemed to genuinely care for her. Ye Seul definitely deserved a better guy. 

We just watched David Lee recently on Itaewon Class (apart from his Hotel Del Luna cameo) so it was nice to see him again here as Seo Ji Ho. He looked meek here, pretty much like his bullied character in Itaewon Class. And similarly, he was also seeking to avenge something here. He wanted justice for his father's suicide when the latter's identity was prematurely and mistakenly revealed as the owner of a toy company that sold dangerous toys. I loved how he and Joon Hwi teamed up to corner everyone from the reporters (Kim Joong Ki of Tune in for Love, Reply 1988, and Reply 1994) to the prosecutor (A Taxi Driver, Something in the Rain, The Producers, and Dream High's Park Hyuk Kwon as Jin Hyeong U) to help Ji Ho with his case. I'm happy that he somehow achieved justice with the indictment of the prosecutor. 

I enjoyed watching Kim Min Seok in Start-Up (also in Train to Busan, Hospital Playlist, and My Mister). However, I can't say the same for his character here as Jo Ye Beom. For most part of the show, he was like a token character who was not really adding anything to the story. He was just eating lollipops all the time. He became quite relevant towards the end when he became an intern at the prosecutor's office who was feeding his boss inside information about the next steps of Ye Seul's team. Although he didn't fully get sucked into the evil side, I just felt that people like him would be very dangerous as lawyers because they would do anything for personal gain. 

On the other hand, Seung Jae (Hyun Woo) was quite important in the first part of the show. He was the key to Yang's acquittal because he knew where Yang was at the time of Seo's death. But in the end, he would probably be remembered for stealing his professors' exams to get good grades. I was curious about his motivation for cheating and I felt that was not clearly established. I didn't see his wife (Lee So Yoon of Hospital Playlist, Prison Playbook, and What Happens to My Family) nagging him about it. And the resolution of his case was not even shown. I suppose he was not jailed but I would have loved to really know what happened. 

The Other Professors

I loved the other professors here too. 

Aside from Yang, I also loved Professor Kim (Lee Jung Eun of Parasite, A Taxi Driver, Ms. Hammurabi, and Fight for My Way). I've always liked Lee Jung Eun for being very versatile and it was nice to add another one of her characters in our books. 

I loved how Professor Kim exerted extra effort to make her classes fun and interesting. And how she was so motherly and protective of her students and of Yangcrates. 

I loved the team-up of Yang and Kim and if the latter were not married, I would have probably shipped them too. I was amazed with the crazy techniques they used to get the results they wanted. Like giving Assemblyman Ko the Lee Man Ho Act to ensure the safety of Lee Man Ho's son. Or giving Ko the bill to decriminalize defamation to help acquit a mom who put up a website to expose fathers who are not supporting their children financially. Or baiting Ko to publicly apologize to Ye Seul to show that father and son were faking everything. 

I'm pretty sure law schools would be happier and better places if there were more Professor Kims there. :)

This was also some sort of Something in the Rain reunion. Gil Hae Yeon (Encounter) was the law school dean who stood up for the school and her students against the bully president and Assemblyman Ko. 

Oh Man Seok was the school's Vice Dean and Kang Sol B's dad who was torn between being upright and protecting his daughter's plagiarism. 

Execution

The themes and the show's general premise were good. But the storytelling needed a bit of improvement. The pilot episode was quite confusing. There were so many things happening. You had to acquaint yourself with the numerous characters. Then there was the constant back and forth between the present and the past from seven months ago. 

As I mentioned earlier, the pacing was quite fast. Even one with a legal background would probably have a hard time catching up. It was reminiscent of The Snow Queen with its quite excessive use of technical terms. 

Another thing that probably made this quite difficult to follow was that it was an on-air drama that I had to watch on a weekly basis. By the time I watch the next episode, I've forgotten most of the stuff that happened in the previous episodes. I needed a refresher. This might be better watched on a continuing/daily basis for easier retention. 

I was also not too happy with how the show transitioned from one scene to another. I would not mind cutting between parallel scenes if it were done in a linear manner. But if the transition had flashbacks interspersed with it, then it was quite dizzying at times. At one point, Yang and Kim were summarizing stuff so Oppa joked that they were probably getting confused with the story too. 

I was not too pleased either with how initially, the show wanted to make it appear that each of the main characters could be suspects in Seo's death. I dreaded that they would have a different suspect each week. 

And then we have scenes/storylines riddled with conflict of interest. Their internships were all with firms or entities that were involved in Ye Seul's case. And they were all helping defend Ye Seul. And the school's photocopy guy (Woo Hyeon of 1987: When the Day Comes) was a juror for the defamation case that the school's legal aid clinic previously handled. And Sol A's mom (Shin Mi Young of Crash Landing on You and Ms. Hammurabi) was a juror in Ye Seul's case. 

And the circus trials annoyed me too. Like when Ye Seul's ex staged a pity party during a hearing, being wheeled in on his hospital bed. Or the skits like the one Sol A did with Yang's lawyer (Lee Chun Hee of The Producers). Or when the judge asked Yang (who was a defense attorney!!) to explain to the jurors the concept of reasonable doubt. But I admit I might be a bit biased here because I loved it when it was Yang doing the silly stuff. 

Another thing that baffled me was how everything led back to Assemblyman Ko - Kang Dan's disappearance, death of Ji Ho's dad, Seo's death and hit-and-run case, setting up Yang, Lee Man Ho's death, Ye Seul's perjury, Ye Seul's abuse, disappearance of Lee Man Ho's son, etc. I was surprised that they didn't blame him for Sol B's plagiarism and Seung Jae's hacking. I would have understood if Ko were involved against one or two persons. But to be involved with a lot of people who are now all conveniently in one law school is quite out of this world. 

I liked the fake news/troll farm storyline though. I found that very timely and relevant. 

Having said all of that, I would have to say that I still enjoyed the show. It became more compelling around episode 8 when Yang defended Ye Seul. 

I loved how the show took up social causes. Like fathers who do not support their children financially even if they have the means to do it. Or child rapists. 

And abusive boyfriends who spy on their partners, rape them, beat them up, force them to do things against their will, and then blackmail them later on with sex videos. I was wondering if Korea does not recognize the battered woman syndrome defense because that would have surely worked in Ye Seul's favor. 

Or how public officials take advantage of criminals in jail and make them commit crimes or help them cover up their crimes in exchange for a lighter penalty. Or media people allowing public officials to use them for their dirty tricks. And how fake news is now rampantly used by politicians to turn things into their favor. 

I also liked how the show presented common legal/moral dilemmas that lawyers face. Is it a gift or a bribe? Was the death intentional or accidental? Would you kill because of a grudge or to get your inheritance? Should we meddle with autopsies to get the results we want? Are the faces/images being projected by public servants real or fake? Is it okay to plagiarize to be an achiever or be original but boring and average? Should we defend bad people? Should we put forth a fact that can help our client win his case but would make us lose points in the mock trial competition? These are very thought provoking questions that need a good heart instead of a great legal mind to answer. 

Over-all, the show's ending was morally satisfying. Assemblyman Ko was in jail. Sol B seems to be finally resolving her problem with her nosy mom. Joon Hwi is now a prosecutor. Sol A seems to be enjoying her small time practice where she's sought after and well-loved by her clients. And how can I ask for more when I see that Joon Hwi and Sol A are still under Yang's wings. :)

Oppa says...3.7.

Noona says...it's a 4. 

No comments:

Post a Comment