THE SHORT VERDICT:
Show takes a while to settle, suspension of disbelief is required, and the legal stuff is there more as set-dressing than to actually drive our story forward, but if you like it when characters get more of the spotlight than story events themselves, and you don’t mind glossing over various plot point resolutions, then this might work for you.
Once our story gets into its groove, it feels quite similar to a caper film, with plot developments and resolutions painted in broad, rather campy, irreverent strokes. It took a while for our characters to grow on me, not least because of the morally ambiguous characterization our writers choose to give them, but I did grow fond of (most of) our characters by Show’s end, which is a plus.
Both Kim Hye Soo and Joo Ji Hoon give fantastic performances, and together, they basically carry the entire show, while sharing a very sparky chemistry.
THE LONG VERDICT:
I’ve heard fairly mixed responses to this show, with some viewers loving this a great deal, while others express disappointment.
Now that I’ve seen the show for myself, I conclude that this is one of those times (more than average, I think) where your mileage may vary. I’m guessing that if you liked Lawless Lawyer, that you might like this too. And if you didn’t care for Lawless Lawyer, then it’s quite likely that this wouldn’t be your cup of tea either.
Like Lawless, this one has a similar heist movie-esque vibe (though the heist flavor is lighter with this one), with its irreverent tone, questionable legal and courtroom antics, and a pair of angsty, charismatic lawyers at the center of it all. Unlike Lawless though, this show doesn’t go with the larger-than-life, mustache-twirling sort of villains, so that could be either a plus or a minus for you, depending on how you feel about said larger-than-life villains. I personally counted it a minus, because I feel the hyperbolic villain suits the heist movie sort of tone quite nicely. Without that, I feel like the heist-esque part of our story – which is basically Show’s backbone – falls kinda flat.
It did take me a good handful of episodes to actually find my feet with this one, so I’ll talk a little bit on how to adjust your expectations and viewing lens for maximum enjoyment next.
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to Show’s.. hm, slightly split-personality soundtrack as you read the review. Some of the tracks are big, loud and sassy, while other tracks are softer, lilting love ballads. Ordinarily I’d call this eclectic, but because the overall soundtrack fell a touch short of feeling truly organic for me, I’m going with slightly split-personality.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS AND THE VIEWING LENS
It wasn’t until episode 6, that I got into a comfortable groove with this show. I’d gone into episode 1 without knowing what to expect, and had come away from that rollercoaster of a first episode, still mostly not quite clear of how to approach this show. At the episode 3 point, I’d felt bored and disengaged.
It was only at the episode 6 mark, that I caught on to (what I think is) the best lens to use for this show: irreverence.
This show is just irreverent, through and through. I realized that even when Geum Ja and Hee Jae (Kim Hye Soo and Joo Ji Hoon) are at loggerheads, it’s all in flippant fun, and I shouldn’t take it seriously. And this lens worked at the episode 6 mark, where it didn’t work for me in the earlier episodes, because [VAGUE HIGH LEVEL SPOILER] I’m not sure that Hee Jae’s hurt in the initial episodes should be laughed at. But at the episode 6 mark onwards, it’s his pride rather than his heart that’s wounded, and therefore, it feels much more ok to laugh at everything. [END SPOILER]
The other thing to note about this show, is that there’s definitely some artistic license taken with the way the court proceedings and other legal things are portrayed. [MINOR SPOILER] For example, can they submit new evidence just like that, in the middle of a hearing in episode 7? [END SPOILER] I don’t know. But by dialing down my need for detailed logic appreciation around the cases, I found it helped me to enjoy the show a lot more.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
In the spirit of managing expectations, I thought it might be helpful to start with the stuff that I didn’t care for so much.
The cases aren’t very interesting
I tried to muster up interest for the cases that our characters work on, but I have to admit, I found myself not very absorbed at all, in the cases that presented themselves over the course of our story. I also wasn’t very interested in the intra-firm power play that often fed into the cases, but I concede that all of it does provide some kind of stage and context within which our main pair exists, and where they circle each other, as the plot moves forward.
Through to the end, I found that I wasn’t super into the machinations, or Show’s efforts to ramp up dramatic tension via the cases, but I did appreciate the general flow of where Show takes us, with our key characters.
The morally ambiguous stuff
This became less of a thing in Show’s later episodes, but I have to admit that I struggled more than usual, to like our key characters, because Show makes them morally ambiguous. For me, this was a bigger struggle with the character of Geum Ja than with Hee Jae, and that made it harder than average, for me to want to root for her, even though she is the alleged (by other viewers) queen of this show.
By the time we get deeper into our story, we get a clearer sense of the kind of people our characters really are, and this becomes less of a thing, though it never actually goes away. I feel like if you don’t like watching morally ambiguous characters, that this might be quite a deterrent for you.
Suspension of disbelief is required
Suspension of disbelief is very much needed, in order to enjoy this story. Sometimes, things happen in unrealistically convenient ways, in order to nudge the plot along. When that happened, I put it down to Show’s caper-like vibe, and that helped. But overall, I was not impressed with the oftentimes convenient resolution of cases.
STUFF I LIKED
Kim Hye Soon as Geum Ja
Geum Ja took quite some getting used to for me, since she’s nothing like the kdrama heroines that we’re traditionally more used to.
She’s shrewd, far from innocent, exudes a rough, devil-may-care boss-lady vibe, walks with swag, doesn’t care about fashion, sports a short boyish haircut, is laser-sharp in her observation and analysis of things and people, does a consistently good job of achieving the outcomes she wants or needs, and is completely unapologetic if she has to lean into the dark side, to do so.
Ordinarily, such a character wouldn’t be presented in a very attractive light, and yet, by the middle of our story, there are two handsome, eligible men eager for her company. [MINOR SPOILER] Hee Jae’s got his heart tied up in knots over her, and Kevin is pulling out the stops to woo her. [END SPOILER] That’s honestly a refreshing twist on the typical kdrama love triangle, and I like that it expands the box on what a kdrama leading lady looks like. I find this idea, that you don’t have to be an earnest Candy to win a man’s heart, a liberating one.
By Show’s later episodes, I was grateful that Geum Ja’s heart is more easily discernible, and I found myself rooting for her much more easily than at first – which I found a huge relief. It’s important to me that I like my main characters.
Kim Hye Soo does a fantastic job of breathing life into Geum Ja; she’s full-on with the strut and the swag, and yet, also delivers admirably, in Geum Ja’s more vulnerable moments. Although I didn’t take to her quickly, by Show’s end, I could honestly agree with everyone else’s assessment, that Geum Ja is a queen indeed.
E1. Geum Ja really did Hee Jae dirty. I mean, she literally schemed, stalked and plotted her way into his heart, complete with assistant and wig in tow, to create the perfect trap for him to walk into. It’s true that she didn’t force his hand, and that he was the one to make the first move to overtly pursue her, but it’s also true that she created such a compelling persona, designed to draw him in, that she can’t be absolved of blame. Also, she knowingly breached the Attorney-At-Law Act, and stole evidence from him in order to further her case, all while romancing him. It’s basically plotted in cold blood, and I absolutely do not agree with her actions.
At the same time, we glimpse more about Geum Ja’s background, of childhood abuse and violence, and also, the rough clients she has to deal with, and the fact that her law firm is in serious need of money, and I can kind of understand why she would do what she did. She’s a survivor, and she’s learned to fight tooth and nail for survival, without caring too much about the survival of her opponent, because who has time to care about that, when your own neck is on the line – that’s the kind of idea I get of her, and I feel like the whole violent, bloody scuffle at the end of the episode, with her attacker, is a picture of her life.
I don’t like her choice to do Hee Jae dirty, but I have a grudging admiration for her, not for her scheming ways, but for her fierce survival instinct. Also, I feel like Geum Ja doesn’t actually feel that great about doing that to Hee Jae. There are moments when she looks somber about it, when a more evil version of her would be gloating at her success. But at the same time, she won’t admit to it, so there’s that pride to her too. She’d rather be cursed out for what she did, and own her bad deeds, than apologize, ask for forgiveness or admit any kind of regret.
E2. Geum Ja’s performance at the party is really OTT, and honestly, this feels quite undignified, for an attorney to resort to party performances to entice potential clients over to her side. And yet, Geum Ja throws herself into it with abandon. I feel conflicted about this. I want to respect her, but this feels really undignified.
E5. It’s not good leadership practice on the part of CEO Song (Lee Kyung Young) to give Geum Ja authority over a team, but not announce it, and just let her establish her presence by herself. That’s not helpful at all. But I suppose the whole idea is to show us how resourceful and undaunted Geum Ja is, even in the face of general disdain. And she rises to the challenge without the blink of an eye.
E6. Geum Ja may not always do things by the book, but she’s very smart and resourceful. The way she tests CEO Son Jin Su (Park Shin Woo) with her pointed questions, and the way she leaves her phone behind to record what happens in the office after they leave, is shrewd. And in this case, when CEO Song is planning to use her as a scapegoat, it’s important that she gets on top of the truth.
E7. I love how quick-thinking, analytical resourceful Geum Ja is. She’s the one who’s got her brain wrapped around everything and barking out orders to everyone, and she’s the one who tells everyone to get out there instead of just pushing their phones and papers around behind a desk. And she leads by example, getting out there and securing evidence that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Impressive.
E7. I also kinda like the way she basically cows both Son Jin Su and Kim Yeong Jun (Han Joon Woo) into dropping the issue. She feels simultaneously like a mother mediating between two errant children, and a rogue mafia lawyer lady boss, who’s greater than the law. They will listen to her, for their own good. Ha.
E8. Something that strikes me about Geum Ja this episode, is how she appears to be fearless, but is actually choosing to act fearlessly, in spite of any fears that she may have. We see her pause a couple of times, to gather herself, before putting on her game face. But when that game face is on, she owns it and doesn’t waver, and it’s admirable.. though my heart can’t help but feel a little sorry for the fact that she feels she has to live so hard, while putting herself on the line continuously, to do what she feels she needs to do.
E10. Geum Ja is always surprisingly straightforward. In the way that she met with CEO Kim (Kim Ho Jung), and was forthright in asking CEO Kim what she was really after, and in the way she fielded Kevin’s (Kim Jae Chul) statement about not wanting to talk about work with her, in her office, even with Hee Jae right there: “Do you want to date me? Have sex with me?” I.. blinked, at her straightforwardness – just like Hee Jae. And yet, there’s that underlying vulnerability about Geum Ja, which makes her a very interesting bundle of contradictions.
E12. Geum Ja’s guilt at sending Seo Jeong Hwa (Lee Joo Yeon) to Ha Chan Ho (Ji Hyun Joon), shows that she’s not as heartless as people think. By this point, though, we already know this about Geum Ja, so it’s not a surprise to the audience.
E13. Geum Ja’s stepfather (Bae Ki Bum) saying that he’d prayed for her in prison, and that was more than enough to pay for his crime, is rubbish. Geum Ja warning him that she’ll literally stab him, if he doesn’t leave her alone, is, on the one hand, quite satisfying to watch, because Stepdad is so annoyingly smug in his misguided thinking. On the other hand, it does make me rather uncomfortable all over again, that Geum Ja is not above underhanded means, to get what she wants, even if it involves killing someone. I’m not so cool with that. But.. I rationalize that she probably wouldn’t kill him for real. I think.
Joo Ji Hoon as Hee Jae
Not unlike Geum Ja, Hee Jae as a character is also a bundle of contradictions, but importantly for me, this was a combination of contradictions that I found easier to get behind.
I found myself rooting for Hee Jae right from the get-go, because he seemed like the underdog in the situation, to my eyes. Plus, he’s the unlikely mixture of high-flying, hardworking star lawyer with a pedigree, and a sardonic, deadpan goofball with a penchant for theatrical flourishes. It’s sounds so weird, but Joo Ji Hoon makes it work, and fantastically well, too.
Joo Ji Hoon’s got a great range of elastic reaction faces, and he often breaks into one, mostly without warning. The fact that Show stays pretty deadpan about it just takes it to another level of funny, and I found myself very amused indeed, by Hee Jae’s theatrical reactions.
On top of the star lawyer and the sardonic goofball, Hee Jae layers a distinct sense of innocence and almost naiveté, which I found both endearing and charming. Even though Hee Jae isn’t opposed to doing questionable lawyer things when he needs to, he clearly wants to believe in good, and seeks to be good, as well.
His journey to finding his own truth, and learning how to stand for his own truth, is one of my favorite narrative arcs in this story.
E1. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around Hee Jae as a character. On the one hand, he’s supposed to be the picture of the perfect high flyer; he wins cases left and right, he’s got the perfect pedigree, he’s favored by the CEO of the firm, he is actually good at what he does, and he works relentlessly.
And yet, there’s a theatrical, OTT almost goofy streak that Show gives him, what with him hand-dancing in the car with Gi Hyeok (Jun Suk Ho) when they won the case, and also, the way he ran after Geum Ja’s car at the laundromat, and then especially so, when he realized that his girlfriend was the attorney defending against his team. I’m still getting used to how to categorize him in my head, but I must say, Joo Ji Hoon is doing a fantastic job of portraying both sides of Hee Jae.
E4. I liked that Hee Jae won the upper hand this time. I feel for Hee Jae because he was duped, and Geum Ja had taken it upon herself to deceive him, even though he’d done nothing to provoke her. Even though Hee Jae may do dubious lawyer things, in this thing between him and Geum Ja, I see him as the victim. He’d been sincere with her, and had had the rug completely pulled from under his feet. It’s no wonder that he feels cheated and upset. I mean, sure, he’s pompous and full of himself, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to manipulate him and toy with his feelings in order to steal information from him and win the case.
I find that I’m still firmly on Hee Jae’s side. He admits freely to Geum Ja that neither of them truly cares about the client, Mr. Ko (Cho Dong In). But, as a professional, Hee Jae demonstrates more care for the client’s welfare and true wants, whereas Geum Ja seems to only be in it to win it. She doesn’t seem to care if Mr. Ko ends up tangled in the lawsuit for years, if that’s what it takes. I think Hee Jae does a better job this episode, of being discerning about what Mr. Ko truly needs and wants, and working out a way for him to get that.
Also, I don’t find Hee Jae malicious. When Geum Ja confronts him in a huff, he’s a little bit smug, yes, but he’s also calm and logical. And when Geum Ja leaves, still in a huff, Hee Jae’s little victory dance is dorky and brief. I rather like that. It makes me feel like he’s savoring his victory a little bit, without dancing on Geum Ja’s grave.
E6. I like how Hee Jae answers when Attorney Boo (Park Se Jin) asks him why he hates Geum Ja so much. He pauses for a beat, then replies that he doesn’t like the way she handles her cases. That’s the truth, actually, and he managed to tell the truth while keeping it professional. I like it.
E10. Joo Ji Hoon can be such a hoot. The bow with a flourish that Hee Jae does as a parting shot to Kevin, is so theatrical and ridiculous, while his expression is part gloat, part insolence. It’s funny from where I’m sitting, probably a lot less funny from Kevin’s point-of-view.
E13. I want someone to put CEO Song in his place, but I don’t exactly feel like Hee Jae’s doing a good job of it, coz his announcement that he’ll put together a team to defend his father, within Song & Kim, rings hollow, since he’s announcing it to the CEO, who has every power to stop him. That makes Hee Jae look rather naive, in the moment.
E14. It says a lot about Hee Jae, that he doesn’t hold Gi Hyeok’s betrayal against him, and only wishes him well. It’s true that Gi Hyeok only reported the truth to the Association, so it’s not like Gi Hyeok framed him or anything, but Gi Hyeok admits that he did it for selfish reasons; that he feels he can’t progress at Song & Kim, as long as Hee Jae and Geum Ja are around. Although, I have to say that that’s a very defeatist attitude. If you’re really good, the firm will make room for you to shine, I’m sure. But.. I guess with Song & Kim being dirtier than we originally thought, perhaps that doesn’t quite hold so true.
E14. I appreciate the way Hee Jae informs CEO Song, that he will be defending his dad in court, and that CEO Song will be called as a witness. He’s flawlessly polite, but there’s also a clear tinge of challenge in the way he clips his words. It’s professionalism, but with bite. I like it.
Hee Jae & Geum Ja together
Basically, Show sets things up such that Hee Jae and Geum Ja are consistently at loggerheads with each other, each working to outwit the other, through most of our story. So many of my drama friends had raved about the intense rivalry between Hee Jae and Geum Ja, and their explosive chemistry, that I’d been quite surprised and bemused, when I was slow to see the appeal.
[SPOILER] As I mentioned earlier in this review, this was largely because I didn’t like how Geum Ja had targeted Hee Jae and basically swindled him of his feelings, when he’d done nothing to provoke her. With this context, I found that I struggled to enjoy the rivalry between them, especially since Geum Ja is written to outwit Hee Jae more than once, after their initial run-in. [END SPOILER]
However, this all changed for me, once Show positions Hee Jae and Geum Ja on the same playing field, where they are required to cooperate with each other. I found this a lot more enjoyable, not least because, finally, we get hints that tell us more about things like true feelings and genuine care.
In this updated context, I did very much enjoy watching Hee Jae and Geum Ja grapple with leftover feelings, while often still fighting to outdo each other, or at least, bristling at having to work together.
Like everyone else before me, I very much enjoyed the chemistry between Joo Ji Hoon and Kim Hye Soo; it really is every bit as sparky and explosive as everyone says, and when it’s allowed free rein, it practically reaches out of your screen to punch you in the face.
While Show tamps down the sizzle in its later stretch, the emotional steps forward are still gratifying to watch, and I grew to very much enjoy the idea of these two characters as a pair.
Also, it’s interesting to note that while Geum Ja is the older of the two, and this is therefore a noona romance, Show never shines the spotlight on their age difference. Mention is only made of Hee Jae’s innocence, never his age, and that is quite refreshing indeed, in the noona romance arena.
Pre-Song & Kim
E2. Geum Ja seems to have gotten to know Hee Jae quite well in the course of fake-dating him. She sure knows how to push his buttons, and is quite bold about using him to her advantage. Which is why I’m quite pleased that by the end of the episode, Hee Jae has the upper hand. Granted, both of them are playing dirty, so neither of them is morally exempt, but Geum Ja’s used Hee Jae a fair bit and I feel like it’s time for the tables to turn, a little bit.
E3. Everyone I know loves Geum Ja but I feel like I ought to root for Hee Jae because she’s the one who deceived him and did him dirty, so I feel like he’s the victim. So to see her succeed at out-weaseling Hee Jae this episode, feels like he’s been beaten down twice, and I don’t feel like that’s fair.
Of course, the entire game set up between Hee Jae and Geum Ja isn’t fair to begin with; they’re both breaking rules and playing dirty to get the upper hand, so strictly speaking, neither of them should win.
E3. I did notice that Geum Ja was quite thrilled to have her adversary put her in a difficult spot. The adrenaline of the challenge is quite heady for her, and she even remarks that Hee Jae’s so sexy like that. Hm. Does she have actual feelings for Hee Jae, then?
E4. I really like the tipsy scene at the bar. First of all, it’s the first time I’ve seen Hee Jae and Geum Ja work together on anything, even if it’s a small thing like getting Yu Mi (Hwang Bo Ra) too drunk to say and ask uncomfortable things about their relationship. Those little eye signals they shoot at each other, in the process of drinking Yu Mi under the table, was quite thrilling to me, because for once, they’re on the same side.
Afterwards, with Yu Mi passed out between them, I find the momentary ceasefire quite refreshing. “How could you send her back to that hellhole?” … “Are you really that cruel?” … “Have you ever been sincere toward anyone in your life?” The questions are answered with a measure of honesty, fueled by tipsy abandon. In this moment, for what it’s worth, I feel like their guards are mutually lowered, and they’re allowing themselves to be honest, at least to some degree. I liked that.
At Song & Kim
E4. Geum Ja getting scouted to be a partner at Song & Kim is a twist I didn’t see coming. I’m cautiously optimistic coz this does shake things up, and might even give Hee Jae and Geum Ja reason to stand on the same side.
E5. I found this episode pretty meh until the last part, when Geum Ja throws herself and Hee Jae into the supply room to avoid Yu Mi, and the two end up in heated close proximity, with angry gestures and urgent, fierce whispers. This finally feels like the kind of explosive chemistry that everyone’s been gushing about, where all the anger basically looks like they’re about to jump each other’s bones. Hee Jae’s answer to Geum Ja’s question about what they were, exactly, is telling and intriguing. “Two people in love.” He’s speaking for her too, not just for himself. Is he right?
E6. Joo Ji Hoon really does have great reaction faces. That look he throws at Geum Ja when he realizes that she has his favorite music cued up in her car, is so great. It’s a knowing look, laced with amusement, and an “Aha, I caught you” sort of flavor, and I think this is going to be one of my favorite things in this show. I like the idea of them discovering real feelings for each other, underneath the alternating nonchalance and animosity.
E6. Now that any and all pretense is gone, and also, now that they’ve moved past attack and defense mode enough, they’re starting to have honest conversations. Like the one in the car, where he asks her why she chose to be a lawyer, and she answers that she’d always believed that knowing the law would help her be safe. It suddenly dawns on Hee Jae that they’ve never talked like this before, and I hope this means that we’ll have more good conversations between them.
E6. Now that they’re starting to work together on the case, however grudgingly, they’re turning out to be a great tag team. The odds are stacked against them now, but that should just increase their teamwork, I think. Like it or not, they complement each other well. Geum Ja’s quick to think out of the box, and she’s street smart and wily, while Hee Jae knows the system well and has a respectable reputation within it.
E7. The thing that strikes me most this episode, are the little signs that Hee Jae and Geum Ja are now on the same side, albeit grudgingly, at times. There’s an unspoken synergy between them, when things get tough, that I really like. It’s almost like they’re telepathically connected; they sometimes don’t even need to finish their sentences, and they’re on the same page, in understanding their combined position, in the case.
E7. The way they each take turns casting grudging admiring glances at the other person, with small appreciative smiles tugging at their lips, is great. I feel like I’m watching two powerful hyenas circle each other, trying to decide if they want to fight each other, or embrace each other. It’s like, this is how they flirt, brain appreciating brain, and it’s quite thrilling to watch, actually.
I also like the concessions they are making, like the way Geum Ja tells Hee Jae that she trusts him. Their language is also, quite thrillingly, casual. Even as she tells him on the phone that she trusts him, she doesn’t address him as Attorney Yoon; she uses the much more casual and intimate “you.” Ooh.
Plus! He winks at her, as they pass the baton in the courtroom. And it’s not a taunting wink, like how you might wink at an enemy. It’s an “over to you” inside joke, almost, kind of wink, and I dig it.
E7. I love that little detail, that Hee Jae mouths the words, as Geum Ja says them, “That is all, Your Honor.” It’s like how people air-play their most loved drum or electric guitar solo, while listening to their favorite song by their favorite band. They know the exact timing, rhythm and inflection, and it’s executed completely in sync with the band. It goes to show just how in sync these two are.
E7. And then there’s how they wordlessly do a low-five, once Geum Ja is back at the table. They don’t even look at each other; it’s all done completely in rhythm with each other; all the thank you nods are done with other people instead, while they’re back-to-back, almost, with each other. This is how people behave, when they are one unit. I love how they may not have articulated it, but are operating seamlessly as one unit.
This combination of reluctant admiration and seamless teamwork is working for me very nicely.
E8. There’s a lot more vulnerability between Geum Ja and Hee Jae this episode, and I’m surprised, but.. it moves me. On the surface, they are still at odds, and they are still bickering and taking jibes at each other, but, it’s becoming clear that beneath that proud surface, there is an attachment and care that runs deeper than they’d like to admit.
E8. The way a tipsy Hee Jae seeks out Geum Ja, even after they’ve parted prickly ways for the night, right after he’s discovered that his own secretary had been the leak that gave Geum Ja all the personal information she’d needed in order to pull off her love trap, reeks of a I-can’t-help-myself sort of helplessness. “I hate that our paths keep crossing, but I hate it more, if I can’t see you.” Squee?
I appreciate the honesty, even though it’s fueled by a measure of intoxication – brought on by both the alcohol and the emotion of it all. I love how he admits that he’d missed her and had wanted to see her. That feels so refreshingly candid. The way Geum Ja tells him to stay where he is, and to just live the way he has, and get married and have kids, feels like a warning of sorts, to stay away from her. And yet, that warning seems sincerely intended for his good.
E8. When Hee Jae witnesses how upset Geum Ja is, to see her dad, he comes to see her in her office, and brings her whiskey and a glass, and tells her she can talk about it, if she’d like. To my surprise, she does talk about it, and in a few quick sentences, Hee Jae understands not only the violence and brokenness that marked Geum Ja’s youth, but also, the scars that plague her now, in her inexplicable fear of her father, and asks what he can do for her.
There are tears burgeoning on both sides, and when Geum Ja says that Hee Jae just needs to stay there, it feels like a sincere expression of not wanting to be alone. With his own tears rising, Hee Jae tells her that she can use him, if she likes; that she’s good at that, but he’ll let it slide, tonight. Gurgle. So much vulnerability; I love it, so much. In that moment, Hee Jae sees Geum Ja’s pain, and he’s putting aside his own hurt, and offering himself to help alleviate her pain, even if it hurts him again.
When Geum Ja takes him up on the offer and walks into a passionate embrace with him, murmuring that tonight never happened, it feels like a moment of deep release; all the feelings they’ve held in check for each other, rushing to the surface, fueled by vulnerability and emotions, buoyed by the affirmation of not being alone. It’s complicated, but there’s a sincerity and earnestness running both ways, underneath all the complexity, and I really like that.
E9. The highlight for me this episode, was seeing Hee Jae get jealous of Geum Ja spending time with new client Kevin Jung, to the extent that he’d put aside his dignity and find a reason to chase her down at the elementary school she happens to be at, while helping Kevin register his son for school.
Jealous Hee Jae is always amusing and entertaining to watch. That said, he does overstep boundaries and come across as rather rude, especially at the end, where he gatecrashes Geum Ja’s conversation and dinner with Kevin, interrupting the conversation and stealing food, in one fell swoop. It’s entertaining, yes, but I don’t think it’s very proper or polite behavior.
E10. It seems quite significant that Hee Jae and Geum Ja revert to banmal when they’re alone together, and even when they’re bickering, Geum Ja uses the word “자기” (jagi) to refer to him, which I believe is a friendlier, more intimate term than “너” (neo). I also find it quite significant that Hee Jae admits that he was gatecrashing her meeting with Kevin, partly for personal reasons. And, Geum Ja also admits that the meeting was part-meeting, part-date. Things are getting all personal and mixed up in here, and I’m curious to see how these two manage.
E10. Even though Geum Ja uses the ol’ bait ‘n switch to send Hee Jae up to Namsan and get him out of her hair, the conversation that preludes it feels honest and somewhat vulnerable. She talks about what makes them different, and he talks about how bridging differences is how people relate. It feels like he’s trying to find common ground for them, and his shocked surprise at being left in the cable car by himself, is so genuine. And her semi-regret, wondering whether she should’ve gone with him after all, seems genuine too.
E10. Hee Jae’s reaction to Detective Park (Hong Ki Joon) seeking him out and asking about Geum Ja’s father’s case, under the pretense of being asked to work on the case, is quite powerful. The fact that he guesses right away, that Detective Park isn’t seeking out Geum Ja instead of Hee Jae because she is the victim in the case, says a lot about how much he’s been thinking about Geum Ja, and how closely he’s been paying attention to the details of the vague, broad statements that she makes. He knows instantly that she’s the victim, and the way that tears subtly sheen in his eyes, as he utters his resolute, detailed promise not to affect her life negatively in any way, is magnetic. In this moment, I’d trust him with my life, if I were in Geum Ja’s shoes.
E10. Hee Jae’s feelings for Geum Ja become even more complex, now that he knows the details of her past, and understands how much she’s suffered.
Also, the fact that we see Hee Jae think back to the kiss back in Geum Ja’s office, and kind of have to shake himself out of it, shows us how much she’s affecting him.
E10. That scene, when Geum Ja meets the cult leader’s daughter and shows her burn scars to match the girl’s knife scars, is pretty great, and it’s all the more powerful, when the camera pulls away, and reveals that Hee Jae’s been watching around the corner, tears burgeoning in his eyes to 1, see her scars in broad daylight (since I assume he’s already felt them in the darkness of his intimate times with Geum Ja), and 2, see her stand strong as a survivor, despite the scars that she still bears. I feel like in this moment, he’s pained on her behalf, yet moved by her strength, while feeling all over conflicted in general.
E11. There’s a recurring thing, where Hee Jae and Geum Ja turn to each other when they are feeling down. Hee Jae’s called or sought out Geum Ja several times while tipsy, and he does it a couple of times this episode. And there was the time when Geum Ja agreed to use Hee Jae, to assuage her bad feelings, leading to.. some kind of sexytimes. I think it says a lot that these two keep reaching for each other, when the going gets rough. They mean more to each other than they’d like to admit.
E11. The way Hee Jae asks Geum Ja to comfort him, at the end of the episode, feels like a dare, almost. “Do you think I need comforting? Then go ahead. Comfort me.” The way he levels his gaze at her is so pregnant with meaning. It feels like he’s not there to seduce her; he’s feeling beaten down, and he doesn’t want her pity, but he does want her comfort, if she will give it, and he’s putting himself out there, at least a little bit, to see if she’ll care for him, in this moment.
E11. It also seems that Geum Ja keeps telling Hee Jae shrewd truths about himself, which make him uncomfortable, and which also make him think. This episode, she tells him that he’s too sheltered.
E11. This episode, they call each other out on leading exhausting lives, and it feels like they really do see each other, as annoyed and aggravated as they get, at each other.
E12. What I did find surprising, is Hee Jae’s admission that he likes Geum Ja. He admits it to Kevin, which was surprising enough, but he also later admits it to Geum Ja too. When Geum Ja counters that what he feels is pity and not affection, Hee Jae spells it out in no uncertain terms, “I… am in love with Jung Geum Ja who used to be Jung Eun Yeong. Your name could be Kim Hee Sun or anything else and I still wouldn’t care. Kim Hee Sun, Jung Eun Yeong, or whatever else, you’re still you. That’s how you used to be and that’s how you will be.”
How.. unequivocal. I like how adamant Hee Jae is, in articulating his love for Geum Ja. Significantly, he doesn’t use the word “like,” which is what most people prefer, especially when they’re not actually in a relationship; he reaches for the much richer, much more significant “love,” and emphatically declares his feelings. Wow. I’d be hard pressed not to be moved, in Geum Ja’s shoes.
And in typical Geum Ja fashion, she reciprocates in an unorthodox way. She doesn’t tell Hee Jae, “I love you too.” Instead, she tells him that she’s worried about him, and that she has information that his father is going to go down, and that he should save his father, if he can.” Well, in lawyer-speak, I guess that’s as good as “I love you too”?
E13. It’s quite nice to see Geum Ja step up to show concern for Hee Jae, as his world basically falls apart. For all of her gung-ho nonchalant bluster, Geum Ja does genuinely care about Hee Jae, and it’s high time that we see that come into play.
E13. That moment when Hee Jae steps tiredly out of his office, and just looks in Geum Ja’s direction, as if to say, “I’ll leave things to you,” and Geum Ja nods imperceptibly, as if to say, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this,” is basically the highlight of the episode for me (and yes, that means my biggest highlight was a pretty mild one). I like the synergy that they have, in spite of their protests otherwise. They get each other, and often, words aren’t needed, between them, just like in this moment.
E13. That love confession at the end of the episode was supposed to be a highlight, I think. But it fell rather flat for me, honestly. Maybe it’s because I feel like what’s said during the hearing might be twisted to gain maximum advantage and therefore may not be the truth? Maybe it’s because I prefer that Hee Jae and Geum Ja make the love declarations to each other, rather than stated to a disciplinary committee. I’m not sure. I just feel like this was supposed to land with more oomph, but I just wasn’t feeling it, so much. But, I take the positive step that Show’s giving us, that both Hee Jae and Geum Ja are finally overtly admitting to having been in love.
Post-Song & Kim
E14. I appreciate that when Hee Jae calls Geum Ja, she directs him to hold his head up high, and pack his things. The shot of the both of them, leaving Song & Kim with their things, with their heads held high, is equal parts poignant and badass. Poignant because it’s clear that the team members don’t want them to leave, and badass because they’re clearly not cowed by how things are shaping up; this will not end them, and you can see it in the defiant tilt of their chins.
Also, I love the little detail, that as they stand and wait for the elevator, when Geum Ja notices that Hee Jae’s hand is trembling, she reaches out to hold and steady his hand. That says so much about her sincerity in caring for him, underneath the unwavering straight-ahead gaze and stoic surface.
E14. I do love that Hee Jae and Geum Ja decide to join forces, and work out of her old office.
The budding team
Even though Hee Jae’s team was uncomfortable to begin with, at Geum Ja’s arrival, it isn’t long before Geum Ja’s influence starts to permeate the team, and a new team dynamic and dynamism is born. I found it very gratifying to see the team come together more strongly than before, and it was also great to see the various members taking to Geum Ja.
My soft spot is for the burgeoning sisterhood between Geum Ja and Attorney Boo, which I found especially endearing, considering Attorney Boo’s interest in Hee Jae, and how this doesn’t prevent the two women from working well together.
E9. I did find it quite entertaining that Gi Hyeok and the rest of the team are learning to hustle on the ground, to sniff out information that they need. The visual, of the whole team descending on the pork rind place, and offering unsolicited free legal advice to Gnosis employees, and then scoring some important nuggets of information from said slightly tipsy, loose-tongued employees, is quite fun. It feels like a good departure from their usual protocol of working strictly from the office.
E10. That’s quite cute, that Attorney Boo is learning to be more of a badass when facing investigative situations. I like that she’s all politely fierce in the moment, then nervous and skittish afterwards. I like that she’s sucking it up and being brave, when she’s clearly outside of her comfort zone.
E10. I like seeing Attorney Boo and Geum Ja working together. When Hee Jae’s in the picture, there are complications, since Attorney Boo seems attracted to him, and he’s obviously preoccupied with Geum Ja. But when he’s not in the picture, these two women complement each other well, and get Important Stuff done, and I like that.
E11. I also really like that despite the fact Geum Ja doesn’t give Attorney Boo all the details, Attorney Boo’s admiration for Geum Ja keeps growing anyway, and she seems quite pleased to be Geum Ja’s wing-woman, and even initiates a fist-bump with her. That’s cute.
E14. I do love that Hee Jae and Geum Ja decide to join forces, and work out of her old office, and I also love that Attorneys Kim and Na (Hyun Bong Sik and Jeong Ji Hwan) show up, asking to be part of the team. Aw. Now they’re just short of Attorney Boo, and the team would be complete again. I do love that last scene of the new team doing their slo-mo strut, as they leave the courthouse. It’s bold, audacious, and proud, and I like it.
Oh Gyeong Hwa as Ji Eun
I have a big soft spot for Ji Eun, who is perfect as Geum Ja’s loyal assistant. She’s quiet and unassuming, cheers her boss on unflaggingly and pops up to provide support without ever getting in her way, but also, matter-of-factly calls out her boss on morally dubious behavior.
She cares for Geum Ja and is loyal to her in spades, even though she can’t resist serving up a bit of sass from time to time, and I just loved her.
STUFF THAT WAS OK
Gi Hyeok and Yoo Mi
These two are just.. incorrigible and exasperating, but endearing in their stupid-goofy ways.
Gi Hyeok and Yu Mi are perfect for each other; they’re both such hammy blabbermouths who can’t help but wear their hearts on their sleeves. I was slightly annoyed by their unhelpful blabby ways, but they’re so goofy and earnestly in love that I can’t hold it too much against them.
Lee Kyung Young as CEO Song [SPOILERS]
CEO Song is.. serviceable, as our resident baddie, I’d say.
It doesn’t take long into our story, to see that CEO Song is a lot shadier than he first appears. He uses people as he sees fit, and treats them well while they’re useful, but he’s also quick to discard people like used paper towels.
CEO Song is suitably underhanded, ruthless, and glib, and fulfills our need for a bad guy reasonably well, but he didn’t really pop for me, as a Formidable Big Bad.
Kim Ho Jung as CEO Kim [SPOILERS]
I’d been intrigued at first, when Show introduced CEO Kim, because I was hoping that she’d be instrumental in bringing down CEO Song, especially since she’s suspicious of him and how he was involved in her sister slipping into a comatose state.
However, Show doesn’t make much use of CEO Kim at all, and by the end, she just sits pretty and thanks Geum Ja for doing all the work. Not very impressive, especially considering my early high hopes. Bummer.
Also, I do think that Kim Ho Jung could’ve used a lot more screen presence. In episode 14, CEO Kim confronting CEO Song was a scene that would’ve landed with more oomph, if Kim Ho Jung had had more gravitas about her. She regularly sneers through her smile, but there’s a lack of strong presence about her, I feel, and as a result, her confrontation with CEO Song feels kind of toothless, from where I’m sitting, which is unfortunate.
As a random side note, I realized belatedly that Kim Ho Jung looks a lot like Isabella Rosellini. It’s quite a striking resemblance, no?
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
I think this is a case of “your mileage may vary,” in terms of how this final stretch lands. I’m guessing that if the machinations and the associated twists and turns have thrilled you up to this point, then this penultimate episode would be right up your alley. However, if you’re in this more for the characters, and haven’t felt super engaged with the cases and the politics behind them before this episode, then I’m thinking that you’d be feeling as neutral as I am right now.
I honestly feel rather torn about the scene where Geum Ja weaponizes her aegyo and gives the hotel staff a really hard time, in order to investigate the case. On the one hand, Kim Hye Soo kills it, and delivers angry aegyo on steroids, and it’s rather amusing because it’s so different from Geum Ja’s usual style. On the other hand, it really bugs me to see service staff being bullied or put in a difficult position by a difficult or rude customer, and that’s essentially what Geum Ja is doing. Because of this, I can’t fully enjoy the Intended Funny of the heist-like moment, and instead, I feel the tension of feeling torn about this. Not great.
When CEO Song goes to Choong Law Firm to seek out Hee Jae, a part of me feels like I should find Hee Jae’s barbed answers to CEO Song satisfying, because he’s finally making an overt stand about how he sees CEO Song and his schemes. However, in terms of how the scene plays out, I feel like Hee Jae comes across like a young kid trying hard – and failing – to out-talk an older relative. CEO Song more or less manages to keep his composure throughout the conversation, whereas Hee Jae appears visibly terse, and does not mince his words or try to appear polite, which, I think, makes him look less in control and therefore at a disadvantage, unfortunately.
This disadvantage might not pop at this point, but later in the episode, when CEO Song denies all of Hee Jae’s accusations in court, and Hee Jae’s dad corroborates, Hee Jae is left blindsided, his entire plan to take CEO Song down via his dad’s case, apparently biting the dust.
I do like that Geum Ja scouts Attorney Boo to join the Choong team, since she’s the only one that’s missing, if you don’t count Gi Hyeok (and I’m not counting Gi Hyeok). I love how quickly Attorney Boo accepts the offer, and how welcoming the rest of the team is, at the team dinner. Yay for reunited teammates!
I don’t know how much I buy Gi Hyeok’s sincerity in going to Hee Jae and giving him information relevant to the case. He says that he’s doing it because he’s a lawyer too and he doesn’t feel good about how he’d wrapped up Ha Chan Ho’s case. I have trouble accepting his reason at face value because we see that right before this, he’d been angsting about not having any meaningful or important work to do. I’m thinking that if Song & Kim had kept him busy after the whole ousting of Hee Jae and Geum Ja saga, that he might not have been so quick to feel a prick on his conscience.
Also. Didn’t Hee Jae and Geum Ja get suspended for two years after the disciplinary hearing? How then is Hee Jae able to defend his father in court? This seems like a rather big oversight? Or did I not understand the ruling correctly?
The episode ends with Geum Ja giving Hee Jae a new way to take down CEO Song, with circumstantial evidence that he’d been at the scene of Seo Jeong Hwa’s murder, and that looks like it will be the main arc driving the story forward in the finale. Well, that and how Geum Ja’s being attacked by someone trying to stab her.
Show serves up lots of drama this episode, to be sure, so I do think that viewers who’ve managed to engage with the cases themselves would be quite entertained.
I, on the other hand, found it just ok. I did like that moment, though, when Geum Ja admits to Hee Jae that she’d told the disciplinary committee that she’d loved him. He says nothing, but the slight tug at his lips, as he takes a sip of his whiskey, definitely tells me that he’s quite pleased indeed, to hear it.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Show delivers a finale that’s in keeping with the tone and character that it’s set for itself, so, no big surprises this episode.
Everything on the legal front is wrapped up; Ha Chan Ho is acquitted of murder charges, and CEO Song’s involvement in Seo Jeong Hwa’s murder comes to light. The plot trucks along at a brisk pace, with things getting put in place in quick time, and to me, it all feels quite akin to a caper movie, both in pace and tone.
By this point in the show, I’d mostly lost interest in the cases themselves anyway, so I didn’t really mind that stuff was coming together in such an almost convenient fashion. The only thing that niggled at me, is how Geum Ja’s stepfather ends up dying, and she’s shown just kind of swallowing any resulting feelings she might’ve had, on hearing the news. I mean, if the assailant had been lying in wait to stab Geum Ja, then the fact that her stepfather got stabbed at all, was technically because of her. I thought a little bit more emotional resolution would’ve been good, not just for the audience’s sake, but for Geum Ja’s too.
I did like the strong partnership vibe we had going on, when Geum Ja and Hee Jae split up and meet CEO Song and Chairman Son (Kim Jong Goo) separately, thus doing the divide-and-conquer thing effectively. I liked how equal Hee Jae and Geum Ja feel as partners, in this plot point, and how clearly they trust each other to do the necessary thing well. There is no hint of doubt on either side, and I liked that a lot.
Would it have been good to see CEO Song’s fall from grace with more clarity, with a close-up of him squirming under the weight of the consequences of his crimes? Yes, for sure. The swift flashing-headlines manner in which Show deals with that feels rushed, particularly since the narrative spotlight for Show’s final stretch, has been all about taking down CEO Song. This felt oddly truncated, I thought.
I guess Show’s emphasis was always on our characters after all, despite its detour in focusing on the cases so strongly, and perhaps that’s why Show swopped out screen time of CEO Song paying for his crimes, for shots of the Choong team popping confetti and clinking glasses to celebrate their win.
I did like the pockets of emotional space given to Hee Jae and Geum Ja this episode. There’s no overt defining of their relationship, but Hee Jae is allowed to express concern for Geum Ja, and Geum Ja allows herself to lean on him after waking up from her trauma-induced nightmares. That scene of them falling asleep facing each other, while squeezing together on her office couch, was cute and heartwarming, and I take Show’s point, that they are able to fully relax and sleep in each other’s presence.
I also like the shot of Hee Jae and Geum Ja locking gazes while laughing among the celebratory office gang. It shows that they’re fully on the same side now, which is nice to see. When we see them standing together in front of the big building that Geum Ja’s been planning to buy all this time, it doesn’t seem like there’s any new definition of their relationship, but there’s something rather freeing about Hee Jae telling Geum Ja in such a frank manner, that he’s been studying hard to get to know her, and Geum Ja not fighting him on it.
Also, I appreciate how both their wardrobe styles have shifted to meet in the middle; Geum Ja’s not in her matching tracksuits anymore, and neither is Hee Jae in his muted sharp suits. They’re both dressed in quirky smart-casual styles, and I take that as shorthand to indicate that these two have found a common ground on which to co-exist.
We finally learn why Geum Ja’s so set on buying the building that she keeps staring up at; it’d been the site of the orphanage where she’d kept getting abandoned repeatedly, and she’s decided that buying the building is the only way to turn the sight of the building into something better than a painful memory. Hee Jae teases Geum Ja for always playing big, then basically throws his lot in with hers, as he skips after her, declaring, “Sure! Let’s do it!”
I do love the final scene of them walking completely in sync across the crosswalk, and onto the next street, bantering, laughing, and just generally getting along. It’s true that it would’ve been nice to see them actually rekindling their romance, but seeing them being so comfortable and chummy with each other, while walking towards a common goal, is just as – if not more – satisfying.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Nothing exceptional about the somewhat (muted) caper-like plot, but worth it for the fantastic performances of both leads.
FINAL GRADE: B