Verdict On Attorney Woo

“Extrordinary Attorney Woo” handles stereotypes, law, and drama with brilliant chracters and writing.

When I signed up to write this review, I did not think I was getting myself into 20 hours of K-drama. But, after two weeks of diligent Netflix watching instead of prioritizing my AP homework, I can promise that it was worth it. 

The first season of Netflix’s latest Korean drama series, “Extraordinary Attorney Woo,” aired its final episode on August 18. The show follows the journey of Woo Young-Woo (Park Eun-bin), the first lawyer with autism in Korean history. After graduating with honors from law school at Seoul National University, Young-woo begins her first year at Hanbada, one of Korea’s most prestigious law firms. 

It’s at Hanbada that Young-Woo meets the rest of the principal characters: Lee Jun-ho (Kang Tae-oh), a friendly member of the firm’s litigation team, Choi Su-yeon (Yoon-kyeong Ha), a classmate turned colleague, Kwon Min-woo (Joo Jong-hyuk), a fellow graduate and new rival, and Jung Myung-seok (Kang Ki-young), the senior attorney in charge of their crew. 

Part of the show is driven by Hanbada’s day-to-day operations: every episode is a different legal case. From land disputes to child custody, Young-Woo and her team tackle quarreling old men, a North Korean refugee, and an unlucky bride whose gown slips off on her way down the aisle. These episodic characters keep the audience engaged while developing overarching plots between our cast of lawyers. 

More prominently, “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” takes time to explore Young-woo’s experiences with autism, and its effect on her relationships. As a child, she preferred her own company, and therefore has a complicated relationship with her father. Later, Young-woo’s romantic relationships are complicated by her tendency to prioritize work, since she is so used to dropping everything to work through bursts of creativity.  Her friendshipswell, those are just about the same as any other 27-year-old’s. They’re a lot of fun. 

One point that the show focuses on is that autism is a spectrum. What makes the portrayal of autism difficult is its complexity: it cannot be defined by a laundry list of tics or sensitivities. (Park Eun-bin does not have autism in real life, but she did meet with a professor to learn more about the condition and studied general characteristics.) Young-woo is not representative of all people with autism; she falls into her own place on the spectrum. What I have trouble reconciling is that the media loves “brilliant” characters with autism: lawyers, doctors, scientists. Groundbreakers. But the pop culture representation of those who aren’t high-functioning groundbreakers is lacking, which can be frustrating because their stories are just as important to represent in media. 

That being said, one of my favorite aspects of  this show is that it cares about its characters. So often in shows, big personalities fall flat or backstories are left unexplored. “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” spends time with each individual and unpacks what makes them tick. We see their motivations, their complexities, and it’s easy to empathize with each of them. It can be tempting as a writer to give each character an archetype. The nemesis. The angel. The love interest. And while some characters unavoidably act within these confines, in the end it isn’t easy to label them one way or the other. Even the backstory of more minor characters comes into playYoung-Woo’s dad is more than just the guy who makes gimbap all day. You’ll see. 

And, ugh, the romantic moments. They’re cheesy and obviously overdone, but I love them. 

From a legal standpoint, the show is also a lot of fun to watch. While the courtroom scenes aren’t meticulously crafted, every episode has an “a-ha” moment for Young-Woo as she fits a piece of the case’s puzzle into place. (A CG image of a dolphin or a whale is likely to follow, and her hair will probably blow in nonexistent wind.) Every lawyer has a few eureka moments working on a case. I’ve had them, and they are golden. Watching Young-Woo fit her argument into place is almost as satisfying as doing it myself. My only complaint is that I know each episode has its own little revelation, so eventually the device becomes redundant. 

I also appreciate that the show didn’t shy away from heavier topics. Young-woo and her team see a range of conflict in their pages of lawsuitssuicide, sexual harrasment, assaultand aren’t afraid to discuss them. What I like most is that the topics are humanized instead of sensationalized; rather than contribute to a stereotype or misconception, the topic is put into a personal perspective and made accessible for the audience to understand. I wasn’t expecting to feel contemplative after an episode of this show, and yet, I sat and reflected more than once. 

Whether you’re a K-drama veteran or a newcomer like me, “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” is good for at least a trial run. It’s well-written, wholesome, and easy to watch; perfect for your next binge or a long break between homework assignments.