Miss Hammurabi: Episode 1 recap

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I’m slowly inching my way into updating this blog just like how I’m slowly inching my way into watching Korean dramas again. After a few months of a dry and long spell, I am returning to both this blog and Kdramaland. I’ve decided that out of the three dramas that I’m watching right now, I’ll be recapping Miss Hammurabi starring Go Ara, L from INFINITE, and Sung Dong-il.

Fully pre-produced but currently airing, the drama follows the life of our main female lead Park Cha Oh-reum (Go Ara) as a rookie judge. While on the job, she meets Im Ba-reun (L) as well as Presiding Judge Han Se-Sang (Sung Dong-il) and together, they work on various cases and suits.

This drama wasn’t one that I was going to watch because of concerns that I had regarding our two leads. However, it wasn’t until I came across some positive reviews and comments about it that I decided to give it a try. Fair enough, the drama did surprise me and capture my attention within the first episode. It’s charming, it’s cute, and it’s powerful, balancing both the mix of serious issues with an airy and light tone as well. Fast forward two episodes later and I decided that I’d be recapping this show after watching the end of episode three.

Miss Hammurabi: Episode 1 Recap

Our first episode starts off with Ba-reun’s mother trying to wake up both him and his father in their tidy and cozy apartment. When she fails to wake up Dad, she heads on to Ba-reun’s room and nags at him to go grab a cup of coffee. Ba-reun doesn’t budge so Mom continues her nagging. Since they’ve been behind on paying rent, their landlord has been pestering them about it. Upon hearing this, Ba-reun finally gives in. He’ll go grab that cup of coffee like how his mom wanted him to.

But of course, there’s a catch. Upon meeting with the matchmaker, Ba-reun discovers that it wasn’t just one cup of coffee that his mom wanted him to drink, but three in total: one for each blind date.

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His first blind date is with the daughter of a large business. While she introduces herself to Ba-reun and tries to impress him by not only speaking about her hobbies and interests but also pulling her hairstrands back behind her ears occasionally, Ba-reun doesn’t notice. Instead, he’s busy recalling the rumors and comments that he had heard about the company that the daughter is from. Date #1 ends unsuccessfully.

The next date is with the daughter of a private, money-lending business. The first thing Ba-reun automatically thinks of is shark loans and tax evasions. Hahaha. He really doesn’t care about these girls huh? Unlike the first girl, this second one is chatty — maybe a little too chatty for Ba-reun. There are no results for this blind date either.

It’s the last (but definitely not least) blind date. Two down, just one more to go. This last blind date arrives with her mother. Turns out her father is a Congressman who wants to run for governor. The entire time they talk about politics and encourage Ba-reun to think about changing his occupation from that of a judge to a politician. This turns Ba-reun off and the third blind date also ends.

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In the next scene, Ba-reun is seen playing the piano. The little kid next to him questions why he’s not good at playing the piano although he’s an adult and even more, why didn’t he learn how to play the piano when he was younger. Ba-reun fires back at the little kid by asking him why he’s not good at it even though he’s been learning for five years (OMG BA-REUN PLS, LEAVE THE KID ALONE). Ba-reun shares that there’s only one piano piece he likes to play and resumes to playing that same piano piece.

Ba-reun rides the subway to get to work. While on the subway, Ba-reun recalls his high school memories while glancing at the ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ book in front of him. We then return to his high school years, when he would stand by the window reading the book while his girl classmates – like Park Cha Oh-reum (Go Ara) – would steal glances at him. It’s in the library in particular when Ba-reun and Cha Oh-reum form a special bond. He hands her his cherished ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ book and lets her keep it. *squeals* HIGH SCHOOL CRUSHES? YES. I’M HERE FOR IT.

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Once the flashbacks end, we return to the subway scene. A mom blabbers on her phone loudly and aggressively, disturbing all the other passengers around her. Another passenger just a seat away sits with his legs spread so opened it’s as if he doesn’t know how to close them. The man sitting in between them – aggravated and frustrated – leaves and this vacant spot is then filled by none other than Park Cha Oh-reum! Ba-reun realizes that his high school crush is sitting near him and he freaks out. He can’t believe his eyes. Meanwhile, Oh-reum gets the legs-wide-opened man to close his legs and she also manages to get the angry blabbering mom to leave. Truly, not all heroes wears capes.

We return to the old high school years again. While sitting outside on a bench, Ba-reun asks Oh-reum how her piano lessons are going, but contrary to what he expected, she expresses hesitance in liking them. She adds that her piano teacher keeps touching her. Ba-reun’s face immediately drops, but before he can say another word it suddenly starts to pour (see, this is why I hate the rain ASDKFJD). He protects her from the rain by holding his backpack over her head and bids farewell with her when she gets picked up by a driver.

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Back to the present, a rush of people enters the subway, including a young student and an old man who happens to be standing right in front of Oh-reum. She immediately notices that something’s wrong and thankfully and quickly discovers that the old man had been inappropriately touching the girl. She captures it on video and calls out the man for his disgusting behavior. She even lands a kick to his private part when he explodes in anger at her (which I might add, Ba-reun quickly got up to help her and defend her AKSDJFD). The situation ends with the student being rescued and the old man – who was also a professor – getting arrested.

Oh-reum thanks Ba-reun for helping her and questions him about his job as a judge upon finding out about his occupation a little bit earlier. She shares that she’s beginning her first day at work as a judge too and proudly shows him her badge and the department she’ll be working at: Civil Case Department 44. But oh wait… that’s also the same place that Ba-reun works at! AHHHH.  This then prompts Oh-reum to put the pieces together and realize that yes.. they went to high school together (yay she remembers now!).

Unlike what we thought earlier, Ba-reun wasn’t so popular with the girls or with anyone really. People perceived him as arrogant and cocky and it was really only Oh-reum who harbored a crush on the guy. Not to anyone’s surprise, he also had a crush on Oh-reum, resulting in mutual feelings between the two to develop. Aww.

Back to the present, Oh-reum extends her hand out for a handshake with Ba-reun and reminds him of her hand after a few seconds of no response from him. Reminded, Ba-reun finally but quickly shakes her hand (“I don’t have any diseases or infections on my hand or anything!”). They head out to work together and agree to call each other by their respective judge names to be remain formal at work.

Once they arrive at their work building, Ba-reun gets his employee card ready for the gate opener to read so they could access the rest of the building. However, Oh-reum holds him back and wishes to be the one to use her card instead to open the gate. It’s an emotional experience for her as she uses her card to open the gates to the rest of the building. She wants to try this amazing experience and feeling just one more time, but Ba-reun kindly tells her to move on. Before arriving into their offices, Ba-reun notes that Oh-reum seems different from high school, but before he could elaborate on his comment, the elevator they were waiting for opens and he heads inside first.

Once inside their department, Ba-reun gives Oh-reum a rundown of what her first few days of work will be like. One of the biggest things will be meetings with several people, including the Presiding Judge who they both go visit first. However, the Presiding Judge Han Se-sang (Sung Dong-il) is busy and therefore, expresses little to no interest in either Ba-reun or Oh-reum. Upon exiting his office, the assistant clerk Lee Do-Yeon (Lee Elijah) reminds both judges of small but important things. Seems like she’s the only one who’s on top of her things at the department asdkfjd.

Ba-reun and Oh-reum reunite in their shared office. They discuss over things like the painting on his side of the wall as well as what their work schedule is usually like. It seems intimidating, difficult, time-consuming, and stressful, but Ba-reun encourages Oh-reum to stay focused. That’s the best way she’ll survive all of this.

He moves on to giving her a tour around the building and of the court and even sit in on civil cases. By the end of the tour, Ba-reun gives her his observations and opinions on the types of cases he’s come across all his years of being a judge. He also advises Oh-reum to be careful around her family and friends; upon discovering that she’s a judge, they’ll suddenly start contacting her for things. The tour concludes with a comment of gratitude from Oh-reum which Ba-reun shyly accepts. She heads out to her number of meetings while he returns to the office to work.

While working, Ba-reun overhears shouting and commotion outside his office. He’s informed by Do-yeon that there’s a Congressman who wants to meet with him, but she’s reluctant to let him in because he didn’t consult to make an appointment with Ba-reun beforehand. Ba-reun lets him in and together they discuss a concern that the Congressman has regarding the owner of a large construction company who’s been a keen supporter of him. Upon requesting a favor from Ba-reun, Ba-reun stops the Congressman in his tracks and refuses to listen to the Congressmen’s request. He’s not going to allow any corruption to happen, regardless of who it is and who he’s talking to (OOH YES, YOU GO BOY. YOU GO!). Ba-reun refutes any of the threats that the Congressman makes against him and kicks the Congressman out of his office.

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He’s left alone in his office and reflects on what just happened. Being a judge comes with its own perks, but it also has its fair shares of disadvantages as well – such as meeting with corrupt people like the Congressman which has caused Ba-reun to loathe certain people. Is being a judge really for him? Can he deal with it for the rest of his life? His little reflection time ends with the entrance of an excited Oh-reum. For the next few hours, they work and they work without taking any breaks in between. That is until Ba-reun receives a text of an article talking about the subway incident between Oh-reum and the professor. He goes on to reading the comments and while some were positive, there were also a few that were not so positive.

Both Ba-reun and Oh-reum are called into Presiding Judge Han’s office and Oh-reum gets scolded by him for causing trouble on her first day of work. Ba-reun tries to butt in to defend Oh-reum, but his attempts are quickly refuted every time by Presiding Judge Han. Just as he yells at Ba-reun for not having any respect for those above and below him in the work place, Presiding Judge Han’s ring tone of ‘Up and Down’ by EXID goes off and he receives a phone call from his wife (LOOOOOL. How funny and awkward). He yells at the two judges to leave and then hides behind his desk to answer the phone call. Once the phone call ends, Presiding Judge Han gets back up only to find Ba-reun and Oh-reum still standing in his office. They finally leave, but without humiliating their boss first. Hahaha.

Ba-reun heads over to visit Judge Jung Bo-Wang (Ryu Deok-hwan) to gather some more information on Presiding Judge Han and the type of person that he is. While conversing, the assistant clerk – who Ba-reun notices is a male – enters to give them some coffee and snacks. Bo-wang isn’t too impressed with the male assistant clerk and wishes for a female one, but Ba-reun points out that assistant clerks can be males as well. YOU TELL ‘EM BA-REUN.

They resume to their conversation about Presiding Judge Han where Bo-wang shares that he can get angry easily, but he’s not evil. We then receive hilarious flashbacks of cases that Presiding Judge Han had covered and how in pretty much every single one of them, it’s always concluded with him getting impatient and yelling at everyone (Sung Dong-il is seriously the funniest when he’s angry. He’s such a natural at it!). Bo-wang also shares the rumor about how Presiding Judge Han has an inferiority complex which can explain for why he keeps his distance away from people. Tired of Bo-wang’s arrogance and endless compliments about himself, Ba-reun ends the visit and leaves the office. Meanwhile, Bo-wang expresses excitement at Civil Case Department 44 — the department that both Ba-reun and Oh-reum belong to. It’s going to be a fun year he smiles.

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But giving away information and details to Ba-reun about Presiding Judge Han isn’t the only thing that Bo-wang does. He also has information on other Presiding Judges, such as the ones he’s seen drinking and eating out with. He tries to impress the Presiding Judges by catering to their needs and socializing with them as that’s one of his biggest strengths. Though he didn’t graduate from a law university (he graduated from an engineering school actually), he was able to become a judge. He spends the rest of the night with the three Presiding Judges in hopes of getting onto their good side and maybe a promotion.

Back at Department 44, Ba-reun and Oh-reum work late into the night. As Ba-reun gets ready to leave work, he gives Oh-reum a few more tips of wise advice before bidding farewell with her. As he’s leaving work, a mom standing outside demanding for answers to a case related to her son stops Ba-reun. She wants to know who the judge assigned to her son’s case was. Her son unfortunately passed away and she feels as if it was unfair of the judge to dismiss the case. Although Ba-reun kindly tells her to make an appeal if she wishes to seek answers, the mom reacts angrily and slaps his face. His first day at Department 44 doesn’t seem to be all that well.

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Ba-reun’s day really isn’t going well. Along with watching his mother beg their landlady to help them out with rent like how she had been doing the past two years, he discovers that his dad is going to court again. Angry, he marches to his room. That anger turns into guilt and self-reflection when he receives a notification about his salary for the month of February. He recalls the job offer he had received earlier from another judge from another department and how much more money he could have made then, but that he rejected due to the big corruption behind the department. Although Ba-reun is reminded of this moment, he tries to remain optimistic of his current situation.

The next day on the ride to work, Ba-reun remains undistracted by anything or anyone around him – even the person wearing a red plaid outfit and skirt that got all the other men in the subway turning their heads. Unlike what his job requires of him, Ba-reun doesn’t like to socialize, talk to other people, and rather just keep to himself (SAME BA-REUN SAME). As he walks towards his work building, he encounters Oh-reum.. in the same red plaid outfit as the person on the subway was wearing. It was her who stood out on the ride in the subway.

They stop to converse for a little bit, mainly to discuss Ba-reun’s earlier advice to Oh-reum about how she shouldn’t stand out too much at work or else it could lead to trouble. Oh-reum remains confident though and is willing to give things a try and will fight back if she needs to.

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Just right outside of the building is the same mom who had stopped and slapped Ba-reun the night before. She continues to fight for the truth and yearns to know what really happened to her son. Her son had passed away unfortunately due to a medical malpractice at the hospital when he was injured and although the mom sued the hospital, her case was turned away because she had insufficient evidence. Now she’s out fighting for her son to discover what really happened behind those closed hospital doors. Unlike Ba-reun, Oh-reum remains sympathetic to the mom and worries for her.

Inside their work building, Oh-reum catches everyone’s attention with her bold, daring, and confident outfit. She clearly stands out which she was willing to accept. And as expected, Presiding Judge Han disapproves of her outfit. To prove her point that it’s not the woman’s fault for the outfit that she wears and that yes, she can wear whatever it is that she wants, Oh-reum changes into an all-black outfit that even covers her entire face except for her eyes. So which outfit does Presiding Judge Han and Ba-reun like now? Both men hesitate to answer and Presiding Judge Han ends up walking away in embarrassment (but he knew he was wrong puahaha!).

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Back in the office in her normal professional clothing, Oh-reum sets up her side of the office similar to Ba-reun’s. She sets up her favorite painting on her side of the wall and even a small statue on her desk just like how Ba-reun did. Ba-reun takes notice of this but doesn’t say anything about it. Instead, they talk about Oh-reum’s all-black outfit in which she shares the story behind how she got it. Oh-reum also points out that she’s one of those judges who has a creative arts background despite being a judge. She’s grown up with music and playing the piano.

Oh-reum can’t seem to forget about the image of the mom protesting outside of their work building. She eventually asks Ba-reun about it, but he reminds her to stay out of that business. They eventually have a debate about the world and how their roles as judges can either help the world become better or maintain the status quo to prevent it from getting worse. While Oh-reum wishes to help the mom and the world to a larger extent, Ba-reun remains pessimistic and accepts that the world is the way it is and nothing’s going to change. But Oh-reum isn’t going to stay put; she’s going to go out of the boundaries, rules, and regulations that limit her even if it makes her look unprofessional (oof, talk about determination and persistence. This girl’s got it all!).

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Later on that night after work, Ba-reun catches Oh-reum outside of the building with the protesting Mother. He tries to stop Oh-reum from listening to her, but Oh-reum refuses. This mother lost her son and doesn’t have any answers, how could she pretend like nothing’s wrong? Ba-reun, stunned and shocked, says nothing back.

The next day on the ride to work, Ba-reun reflects on the conversation the night before. He slowly starts to realize the importance of empathy and putting yourself in another person’s shoes to understand how they feel. He’s reminded of the third blind date he had (which was shown earlier in the episode) and the challenges he and his parents have had to go through just to make ends meet. No, they’re not rich and they don’t have all the money in the world, and yes, even though Ba-reun is a judge doesn’t mean his family is well off. The blind date ends with Ba-reun walking away with his head and shoulders high (YES BA-REUN, YES!).

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Ba-reun’s mind transitions from his blind date to Oh-reum where he thinks about how she had gone to music school to continue playing the piano. We see him watching her play the piano in a room full of people, but it’s as if he’s the only one in that room watching her at times.

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The episode ends by throwing it back to the day of Ba-reun’s elementary graduation. Ba-reun’s mom yells at Dad for accidentally ruining their wall while taping up one of Ba-reun’s many certificates and is afraid their landlady is going to yell at them again. But Dad isn’t too afraid.Even though Dad’s been wronged by the court before, he believes that Ba-reun is going to become a great judge who will make the world better, or at least better than the world he grew up living in. Dad and Mom eventually leaves the room after successfully taping one out of his many certificates onto the wall: the Good Child award.

My Thoughts:

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Wow, I didn’t realize how many subtle details I missed until I watched this episode the second time around. I also forgot how time-consuming and challenging recapping can be until I watched this episode a second time around! LOL. Scenes where Ba-reun is seen playing the piano with the kid alongside him and how he only plays one specific piano piece makes me think that it must be because of Oh-reum somehow. Maybe he was playing the piano because he missed her and the one piano piece he only plays was one that Oh-reum liked.

In addition to catching the smaller details, re-watching this episode to finish the recap made me really appreciate and understand just how different Ba-reun and Oh-reum are from each other, but also how similar they are at the same time. As we will see in future episodes, Oh-reum is more empathetic, determined, and emotional whereas Ba-reun remains to himself and, despite thinking pessimistically, hopes to make good use of his career as a judge. It’s this contrast that makes me excited to see how their relationship will develop post-high school and now in a professional environment. Ba-reun noted that Oh-reum seems like she’s changed a lot since high school. She must have also endured her own fair shares of difficulties and hardships in the process of becoming a judge so it’ll be fun to watch their relationship develop romantically because they’re so similar but different at the same time.

As we saw in this episode, the two of them became judges for their own reasons: Ba-reun hopes to use this opportunity to help his family prosper and escape their financial crisis while Oh-reum wishes to become a judge to make the world a better place. I can see how Oh-reum is already starting to change Ba-reun’s reserved and confined thoughts. Opinions and notions that he might have kept to himself all this time is slowly starting to change because Oh-reum is influencing him to think differently. Because she’s so empathetic while Ba-reun is the type to mind his own business (because he believes that it’s difficult for people and to a larger extent, the world, to change), Oh-reum is eventually going to influence Ba-reun to empathize and put himself in other people’s shoes in many different ways. It shall be very entertaining seeing that unfold.

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In regards to Oh-reum’s wish to help protesting Mom, I think Ba-reun brought up some really good points. It’s not that he doesn’t want to help her, but rather because helping her would mean disobeying and breaking the rules and boundaries that they as judges can’t cross and that’s a risk that Ba-reun doesn’t and won’t take. He’s afraid to help because he’s unaware of what the consequences are and because he’s been trained and taught to go by the book. Hence, why he believed that protesting Mom should make an appeal if she wishes to uncover the truth. He felt pity for protesting Mom, but held himself back from doing anything to help her because he doesn’t know how to help her or if he does, is afraid to. Ultimately, I think both Oh-reum and Ba-reun’s reactions and thoughts are valid. They’re on opposite sides of the spectrum, but they both bring up really good points.

I think it’s so interesting that Ba-reun believes the world is never going to change so they might as well just operate by the system as to prevent the world from getting worse than it already is. This largely contrasts with what his dad thinks of him as a judge: he’s a judge that’s going to help the world become better. Somewhere along the way, Ba-reun lost trust and hope and faith in the world and maybe something happened to him to think that way. Regardless, I find his reasoning of becoming a judge to help him and his family become better off so relatable. Most people find his career as a judge as something noteworthy and amazing and impressive, but to Ba-reun, he’s just simply trying to survive. His lived experiences of a judge differs from the perceptions that others have of him as a judge and it’s this difference between the two which the drama does a wonderful job in highlighting. Unlike what others think and see, being a judge isn’t all that great. Ba-reun clearly doesn’t really enjoy his career, but being a judge is the only option he has if he and his family wants to stay afloat. One can’t help but sympathize for him and his current situation. You’re rooting for him to win in the end.

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I also really appreciate this drama for being able to bring up serious issues (such as sexual harassment and the policing of what women wear) in a way that’s not so boring and dry. Oh-reum as a character brings so much funk, sassiness, and sarcasm into the drama in a way that’s entertaining and easy to watch. She’s strong and confident on where she stands in regards to these issues and she doesn’t back down from advocating for what she believes in even if it’s against the rules. It’s this persistence and determination that makes her character so easy to root for. This drama highlights important societal issues and concerns, but still manages to make the overall tone feel light, airy, and wacky.  It’s a nice balance.

I do admit, I was a little hesitant going into this drama because I had my doubts about Go Ara and L’s acting. They’re known to not be the greatest actors and I’m not the biggest fan of their acting. However, they’re doing wonderful in this drama and are working with what they got. Go Ara’s acting has improved immensely (this might be a result of her changing agencies from SM to Lee Jung Jae and Jung Woo-Sung’s agency) and I find her really charming in his drama. When paired with the right character, she can really shine and I think she’s definitely shining so far. L – to a smaller extent – is also doing pretty decent and although I find him a little green at times, I believe he’s doing fine so far. I hope the both of them keeps this up the entire run. Also, we can’t forget about Sung Dong-il who is always great in all his projects and series. But I think the true stand-out in this episode was Do-yeon played by Lee Elijah. She really takes her job seriously and can be difficult to approach, but she’s strong, confident, and efficient. I love her character already.

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