It’s a new year which means a new Park Eun-bin drama which means a new recap project for me! Since 2018, I’ve watched every annual Park Eun-bin drama and have even recapped two of them on my blog here. The only drama since 2018 that I haven’t watched of hers was in 2019 with ‘Hot Stove League’ which is quite funny and ironic now considering it’s one of her more recent successful dramas anndddd I’m a huge baseball fan now (thanks to none other than Shohei Ohtani).
From ‘The Ghost Detective‘ to ‘Do You Like Brahms?‘ to ‘The King’s Affection’, I have watched each of these annual Park Eun-bin dramas. Some I have enjoyed and the other… well, not so much. Thankfully, Park Eun-bin’s new drama this year titled ‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo’ aired to a lovely start and I’m liking what I see so far.
In the drama, Park Eun-bin plays Woo Young-woo, a young woman who is on the autism spectrum disorder. Smart and brilliant ever since she was a little kid, she’s now an attorney and the drama will follow her journey as she navigates work, love, family, relationships, and more. Kang Tae-oh (Doom at Your Service) and Kang Ki-young (Oh My Ghost) round out the supporting cast while Yoo In-sik (Dr. Romantic series, Vagabond) is the director of the drama. The writer is Moon Ji-won whose other work includes movie ‘Innocent Witness’ which also featured a character on the autism spectrum disorder.
I’m aware that it still might be a bit too early to reach a conclusion or judgement on this drama and it’s uncertain as to where the drama is headed or how the drama will continue to portray Young-woo’s character. However, I have faith and belief that the drama will portray individuals on the spectrum in a positive light and also bring about good representation and raise awareness. Combine this good first impression of the first episode with Park Eun-bin and Kang Tae-oh and I’m in.
Extraordinary Attorney Woo Episode 1: Case 1 – Extraordinary Attorney Woo
It’s November 17, 2000. Narrator Young-woo shares that this was the day when her dad confirmed that his daughter would be special. One-of-a-kind. Extraordinary.
Young-woo observes a whale toy hanging by the window while her father converses with their pediatrician during a visit. Dad is informed by the doctor that Young-woo might be autistic and her inability to speak supports the diagnosis. After the visit, Dad and young Young-woo walk back home, but they’re interrupted by an angry neighbor who accuses Dad of having an affair with the man’s wife. The neighbor gets into a scuffle with Dad while a petrified Young-woo watches in horror. The emotions boil up inside of Young-woo to the point where she shuts her eyes, closes her ears, and recites out loud the law about inflicting bodily injury and the potential consequences that the neighbor could suffer as a result. Everyone freezes upon hearing Young-woo talk, but Dad is elated to hear his daughter’s voice. He picks her up and takes her back home and can barely contain his excitement. His daughter is a genius indeed.
Young-woo shares that she learned the law while reading many of Dad’s books about criminal law. She goes on to recite the rest of the book while the neighbor’s wife makes a quick visit. While delivering some ointment to Dad, she witnesses Dad crying in tears of joy. Dad is impressed at how smart Young-woo is. That was the day that he discovered that his daughter was an “autistic genius.”
Fast forward to the present and Young-woo wakes up for her first day of work. She introduces herself as ‘Woo Young-woo’ where it is still pronounced the same even if you were to read the name backwards. She also recites the words “kayak, deed, rotator, noon, race car” before waking up to get ready for work. Her room is decorated with many whale decorations and goods while her book shelves are stacked with books about law. As she searches in her color-coordinated closet for an outfit, she discovers the new jacket that her father has bought for her for the grand day.
And so Young-woo wears the new jacket for her first day of work and visits her father’s small restaurant downstairs before heading out. She orders her usual ‘Woo Young-woo’ gimbap roll for breakfast as Dad gives her a small pep talk before the big day. No echolalia and don’t be too blunt and honest. And the hardest part of it all: no talking about whales. Unless absolutely necessary Young-woo argues. Haha. With that, she munches on her gimbap before walking to work. Dad watches as Young-woo heads out. Inside of his small restaurant, he proudly has up on the wall a portrait of an article recognizing and celebrating Young-woo as the first-ever autistic attorney in Korea. Dad is proud (and we are too!).
While on the subway, Young-woo listens to whale sounds and vocalizations and even imagines a huge sperm whale accompanying her on the ride to work. When Young-woo eventually arrives to her workplace, she encounters her first daunting task: the revolving door located at the entrance of the building. She’s uncertain as to how to enter and can’t quite get the timing right. Thankfully, a young man assists her and together the two make it past the doors and into the lobby of the building. It turns out that the man, Jun-ho (Kang Tae-oh), is also heading to the same law firm as Young-woo so they accompany each other. Hehe.
As Jun-ho greets other employees at the law firm, Young-woo is fascinated with the office and the environment. With the help of Jun-ho, she reaches her destination: Attorney Jung Myeong-seok’s office at Lawfirm Hanbada. She enters the room to find Attorney Jung (Kang Ki-young) with two other attorneys, Soo-yeon and Min-woo, and introduces herself to the group but they’re taken aback by her presence. They weren’t expecting her to be there and they don’t quite understand her unique introduction. Attorney Jung steps aside with Young-woo’s resume in his hand while Young-woo stays behind with the two employees. Turns out she knows Soo-yeon since they went to law school together.
Attorney Jung makes a visit to the CEO’s office, CEO Han (omg it’s Professor Lee from ‘Brahms’!). He’s pretty vocal about his dissatisfaction and disapproval of Young-woo’s hiring. Attorney Jung underestimates Young-woo and is uncertain she has what it takes for the job. However, CEO Song negotiates with Attorney Jung and they reach on a settlement: give Young-woo a chance. If she doesn’t perform up to standards, CEO Song will let Young-woo go.
So Attorney Jung and Young-woo meet to get started on the case. As he’s explaining the case to her, Young-woo gets distracted at a photo of an iron in the document that reminds her of a whale. So she rambles on about her most favorite thing in the world, but eventually stops due to Attorney Jung’s pessimism. They focus on the case and we learn that the defendant, Ms. Choi, is an elderly lady in her 70’s who hit her husband, Mr. Park, in the head with an iron. On the day of the incident, she was accused by her husband of flirting with a deliveryman and the two got into an argument. Fed up and frustrated, she grabbed the iron and aimed it at her husband’s head. He fell down unconscious and she called the police for help.
Mr. Park eventually suffered a brain hemorrhage and the defendant was charged with attempted murder. But Attorney Jung is positive that Ms. Choi will get probation for the case and nothing more severe. The defendant must have been tired from taking care of her husband suffering from dementia for years and prosecution didn’t apply for an arrest warrant. Since this is also Attorney Jung and Young-woo’s first meeting, they get to know each other better. He learns about the concept of echolalia and requests for Young-woo to stop repeating his words. While she agrees to this externally, she mocks him by repeating his words in her mind. Hahaha. I love sassy Young-woo!
Attorney Jung and Young-woo meet with Ms. Choi for introductions. Like Attorney Jung, Ms. Choi is taken aback by Young-woo’s behavior. But they both settle down when the Ms. Choi learns that she and Young-woo used to be neighbors. She’s the same woman whose husband accused her of having an affair with Dad. Ms. Choi is relieved to be reunited with Young-woo 22 years later, but Young-woo gets straight to the point. She focuses her attention back on the case and gathers details about the Mr. Park’s source of income as well as background information about him.
After the meeting, Young-woo reports back to Attorney Jung and delivers her Attorney Statement of Opinion document to him. If they were to try for probation for the crime of attempted murder, the attempted murder might get recognized and the consequences for Ms. Choi could be huge. Therefore, Young-woo will try to get probation for the crime of inflicting bodily injury instead. Attorney Jung is impressed with Young-woo’s critical thinking and problem-solving and it’s clear his first impression of Young-woo was inaccurate. The next step in the case is to then visit Mr. Park at the hospital. He reasons that he’ll have an employee from the law firm join Young-woo since visits can be a difficult thing to do for “ordinary” employees, but he quickly apologizes afterwards for the blunt statement. Young-woo easily forgives Attorney Jung; she understands that she isn’t the typical ordinary attorney.
While waiting in the lobby for the employee, Young-woo encounters Jun-ho once again. Same place. Just a few hours later. She strikes up a conversation with him about the revolving door and it becomes clear to Jun-ho that Young-woo isn’t the biggest fan of the revolving door. As a solution, he suggests that they think of it as dancing a waltz and walk through the door with a certain rhythm. One, two three. One, two, three. He counts to the rhythm and Young-woo follows along. Eventually, he makes a phone call to the attorney he’s accompanying to the hospital who happens to be the one standing across from him the entire time. Hehe. They formally introduce themselves to each other, shake hands, and dance their way through the revolving door and out of the building. Wow, who knew revolving doors could be so romantic? *heart eyes*
At the hospital, Young-woo and Jun-ho meet with the doctor first to go over the scans from the Mr. Park’s head. They learn that he has suffered a subdural hematoma which is usually caused by external injuries and the doctor is certain that it was from the hit with the iron. Afterwards, the two make their way to the room to where the the elderly couple are staying. Upon learning that Young-woo used to live in their neighborhood, Mr. Park grows upset and and it’s obvious that he’s still angry over what happened 22 years ago. He begins to curse and yell at Young-woo and she has to step out with Jun-ho.
They briefly converse with Ms. Choi afterwards to inquire on how she felt at the time of the incident. Intentions are taken seriously in the court of law and it could change how she is charged. Though Ms. Choi argues that she should have killed her husband when she had the chance, Young-woo explains the importance of intentionality and adds that maybe the defendant loves her husband. With the way that Ms. Choi cares for Mr. Park in the present and for the past decades, does she truly want to kill him?
Young-woo and Jun-ho return from the hospital and reunite with the group back in Attorney Jung’s office. They give them a quick update on the visit and Young-woo repeats the exact words that Mr. Park yelled at her, shocking everyone in the room. LOL. Attorney Jung announces that they should turn the case into a jury trial to give Ms. Choi the best chances of winning. To best appeal to the jury’s hearts by focusing on the defendant’s pitiful situation, Young-woo argues that she can do all the speaking and talking as there’s “nothing more pitiful than a disability.” With that, any chances of Soo-yeon and Min-woo helping take on the case are dismissed.
Soo-yeon and Min-woo aren’t so happy with Young-woo and gossip about her on the way out of the building. Since Soo-yeon went to law school with Young-woo, she admits that she used to always help Young-woo because she felt pitiful towards her. The case still stands in the present when she assists Young-woo with the revolving door. She’s not the biggest fan of Young-woo, but can’t help but find herself helping her. Young-woo doesn’t feel so good about herself after Soo-yeon’s assistance. She recalls that her name stands for ‘flower’ and ‘luck’, but maybe the other adjectives associated with her name ‘clever’ and ‘foolish’ would be more fitting. Aww, Young-woo. It’s okay, keep it up!
After work, Young-woo visits her friend’s restaurant and grabs some sushi to eat. The first day of work was good, but there’s still lots of work to be done. With the jury trial coming up, Young-woo needs to improve on her public speaking skills and enlists her friend, Donggeurami, for some help. She recites lines from movies like ‘Innocent Witness’ (haha, I like how the writer referenced her own movie) and ‘The Attorney’ and even teaches Young-woo how to say the word “objection” clearly and loudly. The night is young and the vibes are good.
It’s the big day and the first day of the jury trial. Young-woo takes a good look around the court room and eventually settles in on her side of the room. However, she’s nervous as it’s her first case and she struggles to check in when the judge takes attendance. Eventually, Attorney Jung has to check in for her and the court case resumes. Young-woo gathers the courage to represent the defendant and she introduces herself to everyone in the court room. She clarifies that she is has autism spectrum disorder so her speech and behavioral patterns might be a bit different. But she loves the law and her feelings towards the defendant does not differ from that of other attorneys. Her friend and number one fan, Donggeurami, cheers her on in the courtroom and everyone else also warms up to Young-woo.
The prosecution is much harsher on the defendant during their questioning, but Young-woo manages to pull a small jab by objecting one of the questions that was a little too leading. The judge sustains and she wins the small little battle. Donggeurami approves of Young-woo’s action, but so does Attorney Jung who gets his objection rejected from the judge. Lol. When the case concludes for the day, the prosecutor makes it clear to Attorney Jung that he has no plans of backing down. Attorney Jung decides that they have no choice but to bring Mr. Park in himself to testify.
And so Mr. Park appears in the courtroom at the next court date. At the last second, Attorney Jung has Young-woo go up to question and interrogate. Doing so will prove that Mr. Park was toxic, abusive, and difficult to take care of since he doesn’t like Young-woo. Her presence gets the reaction and response that they were anticipating and as expected, the husband gets upset. He has to be taken out of the room before the trial can resume. In her closing statement, Young-woo uses Mr. Park’s reaction as an argument, but she’s suddenly interrupted by a frantic announcement. Mr. Park has died on the way to the hospital. The news shocks everyone in the room and the charge will now change from attempted murder to murder.
At the funeral for Mr. park, Young-woo can’t help but feel guilty. She feels as if she was the reason as to why he died. If she didn’t question him, maybe this wouldn’t have happened. Or maybe if she just didn’t take on this case, things would have been different. In an intimate and raw conversation with Ms. Choi, Young-woo apologizes. She was greedy and wanted to do well since this was her first case. She feels responsible for the death of Mr. Park and apologizes to Ms. Choi, but Ms. Choi feels otherwise. It’s not Young-woo’s fault; she and her husband both made mistakes. As Ms. Choi cries over the tragic situation, Young-woo inches closer towards her and wishes to comfort her.
After the funeral, Young-woo and Jun-ho meet in her office to discuss the autopsy report. Mr. Park’s death was due to the brain hemorrhage as expected. While observing Young-woo’s whiteboard with details about the case, Jun-ho feels as if the iron resembles the whale from ‘Moby Dick.’ Of course, this excites Young-woo because she loves whales and she tries her best to stay calm. Hahaha. I love her! She shares the many rules and guidelines that she’s forbidden to do or say in the workplace including whales, but Jun-ho doesn’t mind. They can talk about whales when it’s just the two of them. EEEEEEK, LEE JUN-HOOOOOO. THE MAN THAT YOU ARE.
A lightbulb lights up in Young-woo’s mind since they’re talking about whales. Maybe the hospital doctor was overlooking the situation and the root cause of the brain hemorrhage the entire time. It wasn’t due to the hit from the iron. Mr. Park’s head had already been hurting even before the incident and he had been suffering from dementia for 5 years now. So at the next court date, Young-woo is riled up and passionate. She knows she’s onto something.
During the doctor’s witness testimony, she goes over the details about the brain hemorrhage once again. The doctor concludes it was from the hit from the iron despite there not being any fractures on Mr. Park’s head. When asked to only question the witness, Young-woo re-centers herself and does as she is told by the judge. She argues that Mr. Park had already been suffering a headache before the incident and the symptoms he displayed are signs of dementia, not caused by an external injury. So with that being said, does the doctor still believe that Ms. Choi is responsible for causing the brain hemorrhage?
With all the facts presented to him, the doctor eventually confesses that the brain hemorrhage could have been spontaneous and caused by a pre-existing illness. Young-woo and the team breathe a sigh of relief after hearing the doctor’s final statement. They consider this a win and Young-woo concludes by requesting that the defendant be tried for the crime of inflicting bodily injury. She makes her presence known in front of the prosecutor before the court trial concludes (GO YOUNG-WOO!!).
Jun-ho delivers good news about the case to Young-woo a few days later. As expected, Ms. Choi has been found not guilty of murder and received only probation for the crime of inflicting bodily injury. She takes the time to thank Young-woo herself at the office. Ms. Choi gives Young-woo a hug and expresses her gratitude to the extraordinary attorney. Jun-ho and even Attorney Jung watch nearby as the two ladies share a heartwarming moment with each other.
Later on that night, CEO Han stops by Dad’s restaurant to make a visit. Upon seeing each other, Dad freezes and is at a loss for words. He’s unsure as to how to react or what to say. CEO Han refers to Dad as “Sunbae” and the two stand across from each other inside of his little gimbap shop in silence.
Woooooo, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve last recapped a drama on here and I’m glad that it’s this drama that I’m recapping. I want to address first and foremost that I’m not the most knowledgable of autism spectrum disorder and what speech and behavioral patterns individuals on the spectrum exhibit so I want to apologize in advance if I phrase something that’s off or politically incorrect. And it’s for this reason that I think it’s a good sign that there’s dramas like ‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo’ which will hopefully shed light, educate, and bring about positive representation about the spectrum.
You learn so many things about Young-woo as a character and the little details about her that makes her so extraordinary and special. While a part of it is heartbreaking because she’s well aware of the fact that she might not seem “normal” to others (as heard in her introduction on the first day of the court trial), she’s also aware that it doesn’t make her any less than anyone else. She’s special in her own way and she’s confident in her own skin and who she is.
Anytime you have any representation of a character who either isn’t represented often in media or isn’t represented positively, you’re treading along a very thin and dangerous line and ‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo’ is no exception. How will the drama continue to portray Young-woo? What else will we see from her in the future episodes? What type of lessons and messages does the writer want to convey with the way that it not only focuses on Young-woo as a character but also the way that the other characters react to Young-woo?
As we saw in this first episode, there were quite a few not so friendly reactions and responses. There were a few people who had to warm up to Young-woo and had to be proven that they were wrong about their judgement (*cough* Attorney Jung *cough*). But by the way that Attorney Jung began to view and treat Young-woo differently throughout the course of the episode, we’re reminded to never judge a person by its cover. There is so much good, brilliance, intelligence, and kindness in Young-woo and not everyone can see that at first (well, maybe, except for Jun-ho). As seen with Attorney Jung, Young-woo will continue to prove many people wrong. She will show them that she is not who they thought she was; she is strong, powerful, and beautiful in her own ways. She is extraordinary.
If I couldn’t make it any more obvious in my recap, I’m really enjoying the relationship between Young-woo and Jun-ho. It’s barely the first episode and I’m already squealing and screaming my head off at every interaction. It’s obvious that Jun-ho won’t play as big of a role in this drama as the drama will be centered around Young-woo (deservedly so), but I love his character so far and just how sweet he is. Enough of the “bad” or “tsundere” persona that we’ve seen in our male leads in K-dramaland. It’s nice to see a sweet, kind male lead for once who’s not the main character of the drama AND treats the female lead with respect and sincerity. Jun-ho seems like a nice character so far and I’m really hoping he doesn’t do anything later on in the drama that will make me regret my words. With just this first episode so far, I have placed my trust in him and I’m rooting for him. Please don’t make me take back my words, Jun-ho!
Adding onto Jun-ho, I’m really enjoying his dynamic with Young-woo so far and I’m excited to see what the drama does with their relationship. I’m certain it’s going to contain all the fuzzy, squishy, fluttery feels and butterflies in your stomach type of feelings and more. How will he show his love and feelings for her? What does Young-woo do when she likes someone or has feelings towards someone? How will their relationship develop and progress over the course of the drama? What other memories and moments will they experience and enjoy together? Having watched the preview for the second episode already (which I regret because I NEVER do), it seems like the drama will be more episodic and case-by-case. Maybe we’ll get to see more Young-woo and Jun-ho visits to different locations like we saw in this first episode and they’ll get to know each other better and they’ll dance many more waltzes and fall in love. Maybe they’ll encounter more buildings with revolving doors?
Another component of the drama that I’m a fan of is the directing and the overall look, feel, and tone. It might not seem like much, but I was impressed with the subway scene when Young-woo imagined the huge sperm whale traveling with her on the way to work. It was such a simple scene, but it was quite beautiful and didn’t look tacky at all. The drama is also bright and hopeful and there’s bits of humor sprinkled throughout. I like that the humor isn’t overdone; if you throw in too many jokes that aren’t funny or aren’t done right or doesn’t have the right timing, it might seem like the drama is being mocking. But that wasn’t the impression that I got with the first episode and the humor was just the right amount of humor (primarily because Kang Ki-young’s comedic timing is just perfect every time).
I also like that the drama doesn’t try too hard or didn’t try to do too much too fast; in dramas like this where your main character is not often represented in media, you might feel the need to rush because you want to say so many things and show so much about your main character. But I like that the drama slowed down, gave us details, and showed us the little things about Young-woo and her world. I like that we got to witness her strengths and growth as she took on her first court case as a rookie attorney. I like that we got to witness Young-woo navigate the workplace and the social environment that comes with it. I like that we got to see her wiggle herself out of her comfort zone and struggle at first and then come back in the end and persevere and win.
You don’t have to do it all in the first episode. You also don’t have to pretend to be such a complex and complicated and almighty drama. Sometimes, the best form of storytelling is simplicity. I appreciate the details, the intentionality, the context, the meticulous-ness in all of this. It shows that you care and that you’re intentional about what type of human being you want your character to be respected as.
Unlike the other dramas that I’m watching, I actually watched the teasers and trailers to ‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo’ because I love Park Eun-bin so much and it’s a thing I do where I watch her dramas annually. Add Kang Tae-oh into the mix and I was even more excited (it also helps that his character is also so sweet and kind so far). I’m really looking forward to this drama and what it has to offer. There’s so much potential with it and there are so many things that the drama can do and many lessons and messages that the drama can convey by bringing attention to Young-woo’s character. Hopefully, the drama can maintain the bright, hopeful, and inspirational energy it created in the first episode and carry it along for the rest of the ride.