I love it when a drama I had no intentions of watching or had any expectations for impresses, delivers, and exceeds beyond my (low) expectations (in a good way, of course). That was such the case with ‘Joseon Attorney: A Morality’ which aired its first two episodes this past week (for the purpose of simplicity, I’m going to refer to the drama as ‘Joseon Attorney’). Starring Woo Do-hwan as attorney Kang Han-soo and Bona as Princess Lee Yeon-joo, the drama covers the story of Kang Han-soo who becomes an attorney and embarks on a mission to seek revenge for the death of his parents. In the process, he meets Lee Yeon-joo – the princess from the Royal Palace who keeps her identity a secret from the outside world and teams up with Han-soo.
I’m not one to usually check out teasers to a drama because I rather just wait until the first two episodes air to give it a try orrrr because the drama isn’t one that I had planned on watching anyways. Oddly enough, I remembered checking out the teasers to ‘Joseon Attorney’ but also having no intentions of watching the drama. I like Woo Do-hwan (since his ‘Save Me’ and ‘Mad Dog’ days) and I don’t feel too strongly about Bona one way or the other. I’m also not the most familiar with the director or writer so I didn’t really have any reasons to give this drama a try. But when the first episode was released, I thought, heck, ‘Our Blooming Youth’ is ending in two weeks which leaves me with ‘Taxi Driver 2’ as the only drama left that I’m watching. Why not give ‘ ‘Joseon Attorney’ a chance?
And I’m glad that I gave this drama a chance. Because it blew my expectations and delivered more. Now don’t get me wrong. Thoughts that I had from watching the teasers still rung true after watching the first two episodes. The drama seemed a bit low budget so the production quality wasn’t all there. The editing was a bit choppy and the transitions could definitely be made to feel a bit more seamless and smooth. Although these aspects stood out to me while watching the drama, it never felt off-putting. It never felt or looked so cheap to the point where it was distracting or made me want to give up on the drama. Because while the quality of ‘Joseon Attorney’ was a bit lacking and left a bit to be desired, the drama made up for that void in other ways.
Perhaps the thing that I enjoyed the most about ‘Joseon Attorney’ was just how simple the drama was in its first two episodes. It was foundational as all other dramas are when they first start out, laying the groundwork and the set-up for our characters and the location that everything takes place in. But it didn’t take long for me to understand who Attorney Kang Han-soo was and what he set out to do in the town that he arrived in. Although there were some things that he did with his first client that made me frown or that I didn’t necessarily agree with, I liked that he wasn’t all black or white. He’s a morally grey character. He’s a person with many different layers to him and it’s difficult to box him in or define him as just one thing or the other.
In the first episode, he bait his first client by intentionally setting the client’s house on fire so that the client would be so desperate to reach out to Han-soo for his service and support. Han-soo’s plan worked and he eventually got his first client, won in court, and then went on to fulfilling the next steps in his revenge plan. He knew what he was doing and how he was going to do it to get what he wanted in the end. But in the process of setting the client’s house on fire, he also rescued and saved the client’s mother – who at that time – was going to commit suicide inside the house. The fire interrupted her plan and she escaped the house just as it was lit on fire by Han-soo. It’s this very situation that made me conflicted on how to feel about Han-soo. The ways he went about to recruit and bait his first client didn’t make me feel all that great about him. He was a bit scummy and too pushy and adamant for my liking. But he’s a very strategic, meticulous, and witty guy who also has a good side to him. There’s a part inside of him who cares about others even if his ways of going about that is a bit odd or peculiar or unconventional. Han-soo is a bit childish, a bit immature, a bit ridiculous but he’s also smart and creative. He is an attorney after all and a very good one at that.
Then there’s Princess Yeon-joo who is definitely my favorite character so far in the drama. She keeps her identity as the princess hidden as she’s out and about in the village running a merchant house with her nanny and owner of the merchant house, Lady Hong (Shin Dong-mi). How exactly Yeon-joo is able to live life out and about in the village is still to be explained and it’s actually quite fascinating given that she is the princess after all. But I kind of like that she’s not limited to the walls within the palace and that she’s able to experience life as a villager/civilian. She deeply cares about her people as evident in episode one when she spoke with her brother – the King – about an issue regarding Han-soo’s client. I liked how proactive Yeon-joo was and how when there was an issue or situation, she either stepped in herself to interfere or she brought it up to her brother to see if there was a way to resolve the situation. Yeon-joo has a caring heart and she also believes in justice. She’s a warrior and a problem-solver. It was so easy for me to warm up to her and to like her all within the first episode. The scene where she transformed back into her position as a Princess to talk with her brother definitely won me over. Then watching her go about her business and also interact with Han-soo in the process made me like her even more. Similar to how she’s curious about Han-soo, I too feel the same way about her. I’d like to know how she’s able to roam freely about in the town when she’s the princess.
If there’s one thing I’m really hoping that the drama treads carefully, it’d be Yeon-joo’s curiosity about Han-soo. I hope the drama doesn’t turn her character into someone whose life revolves and centers around Han-soo. I was okay with her being curious about him in the first two episodes as that was how they would eventually get to work together, but I hope the drama continues to provide insight into her life and story as the princess. Don’t make Yeon-joo one-dimensional by turning her into Han-soo’s love interest. I want to see more of her story and I’d like to see who she is outside of her relationship with Han-soo.
This then leads me to Han-soo and Yeon-joo and their blossoming relationship. I like that their relationship didn’t start off as friends (sorry to you friends-to-lovers lovers) and that they aren’t necessarily strangers at this point in their relationship. They’re acquaintances who are hiding this curiosity and interest they have for each other. Of course, Han-soo seems a bit better at hiding his feelings as it was Yeon-joo who expressed her interest in getting to know Han-soo better first. At the end of episode 2, she proposed the idea of working with him. She got to learn more about him after witnessing his work with his first two clients which then solidified her decision to want to work under him. He’s a good person who rescued innocent lives whether that was the elderly or young children and Yeon-joo got to see that side of him. Yeon-joo and Han-soo already have such an interesting relationship that will only get more interesting (and heart-fluttering) as time goes on. The two will work together and get more things done together. They do work quite well together too and it’s clear that Yeon-joo wants to trust Han-soo. The only thing is that Yeon-joo’s presence and willingness to work with Han-soo might intervene in Han-soo’s personal mission to get revenge for his parent’s deaths. But at the same time, I sense that Yeon-joo’s support and help will be more crucial and impactful than distracting.
The part of their relationship that was the most endearing to me was when Yeon-joo apologized to Han-soo after misunderstanding him with his first client. She had heard from the client’s mom that Han-soo saved her life so Yeon-joo found Han-soo and apologized to him directly in person. As we would learn later on in episode two, this was the first apology ever for the both of them. This was the first time that Yeon-joo had apologized to anyone and it was also the first apology that Han-soo had ever received in his life. Han-soo is still himself when he’s with Yeon-joo. He’s witty and silly around her and still jokes around with her. Yeon-joo remains curious about Han-soo despite his silly personality and antics and I’m excited to see how their relationship will blossom. I’m really loving the chemistry between the two characters so far and a big part of that is due to Woo Do-hwan and Bona who are certainly delivering with their acting.
I’ve been a fan of Woo Do-hwan’s since his ‘Save Me’ and ‘Mad Dog’ days so I’m glad to see him back in another drama. He’s portraying Han-soo so well in this drama so far and I like how he can be charismatic one moment and then silly the next because he’s fooling around with his best friend and colleague, Dong-chi. Woo Do-hwan definitely has great presence and he just commands your attention when he’s on the screen. I didn’t really have a strong opinion about Bona prior to this drama. I had seen her in ‘Girls’ Generation 1979′ a few years ago and I also know she’s in the girl group WJSN but I was pretty neutral about her. But I really enjoy her character so far in this drama and I think Bona’s portrayal of Yeon-joo plays a role in that. I appreciate how Bona is doing so far and what she’s doing with her character. She and Woo Do-hwan is building this really nice chemistry with each other and they seem like a good match. Despite just being two episodes in, I’m excited to watch how their relationship will grow and develop over time.
All in all, I really only have good things to say about ‘Joseon Attorney.’ The first two episodes wasn’t the most beautiful and mind-blowing but it did just enough and a little bit more to keep you engaged and curious. To simply describe it, the drama was a fun one to watch. It helped that our lead female and male characters were the two brightest spots in this drama. Sure, there’s still all the politics and bad guys (and childhood trauma for the male lead) as there is in any sageuk, but I can move past all of that thanks to how entertaining our Han-soo and Yeon-joo are. ‘Joseon Attorney’ started off on the right note and kept things simple. Here’s to hoping it stays that way for the next 7 weeks.