Extraordinary Attorney Woo Review: Eight weeks ago, when a lawyer named Woo Young-woo (whose name spells the same backward as well) walked onto our screens, accepting of her life as an autistic person and ready to go to court with whales on her mind, little did I know that she would go on to become an important part of my weekly schedule.
Extraordinary Attorney Woo (EAW) stars Park Eun-bin in the titular role, essaying the role of a genius lawyer with a photographic memory. Woo Young-woo’s diagnosis of Autism spectrum disorder doesn’t hold her back from emerging not only as a great student at SNU but also as an impressive rookie lawyer. With every episode, not only do we see her shine as a lawyer but also empathize with her struggles.
Owing to her autism, Woo Young-woo faces more challenges than other rookies her age. Besides tough cases and work politics, she also struggles with helping people see her beyond her disorder. Here’s where the brilliant supporting cast walks in. Woo Young-woo finds a mentor in Jung Myung-seok (Kang Ki-young), who visibly transforms from undermining her in the first episode to taking her under his wings and encouraging her to be the best version of herself.
Woo Young-woo also finds great support in her childhood best friend Dong Geu-ra-mi (Joo Hyun-young) and her college mate turned colleague Choi Su-yeon (Ha Yoon-kyung). They not only encourage her to see the world through her and their eyes but also protect her when they know she can’t.
The cherry on the cake is her boyfriend Lee Jun-ho (Kang Tae-oh). From normalizing her obsession with whales to loving her despite knowing that she might not be able to love him back in a quintessential way, his love for her is setting new benchmarks among K-drama lovers.
While the core cast carries the show well, writer Moon Ji-won sprinkles drama by introducing Tae Soo-mi (Jin Kyung), an ace lawyer and Woo Young-woo’s birth mother who abandons her immediately after birth, Woo Gwang-ho (Jeon Bae-soo), the sweet father who is trying to safe her from her past secrets and helping her deal with the world at large and Kwon Min-woo (Joo Jong-hyuk), her jealous colleague who is trying to find ways to bring her down.
Intertwining cases with their respective lives, Extraordinary Attorney Woo changes gears between the developments unfolding in court and in each of the lawyer’s personal life. The K-drama shines primarily because of the writing. Moon Ji-won tackles the subjects of Woo Young-woo’s autism, issues of each case shown, and every character’s grey shade with sensitivity and helps viewers understand the impact of her disorder.
Moon Ji-won is strongly supported by the cast. Park Eun-bin delivered one of her best performances in the show. She ensures that the character is not portrayed animatedly, keeping the maturity of the show in place. When I started watching the show, I couldn’t help but compare it momentarily with Oh Jung-se’s performance in It’s Okay To Not Be Okay. However, the show made me detach from the comparison after episode 3, with Moon Sang-hoon playing another autistic person.
I must also confess that Kang Ki-young’s performance in the show surprised me. Having seen him in usually comic shades in the past, Kang Ki-young proved to the industry that he is capable of going beyond just comic relief in shows. Kang Tae-oh has also grown so much as an actor. Understanding that a powerful Park Eun-bin would hold the screen in every scene they share, Kang Tae-oh opts to play a supporting star instead of taking on the lead in scenes with her, and that worked in his favour.
However, I wish they explored more of her relationship with her half-brother but that’s something likely stored up for the second season. The show also starts to slow down midway, an issue with most K-dramas, which impacts the pace.
Bottom line: Extraordinary Attorney Woo can be easily ranked as one of the best K-dramas of the year. It leaves you happy, heartbroken, feeling empathy and not pity for an autistic key character. If you haven’t watched it yet, I’d recommend spacing it out and watching it one day at a time to truly enjoy the experience.