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Can’t wait for season 2: The dose of positivity that is Extraordinary Attorney Woo

One can only marvel at the brilliant mind that came up with this surprise hit

Behind the Scenes of Extraordinary Attorney Woo

It seems that everything and everyone needs to be represented in media these days. Representation now goes beyond race, into gender identity, religion, political stance, mental state… the list just keeps getting longer and longer.

For a Netflix subscriber who’s heavily into K-Dramas, it wasn’t long before Extraordinary Attorney Woo made it to my list of recommendations from the platform. I was intrigued by the series’ premise right off the bat. Attorney Woo Young Woo, played to perfection by Park Eun Bin, is the Republic of Korea’s first ever autistic attorney. She is the summa cum laude of Seoul National University, graduating with the highest GPA the school has ever recorded. You’d think law firms would be all over her, right? Wrong. She has been unsuccessfully job-hunting for six months and prospective employers dismiss the possibility of hiring her at the sight of the word autistic on her resume.

The first episode lays down the groundwork for Attorney Woo’s character briefly but concisely. She was raised by a single father who has always done his best for his daughter. As a child, Young Woo would not speak and repeated visits to the doctor had been fruitless. A bullying incident triggers Young Woo, and her father discovers that his child is actually a genius who has memorized all his law books.

Fast forward to the present—we accompany Attorney Woo to her first day on the job at Hanbada Law Firm, one of the top law firms in Seoul. While her immediate superior Attorney Jung is initially reluctant to welcome her to the team because of her autism, the big boss herself Attorney Han reminds him that Attorney Woo’s resume also states that she is a genius. She should not be dismissed without being given a chance. If representation is what we are after, this is by far one of the series’ most crucial scenes. It pretty much tells the audience to put aside all preconceived notions and to base judgements on what actually is and not what it’s expected to be. It is not so far-fetched to have a lawyer who is autistic. It is quite rare, yes, but is not impossible. Take Attorney Haley Moss, for example. She is Florida’s first autistic female lawyer. You can find a wealth of information about her online, but I digress.

Hiring Attorney Woo eventually pays off for Hanbada Law Firm. Her profound familiarity with the law lets her approach cases in a very creative and out-of-the-box manner. She has not only memorized the law, she understands what the law means too. This impresses her superiors, her peers, and even the opposing sides in court. Park Eun Bin is especially likeable as Attorney Woo. Her facial expressions, actions, and even the way she speaks are spot on for a person with autism. She is disarmingly innocuous in her portrayal even when she is being unforgivingly blunt. In fact, she cheerfully calls out to a sick colleague “Come back alive!” while he is being wheeled in for surgery. She doesn’t know how to pretend or to lie, which makes her a very refreshing character. Rather than focusing on the negative aspects of Attorney Woo’s disability, the series shines a light on the positives.

The series tackles not just an array of legal cases but also how Attorney Woo navigates through her adult life,  romantic feelings, work ethic and all. It’s a very slippery slope but the drama manages to take us all the way up without trampling over anyone’s sensibilities.

Park Eun Bin is backed by an equally impressive supporting cast, most notably Kang Ki Young who plays Attorney Jung, and Kang Tae Oh who plays her love interest Lee Jun Ho. Attorney Jung exudes a lot of warmth and openness as Attorney Woo’s immediate superior. He is a true mentor, patiently guiding her and always listening to what she has to say. He is as much of a joy to watch as Young Woo herself so it’s no surprise that he is one of the series’ most beloved characters. Meanwhile, Kang Tae Oh’s convincing performance as the handsome yet unassuming Lee Jun Ho just makes women everywhere go 都ana all!・.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo is by no means perfect. There are a few inexplicable plot holes, such as Attorney Han’s extreme hatred for Attorney Tae Su-mi of Taesan Law Firm. Sure, they both head rival law firms but how Attorney Han is so determined to destroy Attorney Tae makes it apparent that there is so much more to it than that. There is an online out-footage from the drama which seems to explain this, but since it was edited out, we don’t really know.
For most part, the series is positive in tone. It maintains its feel-good vibe throughout even as it deals with sensitive topics such as suicide and mental disability. The writing is exquisite. It’s never exploitative and it empathizes with the plight of all sides concerned. One can only marvel at the brilliant mind which comes up with  this material.

Although it tied things up neatly, the last episode comes across as a tad rushed. However, it did leave audiences wanting more and the good news is a second season has been confirmed for release in 2024. There is definitely a lot of room to play around in for the next season in terms of character arcs and cases. I’m looking forward to see how much further this unique series can go.


Credit: The Swoon/YouTube

About author

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She is a freelance writer and blogger who spends every waking moment of her free time watching K-Dramas. She hopes to one day go to Korea to see oppas while visiting shooting locations.

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