Good Ol’ Review: GMA Network’s Beautiful Justice a Rare Gem for Philippine TV

Beautiful Justice GMA

No spoilers.

It is a shame that GMA Network’s Beautiful Justice ends with only 100 episodes when in fact, it could conceivably go on indefinitely as long as the cast and crew wanted to. Perhaps, similar to its direct timeslot competitor and fellow primetime action series Ang Probinsyano on ABS-CBN.

Beautiful Justice came about last minute for GMA after the tragic death of veteran actor and one of the all-time greats Eddie Garcia. So expectations were low for the series, especially with a lead cast that many Kapuso fans would unfairly categorize as not top-tier talents of the network.

But Beautiful Justice ended up being one of, if not the best and most well-produced drama series GMA has offered in a long time.

The series follows several people, connected to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency or PDEA, whose lives are turned upside down due to the country’s drug problems. But don’t be mistaken, as the series avoids wading into any political waters. Instead, it focuses solely on the brave men and women of PDEA, their families and the drug syndicates that seemingly run rampant.

There’s no commentary on the current real-life war on drugs. And that works in the series’ favor. While there are plenty of grittier films and even TV5’s Netflix-purchased series Amo that deal directly with the present situation in the Philippines, Beautiful Justice presents itself as a lighter, but no less serious depiction of the fight against drugs.

Think of a fun summer blockbuster action movie and that’s partly what Beautiful Justice is. As a testament to how well the series is put together, the balance between the serious, very real issues and the fun, adventure-ish capers of the main characters worked to its advantage.

When most Filipino soap operas today feature stories and plots that are repetitive and tired, especially when the ratings provoke a network to hand down extension after extension, Beautiful Justice featured tight writing and a fully cohesive story. The series may have been lighter and fun at times, but you took it seriously. And that’s because of the great writing for both the heroes and the villains. Legitimate twists and turns kept the excitement going and never did you feel like things were going off the rails.

Again, a major feat for a Filipino drama series.

The series also featured slick, polished directing and sincerely exciting action sequences. This long take from November is a major highlight of the entire series:
Amazing directing you don’t normally see on Philippine TV.

What makes all of this even more amazing is the very short turnaround time between filming and air. Sometimes only a day or two apart. And for a series that involves highly choreographed fights and pyrotechnic-filled action sequences, it is a major accomplishment that they were able to remain a tight, polished production its entire run.

And that also shines an unflattering light on other local drama series that have longer turnaround times and far-ahead productions, yet have poor direction, nonsensical writing and stories that go in circles for months.

The cast is also a big highlight of the series. Espcially for the lead five who have little, if any, experience in action series, they carried their weight. And many times, exceptionally well too.

Yasmien Kurdi has enjoyed much success as the lead of several afternoon soaps. But in her big return to primetime, she showed once again that she is definitely a talented lead actress. It’s obviously a little different headlining an afternoon soap vs a primetime series, both in content and in promotion. But Yasmien Kurdi proved she can absolutely carry a primetime slot as well as she has done in the afternoons.

Gabbi Garcia is a talented young actress, but she hasn’t really been given great material to work with over the years. Finally, however, she gets that opportunity. Her role as Brie may just be her best role to date and her best performance. The role caters to her personality, but allows her to mature as an actress, departing from the loveteam-focused or teen-focused characters she’s had in the past.

Bea Binene has definitely grown since starting out as a child actor. And here on Beautiful Justice, she was able to flex her strengths. Kitkat has a bubbly, yet palaban personality. Very similar to Bea Binene in real life. But after glimpses of it on her morning drama Kapag Nahati Ang Puso, she was able to show here that she can handle big action as well. But that shouldn’t be a surprise as she is skilled in wushu and self-defense in real life.

Derrick Monasterio made positive strides as well as traitor Lance. He too was able to depart from his usual roles, especially here as a clear kontrabida.

Gil Cuerva, meanwhile, showed he has what it takes to be a leading man. His role as PDEA agent Vin offered him the opportunity to flex his capablities as an actor. It was a much stronger introduction to him than his so-so debut in the local adaptation of My Love From The Star (which had many problems aside from casting).

Of the supporting cast, while the experienced Bing Loyzaga held it down as the godmother leader of the drug syndicate, it was Valeen Montenegro as Miranda or Lady M who truly relished her role. Lady M is the type of villain that an actor just loves to play around with, enjoying and just having fun with the role. Like the three main ladies, Valeen Montenegro was badass and brought Lady M to life, making you truly believe she too could head up a large drug syndicate in the Philippines.

Victor Neri, Ian de Leon, Lilet, Therese Malvar, Franchesco Maafi, Shyr Valdez and Phillip Lazaro helped round out the ensemble perfectly.

Another of the highlights is the fact that the series welcomed many guest stars throughout its run. And that’s one of the reasons I’m sad the series ends with only 100 episodes. Like its timeslot competitor, Beautiful Justice is essentally a procedural drama. Similar to western dramas like Law & Order or any law enforcement series, Beautiful Justice conceivably could continue on with different arcs focusing on different cases of the week.

Just as they were already doing with the guest stars, the story possibilities are endless. There’s always going to be drug syndicates. But there’s also plenty other possible crimes as well. Yasmien Kurdi’s lawyer Alice, PDEA agents Kitkat and Vin and techie/sometime hacker Brie could absolutely go around solving cases and seeking beautiful justice for any number of guest stars. And especially when the series was so well-written and directed, the extended time spent with these characters would never get tired or boring.

My only complaint was that we didn’t get enough Yasmien Kurdi, Gabbi Garcia and Bea Binene action scenes. They absolutely could’ve been a Charlie’s Angels-like trio. And I had hoped that even with the series ending, there could be hope for a season 2. But the finale was pretty closed-ended. Their hashtag was #BJHappyEnding and indeed, everyone got their happy ending.

But that’s alright.

Though I’m confident Beautiful Justice had a legitimate shot to gain an audience and even dethrone its timeslot rival, I’m happy at what we did get.

Like I said, Beautiful Justice was the most well-put together series GMA Network has had in years. Great, tight writing. Great, exciting direction and editing. A strong cast. And simply, great and stress-free fun. There wasn’t a single episode that was difficult or a chore to watch. It was a fun ride that wasn’t hard to follow, but also didn’t make you feel like you wanted to bash your head in from the nonsense that other shows readily offer.

Beautiful Justice was an absolute winner. And I hope there will be many shows like it in the future.

Oh, and that opening credits sequence? Fire!

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