Along with a strong supporting cast, fast-paced writing and a long-overdue star turn for leading man Kang Tae Oh, experienced and talented actress Park Eun Bin delivers an endearing and nuanced portrayal of the title character in the ENA drama series Extraordinary Attorney Woo (이상한 변호사 우영우/ Strange Lawyer Woo Young-woo), While shining a light on Attorney Woo who has autism spectrum disorder, the series also provides a refreshing take on the law procedural that has felt a bit tired lately as many recent Korean dramas in the genre seem content on paint by the numbers execution.
Extraordinary Attorney Woo is as much a character drama focusing on the title character, her colleagues at the firm and her caring father as it is a charming slice of life story as well as a tightly-written law procedural.
Through the cases that Attorney Woo and her colleagues work on each episode, the series is able to tell their stories as well. That includes Kang Tae Oh as nice guy next door paralegal (and love interest) Lee Jun Ho, senior attorney Jung Myung Seok (Kang Ki Young) and fellow rookie lawyers Choi Su Yeon (Ha Yoon Kyung) and Kwon Min Woo (Joo Jong Hyuk). And blending together what is essentially a workplace dynamic with genuine character growth within themselves and toward each other, it’s a great balance with the more procedural aspects of the series.
Attorney Woo is on the autism spectrum, but she is also a genius legal mind. She can recite Korean law off the top of head, while also taking the time to enjoy and extoll the virtues of whales and other creatures of the sea. In a society that can be high prejudiced, Attorney Woo remains herself. And soon, the people around her grow to understand her, her condition and acknowledge her intellect. All while she herself must also learn about her chosen career and be able to continue learning and growing as well.
Attorney Woo’s unique perspective often helps resolve the cases she and her colleagues take on in each episode. Tackling such issues as corporate law, assault, family inheritance and even autism, among others, gives the series plenty of varied opportunities to tell different stories with each case.
The way the series is able to balance those two sides of the story really helps to bring everything together in a tight and accessible package. Neither the cases of the week nor the stories of our main characters ever suffer because of the other. Instead, they work hand in hand to tell stories that are relatable and engaging while also being sincere in their portrayals.
When it comes to the main characters, the relationships that are formed and that grow throughout the course of the series are truly a highlight. That sincerity bolsters the well-written characters who in turn are brought to life by an excellent cast.
Kang Ki Young is always a dependable actor, able to deliver with any role he takes on. He helps attorney Jung Myung Seok provide the series a needed gravitas as well as a fun mentor-like role for the rookie lawyers.
Ha Yoon Kyung and Joo Jong Hyuk as Attorney Woo’s colleagues Su Yeon and Min Woo grow into such distinct and well-rounded characters in a way that is almost uncommon on similarly-themed series. But the material they are given is well deserved. And both deliver.
Veteran character actor Jeon Bae Soo as Attorney Woo’s father Woo Gwang Ho also gives the series a gravitas and emotional heft. Especially when it comes to Attorney Woo’s own personal story that slowly, but effectively unfolds over the course of the series.
Kang Tae Oh is always a scene-stealer in every role he’s had so far. Playing varied supporting roles from loveable goof to charming guy next door, he has been long overdue for a lead role of his own. And he finally gets a great one here as Jun Ho. He is able to take the character beyond simply being Attorney Woo’s love interest. Instead, Jun Ho is a strong, well-rounded character that is able to express his own voice just as much as the attorneys of the law firm and even our title character herself.
Of course, Kang Tae Oh’s chemistry with Park Eun Bin is another irresistible aspect of the series.
But Park Eun Bin’s experience and talent is on full display here as Attorney Woo. She must give the character the right amount of depth and sincerity. Even with the strong writing, Park Eun Bin needs to still deliver the character’s nuance while also being relatable and endearing. She does that and then some. Though it is certainly not a surprise to anyone who has watched any of the accomplished actress’ previous work.
Extraordinary Attorney Woo is simply a wonderful and enjoyable series. Being able to find a balance between good character story and the procedural aspect of the law drama is a perfect combination. The series shines a light on autism in a society and culture that still regards such issues of mental health and neurological and developmental disorders as taboo. Though the series does not do a deep dive in the subject, it is able to be an accessible gateway to awareness that is lacking in Korea and around the world. That accessibility, coupled with genuinely well-written characters and a charming and endearing story, makes Extraordinary Attorney Woo one of the year’s best and most satisfying series. And there’s apparently more to come!