I was hanging out at night after dinner with my friends when one of them suddenly got a call from her mother. Whatever her mom was saying, it was clearly important — as this all went on, my friend suddenly became upset.
Her voice became hurried as she shrilly exclaimed, “No, no, don’t do that!” to her mom before she eventually hung up.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
The problem turned out to be Netflix’s new K-drama, “Extraordinary Attorney Woo.” My friend’s mom was planning to watch an episode of the show without her.
After seeing the show in Netflix’s Top 10, having clips of it all over my YouTube recommended page and receiving many rave reviews from my friends, I finally decided to give the show a trial run. Was it really all that everyone had made it out to be?
The answer was a resounding yes.
After watching the first episode, I was immediately hooked.
But what is “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” about anyway? The drama revolves around new lawyer Woo Young Woo, who is just starting out at Hanbada Law Firm. Woo is not your typical lawyer; she is on the autism spectrum.
Autism is a stigmatized subject in South Korea, which causes Woo to struggle to find a job, despite her stellar credentials. Woo’s coworkers are also initially skeptical of her abilities, but soon realize that she has an extraordinary talent for law, caused in part because she also has savant syndrome, an extremely rare symptom of autism that enables her to have a genius intellect.
With each new episode, Woo Young Woo grapples with new law cases, family drama, workplace difficulties and romance.
I became attached to main character Woo Young Woo, played by Park Eun-bin, and her charming quirks: from her love of palindromes and whales, her way of sometimes taking things a bit too literally and even her particularity about her seaweed rolls, which she always wanted organized and prepared in a specific, familiar way.
The K-drama has a lot to offer in terms of grabbing attention, but the episodic format, where cases are introduced every week, is what keeps this series especially interesting.
Observing Woo’s inventive case-solving processes in each new episode only gives the audience more reason to root for her success. For instance, when all hope is lost for a small village battling government sanctioned construction, she suddenly remembers a specific rule that she is able to use to their advantage in the case.
The cases also present unique perspectives on different types of people and situations, which are not always morally black or white. It is also intriguing to view their social commentaries on South Korean culture.
My personal favorite case so far was The Pied Piper, which can be seen in episode nine. I found myself rooting for the leader of the self-started “children’s-liberation movement” who was arrested for kidnapping children, and even getting emotional at the end of his case after picturing his perspective.
The popularity of “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” has increased autism awareness in South Korea, another benefit of the show. However, it’s important to remember that Woo Young Woo is not intended to be a representative for autism.
The drama also depicts other autistic individuals, who behave differently from Woo, but it would make their representation of autism even better if more types of autism were shown. The concern that main characters with autism are only represented in a genius light in media is a valid one; with “Rain Man” and “The Good Doctor” both also having savant-syndrome, despite the condition’s extreme rarity.
Despite this issue, “Extraordinary Attorney Woo Young Woo” is a stellar show. Its captivating multi-faceted plot and endearing cast of characters is sure to grab interest. The show is definitely worth giving a try, but be warned; it’s easy to get hooked on.
— By Siri Atluri
Originally published in the Sept. 28 edition of The Octagon