The Extraordinary Spirit of "Extraordinary Attorney Woo"

No spoilers here.

I just finished watching Extraordinary Attorney Woo, a Korean legal drama/comedy, on Netflix. Actually, the season finale was released yesterday, just in time for me, since I saw the penultimate episode last night.

I give this show my absolutely unqualified recommendation. I'm stunned by how great a show it is. I'm stunned that a show this good even exists in our world. It shows me that something once present in our world is not actually gone yet.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo has an unabashed emotionality. It presents its characters, it shows you their tribulations and triumphs, and and it makes you care about them. The whole show is about high stakes, and the emotion of it all hits hard. Few characters in the show are repressed. They almost always show their emotions. There is no cool, stoic presentation of events. Every scene has emotional impact.

The love relationships in the show may seem conservative or innocent by American standards, but to some extent that's a point of greatness in EAW: it illustrates love, with reverence, and without cynicism. EAW is emotional without being sentimental or sappy. It takes emotion seriously, not cynically.

Where an American show would show characters growing fond, and then having sex, EAW puts the brakes on, and makes us take a look at what it means to love someone. No, it doesn't get into explicit talk about virtues, or logical defenses of love. But EAW does examine what love means to the people in it, rather than just showing us the result as if we already know what love is. Love is a central topic in EAW, rather than an obligatory yet unmentionable-in-detail decoration to a clever plot line.

The point of EAW is to show us a heroine who is pure of heart, and brilliant. Some viewers may wish she weren't autistic—couldn't we have a normal hero who is moral and a genius? That's an arguable point, but the autism of Woo Young-woo creates additional drama and intrigue. The autism allows us to see, in a single character, the social struggles of a child with the professional struggles of an adult. Also the character's complete lack of guile leads to dramatic situations which would not be possible with a normal hero.

EAW is, however, more of an ensemble TV show than you might expect. The show centers on a small legal team at a prestigious law firm, of which Woo Young-woo is a member. Each member of the team is an interesting character in his/her own right.

I won't say anything more about the show here, other than that it's the kind of show that could save your soul.


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