[REVIEW]: Lawless Lawyer

Hello everyone, hope all is well. I’m delighted to be able to write this review for you. Anyone who was along for the ride back when I wrote my Criminal Minds review will probably best understand why. It’s hard to believe Lawless Lawyer has now come and gone, but I found this drama to be both a charming and captivating change of pace from Joon Gi’s more recent works (don’t get me wrong, I am eagerly awaiting his next sageuk should he choose to do one in the near future). Though I am by no means a fan of the law genre (especially with the seemingly endless amount of them being released these days), I was pleasantly surprised with what this drama had to offer, and it didn’t fail to keep me entertained throughout. I was nervous about the reunification of Kim Jin Min and Lee Joon Gi— eleven years after their hit: Time Between Dog and Wolf— but am now relieved to say it has worked out in their favor. I’d definitely consider this another successful project under their belts. See below for my in-depth thoughts on the drama.

[Be Forewarned: Spoilers Below]


Superb Cast: I think it could easily be said that this drama would not have been the same without this brilliant line-up. There was not a single acting hole to be found. I will only be discussing a few standout performances, but I assure you that everyone did a commendable job.

I thoroughly enjoyed Lee Joon Gi‘s nuanced performance as the slick and cheeky Bong Sang Pil. This was a complex role, as Sang Pil was an incredibly multi-faceted character. Joon Gi handled Bong Sang Pil’s many layers quite well. There was much back and forth between moods and tones as the drama moved from one scene to the next. Joong Gi had the difficult task of balancing these emotions and switching them at the flip of a dime. One scene of giddy laughter could often be followed by an incredibly grim or tense moment that required a total change in demeanor. Considering his real life personality, this role felt tailored to Joon Gi. He is very playful and good-humored out of character, so he slipped into those traits of Sang Pil with natural ease. Even more impressive was his commitment to Sang Pil’s more dark and somber scenes. This was a fantastic role and opportunity for Joon Gi to show off not only his versatility as an actor, but his gifted ability to act with his entire body. Joon Gi poured everything he had into Sang Pil, showcasing a rawness and vulnerability that I rarely have the pleasure of seeing on screen. The authenticity of his performance made it easy to empathize with Sang Pil.

Joon Gi is known for being able to speak volumes with his eyes, and that was no different here. A diverse range of expressions often flickered across his face in a mere matter of seconds. It was mind-blowing to trace Sang Pil’s conflict, or processing of emotion, all through these micro-expressions. One of Joon Gi’s biggest assets is his capacity to display the progression and build up, or the multiple tiers, that each emotion contains. Grief isn’t just grief; there is denial, anger, disbelief—other fragments of feeling that all meld together to create it. Joon Gi is a master at exposing these distinct components that work together to create a particular feeling or emotion. Furthermore, Joon Gi’s facial muscles often added another dimension to his portrayal of Sang Pil, with the various twitches of his eyes, jaw, or eyebrows providing another window to his emotions. At other points of high intensity, it was even possible to witness his neck or forehead veins popping out to clue us into his rage or despair. Joon Gi isn’t afraid to get messy either. When he cries, he cries. This usually includes a snot or drool fest, which could be a turnoff for some, but I appreciate that he doesn’t rely on good looks and artificial tears to express his anguish. When he cried out for his Uncle in both the death and funeral scenes, it was impossible not to feel his heartache through that screen. I believed the weighty loss of his beloved Uncle, I bought into his devastation, and I became fully invested in his misery. I was entirely convinced, and extremely moved, and that’s not something that happens often (for me) folks.

Lately I’ve been having trouble with all the loud, barking actors pervading every k-drama I try to watch. I didn’t realize this was such a widespread issue until I started seeing more and more of it, even outside the crime genre. For some reason, many actors feel that screaming their lines is the equivalent of good, tough guy acting. I’m here to say that they’re horribly wrong and rather than “good” acting, it’s a great way to shatter my eardrums. On top of it all, their lines still sound like mumbled junk, even at such high volume. Watching Lawless Lawyer made me so much more thankful for Joon Gi’s good diction and realistic decibels. Unless it was a scene where it was logical for his character to be yelling, Joon Gi kept his voice in an appropriate range. This worked in his favor, and I found his use of a quiet, low-toned growl or snarl in some of his more menacing scenes to be remarkably more effective and intimidating than the method chosen by the howlers I’ve alluded to above. The only criticism I’d have was the excessive amount of snapping, pointing, and “OK!” hand gestures. Most of them were acceptable, considering they were a defining personality trait of Sang Pil, but there were a few points and snaps I think we could have done without. Otherwise, I did find them to be funny or charming.

Finally, I’d like to address his romantic finesse. I’d deem Joon Gi a wizard of chemistry. He could cook some up between himself and a water bottle if he had to and I’d be completely sold on it. Humor aside, I’ve always found the way he spends a good chunk of time softly caressing and examining his partner’s face (in any given scene before kissing her), to have a distinct impact on the level of passion the scene conveys. Often times the actor rushes into the kiss, and it’s usually quite intense or aggressive. Joon Gi’s kiss scenes have never come across that way for me (sans that one scene in SHR where it was intended to be a forced kiss). I appreciate how he never uses overwhelming force when swooping in. There’s always this quiet moment where he holds the woman’s face, and takes time to appreciate her features. You never get the sense that things are rushed with him. There’s no big hurry. You can see that he takes his time, and viewers are able to take more delight in the moment. These slow and subtle gestures make a huge difference and produce quite a uniquely sensual outcome.

I thought Seo Ye Ji was the perfect fit for Ha Jae Yi. Seo Ye Ji has such a class and elegance about her which makes her incredibly alluring. A few things that set Ye Ji apart from many actresses in her age group are her rich, velvety voice and her mature, feminine looks. Ye Ji’s voice definitely served her well in this drama. Jae Yi was a feisty, no-bullshit gal; and a high pitched, whiny voice would have done her character no good. Ye Ji also exuded a casual sense of ease that made her posture and delivery feel natural and realistic. Her portrayal was very authentic, in that when I watched her, it brought people I know in real life, with similar personalities as her character, to mind. Her expressions and intonation were incredibly spot on, which made many scenes comical, especially when she was being sarcastic or chiding Sang Pil. One of my favorite examples of this was in the first episode where Bong Sang Pil offers Jae Yi a position as a paralegal. She manages to blurt out in disbelief, “What? A Paralegal?” before letting out an irritated sigh and following up with an authoritative, “Listen here, I’m a lawyer.” Everything about Ye Ji’s delivery here, from body language to inflection, makes the scene fun and amusing to watch.

Another aspect I loved about Ye Ji’s performance was her minimalistic approach. There was no overacting and no exaggerating, but she wasn’t standing there looking like a wooden tree stump either. It brings me great joy to report that there was no scene of irritable whining that usually plagues the performances of other leading ladies. When Ye Ji portrayed disappointment or disgust, she expressed it in mature, adult fashion; which is more than I can say for most actresses. Like Joon Gi, Ye Ji exhibited good diction, which made her court scenes especially impactful. Her more somber scenes were also well done. I particularly enjoyed the scene shared between Jae Yi and Wu Hyung Man, where she interrogates him as to her mother’s whereabouts. The scene between Jae Yi and Ahn Oh Joo, where she takes the gun from him, is also another favorite of mine (which I’ll talk more about later). Both of those scenes speak to Ye Ji’s ability to convey emotion in grimmer settings. Cheekiness was not exclusive to Sang Pil, and I thought Ye Ji also nailed this playful aspect of Jae Yi’s character. The scene shared between the couple during the final episode, where they have a back and forth in the car, felt incredibly natural. I appreciated the way Ye Ji delivered her lines there. The dialogue could have come across as extremely cheesy, but Ye Ji managed to give the dialogue a certain charm that I feel would have been lost on a different actress. Overall, Ye Ji successfully carried a strong female lead, that I was able to thoroughly enjoy from beginning to end.

I’ll it admit it took me a few episodes to warm up to Choi Min Soo‘s portrayal of Ahn Oh Joo. I say this as one of his biggest fans. I’ve been dying for him to work with LJG for ages now, and I’m honored that I finally got to see it happen, and in such a magnificent project at that. After seeing the show in its entirety, I came to understand and appreciate his performance a lot more. In the beginning, I felt like he was a bit shaky in his rich CEO scenes. I couldn’t take him seriously at all, and instead of finding him fearsome, I found him laughable. His exaggerated mannerisms were making him look too goofy at times, rather than intimidating. The tongue-in-cheek gestures he relied on, harkened back to Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight. It confused me, and I found it more clownish than ominous. Overall, I found him underwhelming in these scenes, in a way that I wouldn’t expect from a seasoned veteran, which caused me to question whether the writing of his character was contributing to the kooky feel his character was emanating.

I also compared these CEO scenes with those from his past, where he murdered Sang Pil’s mother. Those scenes didn’t feel as campy to me and I thought he shined most when he was portraying the ruffian gangster side of his character. Two examples come to mind here: when he pushed his face up against Choi Jin Ae’s as a form of intimidation—and— when he repetitiously turned the lamp in Sang Pil’s office on and off again, in instigative fashion, in order to provoke him. These were some great tactics, and as the second half of the drama commenced, which signaled the beginning of Ahn Oh Joo’s unwinding and reversion to thuggish brute, more and more of these traits appeared. I deduced that his goonish performance in the first half was planned, and necessary, to emphasize this dramatic transformation in the second act. As Ahn Oh Joo regressed further and further into his former self, Choi Min Soo’s performance took on an entirely different tone; an overwhelmingly foreboding one. Once he kicked into full gear, he delivered one penetrating facial expression after another, each one becoming more manic and threatening as time went on. His heavy accent went from comical to chilling and his performance proved engaging and one of a kind. I can’t imagine anyone else playing this role with the same commitment and intensity that Choi Min Soo put forth. It was an extremely memorable and captivating performance that sucked you in, especially during the second half.

I don’t have the words to express my gratitude for Lee Hye Young‘s exceptional portrayal of Cha Moon Sook. Watching her play the villain in this, after recently checking out her earnest and heartwarming performance in Mother, was indeed something else. These roles are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and I was thrilled to see that she could not only pull off a heartfelt heroine, but a vindictive villain as well. Out of all the actors/actresses in this bunch, I must say, Lee Hye Young had the most arresting on-screen presence. From the very first moment she appeared, Lee Hye Young commanded attention with her silent but deadly approach in conveying her role. It’s rare that a well written female villain takes the stage in Korean dramas, but even more rare is having the perfect combination of character and actress. This woman stole the show right out from under her co-stars, and that is a pretty significant feat considering who they all were, and how well they all performed. I couldn’t peel my eyes away from Lee Hye Young for one second. Although Lee Hye Young’s character wasn’t half as chatty as say, Choi Min Soo’s, she managed to inject her character with a cloaked viciousness that made Cha Moon Sook far more sinister than Ahn Oh Joo could ever dream of being. The quietness of her interactions, the control over her speech and intonation, the subtle gestures and nuanced glances; all of these attributes spoke to Lee Hye Young’s unbeatable acting prowess. Cha Moon Sook is arguably the most well-executed female villain I’ve witnessed on Korean TV. Lee Hye Young took something that was already great and not only brought it to life, but elevated the character to greater heights with her flawless performance. With her virulent glances, composed speeches, and subtly domineering body language, Lee Hye Young gifted us with a monumental villain.

Other outstanding performances came from Choi Dae Hoon as Seok Gwang Dong, Baek Joo Hee as Noh Hyun Joo, Park Ho San as Chun Seung Bum, Yum Hye Ran as Nam Soon Ja, Lim Ki Hong as Geum Gang, Ahn Nae Sang as Choi Dae Woong, and many others. If I had the time, I would give each and every cast member the proper accolades they deserve. I can’t stress enough how sensational everyone was in this drama.

Compelling, Multi-faceted CharactersBong Sang Pil was suave, witty, and enduring. With his saucy humor, smooth-tongued nature, and polished wardrobe—it was impossible not to fall for his charm. Aside from his outward confidence, Sang Pil harbored qualities of loyalty, steadfastness, and vulnerability. Though he usually maintained an aura of composure, Sang Pil occasionally exhibited episodes of rage or emotionally charged outbursts. I appreciated these moments, as they made his character more human. No one can hold it together at all hours of the day, especially if they are going through a series of extreme hardships. It was only natural for him to have some of these fits. That is exactly what I liked about him. These flaws made him relatable and authentic. For example, the moment where Sang Pil loses control in the train tunnel was an important one. It reminded viewers that even Sang Pil—who appears cool, calm, and collected at all times—is not perfect and has his limits. It would have been peculiar if he hadn’t been triggered by Jae Yi’s being held hostage, because the scene was almost an exact replication of the incident leading to his mother’s death. Sang Pil was not going to let Jae Yi die. He wasn’t going to be the helpless bystander that he was during his childhood, which is why he completely lost control of himself. I’m glad the writers took that and ran with it.

There was also a more level-headed dark side to Sang Pil, which made its way out in several thrilling scenes. It began when he first revealed his identity to Wu Hyung Man in the jail cell. Though we knew he was fighting for justice, there was something slightly terrifying and wild about the way Sang Pil grabbed (a badly shaken) Wu Hyung Man’s throat. It was with frenzied enthusiasm, yet a calm whispered tone, that Sang Pil told Wu Hyung Man his intention to kill him later on. On a similar note, he showcased aggression in the courtroom when necessary. When one witness refused to give testimony, Judge Cha tried to put an end to Sang Pil’s questioning. As the pressure mounted, Sang Pil thrust the microphone aside, leaned in and threatened the witness in a soft voice laced with ferocity. When the witness still refused to answer within a decent time frame, Sang Pil growled in a low menacing tone for the witness to answer the question, with this tactic ultimately generating the desired outcome. Scenes like these were gripping to watch, because it wasn’t often that Sang Pil’s unhinged side came to the forefront.

My favorite scenes of Sang Pil were always shared in one-on-ones between himself, Cha Moon Sook, and Ahn Oh Joo. Whenever he encountered Cha Moon Sook, Sang Pil always stood tall and remained unshaken. Similarly, Cha Moon Sook never missed a beat, and always managed to maintain a sense of dignity and fearlessness. The exchanges between these two characters were always heated, yet sophisticated. They were two of the more intelligent characters of the bunch, and Sang Pil was the first person to become Cha Moon Sook’s match. Rarely did either of them have an outburst in their tense discussions. I enjoyed watching them provoke each other with their words. On the other hand, the various scenes between Ahn Oh Joo and Bong Sang Pil were all over the map. I liked that we never knew which Sang Pil was going to show up. Ahn Oh Joo was able to get under Sang Pil’s skin easily on some occasions, and other times it was the reverse. There is a scene in episode twelve where Sang Pil provokes Ahn Oh Joo, leading him to take out a gun and point it directly at Sang Pil’s forehead. The way Sang Pil stands his ground, completely unfazed is exhilarating. Even more gratifying is the moment Sang Pil slowly raises his hand, forming it into the shape of a gun, and pretending to shoot it off at Ahn Oh Joo with a wink. He does it slowly, but with an intensity that shows he’s not fooling around either. This was one of the best scenes between them (in my opinion), along with the hospital fight scene, the finale brawl scene, and Ahn Oh Joo’s suicide scene.

Ahn Oh Joo was one complex character. He was boisterous, eccentric, and crass. Many of his habits were churlish, from picking his ears with a matchstick, to massaging his toe sock clad feet. He may have dressed himself in fine suits in order to look like a Mayor, but underneath the disguise, was a clodhopping hoodlum. I had a deep hatred for Cha Moon Sook, that didn’t extend to Ahn Oh Joo. While I found her character ruthless and heartless, I saw Ahn Oh Joo in a different light. Of course, he was bad. He was a criminal who murdered Sang Pil’s mother, and had others murdered, in cold blood. There is no doubt in my mind that he committed heinous, unforgivable deeds. However, I can’t help but feel that Ahn Oh Joo was misguided and had the potential to do good had he not fallen into the hands of the Cha family.

We learn that Ahn Oh Joo was an orphan who grew up in poverty. He slowly climbed his way up the ranks, and Cha Moon Sook’s father was crucial to this advancement. It is clear to me that Cha Byung Ho took advantage of Ahn Oh Joo’s situation, and manipulated him into becoming the family dog. However, there is a stark contrast in the way Ahn Oh Joo is treated by Cha Byung Ho and Cha Moon Sook, which is crucial to Ahn Oh Joo’s development as a character. While serving Cha Byung Ho, Ahn Oh Joo was extremely loyal, and was awarded for his loyalty in ways that he never experienced while serving Cha Moon Sook. Most of Ahn Oh Joo’s recollections of Cha Byung Ho are positive. He speaks with an air of pride whenever he mentions his service to the deceased Judge. Cha Byung Ho was smart in his handling of Ahn Oh Joo. By sharing frequent meals with his lackey, he built up a rapport. He lowered himself to Ahn Oh Joo’s level and cultivated a sense of camaraderie. Cha Moon Sook, on the other hand, refused to practice any form of humility. The idea of dining in a small, cheap restaurant with her thug, was outlandish. In her mind, a woman of her stature should never have to stoop so low as to engage these kinds of people. Ahn Oh Joo has a difficult time understanding this in the beginning because he looks back on his relationship with Cha Byung Ho so fondly. His error was to assume Cha Moon Sook was the same type of person. When he finally begins to realize Cha Moon Sook’s true colors, it is far too late. He has already ruined his life by protecting her all these years. Even more difficult for him to accept, is the idea that Cha Byung Ho’s kindness was also merely a masquerade to cover up his ambitions.

This is part of what made his suicide so tragic. He has become completely and utterly unraveled at this point. It shows in his looks; he is no longer the slick, put-together CEO, but instead a haggard, unkempt outlaw. Cha Moon Sook never shows an ounce of remorse for her actions, but I don’t believe the same could be said of Ahn Oh Joo. I think the loss of Gwang Dong truly affected him, and I think it may be the first time he felt this kind of loss. The relationship between Ahn Oh Joo and his lackey was rickety, but as time went on, the two did develop a bond, even if it was an odd one. Once they were both on the run together, it became more evident that they were depending on each other, and benefitted from simply having each other’s company. It made their misery from being on the run a little more bearable. It gave them something to hold onto. The scene where the two bet on Gwang Dong’s basketball abilities is a lighthearted one. It showcases the nutty partnership the two have. I think Gwang Dong’s final selfless act came as a shock to Ahn Oh Joo. He called Gwang Dong out for lying in a previous discussion, where Gwang Dong had hesitated before claiming he’d avenge Ahn Oh Joo should anything happen to him. I think Ahn Oh Joo was convinced Gwang Dong would never do such a thing. But Gwang Dong does sacrifice himself in an effort to protect his boss. Some might say he was also trying to protect himself so he could take the money and flee, but his last words make it clear to me, that he had truly come to like Ahn Oh Joo despite all of their arguments. He doesn’t curse his boss out, but instead exits with a bit of his trademark humor. Of course, it’s hard to laugh, but he almost lovingly scolds his boss, exclaiming in a whiny croak that he never should have gotten involved with him. Despite all of this, and the fact that he probably would have been better off not getting involved, he still wishes his boss well. Ahn Oh Joo has a subdued response to all of this, but the scenes that follow are telling of his grief. The image of a weary, badly injured Ahn Oh Joo burning the stack of money the pair were holding onto for their escape, was particularly striking.

The suicide scene is very revealing about the progression Ahn Oh Joo has made as a person. He can’t undo everything that he’s done up unto this point, but there is not doubt in my mind that he has regret for the pathetic life that he has lived. It’s a long road for him to get there, but he finally comes to understand that he was never in control, and that it was a mistake to think living such a shameful life would be worth it. While Sang Pil puts his faith in the law, Ahn Oh Joo has no respect for it. In Ahn Oh Joo’s eyes, working for the law is what ruined his life. It was the law that caused his downfall, and the law that failed to protect Sang Pil’s loved ones. Ahn Oh Joo witnessed first hand how corrupt those involved in law enforcement can be. He knows, because he became wrapped up in it. His whole life was controlled by these corrupt figures, and he is just now coming to terms with the fact that all of his big power moves, were never really power moves to begin with. He was always a nobody, a puppet used by the Cha family so they wouldn’t have to dirty their own hands. None of them respected him, none of them cared for him, and he never obtained true power. Realizing that his whole life was wasted committing crimes for the fraudulent, was a fitting punishment for Ahn Oh Joo.

Sang Pil wanted nothing more than to punish Ahn Oh Joo with the law, but I think that even he becomes swayed by the spectacle before him. Seeing Ahn Oh Joo in such a tattered state, going on about how he has slaved for people of the law, was not easy for him to witness. However, I think Sang Pil might have seen that Ahn Oh Joo’s own self-awakening served as enough of a punishment. You could see the loathing for what he’d become, and what little remained of himself, in Ahn Oh Joo’s eyes. You could hear the repulsion and defeat in his voice. Sang Pil could have kept that gun in his own hand to keep Ahn Oh Joo from killing himself, but he makes a point to wave it in Ahn Oh Joo’s face before putting it on the ground. His reasoning is that he refuses to get Ahn Oh Joo’s dirty blood on his own hands, but it was quite evident that Ahn Oh Joo was suicidal and ready for death. I am positive that at this point, Sang Pil made the conscious choice to give Ahn Oh Joo the option of killing himself, otherwise, he never would have let that gun have an opportunity to make its way back into Ahn Oh Joo’s hands. I think Sang Pil does this because Ahn Oh Joo is already metaphorically dead. Punishment by law wasn’t going to make a difference. Ahn Oh Joo already felt the weight of what he’d become, and what he had done. Although it is difficult for Sang Pil to let him go out this way, I do believe it was a conscious choice on his part, after seeing just how pitiful Ahn Oh Joo had become.

Cha Moon Sook was a rare breed of female villain. Nothing fazed her, not even being in jail by the very end. In her mind, she was above all. As Sang Pil said, she was born with power, and couldn’t comprehend a world without her prevailing authority. Many of her interactions with other characters consisted of her wielding this power over others. With Ahn Oh Joo in particular, Judge Cha reveled in making her supremacy known. Out of all the “Judge Cha versus Ahn Oh Joo” moments, the scene between the two in the small restaurant has to be one of my favorites. At the very table where he and Cha Byung Ho had shared many meals together, Ahn Oh Joo’s chatter becomes an immediate nuisance to Judge Cha. As Ahn Oh Joo gloats about the loyalty he showed to her father, Judge Cha keeps pouring the liquor with a subtly sore expression, until it begins to overflow from the glass and spill out onto the tabletop. As if the whole spectacle of it wasn’t unnerving enough, she rounds out the session by splashing the bottle of liquor right into Ahn Oh Joo’s face. Judge Cha then begins treating him like a squashed bug, reasserting her dominance over the usually rambunctious Mayor. In an effort to make amends for his error, Ahn Oh Joo kneels down and speaks soft apologies, for the last time in the drama. The response he is met with, is an ominous one, where Judge Cha declares her willingness to forgive no one but herself.

What made Judge Cha such an enchanting villain was her masterfully calculative and manipulative nature. A skilled planner, adept at reading and interpreting human instinct, Judge Cha was able to conjure up elaborate schemes, while accurately predicting the responses of the people involved. Her experience serving as a Judge equips her with the ability to interpret human desire with immense precision. Her employment of the Seven becomes an incredible weapon to wield against both Sang Pil and Ahn Oh Joo. They not only provide her with benefits and immense power for a number of years, but she is able to use many of them to corner Ahn Oh Joo and thwart Sang Pil’s revenge efforts. Unfortunately (for her), she failed to predict the relationship that forms between Sang Pil and Jae Yi. Having lived a single life with no family of her own, Cha Moon Sook is incapable of understanding the power or advantages of those relationships. Instead, she wrongfully assumes that any relationship leads to disaster, as having loved ones can only create weakness and lead to a person’s demise. This underestimation becomes the root of her own undoing. Judge Cha’s superficial connections to the Seven prove to be shallow, as they instantly crumble the moment the pressure is pointed in each of their individual directions. Though she tries to stomp them out before they get the chance, two of them turn against her. While Judge Cha deems kinship a shortcoming, Sang Pil’s entirely different approach is the key to his success. Unlike Judge Cha, Sang Pil relies on the close ties he’s made in order to bring down the Seven. This teamwork is a crucial part of the revenge, and by positively viewing and treating his teammates as allies, he is able to form reliable bonds that pay off and contribute to the destruction of Judge Cha.

Ha Jae Yi‘s spunky, strong-willed attitude was refreshing. It’s not often we see a fearless female lead that takes zero bullshit. Like Sang Pil, Jae Yi was not without flaws, and her emotions clouded her judgement at times. More specifically, her temper had a tendency to flare up, which bred conflict between her and Bong Sang Pil in a few crucial moments. But, more often than not, Jae Yi showcased an array of talents to match Sang Pil’s. From quick thinking to sly side investigations, Jae Yi proved herself a force to be reckoned with, both in and out of the courtroom. When her emotions weren’t getting the better of her, Jae Yi was a rational, logic-driven lawyer. Although she was slow to trust Sang Pil at first, she listened to everything he had to say and asked him to prove his theories to her, rather than denying his claims up front without a chance. Meanwhile, when Cha Moon Sook began pointing the finger at Sang Pil, instead of taking the bait, Jae Yi conducted her own research on him. After discovering the truth about Sang Pil from his Uncle, Jae Yi confronted Sang Pil with her findings, forcing him to reveal the entire story behind his return to Giseong. Jae Yi did have an impulsive breakdown once Bong Sang Pil told her (which is only natural), but Jae Yi was quick to collect herself. She had had her night of sorrow, but the next day, she was back to processing everything with levelheadedness.

Another standout quality was Jae Yi’s fearlessness. Jae Yi was no damsel that needed rescues and coddles. This woman met with Ahn Oh Joo one-on-one, on several occasions. Knowing the threat he posed, it was significant of her to do so, all without trembling in trepidation. Jae Yi even marched right up to Scorpion, who to her knowledge, was the gang member who kidnapped her mother. Though we as audience members knew otherwise, it was gutsy of her to enter a room full of gang members, while threatening them so brazenly. Furthermore, even when Jae Yi was afraid, she still maintained poise and wit. One of my favorite Jae Yi scenes came in the finale where she was kidnapped. The fact that she remained unfazed sitting in that chair, with Gwang Dong babysitting her, was magnificent. The only reason she even became distressed was out of worry for Bong Sang Pil, not for herself. When Ahn Oh Joo held the gun to her lover’s head, Jae Yi exhibited some quick thinking. First, she kicked the crap out of Gwang Dong, then, she fished the Cha Moon Sook notebook out of Sang Pil’s pocket, knowing it would—at the very least—buy her some time to negotiate with Ahn Oh Joo. Her instincts were correct, as it did take some heat off of the situation and Sang Pil intelligently went along with the whole scheme. But the most powerful “Jae Yi versus Ahn Oh Joo” moment, was undoubtedly when he offered her that gun, taunting that she should take it if she could handle it. Jae Yi looked that man right in the eye, snatched that gun, and stood her ground. I love that she didn’t break off that eye contact or let him intimidate her. She may have been scared, but she communicated her determination and unwillingness to let him win over her, and it was and incredibly electric moment.

Competent Writing/Narrative: I thought the writers were smart about the way they chose to unravel the story and reveal pieces to the mystery. From the very beginning, the show felt well thought out with a set direction. It’s not often that a first episode grips me completely, but Lawless Lawyer managed to deliver a captivating first episode, which held my attention for the full hour. Much was covered in that first episode, but the pace was solid and a good chunk of useful information was disclosed. I liked that the show’s goal was established promptly, and I feel the writers succeeded in taking us to that finish line in a sensible but compelling way. For me, the worst kinds of dramas are those that fail to pull me in, and even worse, those that do not provide a concrete objective. If I can’t answer the question, “What is the point?” or “What is the overarching purpose of this show?,” then I have a problem. If I’m going to commit, I need to know what I’m watching for. Lawless Lawyer‘s first, and following episodes, easily passed this test and answered these questions. There were a few pacing and romance related issues in the middle, but overall, I’d say it was a steady, thrilling narrative. One thing I can say for sure, is that the story was coherent and well knitted together. There was not much filler material (aside from a few PPL and romantic blips), and each character, no matter how small, had something to offer. Majority of the big reveals were delivered via flashbacks, which propelled the narrative forward. I found this to be a unique and clever way to tell the story. Particularly, I appreciated the way the flashbacks transformed and became increasingly more informative over time. Even if we saw the same flashback more than once, every time it was revisited, there was something new to be discovered within it. Another strong point was the amount of continuously impressive cliffhangers; most of them were an excellent way to keep viewers hooked, and all of them were an appropriate place to break.

Thoughtful Cinematography/Directing: Considering the fact that this was a law drama, I wasn’t banking on much in the cinematography department. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the turnout. After last year’s mess (sorry…I’ll try not to shade Criminal Minds too much), I was thankful to see that this crew could afford the use of an expensive lens; every scene had a crisp appearance. Not to mention, the camerawork was pleasantly steady. In flashback scenes, there was usually a black or whitish vignette surrounding the outer frame, which softened the look of these scenes and helped clarify that they were from the past. The decision to make the fictional city of Giseong a beachside city was perhaps one of the smartest decisions the team made. This allowed many of the scenes to be filmed on or by the beach, resulting in a multitude of picturesque shots to delight in. Also praiseworthy, was the meticulous nature of director Kim Jin Min’s shots. His attention to detail regarding what he left in and out of the frame, as well his utilization of distinct camera angles, were both an excellent touch. The shot of Bong Sang Pil and Ahn Oh Joo’s hands linked together by handcuffs; Judge Cha’s fallen robe lying in a pile on the floor after she was ousted as a criminal in court; and the various uses of perspective delineating authority when depicting characters in conversation—all served as successful showcases of his superior directing.

Complementary OST: As most of you know by now, I deem music a crucial part of what makes a drama a success or a flop. Often times people don’t even realize how big of a role the soundtrack plays in solidifying the tone or mood of the scene. The instrumentals in Lawless Lawyer were incredibly well done applied intelligently to the various scenes in order to distinguish the suspenseful from the comedic. To start, this drama only had four vocal tracks, with just three out of those four being used in the show. All of them felt appropriate, but I think the choice to leave out the ballad was smart move. There wasn’t much room for vocal tracks in this show. It would have detracted, rather than helped the drama, to be constantly replaying the same vocal tracks over and over. The production team thankfully seemed to be aware of this, and kept the vocal track usage to a minimum, relying much more on the instrumental tracks to define the mood. “Memories” by Babylon was a particularly nice track. I appreciated that it was not an overpowering track, but a much softer tune to coincide with the romantic scenes. “Livin’ in the City” by Pullik was probably my favorite vocal track because the charismatic rap really captured the swagger and recklessness I associated with Sang Pil and his endeavors in Giseong.

Of course, my favorite tracks are always the instrumentals, as they carry the bulk of the work. There were many excellent instrumental pieces incorporated into this show, but for the sake of time, I sadly can’t speak on them all. There was a great balance between the humorous, the pensive, and the ominous on this soundtrack. The quirky tunes always came at the right time to signal the more lighthearted or goofy team-centered moments; particularly the track “Muvengers” epitomized the spunky, eccentric nature of the eclectic group. There were many piano driven songs, with “지킬께요” and “너의 상처” being my two favorite examples of this. Both of these tracks were soft, but stirring and expressive, with violins contributing to their melancholy tone. “너의 상처” was played during various scenes, but one example where I truly felt its effectiveness was during the birthday celebration Jae Yi and Sang Pil shared together for Jae Yi’s mother. The song elevated that scene to make it a touching, heartfelt moment and the scene wouldn’t have been half as poignant without it.

Moving on from the mournful the menacing, there were some real gems in the batch. “Ohju: I ain`t a Gang, No More,” “무법도시 기성,” “복수가 아니라 심판,” and “7인회,” were all fantastic pieces. Once again these were instrument heavy tracks, relying on piano, violins, and cellos to create a dooming and perilous atmosphere filled with danger, gloom and desperation. These were all worked in throughout various parts of the show, Ah Oh Ju’s theme being one of the more prevalent of these selections. However, my favorite track from the album would undoubtedly have to be “Facing Evil.” This seven minute and eighteen second long track is a phenomenal use of various instruments, crescendo and decrescendo. The tune begins quietly with piano, gradually building upon itself with the use of organs, various violins, cellos, and electronic elements. There are several climaxes throughout the song, giving it a powerful, foreboding tone. It was often used in the most suspenseful and pressing scenes of the drama, such as the cliffhangers at the end of each episode.

Top-notch Action: The show was jam packed with action sequences that may not have epitomized realism, but sure were sensational to witness on screen. Certainly their complexity alone was enough to hint at the blood, sweat, and tears that went into choreographing and acting them out. I’d expect nothing less with stunt master Lee Joon Gi at the helm, and thankfully I was not left disappointed. Kim Jin Min’s meticulous direction of these bits combined with Lee Joon Gi’s unique addition of recently learned Jiu Jitsu maneuvers elevated the fighting to a whole new level. I love the passion that went into creating these fiery moments as well. Joon Gi was able to take a new hobby and incorporate it into his work. The moves weren’t just tossed in thoughtlessly either; he perfectly meshes the Jiu Jitsu together with his usual style of martial arts, creating a seamless flow. Those few extra moves make a vast difference, giving the action an added push to lift it out of the ordinary, and turn it into the remarkable. All in all, the scenes were pleasurable and thrilling watch.

Mature, Heartfelt Romance: Most of you already know by now that I am not a fan of romance in dramas. It is very rare that I can appreciate it, let alone sit through it without the blistering urge to cringe. Thankfully, I didn’t find the romance here all too bothersome. For the most part, it was pretty decent aside from a few complaints I mention further down in this post. The writer did well by establishing the grounds for a potential romance very early on in the show (as early as the first episode). By tying the two characters’ destinies together through their childhood traumas, and making at least one character aware of this from the start, viewers have an easier time buying into the relationship. Making Sang Pil a watchful protector over Jae Yi during those in-between years also influences viewers into desiring this partnership between them. Many other dramas fail in this aspect. Even shows that create a slow and steady build up of skinship often times lack a meaningful or logical reason for the two leads to become romantic partners. In this drama, the relationship made sense. The addition of Sang Pil’s childhood flashback in the final episode really solidifies this. It confirms that even as a child, he was drawn to Jae Yi, and clarifies for anyone who may have been confused, that she was not merely a tool in his plan, but rather his first and only love.

Many, including myself at first, felt that the relationship developed a bit on the speedier side. I was able to come to terms with this, as it was not only for plot development reasons, but because a strong relationship was crucial to embarking on such a challenging revenge journey together. Yes, the two knocked boots within a mere six episodes, but if you really think about it, that isn’t as fast and unexpected as people were making it out to be. At that point in time, Jae Yi had lost everyone around her—her mom was missing; her dad was up Judge Cha’s ass; and the woman who had served as a surrogate mother to her for so long, had just turned out to be the most corrupt citizen of Giseong. This poor girl was feeling as lonesome as one could possibly be. The only person who had been honest with her, and trustworthy up until that point, was Bong Sang Pil. He was the only person who could possibly understand what she was going through, and the only one she would be able to confide in about the situation at hand. It makes sense that she would seek emotional, end even physical, comfort from him. Not to mention, they are both full grown adults, and it isn’t abnormal for adult relationships to progress at a brisker pace than say, young adults or teens.

There are many scenes I could point to, but there are two in particular that I’d like to discuss in detail, because they reflect the type of genuine romance that most dramas lack. I think out of all the romantic scenes, the fireworks scene was my favorite. It didn’t necessarily scream romance, but during that sequence, it became so clear to me how much Sang Pil cared for Jae Yi. He followed her out after she left in an emotional state, and continued to try and provide her with comfort. No matter how many times she shoved or pushed him away, he endured her lashing out in order to confirm that she was okay. He let her physically take her anger and sorrow out on him. Then he remained there, respecting her boundaries, and giving her the space she needed until she was ready to collect herself and accept his company. I love that there was no need to bog the scene down with fruitless dialogue. Sang Pil sat there quietly, knowing that his presence, paired with the silence, was just what Jae Yi needed. The fireworks and beach scenery worked so well here. It was a beautiful shot. I also love the way he carried her back to the office and, in that moment, how she let her feet swing in an almost childish fashion. Then of course he covered her with the blanket etc. Overall, this scene just spoke to me the most. Her reaction here mirrored the authenticity of his emotional breakdown during episode two’s tunnel scene; very genuine and human. Though we knew he had been a gentleman from the very start, this scene proved it. He always had her best interest at heart.

The second scene is the birthday celebration for Jae Yi’s mom. Bong Sang Pil listened to Jae Yi and fulfilled her desire to celebrate her mother’s birthday. Nothing turns me on more than a man who actually listens to a woman when she’s talking; sadly, that’s a skill that not too many men have. Then, to top it all off, he retained what she relayed to him and acted on it. This was romance done right. This was a man who truly cared and had developed a keen emotional awareness and ability to tune into others’ needs. The fact that it was such a meaningful event, rather then the usual sappy filler material that so many other dramas turn to in order to give viewers that romantic fix, truly communicated how sophisticated, authentic, and natural their relationship was. This wasn’t the type of moment that just any old couple could share together—this kind of moment was a special moment, with so much underlying meaning, that only a couple who have a deep emotional connection could share in. These two had come to understand each other on such a sincere and heartfelt level due to the nature of their backgrounds and traumas they shared. They grew up in similar circumstances, and because they had so few family members left to rely on, they were able to rely on each other in a way that most couples could never achieve.

To finish, what I loved most about this pairing, was not only the comedic banter, but the sincerity and maturity behind their relationship. This was an unadorned romance fit for adults. There was no blushing and stuttering, no moments of insecurity or low self-esteem, no hemming and hawing around. This was a romance between two confident adults who recognized each others’ worth, as well as their own self worth. Bless the writer for keeping Jae Yi secure and content in who she was. I love that she wasn’t abashed around Sang Pil in the tragic way that so many other female leads completely lose or change their personality for the sake of a man. She gave him a run for his money, and she wasn’t afraid to make the first move either. She kept him on his toes, and he relished in that. Sang Pil wasn’t threatened by her independent and head strong personality. If Jae Yi had a problem, he allowed her to take that time to flesh things out. Never did he yell in her face, force his opinions down her throat, or lash out at her when she let her emotions cloud her judgement of him. Similarly, Jae Yi offered Sang Pil the emotional support he needed in his most downtrodden moments. After his Uncle’s death, she became his rock, and she did everything in her power to lift his mood, and get him out of jail. Their final scenes in the last episode are gratifying. The way they share a jestful back and forth in the car is magnificent, and replicative of the mischievous playfulness marking their first encounters.

Partnership Done Right: Finally, a drama where the male lead doesn’t completely rob the female lead of the spotlight or micromanage the very few tasks that she may have been given. The alliance between Bong Sang Pil and Ha Jae Yi was truly something we don’t see often. Had this show gone the usual k-drama route, it would have been all Bong Sang Pil, all the time; every courtroom moment, every fierce move, every plan—you name it. Thank god, I didn’t have to witness that. Instead, we got to see true partnership at work. Bong Sang Pil was not some egotistical maniac who felt the need to overcompensate in an effort to assert his dominance. He took pride in having Jae Yi as his right-hand woman, and always made sure to give her a cheeky compliment when he was impressed with her work. Jae Yi had a significant number of courtroom scenes and big moves which all contributed to her character’s awesomeness. It wasn’t just Jae Yi that needed rescuing a few times, but rather, she also stepped in to save Bong Sang Pil from trouble on numerous occasions.

What made this pairing so fantastic was their willingness to trust and rely on each other. It was clear from the start that Bong Sang Pil had confidence in Jae Yi’s talents. He had no worries about her ability to get him out of jail (both times that he was in there). He literally told her, “I trust you, Ha Jae Yi!,” in the third episode. The moment her suspension was lifted, he treated her as his equal and considered her his co-partner (not that he hadn’t before, but with the suspension lifted, she could officially join him in court). Jae Yi had a number of courtroom scenes that were both a testament to her wit, and Bong Sang Pil’s faith in her. He sat back while she effectively questioned several witnesses, and when she’d finish, they’d switch out. This tag team approach was remarkable, and proved to be what ultimately led to their successful revenge. The two utilized each other’s strengths and shared the workload, instead of trying to dictate or complete each and every task themselves. Their unwavering trust in each other was their best weapon in taking down Judge Cha and Ahn Oh Joo. As Bong Sang Pil implies in later episodes, this perfect union was one of Judge Cha’s biggest miscalculations. Instead of being a weakness that bogged Bong Sang Pil down, Jae Yi became his biggest advantage, and also served as a source of his strength. She was not a mere pawn for Sang Pil, but a respected ally, and the person he loved dearly. Their genuine connection formed the foundation for their victorious teamwork.

In more ways than one, Sang Pil and Jae Yi’s relationship felt like a foil to Judge Cha and Ahn Oh Joo’s. Judge Cha and Ahn Oh Joo’s rocky relationship resulted from an extensive lack of trust. Judge Cha had Ahn Oh Joo do many of her dirty deeds, but she never completely trusted him, and always had a plan in place should he betray her. Using him as her dog not only kept her own hands clean, but ensured that his hands were dirty. The thuggish deeds he committed as her lackey served as her biggest weapon against him. Even if he came after her, he’d have to incriminate himself in the process. She knew this wouldn’t be in his best interest, which was why his hands were tied for so long. Ahn Oh Joo was too trusting of Judge Cha in the beginning (due the the relationship he had maintained with her father), but he later went off the rails once he became aware of her sneaky nature. There was no saving that relationship, because neither party respected each other. The two were merely using each other for as long as they could reap the benefits. Once the relationship transitioned from beneficial to toxic, both were ready to not only throw each other out, but throw each other under the bus. Trust is the glue that holds a relationship together, and fortunately for Sang Pil and Jae Yi, Judge Cha and Ahn Oh Joo failed to maintain, or even generate a sense of trust from the start.

Cathartic Ending: After watching the semi-finale, I had no clue as to how the writers would manage to wrap everything up nicely. I was incredibly skeptical that it could be done within the mere hour and five minutes they had left. Truthfully, when they first revealed the show would be sixteen episodes, as opposed to twenty, I was pretty shocked. However, I must admit that the ending managed to be everything I was looking for, and it didn’t even feel rushed. Sang Pil and Jae Yi took Cha Moon Sook down whilst she dawned her robe, just as Sang Pil wanted. The drama of these courtroom scenes was impactful and satisfying for viewers. Though we didn’t witness Cha Moon Sook’s trial and sentencing, it was made very clear that she’d be spending the rest of her life in jail without parole. That was all I needed to know in order to feel a sense of relief. It was smart of the writers to finish off this way. There wouldn’t have been enough time to execute her trial and sentencing within the allotted time left, which only would have made for a sloppy close to the show. By confirming it through word of mouth via Chun Seung Bum and the others, they were able to achieve the desired outcome viewers sought in a realistic, unhasty fashion. We also witnessed the demise of Ahn Oh Joo, along with the rest of the Seven. Jae Yi’s family was finally reunited, Sang Pil and Jae Yi’s relationship proves to be rock solid, and Chun Seung Bum got his promotion. The offer from Chun Seung Bum to work with BongHa in Seoul surprised me, but in a pleasant way. I knew he had a soft spot for Sang Pil after all, and I could tell he had respect for Jae Yi since long before, but this moment really solidified the trio’s alliance. I was glad we got some cute vignettes of the Muvengers together, even if they were a little solemn knowing that BongHa would be leaving.

Most of all, I love that we end where we began, but this time it’s Jae Yi at the wheel of Sang Pil’s sports car, and they’re headed somewhere new. The couple’s banter was incredibly cute and amusing, even to a stone cold, emotionless wart like me. I relished in her playfulness and ability to surprise him even after all they’d been through. His startled expression when she suddenly put the pedal to the metal was priceless. Don’t even get me started on how much I lived for their matching shades. I was thankful they got the happy ending they deserved (and glad a Joon Gi character finally got a concrete happy ending; it’s been way too long). It seems the writers left the door open for a possible season two, with the new sin city being Seoul. I’m not sure if that would work as well as the fictional city of Giseong (which allows much more leeway than a non-fictional city), and I have my doubts that they could cook up a story just as interesting, especially now that most of it has been told in terms of the lead characters’ backgrounds. I guess the formula would be to find two new villains, but it would be hard to construct a compelling story without it feeling like a complete replication of the first season. Moreover, these three actors (Lee Joon Gi, Seo Ye Ji, and Park Ho San) would be necessary for the success of it. If even one of them couldn’t return, there’s no way I would watch it, as it would be a complete waste of effort. I’m very content with having season one remain the only season. No need to ruin a good story for the sake of beating a dead horse. I always say that if they can’t guarantee that the second season will be more successful—or at the very least, just as successful— as the first, then absolutely do not make a second season.


Brief Midpoint Struggle: After about the sixth or seventh episode, when the romance began to kick in full throttle, I couldn’t help but feel there was a brief struggle to balance romance with action. This lasted about three or four episodes. Things didn’t really start to get back on track for me until episode eleven or twelve, with the final five episodes being what I’d consider “a return to the normal.” The first four episodes and the final five episodes, were my favorite. They seemed to have the best execution in terms of plot and tone. The beginning episodes had the perfect balance of action, comedy, and banter between the two leads. The final five episodes return to this successful formula, which is why I enjoyed them as well. By the final five episodes, the romance was pretty minimal. It was clear to me that they had significantly cut down on the romance in order to focus on the big revenge task at hand.

The middle chunk of this drama, however, had a bit of trouble maintaining that balance, for the sake of cementing the romance. This content in the middle wasn’t bad, it was simply less thrilling than the episodes I have previously mentioned. I think the heavy-handed nature of the romance at the midway point was purposeful. They wanted to establish and solidify the romance so they could cover the more important battles in the final episodes without it getting in the way. Therefore, a lot had to be done in these midpoint episodes. Many of those romantic vignettes were indeed necessary to develop a realistic on-screen relationship, otherwise it wouldn’t have been believable. But, as a viewer, I had no idea at that time that they would be toning down the romance toward the end. Had I known this earlier, I would have been less critical about the sudden influx of romantic sequences during the halfway mark. That being said, I still think a few scenes could have been done without. Particularly the episodes following Uncle Dae Woong’s death, where Sang Pil is in jail, were my least favorite. Funny enough, it was always the even numbered episodes where I felt the pacing and balance between romance and action was off kilter. I’d cite episodes eight and ten as two of the most problematic in these areas. Though, they still had some great moments, such as the teaming up of AOJ and BSP in the hospital, they had significantly more blunders to offer. Specifically, episode ten had the most amount of cringeworthy and unwanted romantic dialogue for me. Way too many hospital flirting scenes, and most of the dialogue in those scenes felt corny and forced.

Noh Hyun Joo Unrecognizable: Okay kids, it’s time to talk about one of the most infuriating aspects of this show. As you know (if you’ve already watched the show), Jae Yi’s mom disappears for 18 years. During this time, Jae Yi has been eagerly looking for her mom and hoping for her safe return. She has vivid memories of what happened that night, including all the details about her mom going out to buy her a new harmonica, etc. So, because she seems to have such an exquisite memory and longing to see her mother, you can understand why I was quite baffled when she failed to recognize her mother on the spot. I mean, the hair cut wasn’t exactly life-altering. Sure she went from having long hair to a pixie cut, but of course her face remained the same. Are you trying to tell me Jae Yi also forgot the sound of her own mother’s voice, the one person she’s loved and waited for all these years? Pretty laughable if you ask me. But, let’s play devil’s advocate here and pretend it’s logical that Jae Yi failed to pick up on those cues. There were still the other glaringly obvious hints. For example, her mother appeared in a lot of places and situations that should have tipped Jae Yi off way earlier; her alias was literally, “Mama;” she stopped by the photo studio to have her picture taken and then left in a hurry; etc. Let’s not forget the little tips Wu Hyung Man gave to Jae Yi—like when he mentioned to her over the phone that he was not indebted to her, only Bong Sang Pil. After finding out he wasn’t exactly as awful as he seemed, shouldn’t that statement have helped her recognize that maybe he hadn’t murdered her mother after all? I know it’s easy for me to say because I am a viewer, and therefore get to see the big picture/connect the dots in a way that the actual character cannot, but still. Jae Yi exhibited excellent investigation skills and logic throughout, so it’s seemed contradictory to her character to have her catch on so slowly. Even Cha Moon Sook managed to deduce the Thai masseuse’s identity seemingly before Man Bae got around to telling her.

 A Few Unanswered Questions: I would have liked to have known more about Judge Cha’s relationship with Choi Jin Ae, how they became friends, etc. Also would have liked to have known more about her father, whose actions they alluded to many times, but never fully explained. It is assumed he was corrupt in the same way as Judge Cha, but I would have appreciated more backstory on her relationship with him and how he also abused his power. We don’t get to see Judge Cha’s trial, which I believe was a smart move considering the limited number of episodes. There wouldn’t have been enough time to watch that unfold on screen in a satisfactory manner. I do wonder what happened to Man Bae and Secretary Kim. One last scene with Scorpion would have been nice as well, just to reassure us that BSP kept his promise to get him out of jail quickly. And my biggest question of all? Where in the world did Bong Sang Pil’s tattoos go? We got one lone episode of them and then they were never to be seen or heard of again. Did he pay for a removal, did he cover them up with make up, where they semi-permanent for show? I guess we’ll never know the truth, but one thing’s for sure, those knuckles looked pretty good all tatted up. I guess this answer can remain a mystery along with the sudden, but never explained changes in hairstyle that both Jae Yi and Sang Pil exhibited toward the latter half of the drama. I wish we could have had a bit more time with Sang Pil’s forehead, but beggars can’t be choosers.

PPL Heavy: This one was a bit heavy handed with the product placement scenes compared to some other dramas I’ve seen. It was nothing too awful, but there were definitely a few filler scenes I could have done without, and some of them were enough to kill the mood and distract from the story. The better uses were with the Samsung products, as these were slipped in a lot less awkwardly in terms of characters making phone calls or checking the news on TV screens and tablets. The Subway promotions, however, felt much more cringeworthy. Even the coffee and mugs they were advertising managed to look somewhat believable. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of our dear friend Subway. It felt like these people were eating their sandwiches seven days a week—for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. None of these mini adverts came across naturally, which was not the end of the world, but it was a bit irksome to sit through.

Overall Thoughts:

This action packed legal thriller may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but luckily for me, it was exactly the type of content I was looking for. With the perfect blend of comedy and excitement, Lawless Lawyer makes for an unforgettable ride. This is a show I know I’ll be able to revisit time and time again in the future. The impeccable cast alone make this drama worth the watch. Despite a few pacing blunders in the middle, this story was well developed, well filmed, and entertaining throughout. In the words of prosecutor Chun Seung Bum, “It started as revenge, but ended with justice.” I think his statement characterizes the show best. Lawless Lawyer may have started off looking like your typical “good versus evil” narrative, but for me, it became much more than a cliché revenge tale. I highly recommend giving this one a chance, even if law dramas aren’t your thing. They surely aren’t mine, but I was more than willing to make an exception this time around, and I was not disappointed.

Rating: 9.5/10 

Did you watch Lawless Lawyer? What did you think of the drama? If you haven’t already, you can check out the extended preview here.


  1. Very wonderful and well thought out review! Lawless Lawyer was literally everything that Criminal Minds was not (I know, the shade). I still have 7 eps to go on that one and still dread it, lol. But Lawless Lawyer had a fantastic story, thrills, actions, romance, interesting characters, and amazingly talented actors. I’m also not a fan of legal dramas, but this was my kind of legal drama. Truly wonderful and I’m so glad Lee Joon Gi had such a successful drama 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read my long winded rambles. 😂I truly appreciate it! Hahahaha, honestly…I don’t think you’re missing out on anything. That blunder they called a finale made my blood boil, so dread is definitely an appropriate term. It’s definitely not good I can assure you that. But, yes thankfully Lawless Lawyer turned out to be the comeback Joon Gi truly deserved. Couldn’t have asked for a better cast either! So happy for them all, and still holding out hope for them to get a reward vacation. 😅

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow well done a through review this is! I agreed with u 99% esp. abt the annoying Subway endorsement! Lol
    Anyway I do have one big qn abt this drama: why Cha admitted right away after BSP found out the notebook was sent by her? She was so confident that this isn’t going to become an evident against her? Of course i know this is a drama, but using BSP as a weapon to take down her close allies seems not bold to me but rather it’s impossible. Cos there are juz so many chances that things could go wrong.
    Overall the drama is entertaining and besides jg i think i like gwang dong best haha he really is convincing as this character! I think Cha and An are both good too of course, the casting of them are almost PERFECT. Cha seems born to have this air of royalty, her presences itself says much already. She’s like a queen for sure but i think all those bowing gestures are way too much.
    One last thing i feel abt these k drama, not only on LL but overall; is it seemingly cheesy plot that the main characters always involved in kidnapping, missing parents, tragic childhood?? Man…it is like they can only create such drama to make a strong character instead of more on the details in script writing. That s why i think if compared to Japanese drama they still have a long way to go…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read it all. I’m so glad we shared many similar thoughts.

      Hm, I am not sure I can provide a satisfying answer to your questions, but I will try to answer it to the best of my ability. Firstly, it’s a good question, and I’m not completely sure of the answer myself. I assume it is because of the type of villain they were trying to create. They were pushing the image of a woman who was so confident in her power and authority, that even by the end when she’s in jail, she is still in denial about the fact that she has lost. In other words, they made Cha Moon Sook a character who believed she was invincible. So, if this is how unstoppable she believes herself to be, she most likely didn’t mind admitting the notebook with hers, because she had full faith that Sang Pil wouldn’t have the power or evidence to stop her. Also, yes, I agree that the entire idea of BSP being used by her as a weapon is completely contrived, and they only got away with this concept because it was drama and not real life. It’s not believable at all, but it was definitely a tactic they were using in an effort to speak to Judge Cha’s experience as a judge, her ability to read people, her manipulative nature, willingness to gamble, etc.

      I too, really enjoyed Gwang Dong as a character. The actor was magnificent and I thoroughly enjoyed his performance. Had I more time, and less concern about the lengthiness of my post, I would have written a paragraph praising him as well…but unfortunately, most people don’t want to read a review with 11,000+ words, so I had to cut a few topics out that I would have liked to speak on.

      I understand what you’re saying about all the tragic character background tropes that are commonly relied on in kdrama, but they are actually quite common in media from many countries as well. You see it all the time American dramas, films, and literature in general. I think it has to do with the idea that tragedy/suffering/hardship, forces a person to grow, and it makes them more relatable and realistic. Viewers/readers feel they can connect better to characters who have faced some sort of hardship. It makes them feel more vulnerable and human (in most cases). It is in human nature, to want to root for the character who has suffered much loss. It is appealing to audiences to rally in support of the underdog, or the martyr. That’s why you see it literally everywhere in media. Films like Gladiator or the Hunger Games which became immensely popular both as novels and films. It’s is also extremely prevalent in Japanese anime. I’ve seen it in Japanese dramas too. If you think about Detective Ishikawa from Cold Case, she also had a tragic backstory. Some of it can feel cliche, especially when it’s overdone (ie. too many tragedies packed onto one character or story), but it seems to be an almost necessary part of making a character likable and an important tool for character development.

      Thanks so much for your comments!


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