Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Drama Reviews - The Good Wife (2016)

Whew. It's been a crazy 4.5 months semester, and we've finally gotten our FIRST break. Only 2 weeks, but better than nothing.
I started watching The Good Wife in August and finished ep 8, but I had to stop because I simply didn't have time to dedicate full hours to watching a drama. So I just finished it. Still loved it.

The Good Wife is an adaptation of a US series of the same name. In the korean version, Kim Hye Kyung (Jeon Do Yeon) goes back to work as a lawyer after 15 years of being a stay home mum after her prosecutor husband, Lee Tae Joon (Yoo Ji Tae) gets arrested for receiving sexual favours and bribes. She ends up working in MJ law firm, run by Seo Joong Won (Yoon Kye Sang), Hye Kyung's law school friend, and his sister, Seo Myung Hee (Kim Seo Hyung). She is assisted on her cases by super talented examiner Kim Dan (Nana), while she has to compete with Lee Joon Ho (Lee Won Geun) for a permanent spot in the firm. The show is rather episodic with each episode featuring a different case for Hye Kyung & MJ firm to tackle, but the overaching theme of Hye Kyung's growth as a woman and lawyer ties the threads together.
First up, the acting was great across the board. I really can't think of a weak link.

When Hye Kyung totally schooled the prosecutor trying to charge Tae Joon. Amazing speech.
They couldn't have gotten a better actress than Jeon Do Yeon for the titular role. Literally, since she is one of the best actresses, if not THE best in Korea. I think her acting is quite subtle, but I never have any problems knowing what exactly she is trying to portray. She imbued Hye Kyung with such strength and ferocity despite Jeon Do Yeon's rather tiny frame. LOVE. She can turn on the intensity when arguing with her husband, be aggressive in court, be playful with Joong Won, be a concerned mother to her kids etc etc. So many aspects which were all well explored by the writer, and well portrayed by Jeon Do Yeon.
(Side note and shameless plug, do watch her Cannes Best Actress winning role in Secret Sunshine!)

Yoo Ji Tae was absolutely magnetic as Lee Tae Joon. I hated Tae Joon's character because he just screamed selfish and manipulative to me. But Yoo Ji Tae was always riveting to watch with his intense gaze and large build which adds more gravitas to his character. In particular, his shouting match with Hye Kyung in ep 11 was one of my favourite scenes. Loved the intense chemistry between husband and wife.

I don't think I have ever seen Yoon Kye Sang in any of his previous works but I loved him here. I think, no, I definitely, have a crush on Joong Won. He was so patient in pursuing a relationship with Hye Kyung, being fully understanding of her difficult circumstances and always a strong pillar of support to her. He never blames her for anything, never pushy about her making a decision, and just waits for her to finally come around to accept his (& her own) feelings. And Yoon Kye Sang was just so comfortable to watch. Some people complained that they didn't feel the chemistry between Yoon Kye Sang & Hye Kyung, but to me, I thought it was fine. The point of their relationship was never some intense hot chemistry, but rather that of comfort and companionship where she can be her true self with him.

Unlike people who mostly felt surprise at Nana's acting as Kim Dan, I was so relieved. Because I am first and foremost an After School fan, and I have watched her grow from her really rookie days to someone who is widely recognised as one of the prettiest faces in kpop, but I have also seen the irrational hate she gets from k-netizens. I'm so so glad and relieved she managed to change people's perceptions with this role. She was convincing as the law firm's examiner Kim Dan, who somehow can do everything & anything lol.
Also I just loved Kim Dan's character, ESPECIALLY when Hye Kyung found out about her secret and then she went all KimDan-long-legs on Hye Kyung. Literally as long as anyone says 'it's for Hye Kyung' and she'll get to work. I think she has more than platonic feelings for Hye Kyung because that apology (which Nana nailed) sounded like a love confession lol, and all the forlorn looks she keeps shooting at Hye Kyung!!!

Shout out to Kim Seo Hyung's Seo Myung Hee, Joong Won's sister. She seems so no-nonsense and serious, but when it matters, she showed herself to be willing to protect her employees and brother. I love it every time Hye Kyung doubts herself and Myung Hee would go 'You are one of my employees. I would not let you handle this alone'.

Many failed adaptations have shown that having a previous successful show as a basis does not guarantee a logical story, but thankfully Good Wife was not one of those. I have never watched the original, but I loved the writing here. Each time I thought that a twist was smart, the writer surprises me with yet another one. (For example, the last episode when the meeting between the Judge & Joong Won was actually planned by Hye Kyung so Tae Joon lost, but then he didn't really lose because all the while, Tae Joon was using Joong Won's trial as a distraction from his real targets.)
I liked that there was character development across all the main characters. Hye Kyung's one is obvious, where she not only grew a spine in dealing with her husband, but she also grew as a lawyer from seeing things as right & wrong to adopting a more grey view of the world. And damn the ferocity in the court scenes!
Joong Won also showed growth to become a more humane lawyer, though I think that was less well fleshed out and a lot of his story was mainly focused on his relationship with Hye Kyung. 
Lee Tae Joon didn't have that much growth, but I suppose that was the point of his character. No matter what wrongdoings he has done, he always puts himself first.
I also really really liked the handling of the female characters. No damsels in distress to be seen here. From Hye Kyung to Kim Dan to Myung Hee to the pregnant lawyer, our female characters were always shown as tough, smart and capable (sometimes even more than the males).

The directing was solid but I have a small complaint. The camera direction was a little shaky at times and it really distracted me at one point. Other than that, music direction was great, the songs used were appropriate and I loved the OSTs.

The Good Wife did fairly well in Korea, with ratings averaging 4-5% on cable, but hardly any international fans watched it. Understandable, since it doesn't have the typical handsome & pretty leads (though I find our leads super attractive haha I've always liked the older actors & actresses more) and the story is more serious and adult-oriented. But a huge pity, since it is one of the best shows of the year in my opinion. Oh what I would give for a season 2 with my favourite squad battling in the courtroom.