Divorce Attorney Shin Is Filling the Extraordinary Attorney Woo-Shaped Hole in My Heart
I’m not typically one to chase the latest and hottest Korean dramas on the block, so imagine my surprise when I found myself completely captivated by 2022’s Extraordinary Attorney Woo. Like everyone else around the world, I was completely taken in by Woo Young Woo’s endearing personality, charm, and strong sense of justice. I’m also a huge Ace Attorney fan (though it’s all murders in that series), which naturally means I’m a sucker for a good law drama from time to time.
So when Extraordinary Attorney Woo came to an end and the news broke that its season 2 renewal won’t come till 2024 at the very earliest, I was, of course, heartbroken. And then Divorce Attorney Shin happened.
Look, I won’t lie to you. While we’re still in the early days and there’s literally only one episode out right now, Divorce Attorney Shin doesn’t quite capture the charm of Extraordinary Woo. Actress Park Eun-bin delivered such a magnetic performance as the autistic lawyer, and made the character feel full of life and a sense of eager innocence that was hard to look away from. On the flipside, Divorce Attorney Shin’s protagonist Shin Sung-Han is much more cynical, but that can come with a different kind of charm as well.
Sung-han is a total weirdo and he’s quirky in his own ways; he doesn’t care what others think of him, he sits on the steps during rush hour to put on his socks, and he treats bureaucratic authority with so much irreverence that it’s hard not to like the guy at least a little. He’s treading a very fine line, though, as the character comes very close to being annoying and a little too tryhard-y at times, but at least in the first episode, he’s striking a good balance between being professional and cringy.
This is a man who blasts music in the middle of the night while working on his case notes. He bops around on his chair and randomly breaks into song when he should be building his case. I mean, honestly? Relatable.
The show truly comes to life when Sung-han starts working a case and focuses all his attention on it. Divorce Attorney Shin’s whole schtick is in its title: this is a law drama that deals exclusively with divorce cases. That, in and of itself, is already compelling because divorces are inherently emotional and intense at their core. This sets the stage for much more emotional stakes and cases that you can get invested in more easily as a result.
While I’ll always have a soft spot for Extraordinary Attorney Woo and its endearing cast of characters, I’ll be the first to admit that some of the cases in that show were downright boring. The ATM machine episode sticks out as the lowest point of the series for me, and I’d much prefer the interpersonal drama that comes with trying to navigate a tough divorce.
Of course, the nature of divorce cases also means that there’s less room for exciting courtroom drama where the lawyers slam their desks, yell “Objection!”, and point at each other in gusto. Oh. Wait sorry, I’m getting my Ace Attorneys crossed again, but you get the point. Courtroom drama is exciting and it seems like Divorce Attorney Shin won’t have much room for that because of its premise, but I’ll take emotional investment and stakes over courtroom pointing any day. And anyway, because this is a K-drama, you just know the show’s gonna find some way to turn it into a trial.
The first episode covers a case where a woman who cheated on her husband is looking to file for divorce. In most circumstances, the woman would be viewed as the adulterer who should be condemned, but of course, there are always two sides to every story, and this is where Sung-han shines. Underneath all the quirkiness, Sung-han demonstrates compassion and empathy not just towards his clients, but the people around him too.
There’s depth here, and Divorce Attorney Shin is already showing massive potential from the first episode. It might not be quite enough to get me to forget Woo Young-Woo just yet, but I won’t say no to even more heartwarming (also read: heart-wrenching) law dramas.
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