After a very long time, K-dramaland has given us a college drama with a myriad of characters. From Parasite’s Lee Jung-eun to Reply 1988’s Ryu Hye-young, the cast of this drama piqued my interest ever since it was announced. This is going to be one of the few legal dramas set in school instead of the high-stakes, over-dramatic plots we usually get. I watched the premiere episodes of Law School to understand the premise and check out how this wonderful cast is interacting with each other on the show. Unfortunately, despite Law School recording one million viewers, the first two episodes were confusing and underwhelming.
Note: This is a first week review only.
The drama begins with an intense mock courtroom recreation by the law students of Hankuk University. The students—consisting of characters played by Kim Bum, Ryu Hye-young, Lee David, Lee Soo-kyung, among others—essay the roles of prosecutor, judge, witness, defendant, while professors watch from another room. Before the mock court is able to solve its case, however, a real-life case occurs in the next room. One of the professors is found murdered and another is arrested as the suspect. The premise of a real murder happening while students try to solve a fake one is really interesting, but the execution left much to be desired.
Let’s begin with the characters. At the center of this story is Ryu Hye-young as Kang Sol, a bright-eyed student who is immediately revealed to be a misfit in her university. When everyone else is coldly focused on doing better at studies, she seems to be the only one bothered by the real-life implications of the cases being fought in the show. I must say, it’s lovely to see Ryu back on screen in a meaty role so long after she won hearts as Sung Bo-ra in Reply 1988. However, I also felt that it might have been a tad too long, because Ryu definitely overacted the part of a clueless teenager in certain scenes.
Kim Bum, on the other hand, was similarly off-balance as the brooding law genius Han Joon-hwi. His character is one of those anti-establishment types as he takes on his own school over corruption. Despite Kim being a fantastic actor, I felt neither the tragedy nor the torment of his backstory that was revealed in Episode 2. I think part of the reason why I didn’t enjoy the premiere was that I felt that every character’s backstory was introduced way too soon, before we, as viewers, could feel invested, and that just took away the gravity from these stories.
My favorite bits were hands-down the ones with Kim Myung-min as Yang Jong-hoon, the former prosecutor turned criminal law professor. His classes are both thrilling and dynamic, with the deep-voiced Kim acing the role of the charismatic and slightly eccentric professor who is now being accused of murder. Although initial impressions revealed Professor Yang as arrogant and scary, his dynamics with Kang Sol made for a wonderful crack in his unflappable facade. This is one relationship I’m excited to see the progress of.
I was expecting Lee Jung-eun’s character to be similarly poised as a fellow professor, but she did her usual friendly act. She is a fun and empathetic teacher who remembers the names of all her students and wants to make learning fun, but I wasn’t very impressed with her character right off the bat. Not that I mind Lee Jung-eun being friendly, it’s just that I would like to have seen the veteran actress in a different avatar—maybe cool and sophisticated and a little scary. However, she came across as the exact same too-nice, too-excited character she usually ends up playing.
With the show being set in a law school, I was expecting witty arguments, sound logic, and a fast-paced plot. However, certain moments in the show made it difficult to suspend disbelief. Is it really possible that mere students of law school are so callous that they are unfazed by a murder on their campus? From a former convict randomly entering the lecture hall to pregnant professors bleeding in the middle of class—we may have gone a bit too far. Despite The Light In Your Eyes’ (2019) Kim Seok-yoon serving as the director, the narrative of the beginning episodes was all over the place. The backstories of the characters felt cliched and like they were introduced way too soon. The two timelines were confusing, and the humor of the show bordered on flat.
After a barrage of complaints, I do have a bunch of things I am looking forward to in the next episodes. Professor Yang Jong-hoon and student Kang Sol’s bond seems adorable at the outset, and I’m also sufficiently intrigued by Professor Yang to stay interested in his character. I quite enjoyed Kim Bum and Ryu Hye-young’s dynamics too, as well as the rest of the group, who despite being from very different backgrounds, did all the fun bits of college together like complaining about classes and mimicking professors. There is potential for solid friendship here.
We jumped right into a murder case with the first two episodes, but for pacing and narrative issues, things did not feel serious or urgent. I hope the writing remedies that in the future. The teachers at Hankuk University all seem like a bunch who would go to great lengths to teach their students well. I know there are more surprises coming with regards to fellow teachers, the rest of the group, and our main characters. If the direction and acting improves, I will probably give this show a chance, despite the underwhelming premiere. If I continue watching this, it’ll be purely because of Kim Myung-min.