Disclaimer: Beyond this point, there will be some **Spoilers** Read on if you wish.
Extraordinary Attorney Woo is a K-drama/legal drama streaming on Netflix. We follow Woo Young-woo, a genius lawyer who graduated at the top of her class. She also happens to be on the autism spectrum. We start by seeing how Woo Young-woo and her single father navigated life with a child on the spectrum. At first he couldn’t understand what might drive the young child. Much to his delight, he quickly learns that his daughter has a photographic memory and is a genius regarding the law. Despite having graduated top of her class, Young-woo had difficulty getting hired at law firms due to being autistic. Finally, she is hired at Hanaba, a large law firm, thanks to her father’s friendship with the CEO of the firm.
The Autism Rep
Now Woo is navigating life as a new attorney. Despite her unusual behavior, quirks, and tics that are reflective of her autism, she is a brilliant attorney that uses her eidetic memory to recall all the legal details in virtually anything she reads, sees, or hears. Often underestimated and prejudged, Woo quickly shows herself to be quite the force when it comes to trial law and research. She gets noticed by people who root for her, some who want to one-up or get rid of her, and some who want to poach her for their own firms.
Outside of Woo and her father, we meet her best friend Dong Geu-ra-mi. She is a strange, humorous girl who protected Woo from bullies when they were in school together. We also meet her direct supervisor Attorney Jung Myung-seok (who I like to call Daddy Jung, let’s just establish that now because it will come up later); colleague Choi Su-yeon who went to law school with Woo and looked out for her, and another colleague Kwon Min-woo who is bitterly jealous of Woo. We also meet Han Seon-Young, the CEO of Hanaba who hired Woo for a secret agenda against her rival Tae Soo-mi, the CEO of their biggest competitor Taesan.
The Colorful Cast of Characters
But perhaps the biggest relationship Woo develops outside of that with her father is with Lee Jun-ho, a legal support staffer who takes an instant liking towards her, friendly but professional at first. Jun-ho is perhaps the first person who meets Woo and does not act disturbed or confused by her behavior in an overt way. He takes her and her personality quirks in stride and helps her and her fear of entering the revolving door of the Hanaba entrance. The door and the little dance he helps her come up with to time the entrance and exit of the door become a running theme for the pair. We see right away that there is a spark of chemistry between them, and indeed Jun-ho, much like Jung (in my opinion), is a total babe. Their mutual attraction grows and they eventually enter a sweet and very innocent romantic relationship.
What Makes The Show Relatable?
Extraordinary Attorney Woo on Netflix does a wonderful job of depicting a range of tones while for the most part remaining bright and hopeful. If you are someone who wants something light, but not too light and not afraid to show a little underbelly of human behavior (some of the cases can be really raunchy, and some of the characters can be morally questionable), this is the series for you. Woo herself is incredibly adorable. She is sweet but she is not perfect.
Her autism means that sometimes she has a hard time understanding things that others might immediately get. Things like what one does on a date or how to tell if someone likes you romantically or not. Woo and Jun-ho’s relationship also faces some trouble because Woo also finds it hard to recognize or properly communicate her feelings in a way she can get across to her partner.
Other things the show does well are character development (even characters like Geu-ra-mi, who to some might seem cartoonishly silly, show layers as the series progresses) and shifting character dynamics. Overall, showing that a first impression might not be everything, that time can show you what you need to know about someone.
One of the episodes involves a case where the attorneys must defend someone else who is on the autism spectrum. This young man also lives with autism. Woo makes it clear to others as well as the viewer, that just because they are both autistic doesn’t mean she can understand or reach him any better than his parents or the other attorneys can. I appreciated that, despite the somber tone of the episode (and the really messed up sentiments of the public against the young man over his autism spectrum disorder, and anyone with it, no matter how guilty or innocent).
Navigating Life With Autism
Extraordinary Attorney Woo, despite much of it being bright and hopeful, was realistic in that not everything and everyone has a happy, satisfying conclusion. Sometimes, things will just be difficult. And while here Woo makes it clear that her autism is different, she has, and will always have, her difficulties in life and can only navigate them the best way she can with a good support system that can be patient with her.
What Doesn’t Work
Without going into spoilers, there is a budding relationship that starts to turn a jerky character into a more sympathetic one. While it is understandable that people change, and characters certainly develop, this particular character letting go of opportunities and grievances in the name of being a better person to impress someone felt a little out of character. Worse yet, they still felt untrustworthy even despite the apparent shift in morals. It’s never a good sign when someone changes to impress a love interest instead of organically changing because they want to or they see or recognize something within themselves they want to change. Besides, the idea of “fixing” someone is one that we all need to soundly reject. When people show you who they are, believe them.
Aside from that, this next thing isn’t a problem. If you are an English-speaking viewer watching with subtitles, you might find yourself rewinding from time to time. The characters talk really fast and it’s hard to keep up with some of the time. Given that this is a legal drama, it makes sense and lawyers often speak fast no matter the language.
Some viewers apparently feel the entire premise of the series and the characterization of Woo is seeking clout. This is primarily due to Woo being played by an actress who is not (to my knowledge at least) on the autistic spectrum. This can be left up to your opinion, though. As a viewer, you are more than welcome to research these opinions and grievances of people who disagree with the series or the casting. Many viewers, like myself, who knew very little of what autism entails autism were very pleased with the information and nuance the story offered.
To Recommend, Or Not?
I cannot recommend this Extraordinary Attorney Woo on Netflix highly enough.
Recommending shows is always difficult for me because I am a binge-watcher. I will watch several shows at any given time no matter what. But I know some others might take issue if they waste time on things they end up not enjoying. In my opinion, this series has a lot of heart and it is a lot of fun. It does not shy away from cheesy soap opera-type romance, serious issues and groupthink. It doesn’t shy away from the concept of miscommunication and being misunderstood.
We all can relate to being or feeling like an outcast or feeling like someone is always better than you (this isn’t Woo, by the way). Woo is not the only character you will learn more about and explore. Even her dad gets a lot of backstory and character development. We also learn more and more about how he had Woo and the things we would do to protect her.
Extraordinary Attorney Woo on Netflix is excellent. If you like K-dramas, legal and court dramas it’s a must-watch. If you love ethnic representation (in this case Korean folks) without non-BIPOC being centered, check this show out. Between intelligent women dominating in an otherwise historically male-dominated field, and putting everyone to shame, this is for you. If you like good quality content and have or can access Netflix, check it out. I didn’t even mention the whales. Woo loves whales and dolphins. It’s the cutest thing the way she goes on and on about them, keeps merchandise and figurines of them, and knows endless facts about them. I can relate, except for me, it’s comic stuff and certain movies and shows.