The name Kim Myung-min is usually one of those that need no introductions. While his presence does not guarantee a work's quality, he is usually the saving grace that elevates everything else, especially when given a good script. The fact that a talented cast led by him could not help much with the rocky and often tedious start of 'A New Leaf' is definitely something to worry about.
The series begins with the premise of taming a beast, in a sense. Kim Seok-joo (Kim Myung-min) is a cold-blooded lawyer for a top law firm. He defends the guilty and does so very professionally, without displaying any guilt or moral dilemma over those choices. Lee Ji-yoon (Park Min-young), an intern with a more innocent and caring approach enters the company and their values clash. When Seok-joo loses his memory following an accident, he is placed under Ji-yoon's care by his boss, Cha Yeong-woo (Kim Sang-joong) and slowly faced with the man he used to be.
The premise is a very promising one. While amnesia is a tired old plot device, making it the very core of a story where a clash of characters is the main idea is very interesting. There is a great basis for character exploration there and for many important questions. Does our work shape our character? Are our morals something to lock out when doing it? Most importantly, if we were to be faced with our own flaws from a fresh point of view and get a second chance, what would we change? And could we?
Unfortunately, the series has not yet gone there, although with the introduction and accident just having happened, there is plenty of time. That said, 'A New Leaf' is not even showing any inclination towards that at the moment. In fact, the drama feels unsure of what it wants to be and rather than doing fine in many areas, it is shaky in all.
The romantic part of it is barely there at the moment, so that is not really something one can hold on to and have any expectations for. Character development is also very slow, with the last two episodes having mostly been at a standstill in that area. On the other hand, the series places a lot of emphasis on courtroom and financial sector drama, with both cases being very loosely related to the leads so far and therefore not of any interest. But due to the amnesia part and potential romance, 'A New Leaf' is also not a pure law drama. At this moment, it is not giving clear progress and satisfaction on any of those things.
Another issue is convenient plot devices and dumbing down of characters to serve the plot. The main target of which seems to be Ji-yoon, as if her being a nice person somehow means she is exempt from criticism over her fluctuating intelligence and work ethics. If a writer has to rely on such devices so early on in a series and if the work does not have a clear direction, it is less than encouraging for the future.
However, there is promise. The acting is mostly solid, even if Park Min-young is clearly struggling and not really managing to match the rest at this point, and the characters are layered and therefore have what they need to be developed nicely. There is also still the possibility that the focus will be Seok-joo confronting his life and changing as a person. Any potential friendship or romance are also very welcome, if done well and matter in changing the lives of the people in them, rather than just being tossed in because it's common practice.
If the series wants to keep people invested, it needs to refrain from bombarding viewers with law and finance lessons, unless it plans to be a pure legal drama. It needs to make that choice of what type of series it wants to be. Some writers can combine many things and make them all interesting. This not being the case here, the writer of 'A New Leaf' needs to make choices and focus on them.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama First Look] "A New Leaf""
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