The focus this time is on the full rape trial, and the unusual perspective this drama offers is an interesting one. Normally the perspective for this kind of plot is outrage over the crime of rape. By contrast, "A New Leaf" puts us in the same neutral state as Seok-joo. The guy obviously doesn't like or endorse rape, but his job is to defend the probable rapist, and that's exactly what he does.
Seok-joo's competence is unquestionable. Note how I used "probable rapist" above. Obviously we, the viewer know better, but the argument Seok-joo presents is rock solid. What's more, it's not even particularly misogynist. The fundamental points he makes about the victim's character are probably true. Irrelevant, but true, and even if the defendent gets convicted, dragging everything through the mud only hurts her. As a normal person, the victim only has her reputation. As a wealthy person, the defendent will continue to get on well in the world as long as he isn't in jail.
The clear influence social status has on these legal proceedings is well contrasted with Seok-joo, who doesn't seem to have much interest in money or power, or even being well-liked. This sets up an intriguing conflict. Seok-joo doesn't actually seem to want anything. With his stellar reputation, Seok-joo could take on any case he wants, yet he seems perfectly content to just do whatever his boss wants, given a moment of sulking at least.
Yeong-woo is another worthwhile character study. He seems like an all right guy- and yet this is the man who made the decision to take on the Japanese company and well-connected rapist as clients. I like Kim Sang-joong's performance here- he feels too affable to really be a villain, and yet if we look at the facts of the drama, who else could be responsible for the sorry state of the world right now?
I think that question is what's really going to end up eating at Seok-joo's character. Right he's just sort of resigned to the hopelessness of an inherently unjust society. But the end of the episode forces an end to that, as Seok-joo is now stuck with the premise of the drama and we're all just left thinking, well, now what? I look forward to seeing how Seok-joo is going to get out of this rut. This episode has enough cynicism to last for awhile. I'd like to see an argument from the other side now.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A New Leaf" Episode 2"
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