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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A New Leaf" Episode 4

2014/05/08 | Permalink

Seok-joo does a lot of hands-on investigation this episode regarding a current case. Unfortunately it's difficult to tell what this means for his character- we didn't see enough of Seok-joo pre-amnesia to know whether this is a break in the routine for him. I'm going to assume that it is- Seok-joo is famous enough that his plan doesn't really make any sense.

That's not a criticism of the plot, just to be clear. Sometimes plans that don't make any sense work anyway just by sheer force of personality. Seok-joo doesn't know he's famous, so from his perspective the plan makes perfect sense. Where we're in more ambiguous territory is why the other characters are keeping up this facade. The benefits from a business perspective of a hardworking Seok-joo would seem pretty negligible compared to the risk of him finding out the truth.

But then it's not about business- it's about how on a symbolic level no one is willing to come clean to Seok-joo because his hardworking lawyer persona is the only one anybody cares about. Even though "A New Leaf" is a legal drama, there seems to be a pretty pointed cultural criticism here about the workplace attitudes in general. Ji-yoon is, again, hypothetically a good person, but when it comes to a choice between career and ethics, she consistently keeps choosing career.

This makes for a very interesting absurdist effect. The entire concept behind "A New Leaf", and the technical execution of it, is totally preposterous. But it doesn't feel like a bored drama writer throwing in whatever ridiculous tropes she can think of in order to meet the deadline. These people are exploiting each other. That makes for a surprisingly human element here, because exploitation in real very often sounds quite absurd and circumstantial to people looking in from the outside.

The only real complaint I can make of the drama at this point is that there isn't really a lot of energy. The ideas are excellent, and the cynicism palpable- there's just not that much of a conflict. We do finally get an actual confrontation at the end, but this is mainly just to set the stakes for the next episode. So far "A New Leaf" is concerned predominantly with concept. This is a pretty good place to be, and it's to writer Choi Hee-ra's credit that the novelty still hasn't worn off yet. Still, more variety will be needed at some point.

Review by William Schwartz

"A New Leaf" is directed by Park Jae-beom-II, written by Choi Hee-ra and features Kim Myung-min, Park Min-young, Kim Sang-joong and Ahn Sun-young

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