[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Devil Judge" Episode 6
By William Schwartz | Published on
Last time on "The Devil Judge" Seon-ah had kidnapped Yo-han for apparently erotic purposes. I'd been dreading the follow-up to this because, as I've noted, the political elements tend to be stronger than the personal elements in this drama. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the encounter between antagonist and anti-hero was mostly about manipulation and intimidation. But with the hilarious twist that Seon-ah and Yo-han's backstory reads like backstory for a romantic comedy-drama.
The gothic undertones are not especially subtle. Yo-han is the tragically hated illegitimate son of the brooding master. Seon-ah was the enthusiastic young maid with a penchant for being accused of petty theft. The young Seon-ah's cheerful sociopathy is hilarious. In a moment of bonding with Ga-on, Elijah also mentions the story of how her uncle once made the family maid jump out the window. The actual context behind that story ends up proving extremely appropriate for Seon-ah and Yo-han both.
It's actually a bit of a let-down when that whole sequence comes to an end, since for all this backstory Seon-ah and Yo-han both make it clear that none of this is relevant to their motives in the present day. Soo-hyeon's ongoing investigations feel pointless even before we learn that the breadcrumbs she's been following were just predating a giant marketing stunt. In an unexpected callback, the scene from the first episode where Yo-han was negotiating with the whistleblower takes on renewed relevance.
But the main important exposition from the early episodes that must be kept in mind is that Yo-han's TV show has to be produced. The production team, of whom we see very little here, have to prepare the relevant visual aids and apps ahead of time. So we know that despite events following Yo-han's big public statement being framed as a surprise, everyone directly involved must have known ahead of time exactly what he was planning.
"The Devil Judge" isn't quite well-written enough for me to give the drama too much credit on this presentation. Ironically, Seon-ah is now more interesting as a character but less interesting as a villainness because as is noted, she blew her one chance on a death blow against Yo-han to instead try and manipulate him, which just didn't work. Contrast that with Ga-on having finally succeeded in getting Yo-han and Elijah to eat his delicious cooking- and briefly, irrelevantly, give us a glimpse into his own backstory.
Review by William Schwartz
"The Devil Judge" is directed by Choi Jeong-gyoo, written by Moon Yoo-suk, and features Ji Sung, Kim Min-jung, Jinyoung, Park Gyu-young, Ahn Nae-sang, Kim Jae-kyung. Broadcasting information in Korea: 2021/07/03~Now airing, Sat, Sun 21:00 on tvN.
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 email@example.com. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.