What else I've been watching 29 July 2022
Extraordinary Attorney Woo (2022), Cafe Minamdang (2022), Elvis (2022)
Extraordinary Attorney Woo: It’s practically useless after Episode 10 to pretend that I’m not primarily watching this show for the romance. It’s signed, sealed and delivered with a pretty bow on top that Young-woo and Jun-ho are headed for their happily-ever-after in some form. If the early signs are to be believed the road ahead is a hard one for both. No wonder Jun-ho waited for the longest time to make his confession — he was thinking ahead about all the consequences about making that leap. I’m sure he had an inkling (at least) how things would be interpreted by bystanders. Already he’s getting flack from old friends about dating someone with a “disability”. Jun-ho is a gentleman in most instances but he loses it when his drinking buddy reluctantly muttered the word “pity” in the same critical breath as “dating”.
Unlike what might be floating around social media I’m not someone who thinks that people’s motives are cut and dried. Does it really matter if there’s a bit of pity mixed in with everything else? However, I hasten to add that in all of Jun-ho’s interactions with Young-woo I’ve only ever seen him act like a man who is respectful and in love. He is genuinely charmed by everything she does (and we are completely charmed by Kang Tae-oh) and he has no qualms about teasing her or flirting with her now and again. His admiration and respect for her is genuine in that he never gets in the way of her doing her job because he somehow thinks that she needs to be protected by him. Unless there is imminent physical danger. If that were the case then yeah, I could see how one can conclude that pity was the main driver in this relationship.
From everything that I’ve seen (and believe me I’ve watched everything multiple times) he’s just a guy who met a girl that piqued his interest because she’s not like any other woman he’s ever met. It’s true that not everyone can see her with his lenses but at the very least they should respect him enough to ask him what he likes about her without jumping to conclusions that he’s just being “nice”. Jun-ho is not a man who lacks admirers as we’ve been reminded repeatedly so this isn’t some act of desperation on his part to prove something either. It’s not as if he needs this kind of complexity in his life.
So all of this boils down to a question of judgment. There are parallels with the most recent case where the defendant is accused of statutory rape committed against a woman with intellectual disability. He says it’s consensual but the young woman’s (27 years old) mother insists that her daughter doesn’t have the capacity to consent to sexual intercourse. So the question at the end of all this is — who has the right to make that judgment for this young woman? Her mother? The court? It’s not a simple straightforward case even if the character of the defendant is less than stellar. It is a veritable legal minefield that shows how inadequate the legal system is to deal with the complexities of human relationships.
Likewise Jun-ho’s decision to enter into a dating relationship with Young-woo is, from the perspective of his friends, fundamentally about his judgment on this issue. The assumption of outsiders looking in is that this “romantic” relationship between a neural-normative person with someone who isn’t is a mistake and is doomed to fail. Why? Because they’re incompatible? Because common sense dictates… what exactly? The silence among the friends is telling. Nobody really wants to go there because no one wants to be the first to sound prejudiced. Moreover, no one wants to come right out and insult Jun-ho directly for being a fool… rushing in where angels might tread carefully. Until he presses the point.
This confrontation with his friends is one of the key moments of the episode to me because it’s a “I-want-more-Jun-ho” moment that’s been needed. Jun-ho knows only too well what lines he required to draw and the trick now is whether he can hold the line despite the well-intentioned fussing from various quarters.
While the barriers might seem insurmountable to people who don’t know better and have never seen them interacted, I would venture to say that this romance is probably the healthiest I’ve ever seen in a drama. Its foundations have probably been better laid than many real life dating and marriage couples. Speaking from a drama watcher’s point of view, however, I don’t remember the last time I saw a couple that was this mutually sensitive and thoughtful. It isn’t just because Jun-ho is extraordinary in his own right as well but what makes all of this convincing is that the two of them are so courageously conscientious about navigating this potentially difficult relationship. Communication is certainly key but it’s more than that. In all the moments that they share together even before the most recent episodes, they are really considerate of the other as individuals and assume nothing. Frankly speaking, there are many long-time couples who could learn a thing or two from them. Young-woo is trying hard to accumulate knowledge on the subject. She asks questions because this is simply outside her area of expertise. For his sake she offers to hold his hand, initiating a kiss and then for his sake she asks about how she can improve and then shows that she’s willing to try again. Credit should be given to the director who staged this but also to the actors who did a brilliant job selling it. It’s easy to buy into this precarious romance because both Young-woo and Jun-ho take nothing for granted. Accommodation comes naturally it seems because they know that they’re in for a rough ride.
Cafe Minamdang: This is unabashedly a nutty show and I’m enjoying the ride for the most part because of the cafe gang. However, I think this would be a far better show without Oh Yeon-seo’s character, Han Jae-hee who really seems to be written as an obligatory love interest (not really needed in this story) and to put the breaks on the plot. She’s highly unprofessional as a detective of her rank and very much driven by emotions — my least favourite plot device in a police procedural. Not too different from Detective Fix from Around the World in Eighty Days whose presence is mainly to disrupt other people’s plans and to create tension but comes off being maddeningly frustrating instead. Also I’m not one of those people who dislike Oh Yeon-seo as I’ve watched Medical Top Team, Jang Bo-ri is Here, A Korean Odyssey and Mad For Each Other and finished all of those. But Han Jae-hee is just too much to bear and she routinely beats up Seo In-guk’s character in a rage fit which I find disturbing rather than funny considering her credentials. I keep thinking that he should sue her for assault every time she lands one on him. When he dons the shaman mask he plays it up with glee but at least he’s deadly serious about catching the culprit and his skills as a criminal profiler are as sharp as ever.
Under all the spiritist hijinks and slapstick is a serious murder investigation into a series of murders tied to the death of Han Nam-joon’s prosecutor friend who also happened to be Jae-hee’s older brother. I don’t even know why recuse herself from these investigations but yeah… it is a wild and wacky show.
The last time I remember Seo In-guk playing a criminal profiler too was in Hello Monster and there he was paired off with Jang Na-ra’s character which was not that necessary either. But at least she was likeable. That is a good drama and also features Park Bo-geum (still my favourite role of his) and Choi Won-young.
Elvis: It’s a grim morality tale about the consequences of greed with plenty of bling to dazzle anyone into acceptance that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Elvis Presley’s (Austin Butler) checkered relationship with his unscrupulous manager Col. Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) is under the spotlight in this biopic charting the meteoric rise of one of the world’s greatest musical icons. In many ways it is a Hollywood story that aims to strip away the glamour and glitz of the legend. Elvis became as much a prisoner of his success as he was of Parker’s behind the scenes machinations.
His musicality and musical influence on popular music to this day are undeniable. What was of particular interest to someone like me who knew nothing about his musical roots until only recently was the way director Baz Luhrmann juxtaposed the different types of sounds Elvis was marinating in while growing up in Memphis in the segregated south. These became seminal moments that saw him draw controversy later as he began to popularize black music to white audiences. B.B. King was a friend. There’s little doubt that watching how Elvis’ music and showmanship evolves throughout his career is the highlight of this cautionary fable.