“Extraordinary Attorney Woo”

Fair warning: I’ve already convinced three people to become as addicted to this Netflix series as I am. You, dear reader, could be next. It’s fiction, but often quite realistic. It won the seventh highest audience for a show in Korean cable history and in its seventh week on Netflix, was the most watched series around the world.

The star of this Korean show is 27-year-old attorney Woo Young Woo, a genius who’s on the autism spectrum. She graduated summa cum laude from Seoul National University law school. Her single father, the essence of goodness, worried when she didn’t speak at age five. But suddenly and unexpectedly, she began spouting laws, having memorized his law books lying around their home.

That was just the beginning; with an IQ of 164, she eventually got a job at the prestigious Hanbada law firm in Seoul. Each episode covers a different legal case, while at the same time, her relationships with her colleagues grow. Most touching is her friendship with Jun-ho, who first teaches her how to dance into a revolving door, one of many predicaments that initially baffle her. The two eventually “like” each other; his kindness, patience and restraint are admirable.

Though it may seem cheesy, I enjoyed the graphics when Woo gets an inspiration. Her favorite, obsessive topic is whales; she must be warned repeatedly not to bore people with her detailed knowledge of them. So, as she suddenly sees how to creatively resolve a courtroom dilemma or legal issue, a breeze blows her hair and whales breach in the sea or float through the room or past her train car. If each of us could envision some natural phenomenon for our own bursts of insight, what might it be?

Also inspiring is the small circle of friends who learn how to work with Woo’s disability and admire her strengths. In high school, Dong Geu-ra-mi protected her from bullies, and remains her confidante in adulthood. Another attorney, Choi Su-yeon, resented Woo’s easy superiority in law school, but as colleagues in the firm, Choi defends and befriends Woo.

The series offers moments of challenge, insight, intellectual stimulation and laughter, with the only blemish being the English voices that are dubbed into later episodes, perhaps for those who have trouble reading subtitles. They ring false and distract from many other pleasures of watching. Another possible flaw: some critics think it’s an unfair representation of the autism spectrum, because not all are as bright and happy-go-lucky as Woo.  But an early episode shows a boy at the sadder end of the spectrum, unable to speak. And I’m pleased to discover how I can relate to her dread of loud noises and confrontations, her difficulty opening plastic water bottles.  

In the last episode, Woo creates an apt metaphor for her life: she feels like a narwhal among whales. Nonetheless, she smiles, “It’s a beautiful life.” Series 1 ends on a joyful note, with several threads left unresolved, so it’s heartening to know that Series 2 will start in 2024. Motivation to live that long!

2 responses to ““Extraordinary Attorney Woo”

  1. We loved this show as well!

  2. Thank you for giving a good plug for the ‘autism spectrum’ and a ‘good’ show about lawyers. Given your spirituality I resolve to watch it! Keep up the great work Kathy … from a retired attorney.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s