Extraordinary Attorney Woo

Extraordinary Attorney Woo

"Extraordinary Attorney Woo" (2022) is a South Korean television series helmed by director Yoo In-shik, featuring Park Eun-bin and Kang Tae-oh in leading roles. Originally broadcasted on the Korean channel ENA (formerly SkyTV), it aired from June 29 to August 18, 2022, airing every Wednesday and Thursday at 9 p.m. (local Korean time). Since its debut, the series has also been available for streaming on Netflix worldwide.

The show amassed 24 million views within its first week and reached a cumulative total of 77 million by its seventh week. Propelled by positive reviews, "Extraordinary Attorney Woo" swiftly ascended to the pinnacle of viewership charts and sustained its presence in Netflix's top 10 rankings or in close proximity even after concluding its broadcast in Korea.

By August 14, the drama had accumulated a staggering total of 326.6 million viewing hours, surpassing the previous record set by "A Business Proposal" (2022), which garnered 279.1 million over 13 weeks. It also maintained its coveted number 1 position as the most-watched non-English language television series globally during the second week of August 2022.

Continuing to captivate international audiences, the series secured spots in the Top 10 Television rankings across 51 countries spanning Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. Notably, it claimed the top position in countries such as Bolivia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

On the Netflix platform, "Extraordinary Attorney Woo" rose to the third place in terms of viewing hours. "Squid Game" (2021) remains the highest-viewed Korean program with 2200 million viewing hours over 20 weeks, followed by "All Of Us Are Dead" (2022), which recorded 659.5 million viewing hours over 11 weeks.

The narrative centers around an extraordinary girl named Woo Young-woo, diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) during childhood. Growing up with an IQ of 164 and an exceptional photographic memory, she possesses the ability to memorize law books and delve into any subject that captures her interest. Graduating with top honors as a law student, she secures a position at a prestigious law firm.

Her affinity for law sparked at the age of five, coinciding with her ASD diagnosis. Raised as an only child in a single-parent household, her father, Woo Gwang-ho (portrayed by Jeon Bae-su), was pursuing law studies at Seoul National University during this period.

Despite struggling to communicate on par with her peers, Young-woo covertly absorbed and memorized every detail from her father's law textbooks.

A pivotal moment arises when her father's disagreement with their landlord escalates into a heated dispute, profoundly impacting Young-woo. However, she surprises everyone by effectively reciting legal procedures to diffuse the situation, showcasing her intellect and problem-solving skills. Her father, elated by her capabilities, witnesses her speaking abilities and intelligence with pride.

As time progresses, we witness Young-woo's journey of adaptation, meticulously adhering to her structured routine on her inaugural day as a rookie lawyer at the Hanbada law firm.

Beyond her fervor for law, she harbors an intense admiration for marine life, particularly whales, dolphins, and orcas. Her living space, adorned with images of these majestic creatures, reflects her profound knowledge and passion for them.

Moreover, Young-woo exhibits specific culinary preferences, notably her father's creation of a special "Woo Young-woo kimbap." This unique dish features meticulously wrapped ingredients between layers of rice and seaweed, ensuring transparency and avoiding unexpected flavors or textures.

On the flip side, actor Kang Ki-young embodies her skeptical boss, initially showing little kindness towards Young-woo on her first day of work. He even clashes with his superior, Han Seon-yeong (Baek Ji-Won), over hiring someone like her. Seon-yeong is the CEO of the law firm and has a troubled history with Young-woo's parents.

Eventually, lawyer Jung Myeong-seok (Kang Ki-young) gives Young-woo a chance and recognizes the talent she possesses. As the episodes unfold, he places more trust in her, aiding her professional growth and defending her from coworkers when necessary.

Throughout the drama, we witness Young-woo's struggle to fit into society. She speaks her mind without a filter, often earning envy or being dismissed as foolish or arrogant by her colleagues. Nevertheless, she understands that she's viewed differently and strives to excel in her job.

One aspect that captivates the audience is Young-woo's unique perspective, which aids her in solving complex cases and her ability to connect her thoughts and skills with marine life.

Moreover, viewers develop an affection for Lee Jun-ho (Kang Tae-oh), Young-woo's romantic interest, who introduces her to romantic love in a sweet and pure manner, adding warmth to the drama and giving deserved attention to its lead character.

The comedic elements of the plot bring flexibility to the drama, preventing it from becoming monotonous while addressing the sad and dramatic aspects typical of Korean dramas. Attorney Woo imparts a valuable lesson on handling delicate situations involving her biological mother and half-brother without compromising her principles of justice and loyalty.

As the series gained popularity in South Korea, controversies emerged, particularly regarding the portrayal of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Some felt uncomfortable as few individuals with this condition exhibit genius-level traits. However, director Yoo In-sik stressed that Young-woo's character shouldn't represent all individuals with this diagnosis.

It's noteworthy that a few weeks after the drama aired, American lawyer Haley Moss, the first lawyer with Autism Spectrum Disorder practicing in Florida since 2019, positively reviewed the portrayal of the protagonist, noting several similarities between them.

Furthermore, in episodes 7 and 8, the preservation of a tree determines the court's final decision. This tree, known as the Hackberry of Sodeok-dong in the series, is estimated to be around five hundred years old. Following the airing, the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea initiated a study on designating the tree as a natural monument.

Despite the controversies and mixed feedback, the series concluded with its highest ratings, achieving a 17.5% viewership nationwide and 19.21% in Seoul metropolitan households.

In my view, TV shows that center around characters with disabilities often navigate a delicate balance. They need to be meticulously crafted and researched, and the portrayal of these characters is pivotal for audience engagement. While I'm not an expert in autism or neurodiversity, the actors' performances in "Extraordinary Attorney Woo" are truly outstanding, particularly that of the protagonist. The drama boasts a finely crafted script that, in my opinion, avoids offending anyone, while authentically portraying the realities of this condition and the societal discrimination it entails. It does so with the grace and sophistication characteristic of Korean dramas.

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