This show is so sweetly satisfying, and it’s going to be the death of me. I’m back for another installment, sleep be damned, because how can you walk away from a guardian angel with a face like that? Our Boy Wonder finally finds the girl he’s been searching for all this time, but it remains to be seen whether or not that girl still exists in our heroine.
Ratings jumped to first place with the second episode, coming in at 12.7%. It’s a pretty impressive bump up from the premiere, especially since it beat out the finale of When A Man Loves (12.1%); Mandate of Heaven came in at 9.3%.
EPISODE 2: “Bad Girl Good Girl”
After a brief reminder of the last episode (including the important fact that our hero can hear other people’s thoughts), we open on Su-ha’s classmate GO SUNG-BIN (Kim Ga-eun), the mean girl who has a little crush on him.
She sneaks into an empty classroom at school to bust out her nail kit, when she hears a thud down below. She runs to the window, and is horrified to see a girl lying on the ground. Is she dead?
A crowd of students gathers around the body and when they look up, there’s Sung-bin, sticking her head out the window with no one else in sight. Oh noes. What’s worse is that it’s the girl the mean kids were ganging up against at the start of Episode 1. This looks bad. They all rush to call the police assuming she pushed her, and Sung-bin panics.
Meanwhile, the interviewers over at the public defender’s office go over the applicants, and they wonder what to do about Hye-sung. They think she has a great story, but one of them pipes up that her nickname in the courthouse is Twenty Seconds—that’s about how long she spends reciting her canned defense on behalf of her clients.
His colleague argues that her story showed she has courage and potential, and as they argue, we get flashbacks to the two very different sides of Hye-sung we’ve seen—the bored jaded adult lawyer, and the brave young girl who came to Su-ha’s rescue.
They ask the boss what he thinks, and he scratches his head, genuinely confused: “I don’t know… She seems like a good lawyer, and she seems like a bad lawyer…”
And then a month later, Hye-sung sees her name and picture in the paper as a new public defender, right alongside Cha Kwan-woo’s. She holds it up proudly, but then reaches her street and gasps in horror at the giant embarrassing banner hanging up above Mom’s chicken shop (called, adorably, Hye-sung Chicken).
Mom insists on displaying the news proudly, though Hye-sung is still unexcited about actually being a public defender, and sighs that she’ll just do a half-assed job and use the position to marry. Mom whaps her on the head, as she should.
Over at the prosecutor’s office, Sung-bin is being grilled as a murder suspect, but you wouldn’t know it from the way she sits back in her chair and chews her gum like she’s in detention.
She talks back to the prosecutor, which sounds pretty much like this: Bleep-bleep-you-bleepity-BLEEP! He shouts in frustration that all of her classmates have signed statements that she’s guilty, but he’s getting nowhere.
The head prosecutor steps in to say that she’ll take over, and plays good cop to the girl, which works like a charm. She puts Sung-bin at ease and then turns on a dime, getting her to confess that she terrorized the victim at school.
The prosecutor is SEO DO-YEON (Lee Da-hee) – ah, girl who got a firework in the eye and got Hye-sung kicked out of school. Guess we’ll be seeing a lot of you.
The news spreads throughout school, and the boys try to get Su-ha to pay attention long enough to read about Sung-bin in the newspaper. They have to shove it in his face to even get him to look, but it’s not Sung-bin’s story that catches his eye.
He does a double take at Hye-sung’s picture right there on the front page, and his jaw drops: “No way…” He breaks into the biggest smile and his buddy even gets a hug before Su-ha runs out of class like the wind.
He’s adorably excited as he races across town, pitter-pattering his feet every time he has to stop and wait at a crosswalk, and stopping to kiss random motorcyclists on the helmet.
He runs straight to the courthouse and looks down again at Hye-sung’s picture in the paper. “You haven’t changed at all.”
And from his prison cell, our killer MIN JOON-GOOK (Jung Woong-in) prepares for his new job at a church, because he gets released tomorrow. What. He killed Su-ha’s father with eyewitnesses there, and he gets released tomorrow?
His cellmate finds a news clipping of Hye-sung’s job announcement tucked into his bible, and Joon-gook just says she’s someone he owes a debt to. He laughs and laughs… and Hye-sung wakes up. Was it a dream? Somehow I don’t think it was all a dream…
She gets ready for her first day at the public defender’s office, which confuses me on the timeline. ‘Cause I’m pretty sure Su-ha went there yesterday. I half expect him to greet her at the door because he spent the night there or something.
Kwan-woo catches up to her on the street and chatters at her nonstop all the way into the office, dork flag still flying high. He tries to figure out what to call her, and realizes he can’t call her Lawyer Jang (because jang-byun would be like calling her a loan-shark loan), so he settles for jjang-byun, “best lawyer,” thinking that makes it cool.
He guesses that she must be the type to put up a cold front but is really just like him underneath. He asks if she isn’t excited to meet the famed Lawyer Shin, whom he declares as his role model in life, and the reason why he became a public defender.
Hye-sung has finally had enough of his pestering and blows up in his face, declaring loudly that she doesn’t give a crap about Lawyer Shin because there’s no way in hell an old fogey who wears dentures in the courtroom is her role model.
Suddenly a set of false teeth literally pops out onto the floor at their feet. An assistant hurriedly picks them up and soaks them in water before a man pops them back into place. Meet Lawyer Shin… their new boss. Muahaha.
Hye-sung sticks her nose up and doesn’t even try to apologize, wondering how juvenile the new boss could possibly be—it’s not like he’ll make her an outcast or anything, right? Cut to: coffee break, where everyone else gets fancy coffee and she gets the mix out of the vending machine.
Kwan-woo, in contrast, is already the star pupil of the office. He greets his first client who’s hard of hearing with sign language, saying he learned it just in case it would be helpful. Who does that? I love this character.
Hye-sung gets her first client too, and it’s Sung-bin.
Su-ha puts his books away in an empty classroom, and starts checking on his hair in the mirror… and then totally practices greeting Hye-sung. He tries everything from “Hi, I’m Park Su-ha. You remember me, right?” to “I missed you, Hye-sung-sshi,” which makes his own skin crawl.
Then he tries: “It’s been a while, noona… noona.” Squee. His classmates watch from the doorway, utterly flabbergasted: “He’s gone insane.”
Sung-bin swears that she didn’t do anything, but Hye-sung takes one look at her and says in the most blasé tone that they say everyone who walks through this door insists they’re innocent.
She paints the scenario as if Sung-bin is guilty, and says that the only thing keeping her from going down for murder is the fact that the victim is hanging on in a coma. She tells her to just admit her guilt now, and she’ll try and keep her out of prison.
As this is going on, Kwan-woo sees his client out, promising her that he’ll fight for her no matter what. Sung-bin looks over at him longingly, wishing she could have that lawyer instead. Don’t blame you, hon.
Everyone in the office cringes at Hye-sung’s bedside manner, and Kwan-woo butts in, “I know it’s overstepping but…” She cuts him off, sentence for sentence, word for word, making her stance clear—they are not a team, and this is her client, so butt out.
Sung-bin finally erupts in tears and screams that she did it, and Hye-sung just sits there waiting for the tears to stop like it’s an annoyance.
She stays late to finish paperwork, and Kwan-woo heads out with the boss, wanting to be reassured that he was in the right—they always have to trust their clients, right? But Lawyer Shin isn’t fully onboard with his rainbows and puppies view of life, and says that he’s been at this job for forty years, but still can’t tell when a client is lying or telling the truth.
Kwan-woo isn’t pleased by that answer, and says he’s going to trust his clients no matter what.
Hye-sung writes up her report on Sung-bin’s case, and something about the way she cried swearing she didn’t do it makes her think of her own angry tears when nobody believed she didn’t shoot a firecracker at Do-yeon. She sighs that she hates this feeling.
Su-ha waits outside her building all evening, and looks up what a public defender is. He reads that it’s a lawyer who helps children and the disabled, and those who can’t afford a lawyer—someone who works not for money, but to help those in need.
I love this—you can just feel how that feeds into his perfect idea of her. In his mind, of course she grew up to be someone who helps other people, exactly the way he remembers her. It’s so wrong, and so perfect.
She finally comes out and he’s about to run up with a big smile, but she keeps going around and around in the revolving door, lost in thought. He reads her mind as she tells herself to let it go and forget it, and he chooses not to approach her now.
Instead he just follows as she walks to the bus, stealing little glances and smiling to himself. On the bus she loses her balance and he holds her steady, but she doesn’t turn back to look at him when she says thanks.
He follows her all the way home, hearing her thoughts as she chooses to take the long way around because the streetlamp is out and it’s too dark to take the shortcut. He watches as she goes all the way up to her rooftop apartment and smiles like a loon.
Mom calls (she’s got Mom saved into her phone as “queen mother,” heh) to ask if there isn’t anyone datable in her office, and she reports that there are none. As she talks, she curiously lines up a pair of men’s shoes that she keeps in the house.
Mom wonders why she sounds so down, and Hye-sung says it’s because the street lights are out, and she hates the dark. She looks out the window, and suddenly they turn on.
She goes out to see why, not believing that the city would send someone out to fix them this late at night, and sees Su-ha looking up at her from the street. She just assumes he’s a city worker and he goes on his way, assured that she’ll feel safe now.
As he waits for the subway, he notices Sung-bin sitting forlornly on the opposite platform and doesn’t think much of it.
But then he hears her thoughts: “I didn’t do anything. Why won’t anyone listen? Attempted murder… I’ll probably go to prison. Should I just die? Nobody, not my friends, not my lawyer, no one in this world believes me. Why should I live? If I die will they believe me? Will they regret not believing in me?”
She gets up and starts inching toward the edge of the train platform. Su-ha screams: “Go Sung-bin!” He tells her not to do anything stupid and runs up the stairs to get to the other side.
The train approaches, and she wonders to herself if anyone will even notice if she’s gone. Su-ha runs and runs, as she inches closer and closer…
As her toes hang off the ledge, a tear rolls down her cheek and she clenches her fist. The train barrels by, and at the last second, Su-ha pulls her back and they fall onto the platform.
He screams at her, “What are you doing you idiot?!” but she just looks up at him and breaks down in sobs.
They sit in a playground afterwards, and she asks, “You heard what I said, right?” She knows about his superpower? But no, she meant did he hear about what happened with her. Clever play on words.
She asks if he thinks she pushed the girl too, and Su-ha says no. He can hear her thinking he’s just saying that because she tried to kill herself, so he assures her that he believes her one hundred percent.
She sighs that it’d be nice if her lawyer believed her too, and when he finds out that it’s Hye-sung, his face falls. He can’t believe she would be that distrusting, and tells himself that Sung-bin must’ve read her wrong.
Side note: I have no idea why a high-schooler who lives alone has an apartment that nice. Maybe he used his superpower to rob a bank? There could be a bad boy phase somewhere in his past. Check his junior high transcripts, ‘s all I’m sayin’.
The next morning, the boss gives Kwan-woo a pep talk before his first trial, and he invites Hye-sung to sit in and watch, blustering that he’ll prove to her what a lawyer who trusts in his clients can achieve. This is probably going to be embarrassing.
He defends his sweet ajumma client with gusto, using sign language and all the prepared phrases that he learned. But the prosecution tears down her lies one after another, until it becomes clear that he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
Hye-sung walks away smugly, thanking him for the reminder why she should never trust her clients, and leaves him fuming.
He whines to his boss that his client was really a sweet lady and just in dire straits, and his boss asks if he really believes that being poor makes everyone well-intentioned and inherently good. What will he do if he gets a client who’s guilty but still needs a lawyer? Kwan-woo doesn’t have an answer.
Su-ha waits at the bus stop to go to Sung-bin’s trial with her, and can barely recognize her when she walks up looking totally different—black hair, simple uniform, just like any other student.
Hye-sung gets ready to go up for her trial, and runs into Do-yeon at the elevator. They recognize each other right away and exchange tense pleasantries, only now realizing that one became a prosecutor and the other a lawyer.
Su-ha and Sung-bin arrive, and that’s when the two frenemies (or is it just plain enemies?) realize they’re on opposite sides of the same trial. Hye-sung heads to the bathroom to gather herself, wondering how she missed Do-yeon’s name signed on the prosecution’s documents.
She steels herself and drags Sung-bin outside for a cramming session, and only now notices Su-ha and tells him to stop following them like a piece of gum. He just follows anyway.
He listens as she coaches Sung-bin to just answer yes to every question and plead guilty. She refuses to go with a guilty plea, but Hye-sung warns her that Sung-bin will go to prison and she’ll lose her case, so guilty is what they’re going with.
He’s finally had enough and grabs Hye-sung by the wrist to drag her aside, speaking to her in banmal. She fights back, so he freaking picks her up and slings her over his shoulder, like a teenage caveman.
He puts her down kicking and screaming, and tells her that Sung-bin is innocent, “So you prove her innocence.” She asks if he saw anything that could be proof, but he just tells her that Sung-bin tried to kill herself, “after seeing you.”
She pauses, but then looks him right in the eye and says, “So? Is that proof?” Dude, way to shatter a boy’s pristine image of you. He can barely believe it as he says it: “You’re the worst.”
She scoffs at the kid, listing kidnapping, banmal, and lecturing as his crimes, and yells at him to act his age. He counters that she should start acting like a lawyer, and listen to her client—what makes her different from the prosecutor?
But what she wants is proof. So he stares at her for a long moment, like he might stare a hole right through her skull… and then says exactly what she says in unison, again, and again. Omo, he’s showing her his powers!
“I can read people’s minds. That’s your proof.” She stares and stares, mind totally blown, and doesn’t let him come any closer. He sighs, “Don’t look at me like I’m a monster.”
He says there are people in this world with 200 IQs, and others who can run a hundred meters in nine seconds, and so he’s just special, not a monster. Suddenly he shouts: “I’M NOT AN ALIEN! I was born on Earth!” Hye-sung gapes, “You just read my mind, didn’t you?” Hahahaha.
She tells him to quit it, feeling all violated, and he says he doesn’t like it either, but he can’t shut it out—he sees eyes, he reads thoughts. She immediately blocks her eyes from his view.
He urges her to focus on Sung-bin, and swears that he knows she’s innocent. “The mouth can lie, but the mind can’t.” He offers to be her proof, but she laughs, asking how they’re going to present his superpower to judge and jury, and not get kicked out for being crazy.
It brings him right back to being eight years old in that courtroom, hearing the killer’s defense lawyer use that very line to call him crazy, and to make his word mean nothing. He looks at Hye-sung now with those same hurt eyes, as she tells him that the truth is useless to a lawyer—evidence is what matters.
He screams, “And the truth?!” He asks if the truth isn’t won in court. Hye-sung: “No, kid. You’ve got the order wrong. You don’t win the truth in court. Whatever wins in court is the truth.” She walks away.
Oof. I can just hear that pedestal he’s built for her for ten years breaking into a million pieces. He takes out his journal filled with entries about her… and throws it in the trash. Aw, don’t do it!
He says in voiceover: “I will protect you. I will protect you.” And then he comes right back to fish it out. Again, in voiceover: “I will protect you.”
Hye-sung and Do-yeon run into each other again and reminisce icily about the last time they saw each other ten years ago in the courtroom. Hye-sung isn’t above pointing out, “that time you ran away.”
Do-yeon asks if she’s going to plead innocent, but Hye-sung says she has an airtight case, so only a fool wouldn’t go for a guilty plea. Do-yeon looks at her strangely and muses, “You’re really alike.” (Curious. It’s vague wording, and it can encompass anything from looks to personality to situation.)
Su-ha watches the conversation, and then asks Hye-sung, “What’s… the fireworks incident?” She stops short, suddenly very interested. He says he read it in Do-yeon’s mind, and she asks him to say exactly what he heard.
He tells her what Do-yeon was thinking (this is secondhand, since we weren’t privy to her thoughts)—that Sung-bin is a lot like Hye-sung in the fireworks incident ten years ago.
The judges arrive outside, including Judge Kim, the man who interviewed her for the position. They watch as she goes around and around in the revolving door, sighing louder and louder until she’s finally screaming at the top of her lungs.
The other judges ask if she wasn’t the public defender Judge Kim chose because he thought she’d be a good, kind lawyer… as her screaming turns into swearing. “She looked nice… then.” Ha.
The hearing begins. The prosecution says that Sung-bin terrorized the victim due to jealousy and pushed her out the window, arguing that it was attempted murder. It’s the defense’s turn to plead: guilty or not guilty?
Hye-sung looks down at Sung-bin’s trembling hands. She looks over at Su-ha and thinks at him: “Hey you. Are you sure she’s innocent? Can I trust you?” He nods. Man, I love how they’re using his ability.
They wait. She stands up…
She hesitates for a moment, and then closes her file. “The defendant pleads not guilty.” Yaaay. Su-ha finally smiles again, and she looks over at him, probably beaming over something like, Kid, you’d better be right or you’re dead.
I like that there’s very little dillydallying with this show. We got a great setup in Episode 1, and now that it’s time for our characters to meet, they meet, like clockwork. This show does nothing new, but it keeps time and delivers the payoffs I want fast and with all the right emotional beats. Granted, it’s not a dense show—the conflicts and motifs are literal and obvious (people want to be heard / Su-ha hears them when no one else does / a public defender’s job is to listen when no one else will)—but they’re also just very universal in their simplicity, and uplifting in their execution. We root for the underdog, the unheard, the ones who have no one to believe in them.
It’s why the two lawyers are such great foils for each other, because you literally just have them each represent the polar opposite ideals. He’s a good person and a terrible lawyer; she’s a terrible person and a good lawyer. (We haven’t seen her in action yet, but she’s whip-smart and knows how to pick her battles, so chances are she’ll be awesome at her job when it comes to winning.) You want Kwan-woo to be right because he’s so earnest, but he’s also wrong about people, even with the best intentions, and I really look forward to how they’ll each become more like the other. Except I never want him to be cool, ever. Please stay geeky.
What I love is that we’re already getting to the good stuff in Episode 2, with Su-ha starting to use his gift to change Hye-sung for the better. The setup and crash to earth between finding her in the newspaper and seeing the real her outside his fantasy was so great. Despite the fact that we see her very clearly as a character—pragmatic, self-preserving, jaded—we also see the version Su-ha wants to see, because it’s hopeful. The classmate’s murder trial wasn’t strictly necessary to get them to meet, but what it does is change their first conversation from Hey noona, remember me? to What the hell happened to you? And already he forces her to change, when he gets her to trust him in the courtroom.
I’m still not going to promise recaps (I know, I have commitment issues) but chances are, you’ll see me here again next week, saying the same thing all over again. Lee Jong-seok > sleep, right?
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