[In Defense Of] Solomon’s Perjury: A sensitive portrayal of mental health
by Guest Beanie
A good measure of a drama’s popularity is the number of comments on the final episode recap here at Dramabeans. By this standard, Solomon’s Perjury, with a miserably low 61 comments for Episode 12, fails spectacularly.
But Solomon’s Perjury is incredibly good. Based on a Japanese novel of the same name, the story centers around a student-run trial at an elite high school, after a fellow student who was publicly bullied and humiliated just days earlier is found dead on the school grounds one morning. The police write it off as suicide, the school is ready to forget the case and bury it forever, but an unexpected accusation of murder compels a few conscience-stricken students to take matters into their own hands.
To be honest, the lawyer in me struggles to watch trials in dramas, just as doctors struggle to watch medical dramas, and architects to watch Just Between Lovers or an early episode of Mad Dog, both of which are concerned with collapsing buildings. Legal procedure is sacrificed at the altar of convenient drama-writing and my eyes hurt from their attempts to jump out of their sockets. Yet, I loved the trial in Solomon’s Perjury.
Similarly, I tend to avoid high school dramas. I haven’t seen School 2017 despite all the love for Tae Swoon being solid proof that it is probably a good drama with solid leads. Much as I love a good character, I’m simply too old for teenage angst, particularly when it’s fictional.
In a way, Solomon’s Perjury took the two genres that really don’t work for me—high school and legal—and gave me something I will always treasure. These are also likely reasons for the lack of love the show received, in addition to having a rookie cast, an almost negligible romance, and the fact that it’s a heavy drama. But what Solomon’s Perjury seemingly lacks in lightheartedness, it makes up for in tender and often light moments between real people, genuine heart, character growth, and—rarely seen in dramaland—a sensitive portrayal of mental health.
It is this last reason I want to highlight in this write-up. The show also touches upon the pressures of the educational system, the focus on profits and lobbying within school administration, bullying, and child abuse.
Despite its name, Solomon’s Perjury is firmly located in the real world of today and populated with a cast of real, warm people with regular families and everyday problems, who just want to live their lives without any trouble. Teachers, students, a school administration, friends, family, police, and reporters come together to build a world within the walls of my adolescence. The gray and white background of monotonous winter days and the lightly sprinkled piano soundtrack heighten the sense of the real world.
It is worthwhile to pay attention to the title. Solomon is a likely metaphor for the powers that guide our young—parents and the school system. King Solomon was once confronted with a strange problem: Two women came to him with a baby they both claimed belonged to her, and they wanted him to decide who should keep the baby. The king pondered over it and then ordered that the baby be split into two, a half for each mother. It was a test, as no mother would allow her child to be killed like that. If Solomon, the judge himself, were to lie in court, then what would become of the child? Would he survive? Lee So-woo, the deceased student played to devastating perfection by Seo Young-joo, certainly didn’t.
The show explores how the people around So-woo react to his death, whether it affects them at all and if so, how. So-woo had a history of depression, few friends, and was about to be expelled. His apparent suicide raised uncomfortable questions, but no one wanted to dwell on such things, least of all the school, for fear of being given a bad name. We see how the educational system works and that, like everything else, it is a business. The early episodes prior to the trial subtly outline how society dismisses mental health.
Once the trial starts and characters are forced to consider whether So-woo jumped off the roof, whether he fell, or whether he was pushed, the show begins to pick up steam. And this is where it truly shines as both a whodunit and a commentary on society and mental health. Everyone is a suspect, including judge and counsel, and no one can be trusted. It keeps you guessing till the end, and yet, you realize the answer was there all along. You just weren’t looking closely enough.
Most poignantly, we see others who could have been found dead in the snow on another morning, but who, through a combination of luck and active choices, found themselves on a different path. One that led them away from the precarious ledge of a rooftop on a cold, winter night.
There are many reasons for watching and cherishing Solomon’s Perjury—at 12 episodes, the plot is tight, well-written, the direction superb, and the cast absolutely wonderful. However, I chose to share the one aspect that makes it such a dear show to me. That it not only takes on a topic rarely touched on in entertainment all over the world, but that it does so with a delicate and sensitive touch. The K-drama take on Solomon’s Perjury is music to my soul.
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