Doctor Lawyer: Episodes 1-2 (First Impressions)
So Ji-sub and Shin Sung-rok in one drama? Count me in. Doctor Lawyer premieres with a fast-paced opening week of complicated surgeries and dubious ethics, and it’s one heck of a ride.
Editor’s note: Drama coverage will continue with weecaps.
EPISODES 1-2 FIRST IMPRESSIONS
We open with a court case, in which defendant PARK KI-TAE (Kim Hyung-mook) is charged with the death of a child due to medical malpractice. Right as the verdict is about to be announced, though, Ki-tae suffers a cardiac arrest and collapses to the floor.
That sets the stage for the dramatic return of HAN YI-HAN (So Ji-sub), who’s now a lawyer. He strides confidently into the courtroom, diagnoses Ki-tae with anaphylaxis within seconds, and immediately gets to work saving his life.
But first, we rewind to five years ago, when Yi-han was still a doctor at Banseok Hospital. He’s a whiz in the operating room, finishing a surgery in half the time others usually take.
Yi-han checks on patient GEUM SEOK-JOO (Han Seung-bin), who’s just taken an exam while hospitalized for his heart condition. Right then, Yi-han gets a call from GEUM SEOK-YOUNG (Im Soo-hyang), who is his girlfriend and Seok-joo’s older sister (as well as the prosecutor for Ki-tae’s case in the present day).
Seok-young is currently riding in an ambulance with a patient who stabbed himself, which leads to Yi-han providing medical guidance over video call and rushing to operate on him. (Okay, we get it, he’s a geeenius.)
Yi-han manages to pull the patient back from the brink of death, but a message notification from his phone has him leaving the operating room and entrusting another surgeon to finish up.
Meanwhile, another surgery is ongoing in a secret underground operating room. It’s led by GU HYUN-SUNG (Lee Dong-ha), who panics under the pressure and accidentally nicks a blood vessel. That’s the reason for the text message, sent by hospital chairman GU JIN-KI (Lee Kyung-young) who’s watching the surgery from a live feed.
Thanks to ghost doctor Yi-han, the VIP patient is saved, but all credit goes to the chairman’s son Hyun-sung. This has been an arrangement for a while, covering up Hyun-sung’s incompetency while fueling his insecurity complex.
Still, it seems like all’s well that ends well. Seok-joo gets a perfect score on his exam despite nearly passing out, and Yi-han relays the news to Seok-young that they’ve found a heart donor for Seok-joo. Pulling out a ring box, Yi-han proposes to Seok-young, promising to marry her after Seok-joo recovers and enters university.
There’s trouble brewing in the upper echelons, though. Banseok Hospital is facing a funding deficit, which leads Chairman Gu to make an ominous call concerning a deal. Oh no, Seok-joo isn’t getting the heart he needs, is he?
Things only go downhill from there. Chairman Gu makes clear his plans to appoint Yi-han as the new head of cardiothoracic surgery, and we learn from a jealous Hyun-sung that Yi-han’s father was once slated for that position — except he attempted an impossible surgery that led to the patient’s death, got caught taking bribes, and wound up killing himself in shame. Oof.
Chairman Gu also offers to cover the cost of Seok-joo’s surgery, and even presents Yi-han with a gift, which sets off alarm bells in my head. Sure enough, the gift box is full of cold hard cash, and Yi-han resolves to return it to Chairman Gu. Oh, Yi-han, do you not see the parallels?
In any case, Yi-han heads into Seok-joo’s surgery the next day. All seems to be going well, until Yi-han notices an anomaly in the transplanted heart — the pulmonary artery pressure is rising too high. Yi-han begins draining the heart of blood in an effort to salvage the situation, despite the other surgeon’s protests that it’s a risky move.
Phew, the surgery concludes successfully. Yi-han’s work isn’t over, though, because that very night, Chairman Gu calls him to the secret underground operating room.
There’s a patient in need of a heart transplant, but the only heart available is one that Chairman Gu freshly harvested from the dead fellow passenger. The catch is, the passenger isn’t a registered organ donor, and Chairman Gu didn’t obtain consent from the passenger’s legal guardian, which means this surgery is a violation of the Medical Service Act.
It conflicts with Yi-han’s moral code, but he can’t let a patient die right before his eyes, so he concedes. The patient almost doesn’t make it through the surgery, but Yi-han saves him in the nick of time. This is becoming a recurring theme, huh?
Post-surgery, Yi-han retires to a lavish meal that Chairman Gu prepared for him as thanks. One sip of the wine, though, and Yi-han’s out like a light. Sigh.
The next morning dawns in a flurry of panic — Seok-joo’s entered cardiac arrest. Yi-han runs desperately to his ward, but there’s no use. Seok-joo is gone, and Yi-han has to pronounce his death to a stunned Seok-young.
It dawns on Yi-han that there may be foul play involved, but Chairman Gu overrides his request for an autopsy. Instead, he declares that they’ll do a simultaneous autopsy and organ procurement, so that Seok-joo can save more people even in death. (Ugh, this was all planned, wasn’t it?)
The autopsy results state that Seok-joo died as a result of post-surgery complications, which puts the blame on Yi-han for attempting a dangerous procedure. That’s obviously shady, so Yi-han brute-forces his way to the room where the late-night heart transplant patient is held. Unfortunately for him, the glass walls are frosted over, and the security guards arrive to drag him away before he can uncover the patient’s identity.
Yi-han is put on trial, where he needs a trusted colleague to testify about seeing Yi-han suture the problematic area post-procedure (which, for the record, he did). Ki-tae is sworn in as a witness, but to Yi-han’s shock, he denies seeing it.
All the other colleagues back up the accusations, and the lone dissenter is dismissed for lacking credibility since he’s been friends with Yi-han since high school.
Chairman Gu pays Yi-han a clandestine visit in prison, urging him to admit to medical malpractice and threatening to off him if he reveals the truth of their secret dealings.
Eventually, Yi-han admits to the charges, breaks up with Seok-young, and leaves with a heavy heart.
Five years later, Seok-young has developed a vendetta against doctors who commit medical malpractice, and we end this week on the very scene that started it all — Yi-han and Seok-young’s fateful reunion in the courtroom.
Whoa, that was intense. I’ll admit the storyline didn’t offer any surprises; it was pretty obvious from the outset that Seok-joo wasn’t going to survive, despite (or perhaps because of) how endearing he was. Still, the execution was stylish and gripping, and I’m curious about what Yi-han did in that five-year gap.
I’m not usually the type that enjoys medical dramas, and the surgery scenes make me squeamish, so I think it’s pretty impressive that I enjoyed this premiere week as much as I did! I suppose my only complaint is the lack of Shin Sung-rok, but that just gives me all the more reason to tune in next week, doesn’t it?