We’re certainly starting 2017 off on a darker note with Voice, Missing Nine and now this series. It’s tough for me because I love shows of such nature, more so than more romance-focused shows that ended off 2016, yet it’s a busier period so I won’t be able to write as much about them. I may thus be exploring more mini-reviews or clustering of episodes together.
Summary of Episodes 1 and 2
The premise of Innocent Defendant is relatively simple. Park Jeong Woo is a prosecutor at Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office. He lives a happy life, with a wife and six year old girl and is successful in his career with a group of supportive colleagues. However, he wakes up one day and finds himself locked up in prison, with completely no recollection of what happened in the past four months. His most recent memory is the night of celebrating his daughter’s birthday. To his shock and horror, he realises he has been accused of killing his wife and daughter. His second trial is coming up and he is currently on death row.
The most recent case that he was investigating prior to his imprisonment involved two brothers who are successors of the Chamyung group. We learn through backstory that the Vice President, Cha Min Ho, is less successful than his brother Seon Ho, who has been made the president. In a very dark sequence, we see a psychotic Min Ho, holding a golf club and beating a woman till she’s unconscious. The investigation led by Jeong Woo leads to him as they manage to find the golf club. Jeong Woo goes to Chamyung group’s office to find Min Ho, but ends up finding Seon Ho instead.
Upon realising his brother is close to getting caught, Seon Ho goes to find Min Ho to ask him to turn himself in. However, Min Ho refuses and makes Seon Ho take the blame for him. He knocks Seon Ho unconscious, then puts his clothes and watch on Seon Ho so that he becomes mistaken from Min Ho, and then he throws him off the building and writes a suicide note. Min Ho thus takes on Seon Ho’s identity and gets off scot-free. However, Jeong Woo is extremely suspicious as he gets to hear Seon Ho’s last words in the hospital before dying, which are “Min Ho ah…”. We do not know exactly what happens but Min Ho certainly has a role to play in framing Jeong Woo.
Besides the core characters of Jeong Woo and Min Ho, we also get introduced to Yeon Hee, who is Seon Ho’s wife. She immediately recognises Min Ho, but is unable to say anything because he also knows the secret about her daughter’s actual father. In the second episode, we meet Eun Hye, a defense lawyer who always loses in court, but is most likely going to become Jeong Woo’s layer in the second trial because nobody else wants to take the cases. And we also meet Joon Hyuk, who is the best friend of Jeong Woo, and a fellow prosecutor who helps Jeong Woo regain his memories by passing him the case files.
I love this kind of drama where we get to participate in the story by formulating theories about what happened through piecing together the little hints that we get. It seems pretty clear that Min Ho had a role to play in framing Jeong Woo, but how is the biggest question.
We keep rewinding to that memory of Jeong Woo’s daughter’s birthday, yet we are also told by Joon Hyuk that Jeong Woo’s memories might not be reliable because of the trauma he has undergone. Could it be that the night of his daughter’s birthday celebration was actually not as beautiful as he imagined? That actually it may have been a confrontation between him and his wife about her supposed affair that we hear about? I’m interested about the little detail we received in episode 1, that the wife bought the cake in the name of Park Bong Goo, and not his name. How about Tae Soo, the man that as in their home before Jeong Woo came back? My speculation right now is that things might not have gone as beautifully on that night of his daughter’s birthday celebration.
I even want to go as far as to say that the scene where Jeong Woo gets an offer from a law firm and then calls his wife, and she says that she loves him because he’s a prosecutor and not for his money, is a false memory. He may have realised she was seeing someone because he had neglected her and the family due to his over commitment to work. We see that he is not aware of his daughter’s age and even what present she likes. My theory now therefore is that he was so traumatised by his wife’s unexpected adultery and what we see in the first episode is a false memory that he created to mask that pain.
Ji Sung is doing an excellent job as Jeong Woo and he brings to life the trauma and loss that Jeong Woo feels in prison, which contrasts so starkly with his confident presence as a prosecutor. There’s such a depth in the portrayal of his pain, disorientation and fall from grace that he’s already such a compelling character.
My hope is that the show also gives us greater insight into Min Ho’s psyche and motivations and not just portray him as a one-sided villain. In his confrontation with Seon Ho, I sensed a little schizophrenia in him, as he moved from vengeful hatred to desperate guilt when asking his brother to help him once again. It was that moment after he hit his brother’s head with the wine bottle, then he just paused, looking at his hands, then asked himself “What have I done?”. It’s almost as if he’s unaware of what he is doing and is couching his murder of his brother in a way that assuages his own guilt by stating that it’s just like how his brother used to take examinations for him and get punished for him. His dad’s completely nonchalant response to his death is indicative of how Min Ho must have been raised and I’ll be glad for us to gain more insights into this.
It’s early in the series, but I have a sense that Seon Ho’s death is not the first, and I feel extremely fearful for Seon Ho’s wife, Yeon Hee. We already see signs of her cracking and being unable to keep up with the farce. She may become instrumental in the second trial and therefore likely to be killed as well. Another person I fear for is Min Ho’s dad – there will certainly be confrontations between them subsequently and I suspect he’ll be killed just as Min Ho continues to walk down the path of darkness.
The first two episodes have done a great job in drawing me into the story and the characters. This is certainly gone to be an intriguing and exciting ride and I foresee this being series dominating the Monday-Tuesday slot.