Have not been able to blog about the second half of Defendant due to various commitments, but it’s the only show I’m currently following loyally every week. I’ve dropped Missing 9 a long time back ever since it became mainly about Tae Ho and his murdering sprees. I’ve started Tomorrow with You and Strong Woman Do Bong Soo, but the shows just haven’t drawn me in so I just watch them here and there when I have the time. The k-drama verse seems to be in a little bit of a slump, so I’m thankful for Defendant which is a truly solid drama in many ways.
I’ll be first to admit that it isn’t a perfect show and there are several plotholes surrounding the murder of Ji-Soo and a few easy solutions to move the plot ahead. However, for all that it’s worth, I’ve truly enjoyed how the show keeps moving the story ahead and we’re always on our edge thinking of what Min Ho or Jeong Woo’s next move is, even right into the finale. This, to me, is truly impressive. I always enjoy shows where the good and bad guys are equally matched in terms of wits and will, because it’s satisfying when you see them outsmart and outplay each other. In this sense, both Min Ho and Jeong Woo have been very well-written because their battle for power has been engaging from start till end. Min Ho fights till the end, even pulling out the insanity card. Unfortunately, because it was already the final episode, it was also rather predictable that this trick wouldn’t work, but kudos to the writers for trying to keep things moving towards the end.
The finale also left me wanting to know more about Min Ho’s back story, especially what transpired between him and Yeon Hee, and his love for Eun Soo. Yeon Hee’s final appeal to Min Ho in court could have been so much more powerful if we had seen more of Min Ho’s love for Yeon Hee and his son. I felt that this was a point that was more told to us, rather than shown and I honestly didn’t feel that Min Ho truly loved Yeon Hee. Rather, it seemed like she was just someone he really needed to help keep up his pretense as Seon Ho. I’ve always felt that Min Ho’s characterisation was a little lacking, but I did think that it picked up in the second half especially when his dad’s betrayal happened and he was forced to turn his back on his dad. I liked also that inheriting Seon Ho’s identity brought along benefits, but also burdens like Jennifer Lee as well as the slush fund incident. Both of these incidents could have been used to explore the conflicts and dilemmas faced by Min Ho in taking on his brother’s identity, but I personally felt the writers took the easier route by ending both story-lines in deaths which reinforced how far Min Ho had fallen into the dark side.
While I’ve been relatively disappointed with Min Ho’s characterisation, I truly enjoyed Jeong Woo – both in terms of his characterisation and especially Ji Sung’s portrayal of him. I’ve not seen an actor who has really put in so much physically into making the character come alive. Ji Sung brings so much raw energy to the character of Jeong Woo that you can literally feel his will power and determination pulsating through his veins when watching each episode. And he brings so much heart to the character of Jeong Woo as well – I loved the scene with him talking to Ji Soo at the columbarium, telling her that he would apprehend Min Ho. I loved the scene at the end of episode 15, where he finally catches Min Ho and reads out his crimes to him with a tear in his eye when he mentions the murder of Ji Soo. That moment just captures everything that Jeong Woo represents – his integrity, his sense of justice, his determination and resolve and most of all, his immense love for his wife and family. You can see Ji Sung bringing his own experience as a dad into his role and he speaks to Ha Yeon with such love, tenderness and protectiveness. Every scene between him and Ha Yeon was so fantastic in the finale and just brought tears to my eyes, especially the scene of them singing a lullaby at Ji Soo’s grave – OMG, that scene just killed me.
This series is one of the very rare K-drama series without an OTP to root for, yet contains so much heart and warmth because of its focus on friendships and family ties. I certainly cannot write an finale post on the show without talking about Jeong Woo and his prison-mates who gradually grew on me. I have to admit that early in the series, I found the scenes with them boring. However, once Chul Shik came into the picture, and Jeong Woo started plotting his escape, the bond between his cell mates became closer and I found the brotherly, protective bond between them so real and so natural. One of my favourite scenes was that of them celebrating Jeong Woo’s birthday for him. Of course, it does seem a bit neat that all of them have happy endings – well, except for Seong Kyu – but it’s a point I’m willing to let go, because they are all such endearing characters! Mir Yang doesn’t get much screen time, but he certainly shone in all the scenes he was in – especially the one between him and his wife in the finale, which brought tears to my eyes. Moongchi and Wooruk just crack me up all the time and they bring much needed humour and lightness to the otherwise intense and dark storyline.
As for the other characters, I’m just glad Jun Hyuk finally came to his senses and was instrumental in bringing the truth to light. I did find it hard to believe that both as a prosecutor and a very good friend, he would be so willing to hide the truth and cause harm to both his friend and his daughter. This was especially surprising given that he did also like Ji Soo. However, he did come to his senses at the end and paid the price for it. As for Eun Hye, she wasn’t utilised much, but I felt she was adequately used to move the plot ahead where necessary. Yeon Hee’s character came to life when we learnt that she had handed over the slush fund documents to the police and wanted to bring down the Chamyung group. That was the start of her exercising her sense of agency, and of course, her final act of handing Min Ho over to Jeong Woo further displayed her taking control of her and her son’s future.
Defendant has been certainly a great series from start to end. Even with the episode extension, the pace never flagged and there was never a sense that the show was intentionally dragging out any plot-points. The first half was suspenseful and intriguing as the pieces of Ji Soo’s murder and Ha Yeon’s kidnapping were gradually put together and the second half remained exciting with Jeong Woo’s escape from prison and attempts to put together a case against Min Ho. The show’s ratings have been phenomenal and it has truly deserved it! I’ll definitely be looking out for Ji Sung’s next show, or looking for his past series. However for now, I’m looking for the next k-drama series that will hook me in! Hoping that the upcoming slate of dramas will be more refreshing and engaging!