Ji Sung returns to SBS in a new Monday-Tuesday drama, “Defendant,” also starring Kwon Yuri (Girls’ Generation) and Uhm Ki Joon. It’s an action-packed thriller about a prosecutor out to prove his innocence in the suspected murder of his wife and child.
While fans of Ji Sung and Yuri were excited to hear about their casting, not a whole lot was released about the show before the first episode aired. Several posters and chilling trailers made their way around, but the details of the show’s plot were kept pretty secret. After watching the first two episodes, I’m pretty convinced the secrecy was necessary, because this drama is definitely a wild ride.
Warning: spoilers ahead
Ji Sung’s character, Park Jung Woo, is a homicide prosecutor who winds up on death row after… well, he doesn’t quite remember. But I’m jumping ahead.
The show opens up to a scene at a prison where Ji Sung is making his escape — alarms blare, dark vans roll out of warehouse-looking buildings, men lead dogs through the woods, and just as he hits the main road, it looks like he’s about to be run over. Boom. That’s all we get. Suddenly viewers are thrown back in time to show us the hard-working, family-loving life of Ji Sung’s character. Thereafter begins the mayhem and complexity of a good crime drama: bring on the character introductions, set locations, and story build-up!
There are a lot of characters introduced in the first two episodes, from people involved in law, businessmen, doctors, to Ji Sung’s future cellmates. The casting director managed to snag a few big names in this drama, including Uhm Ki Joon and Oh Chang Suk, along with a few extras drama fans will definitely recognize. It seems like a pretty solid cast so far; I didn’t have any complaints about the acting.
While the cast isn’t so big that I would call it “excessive,” a lot of the characters vary in career, so while you’re still working out who is who, you have to figure out all the settings too. As a viewer, there were times I wanted to ask my screen, “Okay, where are we now?” Scenes ended pretty quickly and we’d move to a whole new location, and since the first two episodes have so much happening, I was worried I would miss an important event if I blinked.
I’m a pretty big fan of dramas that involve police work, and SBS is definitely good at handling big-action dramas. More specifically, they’re good at handling dramas that require a big crew because of all the work they entail. “Defendant” is no exception. However, was all of the camerawork, such a huge and varied cast, and jam-packing the first two episodes really necessary? Probably not. There were moments when camera angles changed so rapidly in attempts to build anticipation that I had to look away, when the same could probably have been accomplished with less.
Does this drama have a high production value? Yes. Was all of it necessary? Not really.
“Defendant” is a modern drama involving a homicide prosecutor (Ji Sung) who wakes up in a jail cell on death row with temporary amnesia. Ji Sung’s character, Park Jung Woo, is introduced as a prisoner in the middle of a jailbreak, but throughout most of the first episode, Park Jung Woo is shown as a hard-working and dedicated prosecutor who loves his family. He has a wife and daughter and is respected enough in his field to receive love calls from private law firms despite his specialty being homicide. So when he suddenly wakes up in a jail cell accused of murder the immediate question is: what happened? Where did this guy go wrong?
The rest of the first episode flashes back (again) to help explain what we missed and what Ji Sung’s character has apparently forgotten. Then enters the central antagonist, an evil twin who rolls in money, has little respect for anyone, and commits a pretty grizzly murder just minutes into his introduction. Cha Min Ho (Uhm Ki Joon) is the kind of chaebol we all love to hate, while his twin, Cha Sun Ho (Uhm Ki Joon), works as an executive in their family’s corporation. The brothers find themselves at odds, the good brother ultimately loses, and the evil brother steals his identity to live with a clean ledger.
He might have even gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for our pesky hero, Park Jung Woo. The prosecutor smells something fishy and starts his own investigation, threatening the evil twin’s façade, so he does what every great, evil chaebol does: uses power and money to put his opponent in a tough spot. Only, we don’t know exactly what he did, and neither does Park Jung Woo, who is currently suspected of killing his beloved wife and daughter.
Much of the second episode involves Park Jung Woo’s new life in prison, memory loss, the possible deaths of his wife and daughter, and an ongoing case to determine his fate. The story unfolds through the introduction of various characters now involved in this chaos, including the prosecutor overseeing his case and Kwon Yuri’s character, a defense attorney with a history of losing to Park Jung Woo in court.
This crime-drama promises viewers 16 episodes of courtroom battles, mystery and intrigue, lives on the line, devilish plotting, and several twists that are sure to occur.
Confession, I am a huge Ji Sung fan. If I see his name on a drama or movie, I immediately make plans to watch it. If I said I didn’t start watching this drama because he’s the star, I would be lying. One of Ji Sung’s strengths as an actor lies in his ability to portray characters that are emotionally or mentally unstable or a bit more complicated than your everyday guy — his last drama role was a guy with seven personalities, after all.
The great thing about the set-up in the first two episodes and Ji Sung’s acting skills is that even though viewers want to believe in his innocence, a lot of the evidence and even his case’s head prosecutor, played by Oh Chang Suk, point against him. While it’s clear Ji Sung put himself in danger by taking on Uhm Ki Joon’s evil twin character, there isn’t a 100 percent certainty that his character is innocent. Even Ji Sung’s character can’t remember what happened.
The first two episodes do not give a clear indication what Kwon Yuri’s role in this drama will be, but considering her work as a defense attorney and her history with Ji Sung’s character, my guess is that she’ll take on his case. While we at least have an idea about what kind of relationship they have, she hasn’t appeared much yet. However, I’m looking forward to more of their interactions in the future.
Oh Chang Suk’s character is also intriguing, as he appears to be a prosecutor who genuinely wants to find out the truth behind this case. However, the major role of his character thus far is to cast doubt on Ji Sung’s innocence. The prosecutor believes him to be guilty and views several pieces of evidence that support this. While his character is pretty admirable so far, he’s still the man running the opposition against the main character.
While Ji Sung’s character and acting will carry a lot of the show (he is the main character), Uhm Ki Joon’s character makes for an exciting antagonist. His body count is rising and he’s doing a pretty good job of assuming his brother’s identity while taking care of anyone who doubts him. However, when he isn’t trying to take down people who suspect his real identity, he does face the major task of keeping his own family in line. When one brother is loyal and dedicated and the other nasty-as-can-be, is it really possible to fool one’s parents or his wife? The wife in question, Uhm Hyun Kyung, has given several indications that she suspects him, but hasn’t taken a firm stance. Perhaps this quiet-natured woman will be the dark horse of the series and surprise us in the end. For now, she’s just a silent, pretty face.
So far, the characters are very intriguing with a lot of side-characters who mix up the flavor well and promise to add some interesting twists to the plot. The cast is solid, and hopefully the writing and directing will continue to do the actors justice.
The first two episodes were packed with introductions and intrigue like any good crime drama; I also give “Defendant” bonus points for making viewers question the lead’s innocence. Otherwise, this would be a typical crime-drama. Ji Sung and Uhm Ki Joon have both shown superb acting so far (no surprise there), and Yuri seems to be doing okay, although she hasn’t had many scenes.
There was some confusion in the timeline in the first episode since it jumps around and the second episode added to that; some viewers may need a few more episodes to get a clear grasp of what’s going on while other viewers are already creating theories about the ending or the twists we can all feel coming.
I’m definitely looking forward to more twists and Uhm Ki Joon’s evil plotting in the future… and lots more of Ji Sung.
“Defendant” airs every Monday and Tuesday. Watch it exclusively on Viki!
What about you, Soompiers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
heytoto currently teaches ELL in Seoul, and when she isn’t waiting in line for something, can be found drinking a latte.