Have you ever wondered what it would have been like if Shin Se Ge got his own drama? Chaos and guyliner galore. Well, the writer and director of The Devil Judge may have been among those people who dared to imagine. This drama is FLASHY, with edgy cinematography that makes a car chase feel like a tripped out dream. Especially, when Ji Sung’s character gets out of his sports car and grabs a sledge hammer from his trunk. Will you want to join the game or is this drama not your style?
Let’s back up a bit. In a dystopian future (that sadly looks like America summer 2020) there is a new type of justice and our crazy pants Shin Se Ge character Kang Yo Han (Ji Sung) is the enforcer of said justice. He’s managed to get the backing for a new supreme court setup up that puts defendants on trail live for the people of Korea to pass judgment themselves. He brings along two other supreme court judges, Kim Ga On (Park Jin Young) and Oh Jin Joo (Kim Jae Kyung) to sit pretty on either side of him as they broadcast live and try the country’s criminals.
Kim Ga On isn’t there for fame. He’s a plant by his old professor because they both think Kang Yo Han is as dirty as he appears to be. Like any good drama, our young judge has some past connection to his new boss, and their interactions are taught with all the possible secrets yet to unfold.
Drama Geek: Never should there be a court where we dial in and vote on someone’s life. But… it makes for a really great concept. It was a bit jarring when they said it was a dystopian future and I just saw our news feed from last summer play out. I’m intrigued by the past connections and I really enjoy every scene these two leads are in.
Clkytta: This just doesn’t feel dystopian. It feels like one step away from today. I think that’s part of the horror and thrill I feel watching it. It’s like the Judges can read the comments on news stories and give a verdict based on the thoughts of the public. It feels really scary actually.
Kmuse: I like that they put it in a dystopian setting; since then I don’t have to try and believe whether the various legal stuff happening is logical. That is often how they lose me in lawyer shows. I know that they have a different court system, but I can’t give credit to a story arc that has a piece of evidence found 20 years later (that has been used in various ways and contaminated) convicting the perp. I need some kind of logic to my law dramas. Or, in this case, a totally over-the-top law system that is mostly world-building rather than reality.
Not only are the scenes riveting to watch when they aren’t participating in the mad game show they’re calling a trial, but the drama pulls off a very intense show within a show. All of South Korea really would be watching this unfold, if it were real. The director creates a world that feels desolate because of sickness, riots, and poverty, and then goes super flashy in any scene our judge or his evil backers are in. The 1% is on full display, and it makes for a very tasty visual watch.
Drama Geek: This show’s concept hinges on if the actual show is something somewhat believable or just outright entertaining and both apply to this. Ji Sung pulls off the game show host judge without being sleazy while his backers all come off the opposite. They’re the Romans in the stands watching the gladiators kill each other.
Clkytta: It’s all so PUBLIC. I mean, everything is played out on the screen and it feels like an invasion of privacy and the law. I agree with Drama Geek that it’s very Romanesque and we are watching gladiators. It makes my stomach hurt.
Kmuse: I am just sitting back with a bag of popcorn and watching the crazy happen. Also, I am not sure if I would trust the citizens of my country to convict various criminals. I don’t even trust them to pick the next musician I would want to invest my time on, let alone the future of a person’s life.
The Good Guys
The heading is misleading because after the first two episodes, you won’t really know if Judge Kang should be included in this lot or not. He has an agenda, and we’re not sure what it is yet. Opposing him is our standup judge Ga On and his professor, along with a Ga On’s cop friend Yoon Soo Hyun (Park Gyu Young). Their main purpose so far is to figure out what Judge Kang has up his sleeve and who else among the 1% he’s partnered with.
Drama Geek: By the end of episode two, Judge Kang reminds me of a Cdrama character in a recent show that aired. Wen Kexing from Word of Honor hated everyone on his chess board and he pitted them all against one another so he could sit back and watch them destroy each other. In a world where the powerful always win, it’s not that bad of a strategy. I love every scene Park Jin Young and Ji Sung are in together. They play off each other masterfully and I’m glad to see the younger actor is holding up to Ji Sung’s superior acting talents. They crackle a bit when they get close, and I’m here for the fireworks.
Clkytta: I don’t know what to think. This game is definitely afoot! Ji Sung is killing this role. I love seeing him as a character with questionable intent and morals. There is no leash on this man, he does what he wants.
Kmuse: I am a huge fan of crazy pants characters that just want chaos and/or revenge. There is something so satisfying to watching them make the bad guys suffer. And Ji Sung is such a great actor that he totally sucks me into his personal brand of chaos.
The Bad Guys
We have two sets to look at. The backers behind this game show farce, and the defendants that they’re going to put on trail each episode. Jung Sun Ah (Kim Min Jung) works for an old crusty dude who seems to be the puppet master. She pulls the strings for him, and looks fantastic while doing it. There are many people in their pocket and I’m sure we’ll see them move in and out of the show as things progress. The first defendant goes down easily, and the trial is a huge ratings success. Some of the best scenes from the first two episodes are of Ji Sung tantalizing the audience with his type of justice.
Drama Geek: I’ve watched the first five or so episodes of Mr. Sunshine and Kim Min Jung was someone I definitely noticed and remembered her character. Her look and acting really draw you in and make you wonder what she’s up to. There’s a scene in episode two where she dances with Judge Kang and you don’t know who is leading who during their interaction. Maybe she’s the real puppet master and old creepy dude is being pulled by her. Either way, she has my attention and it’s her I’m hoping for a final duel with our judge.
Clkytta: OMG, I LOVE her.She’s like vanilla custard with arsenic in it. She’s very unassuming and basically blends in to the background. Except, she’s got a spine of steel and a mind that never stops going. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Kmuse: Kim Min Jung was my favorite character in My Fellow Citizens, and I am a huge fan of her taking on these morally grey characters. Can’t wait to see how she fits in this messed-up society.
Whether it’s the priest like robes the judges sport as they cat walk into the courtroom, or the music that’s helping to weave a certain feel. This show has oodles of style. The shots of the rich are wide with lots of windows and opulent settings. Ji Sung looks stellar in every scene he’s in, while his counter part played by Jin Young, is equally stunning but in a friendly boy next door way.
Drama Geek: There is a budget behind this drama, and it shows. The sets, car chases, and clothing are all top notch. I’m in love with the OST already, and I am also loving the styling of everyone except maybe the female cop. Poor thing just gets weird sweater turtleneck combos, but she’s supposed to be doing all the grunt work, so I understand their choice.
Clkytta: While Drama Geek focuses on the men and the cop, I’m all about the women in charge. The Minister of Justice (Ha!) Cha Kyung Hee has some amazing power suits. Our demure and unassuming secretary, Jung Sun Ah, has some fantastic blouses with perfectly tied bows. I’m all about a good power suit and pussy bow blouse.
Kmuse: I am just a fan of it all. The over-the-top, almost religious court robes, the power suits, the going out to do vigilante crap black hoodies. Give it all to me and let me appreciate all the pretty on my screen!
Drama Geek: Will the show live up to its slick exterior? I’ve been burned a lot lately with great concepts that blow up in my face or end up being a boring pile of poo. I’m crossing all of my fingers and toes that this show will be a fantastic ride all the way to the end.
Clkytta: This one could be a huge winner. I’m hoping the budget and the writing holds out.
Kmuse: I am a huge fan of this kind of mysterious vigilante story tropes. I think I might be in for the long haul with this one.
Let us know if you’re watching and what you think.
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi