When it comes to K-dramas, Netflixers are spoilt for choice. Gone are the days when viewers only knew the genre as one full of melodramatic telenovellas and soap operas with occasional gimmicks. TV shows like “Kingdom”, “Squid Game”, “My Name” and “The Silent Sea” have firmly buried that notion into the ground. South Korea has proven that it’s more than capable of keeping up with western prestige programming. Sure you get the occasional crap shoot like “Heirs” but it’s still nonetheless exciting to see what South Korean television has in store for us. Adding to Netflix’s growing list of crime K-dramas is the legal thriller series “Juvenile Justice”.
A show that squarely focuses on the perspective of a tough-as-nails judge who presides over a juvenile court. She has a particular disdain for young offenders and will go to great lengths to bring them to justice. The premise is an intriguing one. So will “Juvenile Justice” get a favourable verdict from us? Or will it be found guilty of being a bland, soulless courtroom procedural? Let’s find out!
The plot of the series follows Juvenile Court Judge Shim Eun-seok as she seeks to shed light on a grizzly murder involving an 8-year-old boy. Through her eagle eye and sharp wit, she quickly pokes holes in the alibis of the minor criminals. Each episode functions as a piece to the overall puzzle that slowly unravels before us. Chalk full of juicy revelations and insane twists along the way. It all culminates in Eun-seok discovering a disturbing conspiracy involving criminal networks. That being said, your enjoyment of “Juvenile Justice” does come with some caveats. Namely your ability to suspend your disbelief of what is tolerated in this universe.
Believe it or not, our heroine isn’t supposed to go around looking for clues, trying to solve a case. That’s not what judges do. Lawyers and anyone in the legal field will definitely be scratching their heads and rolling their eyes. You can’t just go around in your judge robes randomly questioning people on the streets and catching criminals. Furthermore, judges are not allowed to be this personally invested in a case. Nor are they allowed to investigate a case independently. They’re only supposed to consider the facts!
So anyone looking for legal accuracy in “Juvenile Justice” or to understand the nuance of the Korean legal system is going to be extremely annoyed. The show would make far more sense if Eun-seok was a detective trying to track down juvenile delinquents. Afterall, they go to great lengths to present her as the Sherlock Holmes of the juvenile crime world…so why not just make her one. Or at the very least, a public prosecutor!
All right, rant over.
The strength of the show lies in its depiction of morally complex situations that makes the audience both question the nature of the crime and punishment. In a sense, the audience is meant to act as the jury as we ourselves consider the actions Eun-seok takes to bring criminals to justice. Her ruthless personality is countered by another judge who works in her division, Cha Tae-joo. Unlike Eun-seok, he so desperately wants to believe that the criminal justice system can make a difference in the lives of juvenile offenders. There’s a gut-wrenching scene in the first episode that sees these two go head-to-head with regards to their beliefs.
As the case involving a murderous 13-year-old Baek Seong-u continues, more secrets are revealed. Forces beyond the Juvenile Court seek to undermine Eun-seok. One of them includes her superior, Judge Kang Wong-joong who seeks to shut the case down as soon as possible for the sake of his political career.
So yes, those looking to get their spicy, courtroom K-drama fix will definitely be entertained from start to finish. If you came to see over-the-top monologues, screaming matches and some occasionally gripping discussion about human nature, then “Juvenile Justice” will no doubt deliver.
So much of the show is carried by actress Kim Hye-soo as the cold-hearted Judge Eun-seok. We were worried at first that she’d be this grating one-dimensional ideologue who keeps blabbering about how much she hates young offenders. As time went on, though, she becomes a more likeable character as we grow to understand the root of her hatred for them.
Actor Kim Mu-yeol does a phenomenal job as the compassionate Tae-joo, acting as the counter-balance to Hye-soo’s Eun-seok. In many ways, he plays the Watson to Eun-seok’s Sherlock. Whether or not their professionl relationship develops into anything else though is something we’ll let you find out on your own.
— ً (@afdhaol) February 25, 2022
Surprisingly, the child actors in the series can stand toe-to-toe with the seasoned veterans. The actress Lee Yeon portraying the 13-year-old boy accused murderer Baek Seong-u delivers her lines with all the gusto of a burgeoning serial killer. As the series progresses, we learn that his motivations go beyond mere cruelty. There’s also an interesting element that involving a wider group of dangerous delinquents that is kept in the shadows.
Netflix’s first season of “Juvenile Justice” is far from polished but thanks to Kim Hye-soo’s performance and its captivating writing, the series still merits a good Saturday afternoon binge. Its take on courtroom procedurals and legal dramas is certainly unorthodox with the its lead character playing both judge and detective throughout.
In spite of all its ridiculous contrivances and antics, there’s still something quite endearing and addictive to the series. We look forward to seeing more of Judge Eun-seok in her righteous crusade to bring justice. Just remember to have a legal expert be in the writer’s room.
You can now catch the first season of “Juvenile Justice” on Netflix today!
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Netflix's "Juvenile Justice" Season 1 Review
Netflix's first season of "Juvenile Justice" is far from polished but thanks Kim Hye-soo's performance and captivating writing the series still merits a good Saturday afternoon binge. It's take on courtroom procedurals and legal dramas is certainly unorthodox with the its lead character playing both judge and detective throughout. In spite of all its ridiculous contrivances and antics, there's something quite endearing and addictive to the series.
- Netflix's "Juvenile Justice" Season 1 Review