Juvenile Justice season 1, episode 1 recap – hatchet job

February 25, 2022
Jonathon Wilson 0
K-Drama, Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Recaps
3

Summary

Juvenile Justice introduces a grim case and presents some confusing perspectives in its opening hour.

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3

Summary

Juvenile Justice introduces a grim case and presents some confusing perspectives in its opening hour.

This recap of Juvenile Justice season 1, episode 1 contains spoilers.


Meet Baek Seong-u, a 13-year-old boy who may or may not have hacked an eight-year-old to pieces with a little hatchet. This dude, staggering into a confession in a blood-soaked hoody, is our introduction to a spate of ideas about South Korean juvenile judicial process that are inevitably going to form the narrative bedrock of Netflix’s new crime drama, Juvenile Justice. As Sim Eun-seok explains directly to the camera, a judge in a juvenile case takes on a kind of long-term advisor role in the hopes of rehabilitating young offenders and leading them gently back into polite society. It’s a noble endeavor, one you’d imagine would attract the most altruistic types, but Eun-seok is different. By her own admission, she carries out the taxing work of juvenile justice because she simply hates young offenders — and that hatred is what drives her.

Juvenile Justice season 1, episode 1 recap

Naturally, the Yeonhwa Child Murder case of Ji-hu, the hacked-up little boy, falls right into Eun-seok’s lap. But more on this soon. In the meantime, Juvenile Justice delivers a flurry of scenes so sledgehammer-subtle that they border on parody. The point is to lay out the framework of the juvenile system, hint at the relationship between the prosecutors and the press, and reveal more information about Eun-seok, a terrifying careerist known as “Judge Max” since she always gives juveniles the maximum sentence. Rather than lay everything out beat-by-beat, here’s a capsule summary of what we learn:

Eun-seok is deeply bitter and resentful and profoundly unlikeable — one assumes there’s some kind of personal case involving a juvenile in her past that we’re going to learn about in due course. Either way, she isn’t really the audience POV character here. Instead, another prosecutor named Tae-ju, a much more passionate and open-minded fellow, seems like the guy we’re supposed to be rooting for. He’s pretty big on the whole rehabilitation thing and isn’t afraid to confront Eun-seok despite her reputation, even if this first episode seems determined to prove her right for the time being. In a sit-down meal with some of the young offenders that the office has helped, one of the kids is accused of stealing by a well-to-do woman, and it seems like she’s being falsely accused… until Eun-seok reveals that she saw her steal after all, which is all the proof she needs that young offenders are all the same and never change.

See? Subtle!

Anyway, the murder case. Baek is openly disturbed — he talks about hearing voices and laughs like the Joker in the courtroom — but isn’t really facing a prison sentence given his age. This is a PR nightmare, obviously, and the first time we see Eun-seok show anything even resembling compassion is with the mother of Ji-hu, who laments the fact that his killer can’t be properly punished. It seems very much like Juvenile Justice is on Eun-seok’s side here, but things are a little more complicated than that.

As Eun-seok quickly figures out, Seong-u is too unstable to have carried out the murder, cleaned up the crime scene, and disposed of the body — his schizophrenia, the very thing that has led the police to presume his guilt, wouldn’t allow for that. So he’s protecting an accomplice, an older girl named Han Ye-eun who Eun-seok can throw the book at. The judge is determined to bring her in, but given the optics of the case and the fact that there’s a political opportunity for the semi-famous Judge Kang who runs the office if it’s open-and-shut, she isn’t allowed to pursue the theory without evidence.

Tae-ju, however, is willing to help Eun-seok acquire the evidence because it’d flagrantly undermine the justice system if they prosecuted Seong-u while knowing he had an accomplice. So he turns to someone he knows who attended the same high school as Ye-eun — the girl who stole from the restaurant earlier. Eun-seok is able to track Ye-eun down to an internet cafe and chase her at full sprint for what seems like miles before eventually cornering her in a dingy alley, as her own stated hatred of young offenders rings in her ears.

You can stream Juvenile Justice season 1, episode 1 exclusively on Netflix.

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