Juvenile Justice still struggles to find a clear point of view and tone in in its second episode.
This recap of Juvenile Justice season 1, episode 2 contains spoilers.
Despite some cuts and bruises, Eun-seok was able to successfully apprehend Ye-eun at the end of the previous episode, so it’s time for some background. Both of her parents are currently living in the US — dad’s a businessman, and mom runs a successful fashion boutique. A law firm called Geobo acts as Ye-eun’s guardian on their behalf. This is bad news, obviously, since she has immediate, high-quality legal representation out of the gate. And Ye-eun knows how to play the game. She shells up, plays dumb, and refuses to reveal anything while her smug attorney tries to shut down the questioning. Even with the evidence, including the phone logs and the elevator CCTV footage, this isn’t going to be easy.
Juvenile Justice season 1, episode 2 recap
The second episode of Juvenile Justice divides its time between the trial, backroom conversations between the legal team, and some occasional flashbacks to the crime itself. In so doing it’s trying to deliver a crime thriller in the typical procedural sense, as well as flesh out Eun-seok in the long term, helping to explain why she’s so determined to enforce the law to its fullest extent and terrify juveniles into never committing crimes again. Thanks to Ye-eun’s lawyer, she makes the news, her abrasive manner during previous cases being brought under public scrutiny just as Kang is trying to keep the whole thing low-key. Despite an impassioned speech from Eun-seok about how it’s their duty to enforce the long arm of the law to its fullest extent, the case is handed to Tae-ju, whose involvement in Ye-eun’s apprehension Eun-seok denies.
The trial isn’t paced or structured especially well. It almost seems to be playing on fast-forward. We learn that Ye-eun has a delusional personality disorder — Juvenile Justice seems to be relying a little too much on mental illness as a crutch, but it’s still early days — and lashes out at perceived aggressions with rather extreme responses. The evidence implies that she and Seong-u conspired together, though both rather implausibly claim manslaughter, but the flashbacks seem to suggest rather unequivocally that Ye-eun was the ringleader and Seong-u a rather unwitting accomplice. The tone is odd here, getting a little too performatively lurid for the drama to really sing, but the murdered boy’s mother giving an emotional, impassioned plea for the most severe punishment does a better job of putting across the real-world effects of the crime.
But it also raises another issue in that Juvenile Justice seems to be explicitly validating Eun-seok’s perspective here. As in the restaurant scene in the first episode, she’s once again proved right. Ye-eun is sentenced to 20 years in prison, and Seong-u to Probation Level 10. After the verdict, she and Tae-ju have a conversation about how if parents don’t make the effort the kids will never change, and a flashback seems to imply that Ye-eun’s actions were rooted in a perceived sense of abandonment when Ji-hu mentioned his own mother to her. Yet that doesn’t explain Seong-u, whose mother was present in his life. She tries to confront Tae-ju about her son’s sentencing, given that he was clearly coerced by Ye-eun, but Eun-seok absolutely chews her to pieces, telling her that Seong-u has to take some of the responsibility and that Ji-hu is dead at least in part because of him.
From this conversation and other hints here and there, I imagine that Eun-seok has lost a child of her own, perhaps under similar circumstances. But allowing us to understand why she feels the way she does isn’t the same thing as the show tacitly endorsing Eun-seok’s viewpoint, which it seems to be doing in scenes such as the late one in which Seong-u’s mother returns home to find a bloodstain on the floorboards and breaks down crying and apologizing. It seems kind of insane to me for her to be shouldering so much of the burden here.
Anyway, at the very end of the episode, a young girl staggers up to the courthouse door and begins braying on it, so I presume we have our next case.