Blending comedy and drama with a sensitive and well-observed depiction of autism, Extraordinary Attorney Woo gets off to a fine start.
This recap of Extraordinary Attorney Woo season 1, episode 1 contains spoilers.
For the longest time, mainstream depictions of autism spectrum disorders have been woeful at best and outright offensive at worst. In a culture that scarcely allows anyone to get away with anything these days, the obvious upside is that insensitive portrayals of such things as Asperger’s Syndrome are becoming less and less prevalent. Extraordinary Attorney Woo, like its fellow Netflix series Atypical, wades into these treacherous waters with care and attention, delivering a promising blend of comedy and drama in its first 77-minute outing.
Extraordinary Attorney Woo season 1, episode 1 recap
The extraordinary attorney of the title is Woo Young-woo, the sole blue duck among a flock of yellow, at least according to the episode’s opening visual metaphor. Like most people with ASDs, Young-woo was diagnosed young, at five years old, her Asperger’s manifesting as being socially quiet and reserved but also a genius in many respects, and obsessively in love with whales.
In the present day, Young-woo is the first-ever autistic attorney having graduated law school in first place with honors. The whales, though, and discussions thereof, are probably best left at home, though their song accompanies her on the train to work, and her mind imagines them swimming alongside the carriage.
Of course, Young-woo’s autism causes issues and increases pressure. Attorney Jung Myeong-seok is surprised to see Young-woo’s application accepted by CEO Han and is relieved, somewhat, by a deal that if Young-woo is incapable of handling a case Myeong-seok gives her she’ll be dismissed. There’s clearly a case of staunch traditional values being challenged here, though Young-woo’s ASD also becomes a matter of concern among the clients she represents.
Speaking of cases, the first one involves a lady in her 70s, Yeong-ran, who struck her husband – who has dementia – with an iron that resembles a whale. This is a good way to introduce Young-woo’s considerable knowledge and abilities, as well as her quirks and peculiarities. Interwoven with relevant flashbacks, the messy case unravels amongst character-building scenes – Young-woo discussing revolving doors with Jun-ho, say – that help to flesh out the show’s tone and Young-woo’s character.
It also exposes some drawbacks, such as her difficulties speaking in court in front of people when the matter is put before a jury. The death of Mr. Park, Yeong-ran’s husband, mid-trial, only complicates matters further. It’s Jun-ho and those trusty whales that help Young-woo through the ordeal, and also allow her to develop a compelling closing argument about how Mr. Park already had a brain hemorrhage prior to being struck by the iron. After having exposed his character on the stand, this detail is enough for the charges against Yeong-ran to be lifted and a favorable outcome to be achieved.
One assumes that this case-of-the-week format is going to persist as we continue to learn more about Young-woo and explore the dynamics of her workplace and family, especially since a final scene suggests that there might be a connection between the two. For now, though, the opening episode of Extraordinary Attorney Woo lives up to its title enough that the possibilities for the future seem pretty enticing.