“The Devil Judge” has concluded its run and it is time for a review of its second half.
“The Devil Judge” was, admittingly, crazy entertaining but, from an analytical point of view, its script and character arcs are deeply flawed.
Today, I am here to discuss “The Devil Judge,” why it’s one of my favorite 2021 kdramas, and why despite its message, the script needed more work.
Note: this will be a spoiler review of the said episodes in the title. This is a subjective review.
“The Devil Judge” was written by a former judge named Moon Yoo Seok, who quit being a judge to become a full-time screenwriter. This is crucial to point out because we’re about to get a bit analytical.
The core idea behind “The Devil Judge” is one of the most entertaining and unique ideas of a 2021 kdrama. Not only that, but the idea is super interesting considering it tackles what could be easily labeled a ‘boring’ topic. Law court proceedings can become stale after a while, but making some court trials public and subject to votes changes the entire game and sort of mirrors the many issues our society deals with today.
“The Devil Judge” script might be set in a dystopian future, but the points it discusses couldn’t feel more personal and relevant to the society we live in today, albeit a bit exaggerated, this could well become a nation’s future and the mere thought of it is frightening.
Having said this, the execution of the plot was, at times, weak. It could be due to budget restraints or time constraints but there were many plot points that were either weak or too grandeur to be properly implemented considering the circumstances.
Also, the screenwriter wobbles through the script, at times, it feels like he knows what he’s doing and at other times, it feels like he’s lost and unable to articulate or properly layout and execute a certain scenario he’s thought of.
In the first half, I’ve discussed this and in the second half, it becomes more apparent that he needs to work on his scriptwriting abilities because there are many areas that he needs to better. Areas I wouldn’t expect a screenwriter to struggle with. This is not unlikely to occur for someone who used to be in a field unrelated to scriptwriting. I’ll touch on this in even bigger details in the characters section.
He has many huge ideas and topics he wants to explore but he fails to make basic logic while addressing it, often trapping himself in holes he personally dug up. It can become quite frustrating to watch him unable to work around an idea he’s had in his head.
I know what some of you will say, ‘jasmine, this is a fantasy drama,’ I personally hate this argument because it’s so basic and often, so, so wrong. My issues are with the way the screenwriter tackles [basic] human interactions and logic in the plot, it doesn’t feel real, it doesn’t feel human-like or it doesn’t make sense.
I could find at least 3 to 5 plot holes in each episode from episode 9 to 16, and if you begin to think it through, the drama’s magic takes a hit for sure.
“The Devil Judge” was often frustrating for its lack of sense, sometimes, the screenwriter would approach a topic with sense, but it depends highly on whether he’s able to get characters out of a certain situation with or without it.
For a couple of examples, how on earth were bombs even brought into the supreme court? How was the death of Yohan’s right-hand man not even properly investigated or brought up? How did they manage to live stream when the nation was totally getting controlled from all sides [how was the app not censored]? How on earth was the virus successfully fabricated but somehow didn’t infect the entire population?
You get the point, I could go on and on forever.
Despite this, “The Devil Judge” screenwriter manages to salvage his drama with the help of how entertaining his ideas were, despite their lack of logic, many were surprising and/or entertaining. The other reason was the actors’ lineup.
I get the points he’s trying to make, the commentary he has on today’s society, and how this drama should serve as a cautionary tale. How money ultimately controls our fate in ways we can never even begin to comprehend. The ideas aren’t that special as many kdramas have successfully tackled corruption and such but it’s presented in a unique way that makes it so entertaining to watch.
“The Devil Judge” was, in my case, very fun, frustrating but fun. Yes, I am getting analytical and annoying but I can’t help it, this is how I am wired. It doesn’t mean I hated it, it is still one of my favorite 2021 kdramas but not because it is so well-written.
Aside from the plot which felt messy and absurd in the second half, the characters take the cake when it comes to my core issues with the drama.
There are many fascinating characters, it sucks that so many of them were either underdeveloped or poorly written. The one that first comes to mind is Soo Hyun. Her entire purpose and existence were merely to serve Ga On, she didn’t have her own personality or her own arc independent from him. It’s like she’s a shell and not a real human being, it’s been a while since I’ve seen such an underdeveloped female character in a major production.
What about her own aspirations or family? The screenwriter makes no effort to delve into her character motivations which makes her feel cartoonish and rather annoying, it sucks even more because the actress behind the character was truly trying her best to work with what she had to offer. The fact that such an abstract female character was written in this day and age is frustrating if you begin to think about it even more.
Next up is everyone’s stress pill, Ga On. I’ve talked about him in the first half review, but I wanted to highlight how I just couldn’t comprehend why he mattered.
Let me explain.
Yohan is always trying to win over Ga On who often behaves like a spoiled brat rather than a child who grew up without parents, aside from the fact that his actions don’t align with his background, Ga On is unimportant in the grand scheme of things. He has literally nothing to offer and could be dealt with rather easily the moment he brings up trouble.
This makes me wonder why would he matter at all, its not like he’s labeled an extremely intelligent man, or from a wealthy background, or in a higher-up position that could make decisions. He doesn’t have anything that could cover for his action and explain why he’s so careless and so vacillating as a character. I get why he’s inserted into the equation but I still can’t understand why Yohan tried so hard to convince him to come to him, he is easily replaceable and when you begin to think about it, you begin to wonder why was he written like that?
It feels shortsighted above all. The character was still loved because Jinyoung truly tried his best, but if I forget who I am watching and focus on the character, it is very weirdly written.
Yohan and Sun Ah are among the better written but Sun Ah still suffers in the latter half, I wanted to see more of her but if I compare her character to the others I have issues with on a deeper level, hers seem okay.
This section will be filled with praise. I hope whoever is reading knows I am tackling the project and the script, not targeting the actors.
They are truly my favorite part of the show and the reason I stuck around.
Ji Sung is so much fun to watch that even when the script is super frustrating, he’s still so captivating that you can’t stop watching. He truly carried this drama with his performance. He is truly one of the best actors of South Korea, he’s on a different level.
Kim Min Jung is chef’s kiss. I just love her, the character was beyond f-ed up but she made her appear so human and it was beautiful to watch. The way she converses with Ji Sung and their banters, it’s amazing. They had great chemistry too which helped a lot. Personally speaking, I think they had the best on-screen chemistry with each other.
Jinyoung is truly a star in the making, he’s improved a lot and is on his way to becoming one of the biggest actors if he continues to make the right choices. He had a difficult task ahead of him, he had to do a lot to match Ji Sung’s energy and acting, and he delivered. His performance made me tolerate an immensely annoying character, that’s not easy to do.
It goes without saying, everyone did so darn well. EVERYONE.
I want to highlight an actor I know some won’t mention, the actor who plays the role of the president is A STAR. O.M.G. Actor Baek Hyun Jin is a master. He’s such a good actor, I’ve seen him in taxi driver too earlier this year and he plays bad characters in both dramas but he’s managed to distinguish them from each other so well, he’s truly talented.
I hope he gains more fans through this project, fans who will see past the annoying insufferable character that he played. I can’t wait for his next project.
“The Devil Judge” is imperfectly perfect, it’s filled with plot holes and inconsistencies, it has some deeply annoying characters that are such because you can tell the screenwriter needed to work harder on them, but it is still so darn fun.
Frustrating can still be fun. This is a drama that I’d recommend to anyone who is a fan of any of the actors in this project. Even if you’re not, if you like law-related kdramas that tackle corruption and the effects of social media on today’s society, this will be a fun watch.