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April 4, 2012

Vampire Prosecutor Season 1 – Episodes 4 & 5 Korean drama review

Well, if I wanted to see the Vampire Prosecutor bested by a woman (and I really did), episode 4 was made just for me. Not only did defense lawyer Yoon Ji Hee (Jang Young Nam) set him up to knock himself down over and over, she got a final laugh, in a twist he could have prevented if he’d done his homework. Or if he’d paid more attention to Prosecutor Yoo when she wondered why Yoon Ji Hee was involved in the case in the first place. We can’t even be very sorry that
SPOILER ALERT – if you haven’t watched this yet, stop here.
the murderer was found innocent, since Prosecutor Min himself agreed that the murder victim got what he deserved.

Yoon Ji Hee is to be a recurring character. What a transformation this beautiful, sassy, morally ambiguous, and scary-smart lawyer is from Yun Jae In’s frail, overwrought coma mom in Honor Man (aka Glory Jane). It must have been very odd for Jang Young Nam to perform the two roles back to back – or a huge relief.

I have a feeling the morality conversation between Attorney Yoon and the Vampire Prosecutor that begins in this episode will continue to frame the core dilemmas of the series. In her opening statement during the trial she says, “Crime comes easily when the person loses their ability to reason, and when we desire something too much, it’s easier to commit a crime.” We don’t know then that she is referring to retribution. After that has become clearer, he asks her, “If you act based only on your instincts, don’t you think it’s unfair to those who can suppress them?” Hmm, hardly your typical rationale for a criminal justice system (in the U.S. at least), but a major chunk of character exposition for Prosecutor Min.

At the end of the episode when he is trying to sort out what hit him, she says, “There are no objective truths, just subjective interpretation.” Yet, a minute later, as she delivers the coup de grace, she tells him, “I thought you were smart, but you can’t seem to differentiate between truth and a lie.” Then she promises they will meet again, “not in the legal world, but outside,” which could mean a lot of things. She is messing with his head bigtime, and clearly isn’t done yet. I wonder why. He should have asked her how it feels to get your revenge (ala The Mentalist), but he can’t allow himself that.

I’m starting to like Min Tae Yeon a little now (American like). When Prosecutor Min loses his cool dramatically in the courtroom, he loses an irritating smugness along with it. He seems suddenly uncertain and young in the face of Yoon Ji Hee, who is always two steps ahead of him. And he is finally treating Prosecutor Yoo with some respect.

After she calls Lee Won Jong on the carpet for over-familiarity that is disrespectful to her rank, he too makes comedic (of course) attempts to remember his honorifics. This is the kind of thing that makes me glad I’m learning Korean – it isn’t adequately translated in the subtitles, so you have to know the implications to get the joke of his dangling “yo” 5 seconds after he finishes speaking.

Episode 4 closes with a vampiric assault on the judge who has just freed his suspect, while Prosecutor Min sits in the deserted bar and wonders where his vampire buddy has gotten to.

Episode 5 is a sad tale of teenage girls and the ugly underbelly of privilege. Though the murderer is hiding in plain sight, there are twists, turns and red herrings aplenty before we see. Again, we can sympathize with the murderer, perhaps more easily than with the victims. The Vampire Prosecutor has another conversation about right and wrong action with the confessed culprit, but he doesn’t try very hard to argue that one could reach the same resolution from the high road. I’m starting to wonder whether every murder is going to be as tragic for the murderer as for the victim, kind of like “The Closer.” In Korea. With vampires.

At the end of episode 5, Prosecutor Min takes the conflict of interest issue from Episode 4 to his boss, only to discover that Prosecutor Yoo has already done so. But, as we know from Episode 4, the corrupt judge has disappeared. His boss remarks that the team has exceeded his expectations for them, due to a change in Min Tae Yeon. The Prosecutor doesn’t seem to be conscious of these changes. He’s wondering if the disappearance has more sinister implications.

Later, over a drink with his vampire buddy, he ponders why the steady stream of vampire slain bodies that were turning up seven years ago has stopped. Could the vampire have stopped killing for his blood? But the bartender doesn’t think so – once you’ve tasted the blood of a living person… The Vampire Prosecutor multiplies a life every two days by seven years and looks aghast. And we are wondering where his vampire friend was during the murder of the judge in the last episode, and how does he know that a taste for living blood is hard to kick?

Note: In September of 2011, a couple of weeks before the first episode of Vampire Prosecutor Season 1 was aired, a film on a real-life case of school staff sexually abusing institutionalized children was released. The Crucible (도가니), based on an earlier novel, galvanized the country, made international headlines (including an article in the New York Times) and had been widely viewed by the time Episode 4 of Vampire Prosecutor came out. In the wake of public outcry over the film, the school was finally shut down, and in March, rape laws were extended to include male children.


Also with Yeon Jeong Hun:

More Vampire Prosecutor (Season 1) reviews
Can Love Become Money reviews


2 comments to Vampire Prosecutor Season 1 – Episodes 4 & 5 Korean drama review

  • SANDRA JARRELL

    I AM A 60 YEAR OLD CAUCASIAN FEMALE. I HAVE A FEW FAVORITE TV SHOWS, BUT SINCE I HAVE DISCOVERED MNET AND VAMPIRE PROSECUTOR IT HAS QUICKLEY BECOME MY FAVORITE. AS THE KIDS SAY JOKINGLY ABOUT THEIR FAVORITE THINGS IT HAS BECOME MY NEW CRACK. I MISSED THE FIRST 2 EPISODES OF THIS SEASON BUT HAVE ALL THE REST ON MY DVR. I TRULY HOPE MNET WILL KEEP SHOWING THIS PROGRAM.I THINK PROSECUTOR MIN IS THE BEST THING TO HAPPEN TO TV IN A LONG TIME AND A REAL SHAME AMERICAN TV PRODUCERS HAVE NOT PICKED HIM UP. HE COULD BE HUGE HERE :SANDRA

    • Mihansa

      Welcome Sandra, and thanks for your comment. I haven’t heard of MNET – is it a cable network?

      I think Korean drama is already penetrating the US market, but it’s happening mostly online, so we don’t hear about it as much. It’s an interesting contrast to US TV in the mid-20th century, before cable and VCRs. When everyone in the same time zone was watching the same shows at the same time, it made TV a community experience. It’s still a community experience, but now those communities are virtual rather than geographical.

      If you have a high-speed internet connection such as DSL or cable and a reasonably recent computer, you can catch those first two episodes you missed on DramaFever (this is a link to episode 1), which are legal, high quality, and free. You don’t even have to register if you don’t want to.

      As you have probably heard, there will be a second season of Vampire Prosecutor, possibly starting in Korea as early as next month. Sometimes there is a delay before a network releases a drama to US audiences – hopefully that won’t happen this time! Like you, I’m ready for more :)

      In the meantime, if you like Yun Joeng Hoon, you might enjoy Can Love Become Money? Can Love Become Money? is another 20-episode series he starred in earlier this year (after Vampire Prosecutor) which has recently become available on DramaFever. They are posting episodes at the rate of two per week (which is a common Korean airing schedule) – 9 are available at this writing. Links to my comments on the series are above, just below the links to the Vampire Prosecutor reviews.

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