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Extraordinary Attorney Woo—Palindromes Anyone?

In Extraordinary Attorney Woo, a newly minted attorney, Woo Young Woo (the exceptional Park Eun-bin) has just graduated from prestigious Seoul National University School of Law and is hired by one of the two top law firms in Seoul.  It is somewhat unusual that the two top law firms are headed by female CEOs.  But even more noteworthy is the fact that young attorney Woo has autism.  She introduces herself with palindromes: “My name is Woo Young Woo, whether it is read straight or flipped:   kayak, deed, rotator, noon, race car, Woo Young Woo.”

And so we enter a portal to the brilliant mind of a young female attorney, so different from her neurotypical colleagues– underscored by flights of fanciful whales and dolphins floating in her mind as she analyzes each legal case as a savant.  At first, discriminated against and a source of embarrassment with her palindrome-introduction to new clients, Attorney Woo soon becomes the target of envy and backstabbing.  She also, however, wins the admiration of some of her formerly skeptical legal team with her emotional intelligence as well as her analytical and mnemonic skills.  Throughout competitive office drama, Woo maintains her obsessive focus on each case and her innocent but blunt communication with her colleagues.  Throw in an office romance with an adorable, empathetic paralegal assistant and we have an affectionate, addictive and heartwarming sixteen-episode mini-series that continues to reflect the unique and highly imaginative cinematic industry in South Korea.

Some of the episodes have a sluggish lack of momentum, daytime soap-opera scenes, and lack full character development.  But the legal cases always turn unexpectedly from the trained legal mind that analyzes cases  in conventional ways to the brilliantly idiosyncratic mind of Woo.  Like the palindromes she blurts out, she analyzes legal principles metaphorically both forward and in reverse.   Throw in little-known facts about whales and dolphins and Extraordinary Attorney Woo becomes a one-off Netflix selection!

Park Eun-bin, the extraordinary actress who plays Woo Young Woo, nails a respectful, sensitive portrayal of the voice and physical movements of a highly functioning young person with autism spectrum disorder.  Also, the justice and legal systems in South Korea often show subtle cultural differences which add an unexpected dimension.   Extraordinary Attorney Woo is, at times, whimsical, romantic, sensitive, and bizarre.  With legal cases tackling caregiving, dementia, abandonment, class prejudice, nepotism, and ruthless ambition, Attorney Woo always responds with kindness, integrity, and compassion often in unexpected moments.

A highly enjoyable mini-series.  A second season is planned.   

Availability:  Netflix streaming

Note:  Watching a few episodes of Good Fight (October 24, 2022 review) followed by Extraordinary Attorney Woo is a fascinating comparison of legal systems and cultures, women in law, and power and greed!

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