Legal drama, A New Leaf, had so much potential. With Kim Myung Min as the brilliant cold lawyer Kim Suk Joo, opposite Park Min Young as the adorable intern, Lee Ji Yoon, the scene was set for explosive chemistry. However, this drama had a knack for disregarding my expectations completely.
In a strong start, Suk Joo and Ji Yoon meet in confusing and hilarious circumstances while Jun Ji Won (Jin Yi Han), whom Ji Yoon had been wanting to impress, looks on curiously. My Expectations: Ji Yoon would continuously astound the iceberg Suk Joo, getting them into silly situations that would turn out for the best in the long run. Suk Joo would start to melt, though would it be fast enough to keep Second Leading Man, Ji Won, in check? Did it happen? Not at all. The pacing and tone of the drama did not remain consistent, there was no satisfying melting, and I don't think Second Leading Man was a role that existed at all.
As the top lawyer in a ruthless firm, Suk Joo made a lot of enemies. It was no surprise that he suffered an attack, resulting in amnesia. When his boss, Cha Young Woo (Kim Sang Joong) and Ji Yoon see his bizarre (for him) behavior at the hospital, they can't believe their eyes. My Expectations: Suk Joo continues to show a surprising side of himself, which Ji Yoon can't help but be drawn to. However, the fact is that his attacker is still out there, so there is some urgency for him to regain his memory. Did it happen? While it's true that another side to Suk Joo invariably surfaced, it wasn't very entertaining to watch. Not that Kim Myung Min did a poor job; he's always great in his roles. The script was just very one note and a dry one at that. As far as a sense of urgency, it wasn't to be found anywhere.
Ji Yoon proves to be a naive, but competent intern with a promising future. As the only person besides the CEO who knows about Suk Joo's amnesia, she works closely with him to keep the secret from clients and the rest of the firm. My Expectations: this couple would get closer despite a strong and sweet Second Leading Man in the mix. Did it happen? At best you could say that Ji Yoon came to understand Suk Joo more. I soon got the sense that she wasn't what you could even call a Leading Lady. She seemed more like a cute side character that kept popping up to advance the plot here and there without any real growth or meaning to her.
When a woman from Suk Joo's
past present shows up, he has to decide whether or not to reveal his amnesia. My Expectations: things get complicated, and Ji Yoon's twinges of jealousy help her realize what her true feelings are. Did it happen? HA! I mean, no, no it didn't.
Ji Won, as a judge, was valuable as a mentor for Ji Yoon, but living in the same neighborhood could also give them opportunities to get to know each other on an informal level. My Expectations: Ji Won's softer side would appeal to Ji Yoon, and her goofiness would win him over. Did it happen? Nooo it did not. Really, they could have cut out all their scenes together and it would not have made a difference to the plot or their relationship.
Perhaps the most fulfulling pairing of the drama is the bromance between Suk Joo and Park Sang Tae (Oh Jung Se). They went to school together and now they work at the same firm, but have opposite personalities and approaches to life. Sang Tae is charming, funny and indulges in his hobby of auditioning to be a performer. It would have been nice to cut out some of the dragging legal action to spend more time with him. Finally some chemistry!
Other side characters weren't treated as well. Ji Yoon's father and aunt were tied to the legal aspect of the plot, but weren't really utilized as more than a sidenote. Her cute mischievous brother could have popped up here and there to stir things up being the brat that he is. It's a shame he only appears a few times. I guess it makes sense, though, seeing as how Ji Yoon herself was treated as an underused side character.
As a legal drama, the courtroom action was at times gratifying, but mostly just lukewarm. Though Ji Yoon's earnestness and prosecutor Lee Sun Hee's (Kim Suh Hyung) passion did incite a bit of interest, for the most part, I didn't care about the cases. Suk Joo functioned well even without his memory, so there wasn't a need for him to recover for his clients' sakes. And where you would expect there to be resolution, it's not provided. The drama being cut by two episodes might have had something to do with it, but since I wasn't all that interested anyway, it was merciful that they spared me from having to watch two more hours of mediocre writing.
In the end, it seems that Suk Joo's amnesia was the best thing that could have happened to him, but it all plays out in such a subdued manner. He and his estranged father (Choi Il Hwa) both have such non expressive personalities that their nuanced facial expressions have much to communicate. Though writer Choi Hee Ra could have done so much more with the events of their past, at least they made more progress than any other relationship in the drama.
I was hoping A New Leaf would be a legal thriller with gripping courtroom action, danger that would have me screaming for Suk Joo to recover his memory before it was too late, an unlikely but touching romantic triangle and at times excruciating comic relief. Well, there was comic relief, anyway. The script just wasn't smartly written, and I have a feeling that the legal and banking aspects of it were oversimplified or just not authentic. I know procedures differ between countries, but how can someone out on bail be allowed to leave the country, and who doesn't know that Forex trading is extremely risky?
What started out so charmingly, turned into hours of increasing disappointment, and finally ended with loose strings that I didn't care about anyway. In fact, I preferred that the drama end sooner, rather than make me sit through wrapping everything up properly. The only thing holding this series together was its excellent cast who I hope make better decisions about what projects to be involved with in the future.