South Korean remakes of American shows have always come under intense scrutiny by international fans and The Good Wife is no exception. Fans of the original were worried about everything from casting to plot, wondering how the Korean version would handle things. Which arcs would be omitted? Would the Kalinda equivalent retain her bisexuality? How would the story of Alicia Florrick be transformed by its new context of Korean society?
It’s the last question that is particularly interesting and it can be argued that framing the story of Alicia Florrick — Kim Hye-kyung, played by Jeon Do-yeon — in a Korean context makes the story even more compelling. In a society which emphasizes long work hours and seniority, how can a woman who has been out of the work force for over a decade compete? Especially when she is older than the colleagues she is in direct competition with. Of course, things are even further complicated by the widely known sexual and political scandal of her husband and the prospect of being a single mother to two teenage children.
While the first two episodes of The Good Wife follow the American version quite closely, the series may begin to diverge later on, especially as the writers must condense seven seasons worth of material into 16 episodes (with currently no plans for further seasons).
Please note the the following review is based on having watched the American version of The Good Wife in its entirety. As such, there may be spoilers.
Our heroine, Kim Hye-kyung, is a housewife who is thrust into the workforce after her husband is embroiled in a sexual scandal. Jeon Do-yeon is fantastic as Hye-kyung, portraying her with a level of complexity not often seen in K-dramas. She balances Hye-kyung’s being overwhelmed with a subtle assertiveness that begins to become more forceful as the episodes progress. This assertiveness is necessary as Hye-kyung navigates both tricky legal situations and personal vendettas by those who wish to manipulate her. Although Hye-kyung knows the law, in order to survive these shark infested waters, she must become adept at the games played by other attorneys.
Seo Joong-won (Yoon Kye-sang) and Seo Myung-hee (Kim Seo-hyung) — Will Gardner and Diane Lockheart — are siblings who run a firm founded by their father. Both actors impress and easily embody their characters; Joong-won and Myung-hee are instantly identifiable as their respective counterparts before the show formally introduces them. Myung-hee’s commanding presence and intelligence shine through thanks to Kim Seo-hyung and contrasts with Joong-won’s easy-going but sharply intuitive character.
Joong-won’s naturalness with Hye-kyung is refreshing especially as he is the closest thing Hye-kyung has to a confidante. Her vulnerability in the elevator was something that could only happen with him and it will be intriguing to see how The Good Wife handles their impending affair. . . or if the affair will happen at all.
Speaking of affairs, Hye-kyung’s cheating husband, Lee Tae-joon (Yoo Ji-tae), rounds out the main cast as a successful prosecutor who faces corruption charges after videos of his sexual infidelity spreads. His ambiguity is provocative as the viewer doesn’t know where he stands. He admits to the infidelity but refutes the corruption charges. Yet it is hard to believe Tae-joon is not guilty when he continues to orchestrate events from prison, even going as far as to pull strings to help Hye-kyung get her client some semblance of justice.
Which begs the question, what are Hye-kyung’s morals? She clearly has no desire to break the law, but has no problem with her husband bending it when it suits her. This uncertainty is what made the original Alicia a fascinating character, especially when she defended clients that obviously had committed the serious crimes they were accused of. Will Hye-kyung go down the same path or navigate things differently?
The last two characters of importance in these first two episodes are David Lee (Cha Soon-bae) and Kim Dan (Nana). David Lee was unintentionally hilarious in the original as a pessimistic divorce attorney who excelled at his job. While he received only brief of screen-time in the first two episodes, the show’s nod towards the original show with Soon-bae literally dressed as the devil was comical and entertaining.
Of greater importance, though, is Kim Dan, the firm’s investigator. Nana, in her first drama role, was surprisingly enjoyable as the mysterious investigator and played well off Do-yeon’s Hye-kyung. Dan’s most interesting scene, however, was one without Hye-kyung in which The Good Wife all but confirmed Dan’s non-heterosexuality.
As mentioned earlier, Dan’s American counterpart, Kalinda, is bisexual. Many fans weren’t sure that the show would leave this aspect of her identity in. Of course, Dan may turn out to be a lesbian instead of bisexual, but it seems The Good Wife wants to stay true to the original, making a bisexual Dan much more likely.
The first two episodes of The Good Wife remain similar to the original show but this doesn’t mean that the rest of the series will continue to do so. Already, it seems that husband Tae-joon is taking a much more active role. And with a condensed amount of episodes, the plot will have to be rushed along. What other challenges will Hye-kyung face? Will she end up in an affair with Joong-won? And how will the events of The Good Wife be reinterpreted in a context that fits Korean society?
Whichever direction the show decides to go, one thing is for sure: with tvN behind this remake, the rest of The Good Wife will definitely be worth watching.
How did viewers of the original The Good Wife like these initial episodes? How did brand new viewers feel about it? Be sure to tell us in the comments below!