Wrapping up the first half of its run with an average nationwide rating of 9.2, Why Her? has become a new beloved drama. Despite new shows such as Alchemy of Souls and Doctor Lawyer entering into a ratings battle, they have been unable to dethrone the series. Why Her? continues to reign as the most watched miniseries of Saturday along with being the highest rated miniseries of the entire week. With a talented cast and a compelling storyline Why Her? continues to leave viewers counting down the days till the next episode airs.
Why Her? is a mystery romance that follows immensely talented Lawyer Oh Soo-Jae (Seo Hyun-Jin) who has fallen from grace in the blink of an eye. After spending most of her career trying to climb the ranks within one of the top law firms in South Korea (TK Law Firm), she has become cold hearted in her chase for success. Gong Chan (Hwang In-Yeop) despite enduring a traumatic past is a warm hearted law student who will stop at nothing to protect Soo-Jae.
Note: The rest of the review contains spoilers for the first half of Why Her? and has mentions of suicide.
At the start of the series, Soo-Jae appears to be a cruel lawyer who will say and do anything to ensure a favorable outcome for her clients. After berating and mildly threatening her current client’s accuser — Park So-Young (Hong Ji-Yoon) — even her loyal assistant Song Mi-rim (Lee Joo-Woo) questions if she took things too far. Which Soo-Jae counters that it was So-Young’s mistake for not hiring Soo-Jae as her lawyer. Thus highlighting her willingness to make the guilty look innocent. This seems to work for Soo-Jae since she has become the youngest partner of TK Law Firm thanks to her tenacity to win. However this heartless image she has curated for herself becomes her downfall. When So-Young is seen falling from the firm’s rooftop garden mere hours after being berated by Soo-Jae, the media questions whether Soo-Jae played a part in driving the girl to suicide. This leads to her demotion to work as a professor at a university to keep the company’s bad press at bay. After witnessing how callous she can be in her quest to rise to the top, it’s hard not to think to an extent Soo-Jae deserved the demotion.
Although over the course of the show’s run the viewers get a look into her backstory and how she ended up working for TK Law Firm. While working under Chief Prosecutor Cho Tae-Guk (Huh Joon-Ho) Soo-Jae falls for his eldest son Cho Ju-Wan (Ji Seung-Hyun). During their romance Soo-Jae becomes pregnant which results in Tae-Guk telling her to leave for the U.S; promising that once she has the baby Ju-Wan will join her in the states to get married. Sadly Soo-Jae has a miscarriage and to her dismay finds out that Ju-Wan has married another woman. Heartbroken and feeling betrayed Soo-Jae tries to commit suicide. Once recovered she returns to Korea and begins to work at the law firm Tae-Guk’s founded — TK law firm. It is then that Soo-Jae vows to eventually overtake the law firm as a way to get back at Chairman Tae-Guk for tricking her. On the other hand Chairman Tae-Guk believes by keeping her close he will be able to tame her into a docile dog.
Through learning Soo-Jae’s conviction to reach the top it flips the preconceived notion that surrounds Soo-Jae in the first episode. Understanding that her goal to take over TK is driven by trauma and the desire for revenge humanizes her. We see her go through numerous obstacles that continue to become harder and harder for her to overcome without her heartless facade faltering. It becomes clear that her coldness wasn’t just a strategy to get her through milestone cases to help her climb ranks but also a defense mechanism. In order for her to grow in a male dominated field she had to be unwavering in her resolve; at any sign of weakness her competitors would have used it to destroy her. Hence when she meets Gong Chan she tries to set boundaries and reveals it makes her uncomfortable that he can figure out her thinking. This uncomfortability doesn’t stem from her not liking him but out of embarrassment for her past and fear of being left vulnerable again.
However this doesn’t stop Gong Chan from trying to help Soo-Jae reach her goals. At every low point she hits, Gong Chan has been there to take care of her and shine an optimistic light into the darkness that surrounds her. At a point Soo-Jae even wants to reveal her past to him because she feels he will be there for her and tell her that it’s ok. Seeing Gong Chan as this light in Soo-Jae’s dark world is not only refreshing but also heartwarming. The feeling of bliss when the two are on screen is only doubled once Gong Chan’s backstory is added into the equation.
When Gong Chan was a teenager he was wrongfully convicted of rape and murder of his step sister Jeon Na-Jung. The entire country thought of him as a monster and constantly villainized him. His defense attorney was the only only one to believe that he was innocent. His attorney was young Soo-Jae — before she worked at TK — and although she wasn’t able to provide a not guilty verdict, she tells him that they must never get lost. After serving a year of his sentence a man confessed to being the true culprit of Na-Jung’s death. Even after being lost he is still met with nasty looks and outcast thus he changes his name from Kim Dong-Gu to Gong Chan.
Knowing Gong Chan’s backstory only furthers how touching it is to see the two become closer because their stories parallel each other. When Gong Chan was going through one of the hardest moments in his life Soo-Jae was there for him. Which is mirrored when after witnessing another person die tragically infront of her, Soo-Jae breaks down and questions why is this all happening to her, Gong Chan is right there to comfort her.
Soo-Jae and Gong Chan’s character has been delved into from the start and most likely will continue to be explored more in the later half of the series. Especially since Soo-Jae still doesn’t know Gong Chan’s past and it’s alluded to that his case was a potential domino in Soo-Jae’s personality change. Dong-Gu’s case was the last one Soo-Jae worked as a public attorney before she switched to a corporate law firm. The outcome of the case crushed her faith in the belief that the truth will prevail. Thus why she started to focus more on if she can prove innocence rather than her clients actually being innocent. The core of what allows the leading couple to get people to swoon when they are together on screen comes from the characters’ motivations and personalities being fully fleshed out. However what the show does well with the two leads it falls flat in doing so for the rest of the cast.
Why Her? is half way done with its run and it’s only now starting to acknowledge Soo-Jae’s second love interest Cho Yoon-Sang (Bae In-Hyuk). Yoon-Sang is the youngest son of Chairman Tae-Guk who fell for Soo-Jae when she tutored him while he was trying to get into law school. Besides some scenes of Yoon-Sang expressing jealousy over Soo-Jae and Gong Chan’s relationship he has been somewhat irrelevant to the plot. It wasn’t until he stole evidence from his family that aided in getting Soo-Jae’s arrest overturned that Yoon-Sang played a major roll. For a character that is supposed to be failing law school the way he handled both Soo-Jae’s unwarranted arrest and negotiations with his father begs the question whether or not he just isn’t trying in law school as a way to get back at his family, who he supposedly hates. There is still time to answer these questions in the next batch of episodes, but just now entering into Yoon-Sang’s story can make him look severely underdeveloped in comparison to his lead counterparts.
Despite the flaw in the extent of depth given to some characters, when the show does establish depth, it utilizes more than backstory and dialogue. The series also uses food, especially in relation to the main antagonist Chairman Tae-Guk. There are so many shots of delicious food that play a bigger role than just causing your mouth to water. It’s also a way to denote status and establish relationships. Generally when you eat with someone there is a sense of community. Usually people don’t eat with others they don’t like, unless trying to mend a broken relationship. Eating with someone creates a connection. Whenever Chairman Tae-Guk appears on screen if he is not in the law firm’s building he is most likely eating with someone. These meals denote his status as the one in control and establish his wealth since he is the one providing the expensive food — Created a fishing area to get fresh sashimi for fellow VIPs and had steak with Ju-Wan.
Another example is when after two of his underlings report back to him with satisfactory news he rewards them with Yakult. By providing milk to them it establishes authority over them as if they are his children who he must nourish in order to do his dirty work. In the same way eating with someone symbolizes a relationship, the refusal to eat showcases a division. Every meal scene Chairman Tae-Guk has with Soo-Jae she doesn’t eat the food. Making it clear that she doesn’t want to cultivate any type of relationship between herself and him, highlighting how the two are at odds with one another.
Though the first half of Why Her? has done a great job in captivating viewers with two well developed leads that create heart fluttering scenes together. It leaves much to be desired for what the other leads may hold. After showcasing its ability to use a unique way to characterize certain characters, the potential for the storylines the show can explore next is certainly worth waiting for.