Putting this drama into words is not easy. Spending the last few days, I was trying to come up with one word that can describe Defendant, and after some thought I think I got it. The drama is simply captivating and mesmerizing!
Without being particularly original or unique, defendant feels completely one of a kind. Part a legal-crime thriller part melodrama, Defendant is solely a two-man show. On the one hand, it centers on a prosecutor –the hero- who finds himself in prison, is accused of murdering his wife and child and dealing with memory lose on top of everything else. On the other hand, it focuses on a wicked man –the villain- who tries desperately to get away with his crimes. The drama develops partly as a mystery and later as an endless manhunt between the two as the one tries to destroy the other.
First half of the drama takes places in prison. I sincerely appreciated the fact that the drama did not spend time with court and other boring legal procedures but rather looked everything from a different personal-dramatic view of the hero delving deep into his troubled thoughts regarding his indictment. The memory loss plot is just a device to drive the story nothing more, so don’t worry about things dragging out a lot. The amnesia plot was handled in a very refreshing way in my opinion.
Second half of the drama is way more engaging, more dramatic, more lively filled with tension, angst and twists. The acting is luscious and you will never get bored of seeing the turning tables and schemes between the 2 lead characters. The drama is melodramatic without being mawkish, but there are also comic scenes and characters to relieve the tension and they succeeded without ridiculing it. There are quite a few characters implicated in all this making the drama that much more thrilling and mysterious.
While the drama really left a very strong impression that could translate into a perfect 10, specific reasons restrict me from it. Firstly the conveniently written base story. Frankly, there is no drama that is not at least partly convenient, that is how they work, and then the drama is just so good you’ll barely mind the convenience here and there.
Moreover, the main drawback I could address is the slow development of the plot especially in the first half of the drama. I remember me thinking that the drama offered its first real plot development, since the first 2 episodes, in episodes 7 and 8. After that the story really picks up pace. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed every episode. Even in episodes in which nothing much happened, the drama managed to be fascinating, bewitching and easy to watch.
Finally, although more of a nagging stretch from my part, i felt that the drama somehow mistreated its flawless ensemble cast by focusing too much on the 2 leads. It's not that the characters felt unreal, it is exactly that they were so well written that they deserved some kind of story of their own, namely Kwon Yuri's character. All that being said this focus on the main leads just gave Ji Sung more time to be flawless on my screen i shouldn't nag! I hereby reassure you none of these minor shortcomings were enough to reduce, even by little, the awesomeness of this drama!
Despite the great and thrilling plot, best part of the drama for me was the acting. The cast is actually quite large, with almost every character having a significant role to play. I cannot argue that the acting was an overall 10, but as I mentioned already this is a two-man show and these 2 men simply outdid themselves!
I can safely say we all agree that Kill Me Heal Me was Ji Sung’s best work; he demonstrated perfectly his unrealistically good acting skills. Ladies and Gents, I present you, the drama in which Ji Sung managed to outdo himself(!). His acting as a tainted inmate fighting with himself over his charges trying to solve the puzzle was magnificent and astounding. I doubt there is another male actor who can break down crying, act like a lunatic like that and come off as firm but also desperate and emotional as Ji Sung did. He sent chills down my spine, goosebumps. Either acting as a disoriented inmate or a strong and driven prosecutor or an aching father and husband he was immaculate. He knows exactly how much soul and emotion to pour into his performance in every scene. Excquisite! I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again best actor in dramaland.
The duo is formed with Uhm Ki Joon. I’ve seen him before but never like this. He portrays the antagonist but somehow he had such great syngery with Ji Sung, something I’ve never seen before. His portrayal of twin siblings was firstly impeccable; secondly his performance of a despicable criminal was spotless and shivering. A corrupted unstable person who still felt human and somehow mistreated and misunderstood. Undoubtedly, i never saw me having these feelings about such a villain. Heavenly acting by Uhm Ki Joon! A character you’ll love to hate. The two men managed to really make the drama shine 10x brighter than it would have on its own and they complemented each other completely.
The ensemble cast had a few really good actors. Yuri generally gets a lot of shit for her acting, she is considered the female lead, but considering the significance of her character she barely appeared. She served a purpose, and imo she held her own next to acting beasts despite being rather forgettable. I especially liked Uhm Hyeon Kyeong, not a big role, but also a significant and poetic one.
Oh Chang Seok and Kang Sung Min played similar characters that developed in the exactly opposite way, amazing writing here, they were great. All the cellmates were immaculate and adorable too, the drama generally featured some of the best and more likeable side characters I’ve ever seen.
Lastly, my personal favourites, Kim Min Suk who was sentimental and touching, loved him and my endless love and appreciation for Shin Rin Ah, the ridiculously talented young girl who never cease to amaze.
Even if the acting wasn’t perfect overall, it deserves a 10 for the perfect casting and synergy.
Despite your preferred drama genre, defendant is a drama that cannot be easily put to words, it should be watched. Therefore, I recommend it to everyone. It is emotional, exciting, thrilling, mysterious and intriguing. It does not have romance but believe me you won’t even care! I can see myself rewatching it in the future.