Park Jeong Woo is a prosecutor at Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office. One day, he wakes up and finds himself a convict on death row. Suffering from temporary amnesia, Jeong Woo has no idea what transpired to land him in prison. He struggles to recover his memory and clear his name before his time is up.
Cast & Credits
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.
If you're like me and you've watched your fair share of crime dramas you won't find the premise of this show exactly unique. You'll be able to guess most of the plot twists (if not all) and see a lot of things coming beforehand. Defendant comes with it's flaws. There are a lot of convenient coincidences that aid both our good guys and the baddies. Sharp tools just happen to be lying around jail cells just waiting to be used by the inmates, a circuit somehow just happens to break resulting in a power black out whenever it is needed, a very useful recording device disguised as a pen just happens to travel around wringing confessions from the evil doers left and right and our antagonist somehow conveniently transforms from an up to no good loser to an identity stealing mastermind overnight.
How very interesting.
However, with its slightly rocky plot comes a masterful execution. Even though you know what's going to happen, when it actually happens it feels like a completely new and exciting experience. Our good guys seem to be trapped in their own version of real life flappy bird. It's one step forward from the abyss of doom and twenty steps backwards. So when convenient coincidences happen to rule things in their favor, I'd be damned if I have a problem with it.
This is the kind of show that banks on the watcher's heart rather than the mind. It will make you blinded with emotion and leave all logic behind. But the real reason this show is a hit is the excellent acting put out by all the actors.
Ji Sung as always is phenomenal. From Secret to Kill Me Heal Me and finally to Defendant, you can see his acting evolve and grow more powerful. He's an extremely skilled performer and many a times I suffered through a serious case of gooseflesh while watching him. By the middle of this show I was completely invested, horribly torn apart and crossing my fingers for him to turn the tables on all the assholes that had done him wrong.
Usually in melodramas, when you see the main character go through tragedy after tragedy, it turns from heartbreaking to frustrating real quick. Soon you go from wanting to wipe the hero's tears to slapping his mouth shut and putting an end to the sob fest. However, Ji Sung got me every time. His pain, helplessness and tears always made me wail like a baby. I didn't realize I was rocking so much H2O in my body until it came out gushing from my peepers. I think I felt quite a lot dehydrated after finishing this show.
Uhm Ki-Joon with his Cha Min Ho put out the acting of his life. He's heartless, ruthless, evil without a cause and at last, pitiful. He's probably one of the best antagonists of Dramaland and undoubtedly one of the most hated characters. His impulsive acts of violence leave you shaking with fury and you'll find yourself thirsty for his demise.
A lot of people thought that his situation was a little unrealistic but as a daughter of a detective, I can say that I've seen many real life cases where the criminals start with seemingly minor and thoughtless crimes and commit far worse atrocities to cover it up. In Cha Min Ho's case, he sticks to it to the very end. His bag of tricks is endless and you never find a peaceful moment with him.
Even though this show truly focuses on the two main men, some other characters will weasel their way in your heart and take permanent residence. These were the characters that I wanted to hide in my back pocket and protect from all the cruelty of the world. And even though my wishful thinking did not save all of them, I treasured every moment they were on-screen.
My precious and loyal Seong Kyu, my shady but hilarious Optimus Shin Cheol Sik, Prosecuter Choi Tae Hong who never once lost faith, Jeong Woo's merry band of prison inmates and the resilient Seo Eun Hye all brought their own flavor to the show.
This drama has a deep underlying message about how family makes or breaks you. How people are willing to go to every length to save their loved ones and how it's never too late for justice. With an extremely satisfying ending; giving closure to all the characters and answer to your every question, Defendant takes a spot among dramas that are consistently amazing from start to finish.
A dark and gritty suspense drama that comes with its share of heartbreak.
An absolute must-watch