Progress Report provides ongoing impressions of serials or sets I view them.
I started watching Prosecutor Princess on a whim and almost gave up on it after the first two episodes, because it took a little bit to get going and featured a couple directorial and production pet peeves of mine. Still, after a couple more episodes, I realized that Prosecutor Princess actually also happens to have some of my favorite elements of storytelling and in spades: character development, complex characters, and tough decisions, along with being able to capture these story elements both episodically in the titular character's cases as well as in the greater story arc. And while, I can't fully embrace Prosecutor Princess simply because it contains a few elements that I hate, I still love what it manages to do in terms of writing and plotting, as well as in terms of performance.
The titular character is Ma Hyeri (Kim Soyeon), a fashion-obsessed woman, who also happens to be intelligent enough to get through law school and get into service as a government prosecutor (which is a noteworthy task in Korea). However, she's much less interested in her work and more interested in clothes and accessories, which results in conflict at the office, including with her senior prosecutor (and developing crush) Yoon Sejoon (Han Jungsoo). All the while, Hyeri keeps coincidentally running into the mysterious lawyer Suh Inwoo (Park Shihoo) who offers his help. As the show progresses, we watch as the naive prosecutor Ma learns a thing or two about justice and love through her cases, her love life, and the secret agenda of Suh Inwoo.
The thing I love about Prosecutor Princess the most is that it features heavy character development, not just for Ma Hyeri, but all the supporting characters as well as the love interests. The story has the characters deal with the situations, both in work and social life (which blends together frequently) and they actually come out learning from their experiences and having to consider the baggage that they carry. And the show does it so naturally that it never seems forced and the characters never act unusually in order to advance the plot. And that's the second highlight--the show is not only a hybrid romantic-comedy/procedural, but thanks to the secret agenda of Suh Inwoo, it actually encapsulates mystery and revenge drama plotlines as well and incorporates them seamlessly into one immaculately organized whole. That's gush-worthy! The only serious issues with storytelling is that the show starts off a little slow in the first half and suffers from having more flashblacks than necessary, slowing the pace and adding unnecessary redundancy.
Of course stories so focused on characters and development require strong nuanced acting and Prosecutor Princess delivers here too, with Kim, Han, Park and company all giving solid performances with special note to Kim, for crafting all the nuances necessary to capture Ma Hyeri's growth and give her life. In terms of direction and production, however, I feel it's a mixed bag. The show looks good, so the production values are all in the right place, but some of the stylistic choices are frustrating. The show is often a little too heavy-handed, especially in emotional scenes, drowning the acting in a sea of rac-focusing, post-production filters and flashy transitions. The show, like many Korean dramas suffers from music video angst syndrome, frequently devolving into points where characters are staring off into space in angst (or flashing back to various previous scenes) all set to one of the show's three or four pop songs. And goodness, the music on the show almost drove me insane. Not only are the pop songs either too obvious or melodramatic (and insipid), but the score itself is ear-bleedingly unsubtle, hammering down on pianos and keyboards like the acting isn't able to convey the emotion.
But for all of those production/directorial elements that drive me crazy, I have to admit, as eye-gouging as Hyeri's sense of fashion is, the art teams did well in creating looks that actually subtly highlight what's going on with the character and the director/producer recognized this and did well to point out things like Hyeri's choice of shoes. And even with these strong reservations I have against the heavy-handedness of the direction and producing (especially with writing and acting so strong that a subtler approach would have easily worked), the story and acting were so strong, full of all the things that can make a series truly fulfilling to watch: seeing a character start in one place, encounter the struggles in her life, and become someone better for it, while learning about both love and justice. And that's actually enough for me to forgive the show's mis-steps and give it praise. Recommended viewing! 9/10.