The Long Con
Netflix’s latest Korean drama Hyena is a dramatic and character-driven dive into the world of law and lawyers. With two predominant lawyers going toe to toe with one another, Hyena sets the scene nicely here, peppering in some really stylish shots and editing along the way, but if you’re not into law dramas then this show is unlikely to change your mind.
Some of the content feels a little slow here too and Hyena itself looks like it may well be going down the episodic route, with different cases used to diversify the episodes while keeping the tense rivalry between Geum-Ja and Hee-Jae at the centre of it all.
Episode 1 of Hyena begins with a big political scandal but defence lawyer Hee-Jae isn’t worried. He defends his client with suave and throws back everything the prosecution has to say, telling the court his client Secretary Lee had nothing to do with this issue. It’s enough for the judge to rule in favour of the defence and sees Hee-Jae bring home another win for the law-firm Song&Kim.
Returning to HQ, we learn Hee-Jae is the youngest partner in the firm’s history and because of his successful case, he’s given Mr Ha’s divorce settlement to look over instead. He’ll now be working on that exclusively and in the evening, he heads to the laundromat and sees a beautiful girl. However, he decides to get to work on the case he’s got instead.
That evening Hee-Jae sits with Mr Ka and gives him his verdict and what he intends to do – he’ll get a former Judge on the team. After arrogantly making his exit, Hee-Jae returns to the laundromat where the mystery lady is there again. They get talking and he offers her an umbrella to leave with, especially as it’s pouring with rain and all the lights have gone out.
She rejects the offer, leaving him to stew over his thoughts and head out alone into the pouring rain.
At the law firm, Hee-Jae learns that the mystery woman is called Hee-Sun, proceeding to look her up and stalk her on social media. At dinner that evening, Hee-Sun shows up leading Hee-Jae to sit opposite her and they spar back and forth until she agrees to let him leave with her, walking away as the rest of the table sit in awe at his audacious (and successful) attempt at wooing her.
As we cut forward, we see a montage of their time together as they hit it off and appear to become romantically involved. It’s a beautiful date and one that ends with a gorgeous skyline and a magical kiss.
The next day, Hee-Jae learns that his rival in the court-room is a woman named Geum-Ja. Only…she looks exactly like Hee-Sun. It turns out she’s been playing the long-game with him the whole time! He immediately becomes incredulous at her arrival and eventually it takes the Judge to tell him to sit down and snap out of his trance for Hee-Jae to come to his senses.
Geum-Ja is good at her job – perhaps a little too good. In court, she takes the reigns of the case and they go blow to blow. Unfortunately Hee-Jae loses the case, thanks in part to Geum-Ja managing to seize copies of medical records he left out at his apartment that she took. It’s a crushing blow and something that’s even harder for Hee-Jae to come to terms with given he opened up and trusted her.
Having been played for a fool, he chases after her following the court ruling and asks why she played him. Geum-Ja breaks up with him and drives away after talking about her con, which is where we cut back in time and see that she planned the entire project from the very beginning to dupe him into giving up false information.
In a bid to try and settle, Geum-Ja and Hee-Jae sit together and spar regarding the terms and what they need to do to put this case to bed. Eventually he offers 25% and after some time, she eventually agrees to the terms. Before shaking hands however, Hee-Jae takes back his watch from her wrist.
Unfortunately, that evening Geum-Ja is confronted by a mugger in the street and despite Hee-Jae’s warning, she winds up face to face with him. Blood oozing from her mouth, she proceeds to fight him off and crawls away, grabbing a brick and looking set to smack him round the face with it. Before she can however, the episode ends.
With some nice stylistic ticks and enough scope for the episodes ahead to progress the characters, Hyena gets off to a relatively good start here. With the episodes clocking in at around 60 minutes or so, this Korean drama peppers in all the usual tropes you’d expect from a legal drama but it does so in a way that leaves things feeling very stylish and aesthetically pleasing.
There’s some really creative camera movements in this and the case inside the court surrounding Mr Ka feels like a taster of what we’re going to be working with in the coming episodes. Those of you who aren’t a fan of legal dramas, this is a show that’s unlikely to change your mind but for everyone else, Hyena looks like it’ll be a pretty intense and absorbing legal thriller over the weeks. This episode leaves the door wide open for the rest of the series to follow and quite what tomorrow’s episode has in store for us, remains to be seen.