Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 11 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 12 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 13 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 14 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 15– | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 16 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Korean law drama Hyena is ultimately a series that revolves around its two main leads. While the cases the two wind up taking are interesting and full of enough details and twists to keep you coming back for more, it’s ultimately the powerful and intriguing chemistry between Kim Hye-Soo and Ju Ji-Hoon that help elevate this beyond a simple Korean drama. Dispelling many of the usual conventions you’d expect from a rom-com of its kind, the series manages to portray this strong, independent woman brilliantly and does so without belittling the equally dashing and intelligent male protagonist.
The story itself starts off in a pretty cliched manner before shattering expectations and diving into the growing rivalry between our two lawyers. Cunning Geum-Ja is a lawyer only interested in one thing – money. Using any means necessary to get ahead, her shady and under-handed tactics ultimately give her a slightly unfair advantage as she bends the law and uses the resources at her disposal.
By comparison, Hee-Jae is the up-and-coming golden boy at top law firm Song&Kim. Groomed and mentored by his superiors, Director Na and Song Pil-Gu himself, Hee-Jae finds himself breezing through every case given until he comes unstuck in a surprisingly gripping and unexpected twist, with Geum-Ja presented as the rival defence lawyer.
From here, the story sees the two fight across the first half of the series, as they wrestle for control in several different cases before a twist in the tale sees the two forced to cooperate and work together. All of this converges into the final case which helps round things out and gives closure to a lot of the bigger plot points, even if it does leave a few threads dangling and a couple of underwhelming conclusions for characters in the process.
Most of the 16 episodes see the cases spill across to numerous episodes, with three big cases dwarfing some of the smaller ones across the season. There’s also a couple of sub-plots here, designed to further the back-story for our two lead lawyers, including familial ghosts from the past for Geum-Ja to deal with and a scandal involving Hee-Jae’s Father leaving him with a big choice to make.
Both of these help to add some depth to our two leads and while the supporting cast are colourful and a few have nicely written arcs (including Hee-Jae’s friend and colleague Gi-Hyeok) others feel like window dressing and don’t have much to do across the 16 episodes beyond a couple of cleverly written or humorous lines.
While the law drama element doesn’t do a lot to stand out, and a couple of the cases are certainly reduced to the back-burner during their respective episodes, it’s the evolving relationship between Geum-Ja and Hee-Jae that keeps this one so engaging. Not only are they the best on-screen couple of the year, their moments together are absolutely golden, with some beautifully written and hilarious segments dotted throughout the drama. For this alone it’s worth sticking with Hyena through some of the heavier law drama to get to these moments.
The way Hyena breaks down these conventional ideas of what a Korean rom-com should be (the awkward first kiss, the misunderstanding, the big, glossy-eyed montages etc.) and portrays Geum-Ja in a completely different manner is something that should be commended unto itself. On top of that, the show does an excellent job not to belittle men while portraying these characters and unlike some of the Western Hollywood shows that fall into this trap, Hyena keeps both characters on an even keel throughout the episodes.
Overall though Hyena is great fun. There are a lot of individual stand-out moments here and while the story sometimes fails to crackle and spark as much as it perhaps should, the eclectic characters and excellent chemistry between the two leads at the heart of this one is enough to make this worth watching. It may not be a perfect show but the perfect chemistry between Hee-Jae and Geum-Ja is easily the strongest out of any on-screen couple this year and for that alone, Hyena is one of the must-watch Korean dramas of 2020.
Verdict - 7.5/10