Episode 1 of Juvenile Justice starts with a blood-soaked kid named Seong-U walking through the streets. It’s snowing, the music is ominously festive and he shows up at the police station, clearly rattled. As he approaches Detective Ko, he admits to killing someone, and shows off a bloodied axe to prove as much.
As we soon come to learn, Seong-U actually killed an 8 year old girl and mutilated another boy, sending the region into uproar.
Eun-Seok is one of 12 judges that works within Juvenile Law, which is very different to how adults are tried. It falls on the judges to reform and supervise those who commit crimes. So why did Eun-Seok become a juvenile judge? Hatred. Her reason stems from hatred for young offenders.
Eun-Seok gets settled in to her new office, after being transferred abruptly, where she learns she’ll be sharing the place with a male judge by the name of Tae-Ju. As he arrives at the office, numerous protestors happen to be outside, asking for the juvenile act to be abolished.
The Child Murder case we saw snippets of earlier in the episode – referred to as the Yeonhwa Case – is briefed out to our judges. Seong-U is a 13 year old young offender who lived in the same building as the victim, a boy called Ji-Hu.
He strangled the 8 year old then cut him up with a hatchet, dumping the internal organs into a compost bin, meaning the family couldn’t even have a proper funeral.
Not only is this case incredibly shocking, with a lot of evidence pointing to the boy being responsible, the juvenile court can only sentence Seong-U to a maximum of 2 years because he’s only 13. Eun-Seok is selected as the judge overseeing this.
Eun-Seok initially refuses to get involved in the offices “MJ” gig (meet with judge) which sees the judges catch up with whomever has been released from court.
When she does tag along, Eun-Seok keeps checking the time and eventually re-commits a woman accused of stealing. And it doesn’t take long for her to assert her dominance, telling the kid she despises her and should be locked up.
Back at the office, Eun-Seok has earned the nickname of “Judge Max”, thanks to her notorious streak of giving out the maximum sentence to all young offenders. There’s clearly something that happened in her past to make her this way but she remains dead-set on her work and doing so with a steely determination – and an icy heart.
In court the next day, Seon-U tells the court (Without his legal guardian present) that he’s hearing voices and wasn’t doing too well that day.
With his mum busy teaching at school all day, he’s alone at home. Seong-U is seemingly mentally unstable too, and as he starts giggling, he calls out the juvenile center’s rules and how he won’t be going to prison.
Eun-Seok’s crusade is made all the more trying when Ji-Hu’s mum shows up, teary eyed and recounting memories of her son. She blames herself and hands over an assortment of side dishes that were Ji-Hu’s favourites. Eun-Seok is clearly touched by this gift and it makes her more determined than ever for her to get some justice.
The thing is, her senior, Kang, is being proposed a move into politics. With Reporter Kim meeting him in private, he tells Kang that if he wraps up this case well, things should move along for his career. There are clearly some double standards here and it also shows how flawed this juvenile system actually is.
Eun-Seok is no pushover though and she does extensive research on Seong-U. She realizes that Seong-U wasn’t acting alone and after scoffing at his weak proposal of schizophrenia, works out that his accomplice was actually a girl called Ye-Eun.
With the same outfit, elevator footage, phone records and the verbal recognition of Seong-U to prove as much, she forwards on her concerns to Director Kang. It’s risky, and her hunch could backfire.
Kang is quick to point this out and gives a direct order for her not to pursue this. Eun-Seok is shocked but Tae-Ju eventually decides to team up with her in gaining justice. He wants the case to be wrapped up properly.
Eun-Seok eventually finds Ye-Eun in an internet cafe but she makes a run for it. Eun-Seok follows though, and eventually comers her down an alleyway.
The Episode Review
Juvenile Justice gets off to a great start, with a solid dose of thought provoking drama and some very relevant and hard-hitting themes being played with.
The concept here feels like a mash-up of both Mouse and The Devil Judge, blending together to form something topical and very, very watchable.
There’s clearly more going on with Eun-Seok than we’re being led to believe, and that much is especially evident given her hatred for young offenders. We’ll have to wait and see how that progresses over time.
Having her team up with Tae-Ju is the typical good/bad cop vibes and so far, that’s worked really well to balance out the discussion. If this is a sign of things to come, it looks like Netflix could be onto another winner here.
|You can read our full season review of Juvenile Justice here!|