Miss Hammurabi is a legal slice of life story that focuses on three judges: an enthusiastic and emotional rookie (Go Ara), a level-headed realist (L), and their senior chief (Sung Dong Il).
I finally got in the drama Miss Hammurabi after hearing lots of good things about it in 2018. Now I knew this was a high drop risk for me going in though. Legal slice of life is definitely not a genre that I gravitate towards. So let’s see how it fared!
L plays Im Ba Reun. He’s a judge who is a realist and is a bit disillusioned with life since he has seen what people are really like. His cool and collected attitude might come off as cold, but he actually has a big heart and a strong sense of justice.
Go Ara is our enthusiastic rookie judge, Park Cha Oh Reum, who is more than ready to be a good judge that makes a difference. Her emotions frequently cause her to react strongly. Her heart is in the right place, but she has to learn to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Sung Dong Il is Han Se Sang. He is the chief judge above Ba Reun and Oh Reum. His life is a bit shaken up by Oh Reum’s proclivity to act before she thinks. So while he has things to teach her, it turns out that there are things he can learn from her too. But really he’s a pretty great guy who has gained a lot of wisdom through the years.
Here’s the thing, a legal slice of life drama really is the epitome of what I typically don’t go for in a series. They are just set up for being realistic and low key (which is usually boring for me) with lots of episodic cases (boring again). But what do you know, I actually quite liked Miss Hammurabi!
The first thing it got right was by hooking me quickly in the first episode when introducing L and Go Ara’s characters. We jumped right in, learned some important things about them and their past, and got an instant connection.
I was immediately intrigued by both of them. Their characters were so fleshed out and well-written that it was easy to like them and understand them. So that means I cared what happened to them at their job and how the cases they handled as judges impacted them.
And the other big thing Miss Hammurabi did right was how it relayed the many cases and issues to us. Many of these cases connected directly to our characters in some way be it from their personal connection to an issue or from past experiences. That all then influenced how they viewed a case.
By always connecting these things with the characters on a more personal level, that allowed me to become heavily engaged in the cases themselves. Their importance wasn’t just for that momentary portion of the show but rather an important part of the overall narrative and the journey our characters went on.
The drama depicts a number of current issues through its various cases as well as a variety of workplace issues. It touches upon things like sexism, harassment, and abuse of power. I particularly liked how it was able to portray how complex many of these issues are and how there isn’t always a simple answer.
Many of the cases showed the points of view from each party and how who was right and who was wrong wasn’t always clear cut. Then the judges have to weigh all of these factors in their decision making process as well as how to handle these issues in their own workplace. It’s easy to think we have all of the answers and know how justice should be doled out, but it’s rarely that simple, and so many issues have to be considered. It’s not an easy job by far.
Now the drama does have this sort of odd dramatic side. For being a very down-to-earth and more realistic show, it really went all in when it came to showing the emotional impact of the cases. Dramatically heartbreaking music played as people told their stories, and then cheesy triumphant music played during inspirational speeches. Sometimes it felt a bit dramatic and out of place, but it definitely added a little flair to the drama that I didn’t mind.
I also particularly liked this little melodramatic corner of the drama that involved Ba Reun, Oh Reum, and Oh Reum’s wealthy and powerful friend Yong Joon (Lee Tae Sung) who had feelings for her.
This story line doesn’t get a bunch of screen time, but when it did, things felt pretty dramatic, especially towards the end of the drama. The show definitely still maintained its more slice of life feel, but I certainly liked this little melodramatic side it briefly gave us.
Ba Reun and Oh Reum go through some very difficult things. Of course, Oh Reum is very emotional, so we see her react very overtly to many things and really see how deeply she feels for other people. Her heart is huge and easily breaks for the suffering of others.
An extremely difficult past helped shape her into someone who is not only caring but ready and willing to stand up for what is right. She can’t stand injustice, and she will rush to defend those in need.
Sometimes her quick emotional reactions didn’t allow her to think things through though which created unneeded problems that could be handled in a better manner. I found her to be a bit much at times, but her heart was always in the right place. And she was definitely in for a harsh dose of reality as she learned how to be a better judge.
Because of Ba Reun’s calm and collected manner, you might think he’s not very emotional, but he actually is. He too has his own challenging life experiences that have shaped how he views the world. I loved the little looks we got into his mind as we got to hear some of his mental commentary on what was going on around him. They gave us a nice insight into why he acted the way he did which was at times humorous and at others quite sad.
Though he is very realistic about how people and the world work, it is quite clear that it bothers him that things are how they are. He doesn’t like the injustice he witnesses and wishes he could do more to right the wrongs, but he has learned that he doesn’t have much power to change things, no matter how much he would like to. So he just keeps his head down and tries to survive.
But no matter how cynical he appears, he is unable to completely disconnect from everything. He actually suffers a whole lot in silence, and it really is heartbreaking to watch.
Luckily, this is a perfect example of how two people who are very different in personality and their approach to life can have similar values and can come together, learn from each other, and better create the change they desire.
Ba Reun and Oh Reum were able to draw on each other’s strengths and realized that adjusting their approach could in fact make the world a better place. They just had to see past themselves and what they thought was the only way so that they could actually grow and make a difference.
In case you’re wondering about the romance, there is a low-key one between Ba Reun and Oh Reum. They knew each other in high school, and Ba Reun has had feelings for her ever since. The flashbacks to their high school days were super sweet.
Now in the present, we are very aware of Ba Reun’s feelings for Oh Reum, but the stronger focus is on their developing friendship. It’s just nice to watch them grow closer in a natural sort of way like you might expect from a work relationship.
As a fan of romance in general, it did take longer for them to develop than I usually like, and it didn’t contain a lot of those heart-fluttering moments, but their development really progressed nicely and fit well with the drama. Their relationship felt incredibly meaningful on many levels, so I was pretty happy with it in this instance.
And I do have to mention Judge Han. He has his own struggles to deal with as a veteran judge who has a family. Several of his personal issues were nicely touched upon as well as everything going on at work.
Despite a somewhat gruff demeanor, I just loved what a caring man he was and how much he looked out for his juniors. Sung Dong Il really put forth another amazing performance in this role.
Miss Hammurabi had a whole lot I liked, but the inherent nature of the legal slice of life genre did still weigh on me at times. Although the cases were well done, there were still a lot of them, and I didn’t love that. The show’s pacing was very laid back too. Thankfully, the dialogue was well-written to keep things mostly engaging, and the character journeys were nice to see.
So in the end, Miss Hammurabi defied the odds and kept me interested all the way through. It gave me fantastic characters, a great script, and it tackled a lot of complicated topics. Although I will never be a lover of this genre, it just goes to show that you never know when a drama will come along and present itself in a slightly different way that will win you over and leave you more than satisfied.
My Rating: 7.5/10
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