While watching Bad Prosecutor, you will inevitably ask yourself: is our titular prosecutor Jin Jung (Do Kyung-soo, or EXO member D.O.) struggling because he’s fighting an inherently corrupt system by using see-through tactics, or is he just, well, bad at his job?
The distinction between the two is blurred throughout, certainly not helped by the fact that Jin Jung is, as yet another eccentric, unhinged genius, a walking trope. A newly minted prosecutor propelled by a deep sense of justice, Jin Jung doesn’t wear typical office attire and carries a wooden sword around (probably only because our dishevelled white knight can’t get his hands on an actual one).
He’s also full of himself: he regularly disregards rules and protocols, doesn’t care for niceties, and encroaches on cases outside his jurisdiction. But when a murder and a wrongfully convicted suspect expose fractures in the judicial system, Jin Jung decides that cleaning society up might have to start at home – and his unconventional ways might come in handy.
It’s a pacey and comedic premise for a thoroughly punchable character. Jin Jung is at least a little bit hypocritical in using crooked methods to deliver justice yet expecting the larger justice system to uphold a moral code of conduct. Even more frustrating is his saviour complex: he embraces the ‘troublemaker’ and ‘lone wolf’ labels, thinking of himself as an instrument of justice and justifying his blatant disregard for procedure and boundaries at the expense of his colleagues.
It’s credit to Do’s acting that despite Jin’s flaws, he manages to make the man likeable, particularly because of his comic timing and his perpetually dazed, sleep-deprived expression. Jin spends the two episodes of Bad Prosecutor out so far on his high horse, but the show does hint that Jin might learn to rely on others eventually. Joining him in his crusade are colleagues Shin A-ra (Lee Se-hee) and Oh Do-hwan (Ha Jun), both of whom acknowledge the absurdity of wanting to tackle a broken system head on like Jin does. So far, Bad Prosecutor doesn’t give viewers enough time to understand Shin and Oh – or take them seriously. At its worst, the show makes these senior prosecutors with much more experience than Jin look grossly incompetent and unrealistically sloppy.
Bad Prosecutor does not take itself too seriously, which is a double-edged sword. While that does wonders for the comedy and the thinly veiled absurdity – even in the middle of a gruesome murder – it also makes plot developments convenient and predictable. Of course the ‘ace’ of the prosecutors’ office turns out corrupt and of course the rot goes all the way to the office’s upper echelons – and of course our hero publicly exposes the Deputy Chief Prosecutor’s nefarious ways.
Despite the flaws, the show’s relatively light-hearted approach is a clever way to set up the inevitable David and Goliath battle that it is foreshadowing. Jin Jung may be flawed and eccentric, but his dogged determination to deliver justice at all costs makes the viewer root for the little guy. One can only hope that this ‘bad prosecutor’ does good on his promise and learns a thing or two about himself on his journey.
Bad Prosecutor airs every Wednesday and Thursday at 21:50 KST on KBS2 and in selected countries on Viu.