Thanks to its exceptional cast, shocking twists and addictive cliffhangers, K-drama Vincenzo has deservedly become one of the year’s biggest critical and commercial hits.
It stars Song Joong-ki as the titular character, a charismatic attorney from the Italian mafia who has no qualms using unscrupulous methods to dispense justice and take down villains in the shady realm of South Korean real estate. The acclaimed antihero series, which concluded its first season in May, was engrossing for a variety of reasons, not least of which was its deft ability to balance contrasting tones and genres.
So if you loved Vincenzo’s heady blend of dark legal drama, gangster action, slow-burning romance and quirky comedy, you’ll likely also enjoy these seven TV shows series that share similar themes and traits.
While you wait for news on a potential season 2 of Vincenzo, check out the list below:
1Better Call Saul
As Jesse Pinkman explained to Walter White in Breaking Bad, “Seriously, when the going gets tough, you don’t want a criminal lawyer… You want a criminal lawyer.” This masterful spin-off explores the origin story of Saul Goodman aka Jimmy McGill – Bob Odenkirk’s charming, facetious and slippery defender of crooks we first met during Breaking Bad.
In Better Call Saul, we find Jimmy in his earlier years as he attempts to turn over a new leaf from a small-time grifter into an upstart lawyer. But professional success continues to elude him due to interference from his resentful older brother (and influential attorney) Chuck, and Jimmy finds himself resorting to his old con artist tricks to boost his new career.
No other series is as adept at making small human moments feel monumental. Odenkirk’s nuanced performance here is absolutely gripping, conveying the toll of tragic misfortune and the slow erosion of Jimmy’s soul in subtle but no less powerful ways.
Akin to Vincenzo, Jimmy will do whatever it takes to represent the underdog, whether it be elderly folks scammed by a nursing home, or “lowlifes” like him who deserve a second chance. His relationship with fellow lawyer and eventual lover Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), whom Jimmy entangles into various illegal schemes for just causes, mirrors Vincenzo’s relationship with Hong Cha-young.
While not as breathlessly paced as Vincenzo, Better Call Saul’s more deliberate, character-driven and process-oriented narrative still shares identical dramatic DNA with the K-drama – think judicial shenanigans, legal rivalries, gang-related stories and revenge motifs. Likewise, both shows revel in intertwining gripping action and witty comedy.
Stop us if this sounds familiar. Here is a South Korean series featuring a handsome lawyer raised by mobsters. He grows up to seek justice against dirty officials, often taking the law into his own hands in order to exact revenge. He returns to his hometown and ends up falling in love with his female legal partner. There is plenty of gangster action, and comical sidekicks abound.
Yes, 2018’s Lawless Lawyer does sound a lot like Vincenzo on the surface, but there are a few key differences. Our Lawless Lawyer Bong Sang-pil (Lee Joon-gi) is determined to avenge his mother (also an attorney), who was killed when she took on a case that involved respected judge Cha Moon-Sook. After linking up with Ha Jae-yi, a lawyer so badass that she beat up a dishonest judge in court, they both set out to clean up the corrupt city of Gisung using their wits and fists.
While it is a twist-filled legal K-drama with similar themes and plot points, Lawless Lawyer is a far more action-oriented series featuring kinetic, well-choreographed martial arts fight scenes. If you’re looking for a courtroom drama with a (literal) kick, Lawless Lawyer is for you.
Billions is a tale of financial and legal brinkmanship that matches the intensity of the rivalries found in Vincenzo. Set in the hyper-wealthy, ego-driven world of Wall Street, the series pits hedge fund tycoon Bobby ‘Axe’ Axelrod (Damian Lewis) against US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti), after the former comes under investigation for insider trading. Anchored by bravura performances from its two leads, Billions delves into the complex criminal machinations and high-level manipulations of the financial system’s amoral power players.
This is an intelligent, sarcastic and well-written look into the connections between ruthless ambition and success. While Giamatti’s performance as a sad, selfish and sexually kinky lawyer is miles away from Vincenzo, Rhoades does share a kindred eagerness to do whatever he must to rein in the excesses of mega-billionaires.
Meanwhile, Lewis turns in his best work since Homeland as a smart and wilful man from transcended blue-collar beginnings and now presides over an empire built on blackmail and corporate espionage. From its opening episode, Billions sets up an irresistible cat-and-mouse game that remains riveting for its five-season run. Part 2 of season 5 drops early September, so you have a good month to catch up.
4The Fiery Priest
Created by Park Jae-bum, the same writer behind Vincenzo, this series shares all the same outstanding qualities and stylistic hallmarks – despite a vastly different storyline and setting. The Fiery Priest follows Michael Kim (Kim Nam Gil), a Catholic priest with a hair-trigger temper and a troubled past as a former NIS agent. After his rage and obtuse manners land him in trouble yet again, he is sent to live in Gudam, Seoul with his former mentor Father Lee (Jung Dong-hwan). Tragedy strikes when Father Lee is suddenly murdered and framed for several crimes.
From the criminal underworld to corrupt higher-ups, Michael Kim’s quest for vengeance and justice lands him in the same antihero’s grey area that Vincenzo inhabits. Likewise, Park Jae-bum shows off his flair for combining slapstick comedy and thrilling action while following a rogue protagonist’s morally ambiguous journey. The Fiery Priest can turn from goofy hilarity to gritty drama on a dime, and it’s done so expertly that the tonal whiplash feels like a thrill ride. Buoyed by engaging supporting characters, each with their own surprising backstories (including a degenerate gambler-turned-nun), this limited series serves as an excellent complement to Vincenzo.
Glenn Close stars as Patty Hewes, one of America’s most revered (and reviled) high-stakes litigators, alongside Rose Bryne, her bright but naive protégé Ellen Parsons. Damages begins when the pair become embroiled in a class action lawsuit targeting Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson), a powerful billionaire accused of financial fraud. As Patty engages in fierce courtroom battles with Frobisher and his attorney Ray Fiske (Zeljko Ivanek), Ellen is given a rude awakening when she is forced to carry out her mentor’s cutthroat strategies. Do the ends justify the means?
Comparable to Vincenzo, Damages is a fast-paced tale of legal and illegal gamesmanship, filled with complicated manoeuvring and shocking twists. It features unethical lawyers fighting for the little guy against an evil corporation: Patty is championing the powerless by trying to recoup the money Frobisher has embezzled from his poor employees, yes – but unlike Vincenzo, her underhanded stratagems are less cathartic and more disturbing, forcing Ellen (and the viewers) to contemplate the moral costs of victory. While it has been a long time since its 2007 premiere, meticulous plotting, excellent performances and the terrific dynamic between Close and Bryne makes this prestige drama a timeless watch.
A fascinating love-hate rivalry between two slimy lawyers underpins this highly entertaining and compulsively watchable K-drama. Hyena is a 16-episode series that revolves around the smart and savvy Jung Geum-ja (Kim Hye-soo), who runs her own tiny solo practice, squaring off against ace lawyer Yoon Hee-jae (Ju Ji-hoon) from the high-profile Song & Kim Law Firm. How their paths cross and the relationship unfolds is too delicious to spoil, but suffice to say the electrifying dynamic and intriguing chemistry between the two actors is what elevates this show beyond other legal K-dramas.
Like Vincenzo, Geum-ja is quick-witted, sharp-tongued and knows how to manoeuvre inside and outside the law to her advantage. Although she does represent a host of unsavoury characters, ranging from reprobate thugs to affluent corporations, her warped sense of justice does ensure that both her wicked clients and their blameless victims come out with mutually beneficial, positive outcomes in the end. Geum-ja is a practical realist, not a justice-seeking martyr, which makes for a complex antiheroine. And kudos to Hyena for casting the incredible Kim Hye-soo (who is 50 years old) in the lead role, and for crafting a female protagonist who is more than just a love interest, mother or damsel in distress.
Spun off from David E. Kelley’s long-running legal series The Practice, this show essentially perfected the antihero lawyer archetype that’s become so prevalent in modern courtroom dramas. Boston Legal stars James Spader (in one of his greatest performances ever) as Alan Shore, a smarmy and cunning attorney with a reputation as a legal loose cannon who often stoops to dishonourable means in service of honourable causes. There isn’t a rule Alan isn’t willing to bend, an opponent he can’t outsmart, or a loophole he isn’t willing to exploit.
Despite being a more procedural (case of the week) endeavour than Vincenzo’s serialised storytelling, Boston Legal does share a number of parallels. Besides dark leads with hearts of gold, Boston Legal also has a propensity to mix daffy Ally McBeal-esque comedy (mostly from William Shatner as Shore’s mentor Denny Crane) with absolutely wild twists and intensely serious drama. If you need your dose of lawyers with chequered pasts who are continually willing to stretch the boundaries of the law for noble motives, then Boston Legal should be right up your alley.