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Partner Track – an episodic RomCom

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The new Netflix series ‘Partner Track’ definitely strays far out into the territory of guilty pleasure. It isn’t as far along that road as shows such as ‘Emily in Paris’ are, but it does hum a similar tune.

Although a law drama on the surface, a lot of the focus and meat of the show is in its friendship dramas and tense romances. And while the romance is predictable in a lot of ways, it’s still intriguing enough to keep us watching – though probably not in the binge-worthy way many shows do these days.

Based on the novel by Helen Wan, the show centres around Ingrid Yun, a young lawyer determined to make partner in her firm. The series follows her as she ends up compromising her morals in a multitude of ways in order to scramble up her greasy career pole. She pushes herself to the brink with the amount of overtime she works and will do anything (yes, anything) her boss tells her to do. And despite her ideals and determination, she can never quite shake the patriarchal systems in the firm, or the racial prejudices.

Although the show is a light, frothy escape – there are certain legal cases and storylines that are dragged out, such as elements of Ingrid’s Sun Corp case, and Rachel (one of Ingrid’s closest friends) dealing with the death of her client and sorting which of her dysfunctional relatives will inherit the clients’ business.

The most enduring storyline that seemed to drag on, however, was the one in which Ingrid abandoned her morals and her friends for a while in order to desperately claw at the ladder leading her to the partner position in her firm. This was frustrating to watch but also too stretched out. I do think this series would’ve benefitted from being a couple of episodes shorter. Also, because Arden Cho portrays Ingrid with such an idealistic naivety, she’s sometimes hard to empathise with because it feels like she never sticks up for herself or her people (until the very last minute, at least)!

That being said, there was a build up of fantastic tension when the law firm completely mishandled a racist incident involving the firm’s total jackass Dan and his treatment (and public humiliation) of Tyler (Ingrid’s other closest friend). The tension was heightened with the way Ingrid was subsequently treated as the token Asian American and sort of spokesperson for the people of colour in the office. Again, her morals were compromised for the sake of the job but at this point you can see something boiling under the surface and suspect she may be at breaking point soon – because, I mean, most people would’ve snapped by this point!

The work drama is mostly overshadowed by the romantic storylines though. And, sadly, there was a lack of spark between Ingrid and both of her love interests. This lessened the show’s fizziness, which was rather disappointing.

Her besotted boyfriend, Nick, with wealth, charm and dimples is a perfect partner on the surface. But he moves their relationship so quickly it’s easy to see how Ingrid could end up twisted up and freaked out by everything spilling out into insane amounts of commitment at a great speed. Nevertheless, it’s impossible not to feel sorry for him as she treats him incredibly unfairly – nobody deserves infidelity.

Her romance with Jeff Murphy, however, is more interesting. Played by Dominic Sherwood, Murphy is a quick-witted, smart and dashing London transfer lawyer, and he is surrounded by a cloud of ‘bad boy’ charm. They had a steamy fling four years before the show started and she has been daydreaming (and night dreaming) about him ever since. Despite Cho (Ingrid) and Sherwood (Murphy) both playing their parts well and bringing likability and allure to their characters – something isn’t quite there for them, chemistry-wise. But the audience still kind of wants them to get together (I think just because it’s in the script) – until the last moment – when the rug is ripped out from under Ingrid (and us) and a betrayal is revealed, which makes the show seem not so predictable after all (well, kind of).

Nevertheless, their ‘will they/won’t they’ dynamic is enjoyable to watch unfold. And, as Ingrid actually ends up with a brand new character (neither Nick nor Murphy) in the books – maybe her chemistry will fizz with someone else, should the show be renewed for a season two (or more).

Overall, Partner Track is a lighthearted, enjoyable and buzzy show with a large splash of romantic intrigue. It’s predictable in a lot of ways but that just makes it perfect for those who simply want something on in the background or something to switch off to after a hard day. However, if you’re looking for something with more depth and substance, it’s probably better to select a different show to get sucked into.

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