Ingrid Yun (Arden Cho) is a go-getter. She listens to long-winded law podcasts to fall asleep every night, sports a different designer blazer every day, and gets giddy when pondering the nuances of the legal system. A lawyer at a hot-shot New York firm called Parsons Valentine, Ingrid is on the prestigious, titular partner track.
The majority of Partner Track’s first episode, “Material Adverse Change,” is spent relentlessly hammering home the fact that nothing on God’s green earth is more important to Ingrid than making Partner. Despite this, she diverges onto the other partner track before the first credits even have a chance to roll.
By the end of episode one, Ingrid is entangled in the thick of a sizzling-hot love triangle. At one point in the triad is Nick Laren (Rob Heaps), a millionaire socialite who is immediately taken by Ingrid’s knowledge of grandiose matters such as solipsism and the mind-body problem. On the other side is Jeff Murphy (Dominic Sherwood), a bad-boy lawyer who was recently transferred to Parsons Valentine from London. To make things even more complicated, Ingrid and Murphy have history: they had a one-night-stand at a wedding six years ago that left such an impression on Ingrid that she still refers to him as “Bogie” (you know, after Humphrey Bogart’s character in Casablanca).
The remainder of Partner Track’s ten-episode run sees Ingrid navigating a will-they-won’t-they relationship with Murphy, a too-good-to-be-true fairytale relationship with Nick, and the endless trials and tribulations of being one of the only Asian-American lawyers at her firm.
It doesn’t take long to realize that Partner Track’s strengths lie almost entirely in its romance department. While the show spends a fair amount of time on Ingrid’s main case, which sees her leading the charge on a thorny environmental merger, these scenes are mostly dull and overly convoluted with legal jargon. At times, it almost feels as though show creator Georgia Lee doesn’t want the viewer to care too much about what’s going on at Parsons Valentine because being too invested in the case would ultimately detract from Ingrid’s courtships. This becomes apparent, particularly in the fact that law and romance almost immediately collide in the show, and after this, a majority of the law scenes serve primarily as a mechanism to get Ingrid closer to Murphy. This approach forgets shows like Grey’s Anatomy, where business is (almost) as enjoyable as pleasure.
But while the show doesn’t offer much in the legal department, there’s no question that it thrives in the romance department. Juicy cliffhangers, betrayals, and high-stakes gestures abound, and attraction between Ingrid and Murphy is teased out so carefully that the tension quickly becomes tangible.
It helps that Cho positively shines as a romantic lead. Her performance as Ingrid walks a delicate tightrope between hopeless romantic and type-A lawyer, a balance that she masterfully pulls off in a subtle waltz between soft and strong-headed that materializes in nearly every expression.
Because of her dexterous performance as Ingrid – paired with her undeniable charisma – it is no surprise that Cho finds immediate, electric chemistry with both of her male leads. This is true even with Nick, which is a tall order as he is one of the most one-dimensional characters I’ve seen on-screen in a while (his only real personality trait is a dumb-struck infatuation with Ingrid).
But Nick isn’t the only character that is limited by an often cliched and overly-expositional script. Sherwood is undoubtedly slick and magnetic as Murphy, but the character’s over-the-top “romantic” lines would make just about anyone laugh incredulously in real life. And even Cho seems uncomfortable at times with her awkward, empty dialogue.
Perhaps the most interesting characters in all of Partner Track are Ingrid’s best friends/co-workers: stylish and cheeky IP lawyer Tyler (Bradley Gibson) and the droll and charmingly lackadaisical Rachel (Alexandra Turshen). Both characters have genuinely compelling arcs, with Tyler struggling to combat a culture of racism at Parsons Valentine and Rachel navigating her secret passion for writing. It’s undeniably refreshing to see these characters fleshed out to their fullest capacities, especially as it appears at first like they are bound to exist solely for comic relief.
The juxtaposition of highly-developed characters like Tyler and Rachel and almost comically shallow blokes like Nick points to a higher truth about the show as a whole. While Partner Track goes to great lengths to flesh out its romantic side, it foregoes any elements that might make the legal side worth watching. This might very well leave the viewer cold and wondering why the show is even about lawyers at all.
Partner Track is available to stream on Netflix beginning Friday, August 26. Watch the series trailer here and if you watch it, come back for a spoiler-filled discussion in The Ending of Partner Track Explained.