Drama Recaps
Chuno: Episodes 1-2
by | January 11, 2010 | 53 Comments

Is Chuno exciting? Cinematically stunning? Well-made? Well-acted? Beautifully scored? Entertaining and funny? Yes to all — hell yes.

Is it perfect? Well, no. I’m not tripping over myself to worship at the feet of this drama, although I can see why it might elicit that reaction in others. But there’s no doubt that this drama is going to be HUGE. Possibly Drama of the Year. And most likely, it will deserve it.

SONG OF THE DAY

Chuno OST – “낙인” (Brand) by Lim Jae-bum. This is the song that plays at the end of Episode 1. The title means “brand” as in a branding iron (which is how slaves were marked). [ Download ]

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 
BACKGROUND

In the second Manchu invasion of Korea, 1636-37, Crown Prince So-hyun was captured and taken to China, then under Qing Dynasty rule, as a hostage. Eight years later in 1645, he returned to Joseon Korea, but one month later died of poisoning. His wife was accused and given the death penalty by poisoning, and his three young sons were sent in exile to Jeju Island. Two died of illness, leaving only the youngest, Seok-kyun, surviving. In the capital, a power struggle ensued to gain political control. A good half of the common people were made into slaves, often for little reason (such as falling into debt) or as a calculated political move (as in the case of one of our main characters).

Slaves who ran away were rounded up by bounty hunters called chuno-kkun. “Chuno” itself is a portmanteau word combining “chase” with “slave”; hence, slave hunter.

 
EPISODES 1-2

The year is 1648, the 26th year of King Injo, who is the father of the murdered Crown Prince So-hyun.

We meet our three bounty hunters as they track down a group of escaped slaves in a tavern-type establishment: they are leader LEE DAE-GIL (Jang Hyuk) and his two subordinates, stoic GENERAL CHOI (Han Jung-soo) and comic-relief playboy WANG SON (Kim Ji-suk).

From there, it’s easy work subduing the runaway party. The three capture the fugitives and tie them up. Leader Dae-gil does offer the slaves one opportunity to save themselves, holding up a sketch of a woman — if they have seen her, he will not only spare them, but help them to safety.

Alas, they haven’t, so the group sets up camp for the night. The youngest bounty hunter Wang Son’s personality is the first to emerge as he complains of being relegated to doing the trio’s “girly” chores — cooking, dishes, laundry. His common refrain throughout these episodes is to get a female slave to do all these feminine tasks for them.

Dae-gil, meanwhile, just stares silently into the fire, impervious to the sobs of the slaves. The mother begs for mercy for her young daughter — if returned, the girl will fall prey to men of the house, who have been eyeing the 13-year-old with sexual interest. Another man, UP-BOK (Gong Hyung-jin) contemplates fighting back with a stone, but falters when Dae-gil asks them if they’ve heard of the slave hunter Lee Dae-gil. They shudder — they’ve all heard of the fearsome, cruel chuno-kkun and beg that he show some mercy, unlike that man. Their hopes plummet when he announces that he IS that man.

In the morning, he hands them over to the police chief, who pays the slave hunters per returned slave. (And tries to cheat him of his price, to no avail.)

Dae-gil’s careless swagger and machismo infuriates Up-bok, but what can he do? Dae-gil is the best slave hunter around. However, Dae-gil’s laughing face immediately turns serious at the mention of UN-NYUN, the woman he has been seeking for a long time. To his chagrin, there is no new information about her.

In another part of the city, SONG TAE-HA (Oh Ji-ho) toils as one of the government slaves serving the state. His work is mostly in the stables, and he keeps his head down and avoids confrontation with others; even when the slave leader bosses him around, he just takes the abuse.

However, he wasn’t always a slave — a flashback shows that he once fought bravely as a government officer himself. In fact, he had served in battle as a general, alongside HWANG CHUL-WOONG (Lee Jong-hyuk), whom he must now serve. Chul-woong is a harsh master who derisively tells his slaves that the horses they tend are worth more than all of them put together. We will later learn that he betrayed Tae-ha in order to usurp his position.

Having completed their job, time for the three slave hunters to relax a little, as well as for us to get the gratuitous completely necessary shower scene of Wang Son and General Choi (whom I’ll just call Choi from here on). Wang Son continues to complain about his girly chores, but when it’s time for him to play, he sure has no problem with the ladies. Each of his encounters with women is played for laughs as they swear undying devotion to him and he’s just eager to get away after a quick tumble in bed.

Choi, on the other hand, is a disciplined man of few words, and therefore attracts the interest of the two ladies who run the place where they stay. He’s not interested but that doesn’t stop the two women from trying, which amuses Wang Son and Dae-gil.

Dae-gil, meanwhile, has a risky relationship with this man, CHUN JI-HO (played with a creepy-but-funny twist by Sung Dong-il), an older slave hunter who mentored Dae-gil and now feels that their history gives him a right to claim him as his own. (He calls him “the puppy I raised.”) Ji-ho wants Dae-gil to work for him again, to which Dae-gil laughs, “How can a tiger work for a dog?”

To illustrate their dynamic, both men laugh heartily at that jibe, and then the smile fades from Ji-ho’s face and he orders his men to attack. But Dae-gil is prepared for this and holds his own admirably, successfully fighting off all his attackers.

In punishment for their sin of running away, Up-bok is marked on the face with a tattoo reading “slave,” while the mother is strung up. The daughter is dragged off to be prepared as an offering for the old man of the house, while the lord’s son enjoys a night of debauchery with his friends.

The young girl begs the old man for mercy for her mother, asking for her to be untied. The old lecher, impatient to get on with the deflowering, reaches to undress her while she cries in fear. He doesn’t get far, however, because an intruder swiftly knocks him unconscious, then rummages through some chests to grab money.

It’s Dae-gil, and he grabs some coins, then offers a hand to the girl. They sneak outside, untie her mother, and steal away to the safety of the woods.

When Dae-gil reveals his face, the mother and daughter gape in shock, recognizing him as the fearsome man who had captured them. He ignores their reactions and instructs them where to go for a safe escape, and where they can find a man who is ready to help them. He also tosses them the pouch of money he’d taken from the nobleman, and saunters off into the night.

The sketches of Un-nyun have been drawn by Artist Bang (Ahn Seok-hwan), who has over the past decade drawn stacks of the same likeness. He points out that her face is likely to have changed a lot — plus, at 25, she is no longer a fresh young thing. Dae-gil might not even recognize her anymore.

Flashbacks reveal the story about the girl, why Dae-gil is so desperate to find her, and why he became a slave hunter:

He had once been the son of a nobleman and she one of his household slaves. To spare her some pain in the harsh winter chill, he had heated stones in his room, which he surreptitiously left out for her to take and use, which she would then return. Their statuses naturally made it impossible for them to be together, but they would take little moments of joy in stolen glances and passing encounters.

In the Manchu war, amidst the chaos and fighting, invaders had raided homes and dragged off their inhabitants. When his home was attacked, Dae-gil had cowered in fear underneath his house, while Un-nyun had been seized by the pillagers. She had sobbed for him, but he had shrunk back, scared, as she was taken.

Mustering his courage, Dae-gil had followed her captor and thrust a blade into his back. The man hadn’t died right away, however, and came after them with his own sword… but they were saved when he was struck down by a Joseon warrior — General Song Tae-ha.

Thus their lives were spared, but when it became known that the young master had fallen for a slave, his aristocrat father wasn’t having it. She was set to be sold off, but the night before, her older brother had sneaked in to save her. He’d freed Un-nyun, then set fire to the house as they made their escape.

However, Dae-gil was left in the house, in shock to see that his parents had been killed. As her brother took her away, Un-nyun had been left with the image of Dae-gil looking out at her from amidst the flames, and her brother had slashed at him with his blade. That became the scar that today graces his left eye, and he has been searching for them for the last ten years.

Dae-gil’s search for the girl is by now common knowledge, so when Wang Son hears about a sighting, he races to inform Dae-gil.

Dae-gil immediately takes off to find Un-nyun in a rush of anticipation, not knowing that she is, at this moment, being married. Now dressed as a fine lady, she goes through the rites reluctantly, shedding tears all the while.

What Dae-gil doesn’t know until he arrives at the supposed location is that Un-nyun isn’t there waiting for him. It’s a trap set by Chun Ji-ho.

Ji-ho’s man strikes the first blow, and Dae-gil, lost in his deep disappointment, almost doesn’t even register it. Then, in a quiet voice, he warns his former mentor, “You’ve taken the joke too far. Today you’ll die by my hand.”

His numb reaction transitions into fury — at the fact that Un-nyun isn’t here, at Ji-ho for playing with his hopes — and he begins to fight like a man possessed. In another exciting display of fighting prowess, Dae-gil takes on Ji-ho’s men, knocking them all out despite the fact that he’s unarmed and they come at him with clubs and swords. He grabs a sword and puts it to Ji-ho’s neck. Dae-gil is too angry to be merciful and, with a battle cry, raises his sword and starts to slash downward —

— at which point the sword is knocked out of his hand by Choi. His two friends have cottoned on to the trap and have raced here to help, and yell at Dae-gil to remember himself — he doesn’t want to be pegged for murder. Dae-gil doesn’t care, and reaches for the sword again, only to be knocked aside again.

Ji-ho takes advantage of this distraction to scamper away, leaving Dae-gil to take out his anger on his friends for thwarting him. What ensues is another fancy fighting scene as Choi fights back against Dae-gil (and Wang Son pleads ineffectually for them to stop).

Finally, the skirmish ends with Dae-gil holding his sword to Choi’s neck, but the worst of his anger has sapped away. Choi urges, “Let go of Un-nyun now. Even though you met, you never really met, so even though you separated, you never really separated. We call that fate — something that won’t happen just because you want it to.”

A tear escapes from one eye as Dae-gil scoffs, “So now you’re acting like the teacher?”

Un-nyun is now KIM HYE-WON, and now married to a rich businessman, Lord Choi. While she waits in her chambers for her wedding night, she thinks back to the past, when Dae-gil would heat stones for her and say, “I hate you being cold, or being sick, or struggling.” She had asked, “Are you doing this because I’m pitiful? What I want to receive isn’t pity.”

Although he had loved her, he was to be engaged to a woman of his class. He had tried to delay the matter, but had to tell his father that it wasn’t because he was in love — there was nobody like that in his life. Un-nyun had overheard the conversation sadly, but when he came to her in the kitchen, he had silently pulled off her tattered shoes and slipped on a pretty pair. He had told her, “I’m going to live the rest of my life… with you.”

Un-nyun (Hye-won) still has one of the stones with her, and can’t let go of the past. Before her husband comes to her chamber, her brother comes by for some last words, asking her to be happy and move on from the past. Seeing how miserable she looks, he says, “Do you still not understand? You looked at someone you weren’t supposed to look at!”

Hye-won weeps, pointing out that he has killed people, including her young master (she believes Dae-gil died in the fire). Her brother defends himself — he did that so they could become real people — and shows her where a mass of scar tissue covers up the slave brand that had once been there. He tells her, “You must be happy. This is my last wish. Can you promise me that?”

Hye-won replies, “You promise me first. I’ll be happy no matter what happens, so don’t worry about me anymore.”

Hye-won has decided upon her own means for happiness — she dresses in men’s clothing and slips away, leaving her new groom to find the bridal chamber empty. Lord Choi is furious, and her brother apologizes and promises to retrieve her immediately.

To this end, Hye-won’s brother sends his right-hand-man after her, Baek-ho (Danny Ahn), urging him to find her quickly, because if Lord Choi’s men find her, they cannot guarantee that she will remain unharmed. Baek-ho had been once saved by Hye-won and is a man of great loyalty (it is hinted that he also harbors secret feelings for her), so he promises to bring her back safely.

Meanwhile, Lord Choi hires a specialist of his own to bring Hye-won back: this mysterious woman, YOON-JI, who assures him that she’ll bring her back.

Court intrigue: A man pays Artist Bang to reproduce copies of a particular sketch, which are then circulated among the populace. The client impresses upon the artist the importance of this remaining a secret.

This becomes a problem for the royal court, because the drawings depict an atrocity perpetrated among children in Jeju Island. The concerns are presented to King Injo (Kim Gab-soo). The public believes that Jeju was hit by a plague, but the drawings suggest that the inhabitants were murdered through poison, whose effects manifested as an illness, as with the deceased Crown Prince So-hyun.

These drawings are starting to sway public opinion, and people speculate that the children were poisoned in order to kill off the prince’s last remaining heirs, his three sons (two did die, while the last survived). Of course, others find such conspiracy theories absurd — it suggests that the king ordered the murders, and why would he kill his own son and grandsons?

A group of noblemen gather to discuss the matter, and discuss the Jeju Island drawings. They don’t know who did it, but must get to the bottom of this problem. But this group is infiltrated by royal soldiers, who attack the group members, bring them to court for torture and questioning, and accuse them of being the ones who distributed the drawings. This may turn public sentiment and undermine the king, and is therefore an act of treason. Death to all traitors!

The intercutting of these scenes with another high-ranking minister suggests that he has masterminded this scheme.

At the government stables, a group of slaves seize a rare free moment to gather and plan their escape. Tae-ha is excluded from this — he’s the outsider here, even amongst slaves — and they shut up around him. Even when the leader kicks him to the ground aggressively, Tae-ha doesn’t fight back — he has other things on his mind.

Such as, the letter he was stealthily given. This was written by Prince So-hyun, whom Tae-ha served as a loyal vassal, after the prince had returned to Joseon from Qing imprisonment.

The prince had known he and his family would be targets of assassination, so the letter starts off acknowledging that if Tae-ha is reading this, the prince is already dead.

The letter spins Tae-ha into a flashback of the war, just before the prince was dragged off to Qing. The prince had asked Tae-ha to go with him if they lost, but Tae-ha had vowed to fight to the death and not get captured.

And when the prince had been taken, Tae-ha had watched.

The letter calls him a trustworthy man, and asks Tae-ha to fulfill what he had been unable to. Signing off with the word, “Friend,” the prince had collapsed on the letter, which still bears his bloodstain.

Tae-ha looks at the second paper included in the smuggled letter — the drawing of the Jeju Island massacre, which depicts the lone survivor, the prince’s youngest son.

The other slaves set their escape plan in motion, but they are quickly spotted by guards and sorely outmatched. Quickly, this spins out of their control as the slaves are surrounded. They cling to their weapons desperately and prepare to fight to the death — but proceedings are called to a halt by the arrival of one last figure.

Filled with new resolve, Tae-ha comes out carrying his sword, which had been hidden away in the stable. Because he was always so meek, this transformation shocks the other slaves; Tae-ha spins into action in a sudden whirl of motion. As the guards attack, Tae-ha strikes them down, one by one.

The group goes on the run, and Tae-ha emerges as their de facto leader. Their flight is difficult, however, and by the next day the group is exhausted. They collapse in a field, gasping for breath, protesting Tae-ha’s idea to divert their pursuers in one direction by heading in the opposite direction. They thank him for his help, but as they’re too exhausted to continue, they suggest that it’s time to separate.

Tae-ha warns them not to breathe a word about him even if they get caught — otherwise, he’ll come after them and kill them.

With that, Tae-ha readies to go, but his sudden movement draws the attention of two men in the distance. It’s Dae-gil and Choi, who have been called out to recover the escapees.

The instant the other slaves spot the hunters, they start to scatter, but Tae-ha stands firm. He grasps his sword firmly as Dae-gil spurs his horse on, racing toward him with his own sword outstretched…

As Dae-gil nears, he swoops low with his sword arm, slashing at Tae-ha. But Tae-ha jumps over the blade, and lands safely on the other side.

Dae-gil falls to the ground, surprised (and a little offended at being thwarted). He glares at Tae-ha, and the two men stare at each other through the tall grass separating them.

Turning toward each other, both men prepare their weapons for another clash…

And charge…

And leap toward each other, blades outstretched….

 
COMMENTS

My first thought when watching Chuno was not merely that everything (and everyone) looked beautiful. That’s kind of a gimme. It was that all the actors owe director Kwak Jung-hwan a huuuge debt of gratitude because he makes them look damn near glorious. Every frame depicts the three leads with loving, sumptuous care, captured in their full tortured beauty.

Fighting scenes are detailed in slow-motion to show off everyone’s rippling muscles — only they don’t ripple so much because nobody’s got any fat on their bones — and then super-speed-up to emphasize point of impact. Lingering, hazy flashback shots paint the past as a beautiful, mystical lost time. This drama positively revels in its own gorgeousness.

And if you think it looks pretty in pictures, that ain’t anything compared to how this looks in motion — windswept, bloodstained, glorious motion:

And, to be perfectly honest, I got a little tired of it.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s not like I don’t appreciate a feast for the eyes. I was blown away with the look of Chuno. The cinematography is stunning, the scale grandiose, the music sweeping. And that’s when the drama’s not being humorous and jokey, so it’s not like this is all serious, all the time. It’s only that I got a little overwhelmed with all the fancy tricks, and those are devices that would really be more moving if used sparingly.

It’s like the hero walk. (That awesome walk that you see at the end of movies — slow-motion, wind-blowing-in-the-hair, backlit and reverent.) If you do it once, when the hero has really earned his moment of glory, the audience goes, “Ahhh.” But if you do it every time the hero walks, then you’re like, “Just frickin’ walk already!”

Also, it seems like the director is very much in love with his creation and has indulged himself a little too much. Like that scene of Tae-ha on the bluff, watching his prince being taken prisoner — it’s supposed to be a breathtaking moment, but I laughed. I wanted to feel his pain, but it was like the twentieth Hero Pose we got, and the effect wore off on me. It was like a moment out of Final Fantasy.

Those moments, therefore, feel emotionally manipulative rather than actually emotion-filled. I want to be LED to that moment, not pushed there. I was vastly entertained by Chuno and I’m in awe of their technical achievements, but I wasn’t moved by the stories. I think it’s because everything felt a little slick.

I promise I’ll heap some praise on the drama in a moment, so let me get through minor complaints:

Oh Ji-ho looks amazing and he seems to have improved his acting, but he’s not so great with his dialogue. The flow is off and he hasn’t gotten the knack of natural delivery. He doesn’t have the necessary sageuk gravitas and he tends to get a little mumbly — it sounds so contemporary that sometimes it’s a little startling. It’s the equivalent of an actor in a Shakespearean play speaking with a surfer-dude twang. He looks like a fierce Joseon general, but I keep hearing that plumber dude from Fantasy Couple. I do think he will improve, though — everyone around him is great so it’s got to rub off on him, right?

The writer is Chun Sung-il of the movie Level 7 Civil Servant, and the writing here has the same sort of tendency to gloss over plot points. I really enjoyed Civil Servant and it was heaps of fun, but it has that same slick veneer that works better if you don’t stop to think about the details of what the Russians are really going to do with that biochemical weapon or how to stop them. Nothing is outright illogical here, but some things are done for dramatic effect more than for plot.

Like, for instance, the depiction of Hye-won and Dae-gil’s adolescent love in those halcyon days of yore. I get that the fuzzy focus and soft lighting show that this was a prettier time, but honestly, she was a SLAVE. Her life was not idyllic. (Yeah, I know, it’s his memory, his perspective, blah blah blah. It still bothered me.)

Also, I was annoyed at the way Hye-won is so crushed when she hears Dae-gil is marrying. I understand that it’s a hard thing to hear, but being that she IS his slave, she must have understood from Day 1 that she wasn’t going to get to marry him. So the look of shock on her face, and Dae-gil’s gift of shoes (where is she going to wear those shoes?), just took me out of the moment.

Aside from those nitpicks, I will say that this is an extremely well-made drama, with its production value on par with the likes of IRIS and, uh, just IRIS? Those two dramas have really upped the game for the drama industry, and bring a new meaning to the term “epic.” They make 2007′s Legend look like child’s play. In IRIS‘s case, you could really see the money poured into the location shots and special effects. In Chuno‘s case, the quality is all about the blend of technical proficiency with artistry.

For once, I’m intrigued by the court politics, possibly since this time period is one I’ve seen in a few recent dramas and am interested in seeing from different angles. This isn’t a straight sageuk — it’s fusion — so I don’t expect strict adherence to facts, but that’s okay, since I’m not well-versed enough in this time period to be a stickler. I’m more interested in seeing how they weave their story around the real one.

Everyone is well-cast, from the leads to the extensive supporting cast. Jang Hyuk looks awesome, and he does Dae-gil’s swagger just as well as he does his intensity. Lee Da-hae is wonderful, as expected, and has never looked more gorgeous. Lee Jong-hyuk has not had much screen time, but I think this role is perfect for him — cold, ambitious, brilliant, but backstabbing — and hot damn is that really Danny Ahn as the silent, possibly lovelorn bodyguard? Kim Gab-soo has only been onscreen for a few minutes, but the man has a commanding presence and I’m looking forward to seeing how he plays the treacherous King Injo.

Chuno is certainly exciting, and entertaining. I just wish (really!) that I could feel emotionally invested, but you can’t win ‘em all.

And yeah, have I mentioned that it’s frickin’ gorgeous?

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53 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Marie

    Thank you Thank you THANK YOU so much JB I have been waiting for this. You are a legend. Very much appreciate all your hard work. THANK YOU AGAIN.

     (0)


    • 1.1 tj

      great show!

       (0)


  2. Sharon

    I would continue to watch this drama, as it does not disappoint me. I think the male actors are well-chosen, especially Jang Huk is excellment in playing such cool role.

     (0)


  3. M&M

    lee dae hae!!
    wheeee!! I’m so excited. it sounds sooo cool :)

     (0)


  4. Lisa

    I was hoping you would recap this! I can’t wait for subtitles to watch all the glory in HD.

     (0)


  5. maria

    hmm, i’m not feeling it yet, but i get the hype. maybe i’ll get into it after a couple more epis.
    lee da hae has just turned sort of meeeh for me. after her big walk out on East of Eden, she just sort of got transfered to my “Diva” file… which is a shame, coz i thought she was really spunky in My Girl!

    OOH! SOLUTION: BRING LEE DONG WOOK BACK! huhuhuhu!

     (0)


  6. Gems

    Thank you Javabeans for recapping the first two episodes!!! Would you mind if I give you a little internet kiss on the cheeks? Muah!

     (0)


  7. fizzle

    I am so flipping excited to start this. It looks beeyoooootiful.

     (0)


  8. Taohua

    I was hoping you would do a recap for this, so thank you! I can see your point about the fight scenes. And I completely agree on the scene where Tae-ja looks from the cliff after the Prince is taken—it was stunningly beautiful but I kind of felt somewhat disconnected. So far I’ve been impressed with OJH since I had kept my expectations for his acting low. But I hope he improves and he has gotten better at channeling his emotions compared to his previous more IMO. He does have a meaty role and if he can really get into the character it really will be the career-defining role so far for him. Emotionally I haven’t connected that much, but it usually takes me a few episodes for most dramas.

    It is visually gorgeous, but my favorite thing about PD Kwak is how he interweaves scenes together, especially ones that hint at political intrigue or some sort of connection. Like the gisaeng dancing and the soldiers rounding up the ministers. It’s something that he utilized wonderfully in CitC and it leaves the audience to figure out why those scenes are interconnected (which is generally fairly straightforward). So I’m looking forward to seeing how the political intrigue works out and how it’s directed in the drama. Oh and wow…even without saying anything Kim Gab-soo has such an onscreen presence. And Danny Ahn is looking great (and I love loyal, lovelorn bodyguards :) and I can’t wait to see more of LJH!

    Thanks again for the recap! You are amazing! And you really do spoil us between the reviews two weeks ago and with all the first impressions and recaps in the past week–I don’t know how you do it!

     (0)


  9. ripgal

    Yay, I’m happy you’re recapping this DB. Never thought you’d try on a saguek (HGD doesn’t really count cos it has KJH and the Hong Sisters..hehehe..)

    It actually get your point about PD Kwak’s masterful visuals being a bit too repetitive and done just for the sake of the beauty. In CITC, it was more so the same case, but he kinda lessened his focus on them as the drama progressed.

    On the storyline, I was also initially a bit wary that it would not live up to expectations. I didn’t like 7th Grade a lot so I was a bit apprehensive. But so far so good, I actually liked how they weaved in the romance, action and political aspects into one. Pacing’s also really good so far, no draggy or slow-moving moments. Acting, all solid across the board.

    On the acting, I think all of the cast are doing a very good job in their characters. You will notice that a lot of them are very experienced actors and they just are able to command their roles with so much ease. For the main leads, I can only say that PD Kwak couldn’t have found a better combo to play their respective characters. Jang Hyuk, as always, an awesome actor (tho sometimes he can exaggerate), OJH, a vast improvement from his previous works, and LDH, so pretty and on par with everyone else. I do wish that she can sound a bit more sageuk-ish tho. I have no problems with OJH’s because I can sense his efforts to project that sageuk-ish tone. But LDH’s just sounds a bit too modern to me.

    Altho I’m all Chunofied these days, and all I can think of is Chuno… it’s definitely not flawless or perfect. I might have overlooked a lot of things.. and I’m glad that you’ve pointed out certain elements what may have been shortcomings to the drama as a whole. Such insights definitely give me a whole different perspective on the drama… BUT STILL, Chuno FTW!!! <3333

    And oh, I get that some people are doubtful of LDH because of her past with EOE. But I hope that does not deter any of you from watching the drama, or even appreciating her acting. Like a friend said before, Chuno isn't exactly an ACTOR's drama whereby usually an actor or actress actually carries the drama. The master here is PD Kwak, and just because of this sole reason, you should watch it.

    ^^

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  10. 10 hjkomo

    Thank you, Sarah! *MUAH*

    The first episode was a little ADHD…to bring in all the major characters and plot points…but after rewatching it in its full HD glory, I didn’t have that same feeling the second time around. ;)

    Chuno IS glorious, and PD Kwak IS the master.
    So hold on, everyone…this is going to be one hell of a ride… :D

     (0)


  11. 11 Bunnefur

    I had the exact same opinion on UnNyun/DaeGil’s love story. If she was a SLAVE, why in the world is she so PRETTY? She looks like the king’s daughter in servant clothes. And I almost laughed at the shoes.

    However, DaeGil’s loss of wealth really did good for his character’s personality. I wanted to kick him down there and yell at him to be a MAN. I didn’t see any will power in him at all. I actually like his rugged look better. (Mmmm, more manly, and look at those abs!)

     (0)


  12. 12 Celest

    The OST had me when I clicked play. I am on a saeguk replacement search after Queen Seon Deok ended and I think I just found it. I knew the buzz surrounding this drama and I was really hesitant to see if I would like it (since I was also making plans on watching the medical/saeguk Jejoongwon). But after I press play on “Brand” and read half the summary, I knew I didn’t have to read the rest. Def. watching this too.

    I dunno if this is a good thing or bad thing…lol. I’m already fairly busy in real life and I have a list of drama’s I’m currently following: Smile, Jejoongwon, Liar Game season 2, finishing up the last few eps of SoSP, trying to finish Assorted Gems, promising my friend to watch Stars Falling From the Sky, and now Chuno. Still waiting on Pasta’s subs too. Oh boy.

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  13. 13 midnightaffair

    thank you JB for doing a recap. i guessed what the words in the beginning were trying to say.. but you helped me understand it. :) :)
    i totally agree that everything seems beautiful but it did seem like it was a bit much. i do think it’ll be a huge hit in korea though..
    and i have a total soft spot for oh jiho because of fantasy couple. hopefully he does well in this drama :)

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  14. 14 karened

    I typically dislike (it’s a bias) dramas that had already stirred up a storm even before they aired, unless I’m part of the storm, which is unlikely for kdramas since I’m not so familiar with the actors/actresses, director and screenwriters.

    So, I watched Chuno the last out of all the other new dramas (of which I only managed to really watch God Of Study.). I managed till ep 2, but was still not hooked……………

    But dramabeans’s recommendations are usually well-substantiated, and this one received more than a mere recommendation. I guess I’ll rewatch it once more!

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  15. 15 ilovebeans

    So…. does this mean you won’t be recapping any further episodes of Chuno? I am kind of hooked after reading your recap.

    Also, wanna know something funny??
    I don’t watch many dramas. I get my daily dose of dramas just by reading your recaps. :) Zzang you!!

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  16. 16 lala

    Lee Da Hae’s lips are too shiny in the drama….it’s distracting

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  17. 17 Emeldy

    Don’t think i will catch up with the drama rite now, may be sometime in future. Jang Hyuk will be the only reason i will watch Chuno. He is my first love, i Google his name and started my journey with K movies and drama after watching him in Moment to Remember. He is one of those rare Macho Asian Actor. His bronze look is totally awesome.

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  18. 18 Kobe

    “this drama is going to be HUGE. Possibly Drama of the Year.”

    Wow. Possible drama of the year and we’re not even 2 weeks into 2010 yet! That’s some statement to make, but I trust JB’s judgment and I’m definitely gonna give this one a go. Hopefully I’ll watch more k-dramas this year than I did in 2009 (just two!).

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  19. 19 lovewls

    WOOOT Thanks! I’m waiting to watch this on Kbsworld on Feb 13. (acccck still a month away!!!) In the meantime I’ll just read your wonderful summary.

     (0)


  20. 20 Soobi

    Thank you!
    I haven’t started Chuno yet but I will soon and now I’m even more excited. ^^

     (0)


  21. 21 MIKA

    Thank you very much!!!
    I was in trouble because I couldn’t do Korean understanding.
    “Chuno” it’s fascinating, isn’t it?
    It’s also pleasant next time^^.

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  22. 22 oxa

    Hi JB)
    I’m new to your blog. It’s really cool and well-written. I’m loving it.
    Thanx for all your recaps I’ve been reading some of them for a while.
    This is my 1st post and it’s dedicated to Chuno. I watched the first two episodes raw and it impressed me in a good way) but I agree with you the epic side is too much. I started watching kdramas a year ago at first i watched everything but now I became a little bit picky. As many people here say your recommendations indeed deserve attention. I like all three main actors especially LDH and OJH (because of My girl and Get Karl Oh soo jung) but JH’s acting is also super good =) the rest is well casted. I don’t know anything about the director and the sciptwriter but they seem professional. I’m looking forward to the next episodes and I hope you will continue your wonderful recaps of this drama.

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  23. 23 Lucille

    Thanks for the recaps. Does the effects of this drama remind anyone of “300.” That’s the kinda of feeling I get when I watch this.

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  24. 24 1critic

    If Lucille is right, then this thing is pure testosterone. No thanks. I already get enough of that in US films.

     (0)


    • 24.1 tj

      Ha! Each and every human emotion is displayed in all their glory in this epic.

      As for your reaction to Lucille’s mention of “300″ I pity such a disregard to a modern tribute to those 300 men for without which Western Civilization itself would not exist as we know it.

      It’s not testosterone Lucille referred to; no, instead it’s something much deeper we’ve all but lost today..

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  25. 25 samsooki

    It’s a veritable feastie for eyes!

    This drama almost demands to be recapped. What’s that? You want to be recapped? The chunojjumas need you to be recapped?

    Hehe. Epic!

    A wonderful recap by javabeans. I wonder if I start liking chuno, if ppl will refer to me as a chunojjussi…

    :)

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  26. 26 haezi

    cinematography is amazing! and i agree with most of your points. the action is a little thick (how will the drama carry the same action and intensity throughout the drama without reusing the same moves and tricks?). oh ji ho’s lines are a bit stilted but he looks the part. and i don’t care much for any of the characters, yet.

    this drama reminds me of a higher quality version of xena, warrior princess but way better. I didn’t like iris much, but i think i’ll stick with this drama for now.

    and thanks for the recaps. when they get into the politics, i’m always a bit confused.

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  27. 27 splgt001

    thank you JB!

     (0)


  28. 28 miss_procrastination

    thanks javabeans!

    i’m looking forward to it subbed!

     (0)


  29. 29 hjkomo

    @ Samsooki

    Chunojusshi??? Hmm…well…I suppose so….(although I can’t really picture calling you an ajusshi…but Chunochonggak wouldn’t apply to you, either)….eh…just stick with Chunoholic, k? ;)

    And what’s that? “The drama almost demands to be recapped?” Even the Chunochonggaks need you to be recapped? hehe…

    @ Lucille, 1critic

    There is some 300-styled influence, but this drama is much more than just testosterone.
    It is epic, but it’s also a love story, a political court intrigue story, and a story about the lives of ordinary people in turbulent times. In the end, it’ll be the story (with fabulous acting and cinematics) which will be ingrained in people’s memories. :D

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  30. 30 Anonymous

    just my two cents… I think the “idylic view” of Dae Gil and UnNyun’s scenes are not because they are being depicted in REALITY… they are being depicted in HIS memory. He sees her as a good memory, not as a struggling slave.

    but great recap, thanks.

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  31. 31 samsooki

    @29 hjkomo

    My mo-in-law calls jihoonie “chong-gak” hehe! That’s so cute!

    btw, it’s just about time to gear up, sunbae…. are you ready?

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  32. 32 hjkomo

    @ Samsooki

    Aw, hayell no. ;)
    Better get hubby to roast a ****load of coffee.

    Jihoonie’s not a janggoon (general) yet? Feed him!!!
    Every Korean baby boy needs to put on enough weight to be called that. It’s a rite of passage. ;)

     (0)


  33. 33 maria

    @samsooki: i loled so hard at your comment, do you mind if i DO start calling you chunojusshi? change it up from the months i actually HAVE been calling you the city hall ahjusshi (which made my sister think that i’m obsessed talking about some homeless guy who sits by the city hall steps in MY city and tells people stories about a girl named mi rae.) :D HEHEHEHE!!

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  34. 34 Ladymoonstone143

    Thanks for the recaps Javabeans, I haven’t seen it yet but reading your recaps is enough for me. It is like reading a novel….:) thanks a lot and more power!

     (0)


  35. 35 Samsooki

    @maria -

    haha!! I’m so…. flattered? so…. confused and flattered? Should I cry or laugh or both? LOL.

    @ hjkomo -

    Roast those yemenite beans. We got work to do….

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  36. 36 Elena

    It’s visually breathtaking and looks to be something great.
    I won’t be watching it, because I need happy endings and this isn’t going to end well.

     (0)


  37. 37 alexandra

    I think it is an excellent drama, love how the music hype things up. Hope they keep the interest up. For once, korean drama has a faster pace! Hate all the slow mo of other shows where they just go round and round on the same issue.

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  38. 38 vanillachocolatechip

    Thanks to your wonderful recap, I’m going to start watching this.
    Jang Hyuk has so much charisma & he’s hot.
    Lee Da Hae is too pretty..it’s hard to believe she’s playing a slave ^__^
    I also love Kim Jisuk + Oh Ji Ho~

    P.S. Wow there’s so many familiar faces in this drama…

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  39. 39 les

    thanks JB…i love Oh Ji Ho…and plus like i needed a break from work work work!

     (0)


  40. 40 ockoala

    Thanks for the recap, JB! (wow, you are firing on all cylinder since the start of the new year, and not a single drop in quality of your analysis and writing, I’m so impressed and also very “I’m not worthy” fangirling you). :-)

    I was very entertained and transfixed by the first 2 episodes Chuno. As a whole, the drama is definitely very stylish and fast-paced for a saguek, yet also remains epic yet intimate.

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  41. 41 Mimi

    Thanks for the recap!
    Can I claim Danny Ahn?? I love him! HE’S MINE! ;)

     (0)


  42. 42 anna

    I want to watch this but I am not prepare to sit through another heartbreaking relationship. I’m already broken after Will It Snow for Christmas? I’m going to need some time before I start on this. T_T

     (0)


  43. 43 doozy

    Thank you for the awesome recaps, Javabeans!

    I’ve seen episode 1 and indeed, it was gorgeous. Although, is it just me or did the song that played at the end of episode 1 a little too (melo)dramatic? I enjoyed the soundtrack throughout the episode and thought the instrumentals were lovely but that last song felt, for lack of a better description, “out of place.”

     (0)


  44. 44 Sere

    Jang Hyuk! alksdjalsdja dlajdklajsd This is my reaction whenever I see him. How did that happen? I mean, I’ve appreciated his previous performances (of course, duh!) and I’ve always liked him, but Oh.My.God, my eyes are peeled to the screen whenever he has a scene!

    And Danny Ahn! I’ve never seen in any projects before, but the few minutes he had had me 0_0 and possibly gaping at the screen. Looking forward to know more about his character.

    I’m also intrigued by General Choi. Han Jung-soo always delivers (he’s perfect for sageuks) and if I’m being honest, he might become a favorite character.

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  45. 45 pabo ceo reom

    I’m on board! :)

     (0)


  46. 46 mamabear

    Still waiting for Chuno to premiere on KBSWorld this Feb 3. So the recaps helps me to get a feel for it. Already in love with the 3 lead i.e. HJ/LDH/OJH. Cannot imagine who will end up with who but someone has to lose out. Wish it did not have to be that way.

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  47. 47 Chuck

    Not being an expert on Korean history, I don’t understand why Dae Gil could not have married the slave girl. Couldn’t he have just freed her and then married her? I mean, if his father didn’t object. And failing that, why couldn’t he have just run off with her? Granted that’s a drastic, desperate act, but if he loves her, desperate action is called for in that situation. Also, as for her wearing nice clothes and so forth, aren’t some slaves different than others? Some work out in the fields, some work in the house? It doesn’t seem that out of place to me (again, not being well versed in Korean history) that some favored slaves might be given nice clothes to wear, and light duties to perform.

    I am not sure where the story is going, after watching two episodes. Dae Gil’s character is hard to fathom. It was good of him to free the little girl and her mother from their plight, of course. But he was the one who put them into that plight! He could have spared the mother that beating, and the girl that humiliation. That’s what I’m trying to figure out, why a slave hunter is the protagonist of a drama. Obviously he’s not all bad, but he is certainly doing many bad things. He has a swagger, as pointed out, which often descends into smugness. These are not, to me, admirable traits. The slave who was a General is just as good a fighter, but has none of Dae Gil’s smugness. That makes him a better man, in my book.

    I didn’t like the opening fight scene, since it was an obvious overmatch situation. the slow motion just looked silly to me. But the fight at the end of episode two, Dae Gil against the escaped slave-General, had meaning. Dae Gil, as the saying goes, had met his match. In this one, I loved the slow motion view of the two coming at each other, in mid-air.

    Things I don’t like: the casual vulgarity of too many of the characters. I realize that’s realistic and natural. Well, I don’t like naturalism in art. I like Romanticism. Even if they are low class people, you don’t have to have them using vulgar language. We can see they are lower class, we don’t need it rubbed in our face. At least I don’t.

    I’ve not seen most of these actors and actresses before. JB said one of the actors sounds too modern in his speech? Fortunately I don’t speak Korean, so that drawback is lost on me. I’ve enjoyed the way that actor looked and sounded so far—the slave who was a General. And Lee Da Hae? Lovely.

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  48. 48 KpopFanatic

    The scenes are captivating and I love the female lead, mainly because of her role in “My Girl”, but I, who and I BIG fan of pretty boys (squeal) really wished they had an actor with…you know…a pretty face. Abs are great, but to me a pretty face on a guy is something better to see. I guess I’m biased, but I think a pretty actor would have made this drama better.

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  49. 49 barca96

    Hi,

    Thanks for doing all the hard work here!
    Can you help me?
    Which episode is this where they were all at this
    bandits were staying. It was up in the mountains.
    And in this particular episode, Kim Ha Eun was so jealous at Lee Da Hae because she was so good to everyone. And then she decided to act like her. It was hilarious!!

    Many thanks in advance

     (0)


  50. 50 Emki5

    I jst love dis film

     (0)


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