[Villains] When baddies dream of being good
Come Here and Hug Me
The best villains are the ones with a good story, good acting, and wicked fashion sense. But it’s hard to hit that trifecta of villain perfection every time. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to put us drama fans on a watching, commenting, and gif-ing frenzy: just dangle the villain redemption carrot.
There’s something exciting about an enemy who shows signs of wanting to go rogue. For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s romance, loneliness, or conscience that plants that yearning in them. As soon as I see that seed of doubt, I pounce on the character and start screaming at the screen, the previews, the writer, and the Drama Gods to pleeease make this reversal happen and soon. And I’m not alone in this mania. *points to hundreds of comments and fanwall gifs dedicated to Beanies’ favorite baddies*
An Empress’s Dignity
The screaming is partly from this sense of urgency. We want the villain to stop before they do something we can’t forgive them for. No one wants a guy who murdered an islandful of plane crash survivors to suddenly join our heroes in a rooftop party. (Yeah, I’m looking at you, Missing 9.) So the moment I see a villain who wants to be good, I start chanting, “Stop, turn around, turn around now before you do something that can’t be undone.”
But admittedly, part of the screaming is because I’m impatient for the reversal. I hate when the ex-bad guys just apologize or go to jail in the last five minutes. It robs me of the chance to watch the good and previously-evil characters interact in an explosion of awkwardness. I mean, that’s the biggest reason I wanted them together in the first place! (Err… aside from wanting good and justice to prevail.)
Take Chief Kim, for instance. Yes, we wanted the Food Psycho to drop his chaebol overlords and join our gang, but it wouldn’t have been fun if they became chummy buddies right away. We would’ve missed out on a lot of things. Like his indignant squeaks when Chief Kim blew him a kiss, the shrieking when they fall asleep hugging after a night of planning, or those times when Food Psycho lowered his guard while eating (allowing Chief Kim to hand-feed him kimchi and wipe crumbs off his face)… those were the scenes that made the team-up hilarious to watch and worth the wait. And that was so much better than having Food Psycho just apologize and hand over The Secret Ledger in the final hour.
Another of my favorite villains who took us on an emotional rollercoaster is killer-wannabe, secret marshmallow Hyun-moo in Come Here and Hug Me. He spent 3/4 of the series walking around telling everyone “I hate you, you’re not my family, I’m gonna kill you soon.” At the same time, he was secretly hanging around and making abandoned-puppy eyes whenever his younger brother, stepsister, and stepmom looked like they were having fun.
We all screamed for him to come out already and ask for hugs, but imagine how disappointing it would be if he actually did that. So an end where he never said “I love you” out loud, but risked his life for his stepfamily anyway THEN paid for his sins with prison time on top of actual remorse was more fitting. What made it perfect was the fact that even after reconciliation, he never stopped calling his younger brother “that jerk.” Plus, Hyun-moo was hospitalized after his hero moment, so we got a lot of scenes where he was trapped in bed and had to “endure” his family’s affections while secretly basking in all that love. It’s funny and dark and sweet and exactly what I wished for.
Forest of Secrets
Then there are those characters that are half evil, pure chaos. They don’t just play with the idea of being good. They go from bad to good and back like a redemption story on crack.
For instance, there’s my favorite weasely traitor, Seo Dong-jae, in Forest of Secrets. He played everyone and every side so well that you could never tell if he was an ally or an enemy. He was so unpredictable that even when he was playing for the good guys, you’re chanting for him to “stay there stay there stay there” because you know he could be distracted by the tiniest whiff of power. It made for a very tense but funny watch. Especially whenever you saw his eyes whizzing around, doing the mental math to calculate whether being good or being bad would benefit him more at that moment.
And who can forget Jamie from Liar Game? We knew she could change the whole game, but there was no chance in hell that she would. So it was like winning the drama lottery when she actually helped out the good guys. And she didn’t even do it for justice. She just did it because Evil was being annoying that day. How cool was she? One of the side characters summed it up well when he said something like, “That girl may be a traitor, but she’s at her best when she’s betraying someone.” (Especially when that someone is the bad guy.)
One more reason I love it when ex-villains join hands with the heroes is the chaos that comes after.
You know how there’s always this scene when the hero’s team hears for the first time that they’re gonna be working with their ex-nemesis? We’ve seen it countless of times in different shows. And yet I still rub my hands and cackle in anticipation every time the enemy walks into our gang’s headquarters for a truce and the sidekicks are outraged.
Special Labor Inspector Jo
“What do you mean we’re going to entrust the whole operation to this jerk? He put me in jail two episodes ago!” *cue wisecracks and fisticuffs* Then the leader has to grovel, aegyo, and pacify his old team while the new “ally” stands there, annoying everyone and not helping de-escalate the situation at all. See? Chaos = fun.
My love for baddies who teeter on the edge of good isn’t exclusive to dramaland. There’s Draco Malfoy and Loki and Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent, just to name a few. Seeing that tiny crack in their villainous shell always makes me want to pull them over to our side. Even if it means living a life of uncertainty, always breaking up fights and looking over your shoulder, counting the candlesticks and tapestries, and changing the combination to the safe’s lock every other day. Wildcard villains add chaos to everything. But I adore them, because you know they will never commit the biggest sin in dramaland: the crime of being boring.
My Fellow Citizens
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