The villains in dramas get a bad wrap, but even they deserve their moment in the spotlight.
Hi, I’m Shannon, Kdarlings’ guest villain expert. I like them bad. I like them damaged. I like them deviously confident. I am not afraid to admit that if there is such a thing as a villain apologist, then I certainly fit the mold. So, let’s do this! If you like the villains in dramas and films as much as I do, look no further. Let’s celebrate them together.
DISCLAIMER: All opinions are my own and are not meant to encourage villain behavior because, let’s face it, disclaimers for this are sometimes needed.
The Uncanny Counter’s Most Wanted
Let me start by saying that I don’t normally watch genres outside of romance. However, since the Covid-19 pandemic delayed and halted many productions, I decided to choose my next drama based on recommendations. One show, in particular, making a buzz amongst my friends was The Uncanny Counter.
The show is centered around humans called Counters working for a divine realm to defeat demons. These Counters are given supernatural abilities that help them find, catch, and exorcise evil spirits in order to send the souls that were stolen into the afterlife. Right away, it’s obvious there is going to be a villain. Possibly lots of them, which is right up my alley.
The villain that stood out the most for me in The Uncanny Counter is Ji Cheong-Sin. A human who has been possessed by an evil spirit, he has managed to bond well with the demon inside him. While under the entity’s control, he eats souls, leveling up each time he takes a human life. From the first episode, the viewer is introduced to Ji Cheong’s sexy psychotic smile as he whispers goodbye while murdering someone.
S W O O N! I can’t be the only one who felt his magnetic power, can I?
The Counters find him, and they engage in a fight. While all of this is transpiring, our villain is wearing a … wait for it … black hoodie! Can he be any more of a serial killer? Hoodies seem to be a necessary item of villain clothing in dramas. It’s like the villains open a closet, leaf through the options, and then go, “Ah, that’s the one.”
The hood comes off, and I am immediately blessed with more of his features. DUDE IS SEXY! He has a buzzed, almost military-style haircut, perfectly shaped eyebrows, high cheekbones, a sharp chin, soft pink lips, and eyes as black as his demon-possessed soul. I start reciting the Lord’s prayer in my head because, mentally, I’m seconds away from jumping right into his arms before telling him I want to have his babies.
The fight continues, and after killing one of the Counters, he escapes.
The next time we see my husband … cough … I mean Ji Cheong-Sin, it’s in a scene I didn’t expect considering his introduction. He works at his father’s junkyard, and he’s busy crushing cars for scrap metal. This piqued my curiosity! I mean, what is a level three demon who has some serious powers working for, right? However, it’s here that the viewers get to know more about Ji Cheong the human rather than the monster the demon has turned him into.
While working, he spots his father, waves him over, and then looks up at him with one of the most precious, million-watt smiles I have ever seen on a villain. It’s a grin full of fondness, offering viewers a completely different version of the man. He worries about his horrible father (a corrupt businessman), who is clearly using Ji Cheong to do all of his dirty work.
Yeah, I’m obviously already becoming soft for this villain. That smile is lethal.
Ji Cheong’s father shows him a picture, and without a second thought, Ji Cheong asks if the man in the photo needs to be killed. The ease with which he asks is proof that he has been killing for his father for a long time.
I should point out here that by the way Ji Cheong’s father talks down to him, it’s obvious to me from the onset that he has no respect for his son nor any regard for his feelings. In response, Ji Cheong looks like a kicked puppy. My heart cracked. This drama not only has a badass demon who drives me insane when he’s covered in blood, but it also has a man who is clearly capable of being soft towards someone he cares for.
I’M MELTING FOR THIS VILLAIN!
As the drama continues, it becomes evident that the father plays a huge role in Ji Cheong’s emotions. As soon as his father praises him, Ji Cheong goes from sulking to grinning. He desperately longs for his father’s approval, which is even more apparent following a phone call between his father and brother. His father showers the boy with affection, and from his reaction, Ji Cheong craves the same attention.
This need for love is a bread crumb, a tiny morsel that reveals there’s more to this man than viewers initially thought.
But don’t forget, we’ve still got a villain here, and he has all the parts, accessories, and psychological trauma to place him in the bad guy big leagues.
Ji Cheong puts on his hoodie—cue the serial killer clothing—and pays a visit to the guy in the photograph his father showed him. While he is taping the man to a chair (Ah, I’m so jealous! I mean, I’m reasonably sane, but his black hoodie simply does it for me, leaving me screaming, “TIE ME UP TOO!”), the spirit takes over and murders the guy.
I admit I laughed. Whoever wrote this scene is sadistic as hell! Ji Cheong carves up the man’s insides while playing opera-like, soothing music. Blood splatters all over his face while he laughs psychotically. This is hands down, one of my favorite parts of the series thus far.
You think I’m crazy now, right? That’s fine, but remember, my boy has daddy issues, and that breaks me.
Something I found interesting (this is purely my perspective) is that Ji Cheong only kills when:
- His father tells him to.
- The spirit within him either gets hungry or wants to kill out of innate evil instinct.
- Someone tries to attack him.
Up until this point, I have yet to see Ji Cheong the man kill for fun or pleasure. I separate Ji Cheong and the demon because, although they have bonded, they are ultimately different. One is human, and the other is an evil entity. The drama does well balancing Ji Cheong’s possessed serial killer and human moments.
Which brings us to another human moment, Ji Cheong picks up a cake for his little brother because his father asks him to. He never questions his father’s authority and is no doubt pretty damn loyal to him. When he returns with the cake, he finds his dad sharing a meal with his younger brother. The look of absolute longing on Ji Cheong’s face added another crack to my heart. I wanted to pull him toward me, bloodstains be damned!
When his father fetches the cake, Ji Cheong owns up to the fact that he murdered the man he was sent to “take care of” instead of leaving him alive. There is a scene jump, and his father is suddenly brutally kicking him in the restaurant’s kitchen. Ji Cheong curls up into a protective ball, taking the beating. Every single fiber of my being wanted to shield him.
To make matters worse, Ji Cheong wipes his own blood off of that disgusting man’s shoes after the beating, as if he doesn’t want his father contaminated by him. It’s disturbingly and painfully clear that Ji Cheong regards himself in the same low light that his father does. At this point, I was fuming! How dare that low life touch my husband! How dare that low life ruin my man’s self-esteem! I wanted Ji Cheong to suck out his father’s soul and then move to a different town with me so I could take care of him while he worked during the day and peacefully ate souls by night.
Yes, I am sane … most days.
By the sixth episode, I realized that no matter what evil things this villain did, I would forever care about him.
Ji Cheong’s father asks him if he wants to have a drink. In dad speak, and to make a long story short, this is father code for “I can no longer control my son, and therefore he has to die.” Yeah, that low life wants to kill his own son!
God take the wheel because I was about to explode!
Ji Cheong smiles, delighted when he sees his father. Rather than being sexy, the smile he gives is somehow naive and innocent despite what he’s capable of, as if he turns into a little boy as soon as he sees his father. Right then, I fell in love with him, which made the ache I felt in my heart over the next scene that much more intense.
If you look at Ji Cheong objectively, he has redeeming qualities. He loves his dad and is fiercely loyal to him. He longs for his father’s approval and flat out just wants to be loved in return.
Ji Cheong pulls out a childish-looking wallet, which his father seems surprised that Ji Cheong still owns. This gave me another look into Ji Cheong’s human heart. He is sentimental. I took a moment to giggle here because the psycho demon possessing him is being forced to carry a wallet with a toy car on it due to Ji Cheong’s affectionate feelings toward his father. The wallet felt like a big flashing neon sign that said, “I might be possessed, but I’ve still got a soul.”
But giggling aside …
From the wallet, Ji Cheong removes a ticket to a game his father took him to when he was ten-years-old. Oh, the sentimentality! Knowing his father planned to kill him here had me wishing I could pull Ji Cheong out of the screen because I knew this would gut him, and I didn’t want him to feel any more emotional pain. Ever!
And just like that, his father attempts to kill him.
Ugh! I can’t even begin to describe the absolute betrayal that flashes across Ji Cheong’s face when he realizes this. It honestly never occurred to him that the man who consistently beat him, talked down to him, and used him to kill others without any semblance of love would kill him.
The pieces came together for me.
In this moment, and with this deeper glimpse into Ji Cheong’s life, I understood how he turned bad. Humans aren’t born evil. It’s the situations we experience and the things people put us through that place us on the path to right or wrong.
I get it; Ji Cheong is simply a fictional character dealing with fictional situations, but humor me.
I realize that, according to the storyline, evil spirits can only possess those that are already innately bad, but let’s look at what made Ji Cheong that way. His father clearly never loved him, using him to do all of his dirty work. Even if Ji Cheong realized that what he was doing was wrong or found himself horrified by the feeling of killing people, he did it to please his father. His father only praised him when he followed orders well. At some point, Ji Cheong must’ve started associating hurting people with making his father happy, which opened him up to the consuming bloodlust and possession.
I am invested in him now. I sympathize with him. He surprises me.
With a heavy heart and tears welling up in his eyes, he kills his father. I was honestly glad that the horrible man was dead, but it hurt me knowing how much more humanity must have been stolen from Ji Cheong to kill someone he so obviously loved.
My heart aches for him.
As the drama continues, Ji Cheong has more encounters with the demon hunters. Although I adore the Counters, I’m honestly Team Villain. Call me minion Shannon, because this possessed man can literally have my soul. Ji Cheong’s powers are growing. He even manages to interfere with a Counter’s memory.
I feel like it is my duty to mention that, at this point, Ji Cheong gets wet and is giving off major possessed vibes, which had me fanning my face because WET HOT DEMON. Come on!
Okay, I’m calm now. Maybe.
Actor Lee Hong-Nae does Ji Cheong’s role serious justice. He manages to present a complex character with depth. Every time he smirks with that “I’m going to murder you and add you to my soul count but don’t forget I’m emotionally damaged” vibe, I practically faint! No matter how evil he is, Ji Cheong can still bring me to my knees.
At some point in the drama— my man simply can’t catch a break—Ji Cheong’s father’s associates decide to frame him in an attempt to land him in jail.
Can you believe it? After he murdered so many people for them?
I have a long string of curse words to describe these men that would not be appropriate to put here, so I will leave it up to your imagination.
Back to my boy.
Ji Cheong goes on the run but then strikes a deal promising to kill people in exchange for clearing his name. This is where I finally saw the magnitude of power I expected from a level three demon.
He cleans up nice.
First, he wears ALL BLACK . Secondly, he puts on a SUIT. I’m a sucker for a villain in black! To complete the look, he puts on a hat that pulls it all together. He goes from serial killer to high-class assassin, his outfit something straight out of Kingsmen.
The spirit inside him is quite intelligent, using its growing strength and wit to learn things about the Counters. This leads to Ji Cheong gathering up evil spirits so they can work together to kill the Counters.
Bestow my beating bad guy heart; this show is giving me a villain alliance!
I laughed when Ji Cheong bought a dress for a woman he recruits who is also possessed by a demon. Can you imagine him as a lover? I’m having all kinds of demonic Bonnie and Clyde mental images. Although Ji Cheong is thoughtful (you laughed at that description, right?), it’s clear he has no clue how to shop for a woman. I like the weird toxic energy Ji Cheong and the possessed female have together. At one point, he thought she took something from him, and he pinned her to the wall. The way he looked at her was so intense, I felt confident he would devour her. I really needed her to kiss him just so I could live through her experience.
Whew! Enough about that because that’s an entirely different kind of write-up.
I also love Ji Cheong’s sense of responsibility. Even though he didn’t have to, he decides to take the woman with him when he plans to leave Korea.
Don’t ask me why, but I had a thought here that if he and I were in a relationship and I fell pregnant, he’d be the type to stay until the end.
Okay, okay, okay … I know he is evil, and I don’t excuse what he did, but one of the reasons I am glad to be writing about villains in dramas and film for Kdarlings is that I genuinely believe these villains deserve a voice. Taking the time to write out these moments with Ji Cheong allows his character’s depth and complexity to shine, to show that there is a “his” side of the story. Many of you hate villains, which is understandable, but I hope that my perspective will maybe, just maybe, allow you to see villains in a new light. Perhaps this will open up an avenue of understanding for them.
Seeing why and how villains end up the way they do can change a person’s perspective. If one person stops to analyze these characters’ depth after reading, then I feel like I have done them justice.
The Uncanny Counter is still currently airing. I highly recommend it. There is much more to it than just the villains, but I can’t wait to see more of my Ji Cheong.
I usually end up widowed at some point during these dramas because things rarely work in the villains’ favor. But in Ji Cheong’s case, I’ll remember him as a damaged soul that left an impression on me. I hope he leaves one on you as well. Check him out with me on Netflix. He’s waiting. He’s smiling. It’s a little scary, but also a whole lot of happy for us villain enthusiasts.