K-Drama Review: ‘Bad Guy’ is a Dark and Convoluted Revenge Drama You Are Going to Enjoy

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When Revenge Involves Love in Bad Guy

Korean Drama is known for its lovey-dovey romance stories. As it happens, that’s not the only genre they are great at. Taking a revenge theme as its main plot, Bad Guy sure will show you a different story. However, the revenge plan can be quite handful as it involves love and affairs. How’s the story? What kind of revenge does the main character have? Who are the cast? Is it recommended to watch? This time Channel-Korea will give you our review, so stay tuned!

Before we start, we would like to tell you in advance that this article may contain SPOILERS so if you haven’t watched the drama yet but are trying to decide whether to watch or not, make sure to be careful!

Review

About The Drama

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One day, the Hong family took Shim Gun-wook (Kim Nam-gil) in, believing that he’s an illegitimate son of President Hong’s, Tae-sung. Later, it was found out that he was not, so they cast him aside to the street, making him lose everything in an instant. Years later, Gun-wook comes back to fulfill his revenge against the Hong family by destroying them and their Haeshin corporation step by step. The real Hong Tae-sung (Kim Jae-wook) along with his sisters Hong Mo-ne (Jung So-min) and Hong Tae-ra (Oh Yeon-soo) are also part of his perfect revenge plan. However, he never plans to meet and fall in love with the ambitious woman, Moon Jae-in (Han Ga-in).

The drama was directed by Lee Hyung-min and aired by SBS from May 26 to August 5, 2010, on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 21:55 with total 17 episodes.

Memorable Scenes

Episode #1 – Gun-wook’s Cool Words

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At the film site, Gun-wook immediately knows what Da-rim’s up to when he sees her walking away from a parachute. Instead of accusing her directly, he calmly points at a cord and says that she cut the wrong one and if she wants someone dead, she should cut the other one.

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She then yells about how bad Hye-joo is and she wants her to die. Instead of giving any reasons to stop her, Gun-wook yells back at her to pull herself together and rather gives her chills by saying some words. He says that even if Hye-joo dies, there’ll be another Hye-joo showing up. He also says that killing is easy, “You know what’s harder than killing someone? Stepping on Choi Hye-joo as you rise above her and making sure nobody ever steps on you again.” From this moment, we know that he is a serious and organized man.

Episode #3 – Gun-wook’s Soft Spot For Children

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With all his seriousness in getting his revenge, he can be a soft-hearted, too, especially for children. In episode #3, he goes out around the neighborhood and joins some children who are playing soccer. He agrees to be the goalkeeper and adds that if they can score a goal on him, he will buy an ice cream for each goal. He then convinces them that he was quite a good player back in his time.

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As they start to play, he purposely misses all the balls and lets them score. Instead, he says that they are good players and buys them all ice cream. Now we know he doesn’t let his vengeful intention towards Hong family affect his attitude towards innocent children.

Episode #5 – Tae-sung Being Vulnerable

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From the beginning, Tae-sung is portrayed as a rebellious child who is always being gutsy and reckless. In the hospital after nearly being drowned by someone, he finally regains consciousness. He sees a woman beside him and imagines her as Sun-young (his ex, who is assumed to commit suicide by jumping off a building; her case is still being examined) smiling at him. Later he realizes that it was Jae-in who was with him before. She then leaves him to talk to her hostess when he starts to remember his recent accident, which left him unnerved and a little scared.

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Jae-in’s cellphone rings and Tae-sung turns it off before noticing that it is from Madam Shin, alias his mom. He then calls back and identifies himself, then asks what her relation is with Jae-in. Instead of answering, Madam Shin coldly asks why he called. At this point, we may think he will be his usual self, the rebellious one, and will answer crankily. Yet, he answers, “I’m sick..” (which can also mean “I’m hurt” in Korean). Even though he knows his mom hates him, he still shows his vulnerability to her, indicating that he is desperate enough to do so. Unfortunately, his mom curtly tells him to go to the hospital and starts to hang up. Tae-sung tries to stop her, only to get another irritable answer from his mom. She even tells him that having one loser in the family is enough – yes, meaning Tae-sung himself. “So do something to help your family for once,” she finally hangs up. Tae-sung is seen to hardly fight back his tears and looks like a lost, abandoned boy. This will definitely touch anybody’s heart.

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Later, Jae-in finds him on the deck and starts to break the ice since she realizes he is in a gloomy mood. Tae-sung asks a question about what would a mother answer if her child said he’s sick. It flusters Jae-in a bit, but she manages to answer that a mother would say that she’s hurt ten times more. That puts him in an even more bitter mood, “I guess so. If she’s a real mother, she would say that right?” Jae-in remembers him calling her ‘Sun-young’ earlier and asks who she is. He answers, tremblingly, “She was someone who would say, ‘Are you hurt?'” Jae-in advises him to call her and he blinks tears away, “She won’t answer.”

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She realizes that it’s getting cold and he is freezing, so she intends to go inside to grab a sweater. He grabs her hand to stop her and leans his head on her shoulder. As awkward as it feels, she just stands there.

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She then pulls herself away and apologizes for making him jump to the water. At some point, Tae-sung grabs her and kisses her under the fireworks. The beautiful view is a sharp contrast to the unromantic scene below them.

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Jae-in pulls back and glares before slapping him and leaving. As the fireworks continue to burst in the sky, Tae-sung slowly sinks to the deck out of despair. From now on we can see the other side of Tae-sung, the rebellious child who can be vulnerable too.

Episode #8 – The Heat Under The Rain

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The ‘hot tension’ between Gun-wook and Tae-ra has been clear since the very beginning at their first meeting, even though they don’t converse that much. This scene is not different but we can see their tension gets stronger with the ambiguity of Tae-ra’s answer and the way Gun-wook sees her. It is actually a date between Mo-nae and Gun-wook but Tae-ra joins them and when Mo-nae steps away, they are left alone. After a short conversation, Tae-ra is furious and leaves the place to the traffic, even though it’s raining. Gun-wook manages to chase her down and brings an umbrella. He says that he will wait with her until her car comes. Tae-ra tries to stay away and walks towards the oncoming traffic but Gun-wook pulls her into an embrace under the pouring rain. They are both drenched in cold water, but we sure can feel the heat between them. Tae-ra tells him not get any closer and Gun-wook asks, “Are you scared?” Instead of answering, Tae-ra asks him back, “Are you saying you’ll take it all the way?”, as if she was challenging him. We can see how conflicting it is, knowing that she’s in an unhappy marriage so her feelings towards Gun-wook can be right or wrong. As her car pulls off, Gun-wook stops and says that she shouldn’t stand in the rain.

Episode #11 – When Gun-wook and Jae-in Finally Trust Each Other

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If we have seen Gun-wook being serious, calm, happy, and irritated in the first 10 episodes, now we get to see his despair. He always gets emotional about anything that involves his sister from the same orphanage (also Tae-sung’s ex), Sun-young. However, he always hides his feelings at his best to keep his grand revenge plan ongoing. But he is still a human who has his own limits to being able to hold it all in. Jae-in finds him in front of his door after the police investigation (Gun-wook is under suspicion over Sun-young’s death). He ignores her at first, while she keeps saying that he can trust her and tell her everything. He then pushes her away and says mean things, such as stating that it’s right he killed Sun-young, until she finally leaves. He then drowns himself in an unpleasant memory of moments right before Sun-young’s death. He feels responsible and guilty over it then, suddenly, Jae-in appears at the doorway again.

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Gun-wook tries to avoid her but she is persistent and stands in his way. She then holds him before he finally sobs. It is interesting because we can see that now they can trust and rely on each other.

Episode #14 – Gun-wook Challenging Madam Shin

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Episode after episode, finally the two main enemies have a showdown. For viewers who have been waiting for Madam Shin get scared, this is a good time for you. Gun-wook meets Madam Shin at her office before she asks about his research of his family (that he once mentioned before). Without even trying to hide it, Gun-wook tells her that his parents died regrettably at someone else’s hand. Without having a hunch, she dares to call him “Choi Tae-sung” (Gun-wook’s past name before being taken in to Hong family). Taking the challenge, he calmly answers yes and says that she must have been surprised about him being alive when he’s supposed to be dead after getting kicked out. Madam Shin still plays it cool and tries to play dumb. Moreover, she tries to make Gun-wook leave the company, and especially her daughter Mo-nae, alone. But Gun-wook corrects her, saying that it’s actually Mo-nae that chases after him all the time and that he didn’t enter the company for Mo-nae.

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At this point, Madam Shin starts to lose her cool and Gun-wook calmly says, “Why are you so afraid of me?” This time Madam Shin tries to use her “hierarchy” card by saying that he doesn’t know his place, nor who she is. Instead, Gun-wook keeps challenging her, “You must be really nervous that I’ll finish up your family again.” She flips out, but still has no idea that he means Tae-ra not Mo-nae. Gun-wook uses this chance to keep pushing her, throwing out rhetorical question like wouldn’t it be nice if she had him instead of the real Tae-sung, and so on, until he intentionally calls her, “Mother”.

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Madam Shin is shaking after he says that, but Gun-wook just won’t let her to breathe for a second. He asks again about who lied to his parents that he was Hong Tae-sung, but also surmises that is is none other than Madam Shin herself. That hit a nerve for Madam Shin and she reacts right away by throwing the water from her glass into Gun-wook’s face. He just smiles after getting the answer he needs. He threatens her, saying that he will not be chased out under the pouring rain anymore and that he’s got nothing to lose compared to her, who has everything on the line. He also mentions Mo-nae and how he can just throw that beloved daughter away easily.

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The tension is so strong until Tae-sung comes in without knowing what’s happening in the room. Gun-wook leaves after giving a final glare to Madam Shin.

Episode #14 – Gun-wook and Tae-sung’s Moment

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Aside from their (cute) intense rivalry over Jae-in, Gun-wook and Tae-sung are gradually getting closer to each other, even previously, Tae-sung refuses his mother’s request to fire Gun-wook because he likes him and has no reason to do so. The next morning after their showdown, Madam Shin appears at Gun-wook’s office only to tell him to quit, and even makes a scene where she slaps him right in front of Tae-sung and Jae-in before leaving. Feeling bad for what happened, Tae-sung takes Gun-wook shopping and buys him an ice cream as an apology for his mother. While Gun-wook seems to be enjoying his ice cream, Tae-sung tells him that he’s like a hyung (older brother) to him. Gun-wook doesn’t want to miss out the chance, so he starts talking to him in banmal (informal language) “Hong Tae-sung.. Tae-sung.. Tae-sung-ah..” Tae-sung just laughs it off, saying that just because he said he’s like a hyung doesn’t mean he can cut off the words. Gun-wook keeps teasing him and Tae-sung allows him to until they finish their ice cream.

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He then challenges Gun-wook to play hyung to him. As if he just snaps out of it, Gun-wook turns back to his cold side, saying that he doesn’t want to be anyone’s hyung because we  all come to this world alone and we leave alone. Instead of getting mad, Tae-sung says, “You’re making fun of me, aren’t you?” followed by Gun-wook’s silent nod. Later he gives  advice as a hyung, “Don’t trust anyone.” Well.. it can be meant for him too, right? Anyway, it’s pleasing the two get some screen time alone without any tension so we, viewers, can breathe for awhile.

Episode #16 – Jae-in Straightening Gun-wook’s Shoes

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Gun-wook goes missing for weeks after Madam Shin orders her minions to kill him and turns him to a traffic accident on his way. Later, Jae-in acknowledges that he is dead but she still puts trust on him. She goes to his apartment, which is absolutely empty. She sees Gun-wook’s shoes, which reminds her of the time when Gun-wook came to the rescue and gave his shoes and jacket to her. She then sees their picture together, starts crying, and says, “Gun-wook-ah, where are you?” and goes on saying that she will keep waiting for him so he has to show up. It’s pretty heart-breaking to see her still believing (or at least trying to believe) that Gun-wook is still alive.

Episode #16 – Tae-sung Making Up to His Family

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Tae-sung keeps showing his character development towards the people around him. This time, he comes to see President Hong, who is still recovering from his illness, after acknowledging that he is not the legitimate son (it was actually Gun-wook from the beginning). Once Tae-sung sees President Hong, he approaches and kneels by him and takes his hand. He sincerely asks if he still can call him father and stay by his side a little longer. He says, “I was just starting to be a proper son, I haven’t even done anything for you yet..” President Hong, who is still unable to talk, gives him a soft smile indicating that he allows him to do that. The sweet moment is interrupted by Madam Shin, of course.

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Rather than being hostile, like he always was, to Madam Shin, Tae-sung now understands why Madam Shin has always been cruel to him all this time. Madam Shin tries to stop him from calling her mother but he won’t stop and says that he never left to meet his biological mother because the Hong family never abandoned him, so he wants to repay their kindness someday. He thanks her and says that he should’ve done well from the start. He goes on, saying that he knew no one would love him when he joined the family but he just kept waiting to see if anything could change, “If I knew that no one here could ever love me, it would have been easier.” That words hit strike to heart even Madam Shin can’t hide it, saying, “Your father loved you.”

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Tae-sung smiles and says that of all the words she has said to him, those are the warmest. It’s nice to see him accepting the reality and trying to embrace it in a really good way. Good for you, Tae-sung!

Episode #17 – THE END [SPOILER ALERT!!!!]

With all the conflicts here and there, we sure are curious about how this drama will end its story. If you expect they will end this happily ever after, better be prepared for a plot twist!

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Prior to this episode, it was revealed that Gun-wook was the actual, legitimate child from the beginning but got kicked out due to Madam Shin’s hostility towards the real child who can take everything from her, which is why she then took in the fake Tae-sung and raised him in the family. Long story short, Gun-wook is still alive, safe and sound, after the accident, a.k.a murder attempt (and after fooling everybody into thinking he’s a crazy person), and appears right before Madam Shin is taken to the prison bus (for initiating a murder plan). Madam Shin then reveals the truth to Gun-wook and says that she won because Gun-wook has destroyed the Hongs, his legitimate family. This led him to become frustrated over his grand revenge plan, not knowing that he had planned to destroy his own family.

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He pays a visit to President Hong, feeling guilty, and breaks down while holding his real father’s hand. Even when Tae-ra comes to his apartment or later, when Jae-in visits him, too, none of it can heal his sorrow and regrets at all. He even tries to shoot himself, but doesn’t, thanks to Jae-in who comes right in time before leaving him alone.

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Suddenly Mo-nae, who still holds grudge towards him, appears and takes the dropped gun. She shoots once before Gun-wook tries to calm her down. Mo-nae then leaves him in a rush and it’s revealed that the shot she made actually hit Gun-wook’s right stomach.

There are glimpses of everybody’s current situation. Madam Shin, who can get back to the company and still be respected by her employees while Tae-ra takes over, Tae-sung is traveling ny himself, Mo-nae is enjoying her luxury spa, showing the Hong family’s current situation.

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After that, a body is found in the water and turns out to be Gun-wook! Jae-in, who still has no idea and wanders around the police station, still thinks over the letter that Gun-wook sent to her before. Little does she know that, behind her, there’s a notice paper about the body that resembles Gun-wook and is looking for help for identification. Jae-in says, “Gun-wook, where are you? Is the world you are looking at happy now?” and cut! The end.

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For the detailed recap of the ending and all episodes, you can read it here.

Personal Thoughts About The Drama

This drama provides a unique concept of a grand revenge against a family who has abandoned a child and killed his family to hide the evidence. Gun-wook is, indeed, a smart man who can arrange and calculate everything to meet his revenge plan. However, just like a typical Korean drama, when he develops feelings to a woman, somehow he starts to waver. His mysterious and serious character begins to break as the episodes go on, sometimes his smart move is too calculated, as too many coincidences are too good to be true. As complex as it already is, the drama starts one conflict after another to complicate  matters when it’s totally unnecessary, such as when President Hong suddenly gets sick or when Gun-wook pretends to be someone with mental illness, even acting like one in front of Jae-in, who cries when she meets him. One thing that I really appreciate is how Tae-sung is gradually growing up while facing all the circumstances. There are actually many loop holes and things which remain unexplained until the end. It may be due to their unexpected situation where Kim Nam-gil, who plays Gun-wook, had to enlist. As a result, they decided to cut three episodes and shoot Kim Nam-gil’s scenes as much as possible in the remaining time before his enlistment.

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If you expect to watch something like a Criminal Minds series here, nope, it is not the one. If you want to watch how the main character wins the rich family at the end, nope, still not the one. If you are interested in putting some puzzles together with so many plot twists, this is probably the one you are looking for. Not to mention the actors and actress are good to define their roles from the beginning. Personally, I think this drama could’ve been much better with a better script and stayed focused on the big problem so they didn’t have to put random conflicts in it. Anyway, it’s still worth watching to see the characters’ interesting chemistry.