I only started my Chuno rewatch and I’m already overwhelmed with feelings and thoughts. This time around I am paying attention to all the stories and guess what? I’m not feeling compelled to fast forward at all! The interesting thing is, the more I like the secondaries, the more sense the main character’s journey makes to me and for some reason it makes me love Daegil (my initial reason for watching and rewatching) even more! I didn’t know this would be possible! I guess Daegil in context, is a better Daegil (to me)
I will try to touch on every character and plot on following posts, but now I wanted to capture and interesting exchange that took place on the comments section of my previous post. Reading the conversation in the comments has turned daunting so I decided to make it a post
The topic more or less is the following: “Is Daegil a likable character”?
First, let me tell you about my favorite Daegil. Since I watched ep1 recently, I found that the first Daegil we meet, the half naked, shmexy devil, the one with the killer swagger and panther gaze…
Call me crazy! But this is not the Daegil that made me fall in love. Sure, he makes me swoon! I mean did you look at him?
But, my favorite Daegil is not that one, not even the one whose eyes light up with hope when he thinks he is close to finding Unnyun (although this one starts melting my cold cold heart!)
HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD
My favorite Daegil is the one that loves deeply, not just a woman, but his friends, his family. The one that cries in the middle of the street, like a wounded animal, or like a lost child, not just for a woman, but for the whole purpose of his life being destroyed, and still lets her go, because he prefers her happiness to his.
My favorite Daegil is the one who cries like this for his love
And his friends…
The man who was almost driven to madness when he thought he lost General Choi and Wangson, and who thought of securing their future before his, the man who cried for Cheon Ji Ho, until his tears dried up. Yup! Call me crazy but all of that makes me love him in spite of his tremendous flaws (and there is also the man who once wanted to change the world for the love of a woman, who lost everything but found a way to survive, who lost his faith but gained it back, etc etc).
My favorite Daegil is the one who smiles like this
But not everyone shares this view. There are other interpretations of Daegil and that is quite fascinating to me. I think only a character so full of layers and so well interpreted can provoke so many different reactions. He almost feels real! So let me share some of the views that were presented in the comments of my previous post and then if you feel compelled to participate in the discussion please answer in the comments below. What do you think or feel about Daegil? Is he likable, is he horrible, does he scare you or do you love him?
It was DDee who prompted various responses with the following question:
“Please tell me Daegil gets redeemed though, right? Coz I dunno how long I can deal with him being…nasty”.
Let’s keep in mind that DDee has not finished watching Chuno yet but I’d say she is advanced enough, so I can venture to guess that while her impression might vary slightly after the end, Chuno has not been the most “pleasant” journey for her. But she is sticking with it like a pro! lol! Thanks DDee
I won’t repeat my answer which basically could be summarized with what I say above but I did remember feeling something similar about Daegil on my first watch, so part of me understands DDee (except I became fascinated by Daegil at some point).
However, here are some very interesting and eloquent answers. They are all different, some opposite, and strangely, I agree with everyone:
Georgia: (Three comments edited into one)
I remember thinking that Dae-gil was an utterly despicable person (and loving the show for making the main character a villain), until he said one little frase that just exploded in my head, I’m not going to spoil.
He descents deep into the darkness and we get to follow every step.
The first time, when I had no idea how it was going to end, I did think he was one horrible person. My heart was bleeding like a slaughtered pig for him while I felt the strongest resentment possible at the same time, because that is the power of this series. It was not the haggling, the roughness and the cursing (these were great character traits, I loved those), it was more the casual killing of random extras that happened to get in his way. And the slave hunting did result in much suffering, at least one of the people that he returned was beaten to death. Besides, the fact that he detests what he’s become is clear at times and because, thanks to Mr Jang Hyuk’s amazing performance, we all feel EXACTLY what he’s feeling in every detail (I have to say, I felt played like a musical instrument) we have to detest him too, there’s no helping it.
Loving the Dae-gil character is by no means an easy task and no dance on roses. Unless they are some kind of really thorny roses. Ep 15 is the hardest for me to watch and there are not enough hugs or chocolate in this world to make me feel better afterwards. Only the rest of the story can do that. The slap was bad enough, but then, when he very slowly leans into Seol-hwa and whispers ”go”, my soul just froze to burning ice and my mind shrank away in horror. I couldn’t bear to witness that. He was not human at that moment. He consciously decided to shed his humanity and step into the netherworld, because that was the only way to avenge his brothers I guess, and we get to freaking go through that too!
I feel like spoiled meat now, just from typing this.
You know? I could never understand how some viewers saw Dae-Gil as “utterly despicable” (some called him a monster). Sure, he was foul-mouthed, hard, and haggled over the money due him for returning slaves. But! His actions (and his EYES) consistently belied what came out of his mouth. Especially after what he does with the mother/daughter slaves early in the series. I remember my surprise at that scene and joy for what it meant for his character. And, yes, his descents into darkness were heartbreaking. As equally heartbreaking as his redemption. The production team, writers, everybody are to be cherished always for making it so compelling to watch.
Gumi (in direct response to DDee’s comment about Daegil vow of revenge)
Daegil never showed intention to hurt Unnyun, and it was pretty obvious even from Ep1 that Daegil never ever intended to take a revenge on Unnyun. It was pretty obvious for me from Ep 1 but some people did think he wanted revenge, but by ep 10 it was pretty clear that revenge was absolutely not his emotional motive. **SPOILER** In Ep 10, the first word he says after finding out Unnyun is married to Song Taeha (well she’s not but he’s told that) is ‘You foolish girl, why Song Taeha? Out of all the people you could choose, why a runaway slave…?’ After learning that a girl he chased for ten years is alive and happily (well at least that’s what he’s told) married to another guy, the first response he shows is not anger, it’s concern. He is not mad that she is married to another guy, he is concerned that she is married to a runaway slave. He is not even mad at it being Song Taeha his nemesis. At that point his immediate concern is him being a runaway slave, cuz that means Unnyun’s life will be harder. ‘You ran away from being a slave, then u should at least live peacefully as a yangban, why do you marry a runaway slave and make your life dangerous…?’ That’s what his teary eyes are quietly asking, that’s his first emotional response and most honest to his own heart, before he starts yelling in pain and anger. It was clear at that point that in Daegil’s mind, really Unnyun’s happiness is on the top priority. There was a debate online during Chuno broadcast on whether Daegil’s emotion toward Unnyun is love or hatred or love&hatred, and after that episode pretty much everyone agreed that it was love, or maybe love and hatred but hatred<<<<<<<<<<<LOVE.
Zhaoul I agree Daegil’s intention was never revenge. This is one of the big reason’s I love Daegil so much; he is as selfless as humanly possible. He’s not only selfless when it comes to Unnyun, but also with his friends. No matter what Daegil says out loud, he cannot hide the true, pure intentions of his heart. He’s in inner turmoil, but he puts his love before him and cares more about her well being and safety than his own. **Spoiler** This also becomes crystal clear when his “bros” find out he paid for their land in full and that only some money was left owed on his own property. Omg Daegil…. I dunno if I’ll survive your re-watch DF, I’m ready to cry already.
I never disliked Daegil nor thought of him as bad/inhuman, as imperfect as he was. Part of it is the storytelling, coz we get access into Daegil’s context. We see where he came from, why he might’ve become so hardened on the outside. Another big part of it is Jang Hyuk’s delivery. I agree with several other comments that his eyes belied his true feelings where his words and actions were harsh. With the benefit of hindsight, his good intentions and care for his friends became clear, if they hadn’t been clear before.
One thing was clear to me though (aside from his hotness, ha), and that is, up till the point he actually found Unnyun & realized she was marrying someone else, there was hope in his eyes. Despite the words that he might have spoken, about revenge etc, he was a man fueled by hope. It was when that hope was snuffed out that Daegil had to wrestle with himself, to find a reason to keep on living and moving forward. He eventually found it, and that’s all I’m gonna say about that, to remain as spoiler-free as possible.
Another point that I feel is worth taking into consideration, is that we live in very different times than Daegil. Which means that we can’t quite judge him based on our modern yardstick. Someone commented that Daegil’s killing of people made him inhuman. While I wouldn’t say I condone killing people, I can’t say it makes him inhuman. Daegil was a man who fought on the streets to make a living, in a manner of speaking, and that was his environment. In that context, people get hurt/killed along the way. It’s a sageuk norm, if I think about it. Given this context, I find it more telling, that Daegil goes out of his way to empower on the sly, slaves that have been returned to their masters. And it’s clear that he did that on multiple occasions too, since Mt Worak was full of ex-slaves whom he’d sent there.
In the end, Chuno is much more than a story of just one man. There are bigger issues that get the spotlight. But as far as Daegil goes, he is portrayed as one uniquely positioned (an educated slave hunter), imperfect man, who has to wrestle hard – with himself, with his ideals, with the norms & limitations of the world around him – in order to arrive at a place of peace, where his actions could finally be aligned with his beliefs.