Have you ever found yourself sympathizing with a character that you know is absolutely dreadful and you probably shouldn’t be feeling sorry for, but you just kinda sorta can’t help it? Then don’t worry because you’re not alone! These Chinese and Taiwanese drama antagonists are not an easy bunch, mass murder being one of the many deeds a few of them can admit to. Still, viewers admit to sympathizing with (and even loving) them. Check out our list below to see if these antagonistic villains are just too far gone to feel for or if they have enough redeeming qualities to gain them some compassion.
Warning! Spoilers are rife throughout, so proceed at your own risk.
An Ning in “Only Side By Side With You”
I know, I know – she’s pretty despicable, but hear me out. In the 2018 hit drama “Only Side By Side With You,” the ever-graceful Qin Hai Lu plays the main antagonist An Ning with chilling composure. If there is ever a woman you don’t want to cross, it’s An Ning. Which is why she makes life just a smidge difficult (okay, maybe more) for Shi Yue (William Chan) when he doesn’t play by her rules.
But underneath the power-hungry, cold exterior is a woman who deeply loves Shi Yue. It may be a selfish and toxic love, but it is sincere. Of course the argument could be made that she doesn’t really love him, because if you love someone you’ll do what’s best for them, and all she wants is for him to be hers when he clearly doesn’t want to be. But the counterargument can also be made that she is loving him to the best of her ability. Considering the completely dysfunctional and abusive relationship she is in with her husband, the viewer is shown why this twisted and misguided love might be all she can offer Shi Yue.
Qin Hai Lu proves her talent with this very layered, very complicated character, and this role of hers is a must-see for anyone on the search for an atypical antagonist. As stated above, her marriage is based on abuse and mistrust, so naturally when she meets the honorable and handsome young Shi Yue, An Ning views him as an oasis in her otherwise dismal and joyless existence. It’s honestly sad to see her cling so desperately to this idealized version of her and Shi Yue’s relationship, but she won’t give it up and will go to any length to get her way. She manipulates and plays mind games with the ease of one who has been taught that if you are not using others, then you will in turn be used.
Gong Zi in “Bloody Romance”
Considering how deadly and terrifying this guy is, some viewers were shocked at how much they felt for him. The 2018 drama “Bloody Romance” features a young cast that impressed viewers worldwide and antagonist Gong Zi (Wang Duo) is no exception. Wang Duo pulls off the complicated character with talent beyond his years, especially considering that he’s a relative newcomer to the screen.
Gong Zi is twisted, dark, and completely unafraid to hurt others – which is perhaps in part due to the hurt he received growing up. Gong Zi’s mother and father take the cake for nasty parents in this list, as his mother purposefully blinded him and his father plotted his death on more than one occasion. We all know tragic childhoods don’t excuse insane torturing and murder sprees, but due to clever writing and Wang Duo’s natural talent, Gong Zi is presented with enough redeeming qualities to be seen not only as a devilish monster, but as one to be pitied as well.
Foremost among his redeeming qualities is his care (as twisted as it may be) for Wan Mei (Li Yi Tong). Even though a romance does not evolve (Wan Mei’s way too smart for that), he does have some tender moments with her that attest to a more vulnerable side to Gong Zi. As a viewer, I couldn’t help but feel drawn to him. Maybe it’s the deep eyes that obviously hold so much hurt, or the hope of decency in the moments when he does show some tenderness. Or maybe it’s the way his horrible background isn’t served up as an excuse for his actions, but rather as one of the reasons he is the way he is.
It could also be because of how easy it is to be taken in by the piercing gaze of the handsome young actor. Whatever the reason, I eagerly await Wang Duo’s next piece of work. And if you haven’t seen him in this, I urge you to check it out.
K and Monkey in “Age Of Rebellion”
This duo of ruthless high school bullies in the 2018 drama “Age Of Rebellion” are not your typical bad boys. They might make life tougher for the drama’s protagonists, but these two pull serious viewer heartstrings as they grow from childish boys to mature men right before our eyes.
K, played by Wu Nien Hsuan, rules the school with an iron fist and doesn’t hesitate to beat and humiliate anyone who glances at him the wrong way. However, when Nini (Yao Shiny) transfers to their school, he slowly begins to transform and their relationship is easily the most endearing of the entire drama. The character development seen in K is brilliant to watch as he begins using the traits he has always used for bullying – toughness, anger, and leadership – for good in order to protect the girl who has captured his heart. Viewers watch K go through internal turmoil (and a physical altercation here and there) as he genuinely does his best to become someone Nini can rely on and feel proud to be with.
K’s energetic lackey, Monkey (Wayne Song), is always right by his side ready to get in on the action. Underneath all of the violence, Monkey is a deep thinker who desperately seeks K’s friendship and acceptance. One of the first moments Monkey becomes a character who beckons sympathy is when he is wrongly accused of a serious crime and realizes he has absolutely no one to stand by him, even K. It’s ultimately his own fault; he has never shown anything but explosive anger to those surrounding him. But those who have felt that feeling before – the feeling that you’re alone in the world, even if it’s just for one fleeting moment – will find this scene to be a powerful one, and definitely one that exposes a humanized and vulnerable Monkey. As a viewer, I couldn’t help but empathize with the kid.
None of the bullying either of these boys do is excused by their circumstances. But the fact that they live with very little adult supervision (and most of the adults that are in their lives are not healthy influences) says something. And although K and Monkey initially seem like typical one-dimensional drama bullies, the young talent and writers take these characters a step further to show that everyone has a story and not everything in life is as it first seems.
Jia Li in “All About Secrets”
Thus far, the characters on this list have been ones I’ve guiltily kind of liked. However, such is not the case with our next antagonist, Jia Li (Ariel Liang) of the 2017 drama, “All About Secrets.” Not only was her character one I didn’t look forward to, she was also slightly irritating to watch. So why write about a character you don’t necessarily enjoy? Well, it’s because that’s just how sad of a character she is – you just can’t help but feel for her.
Jia Li is the worst kind of antagonist – the kind that was once a friend to the protagonist. She doesn’t exact complicated revenge plans on others, but she back-stabs without blinking an eye. Best friends with Yu Chi Zi (Landy Li) in the beginning, Jia Li uses what she learns from Chi Zi about school hottie Duan Bo Wen (Chen Zhe Yuan) to her advantage. Aware that Chi Zi likes Duan Bo Wen, she leads her friend to believe she’s not interested and – when the opportunity arrives – goes in for the kill. Her shameless flirting and pursuit doesn’t come across as proactive, but as underhanded and devious.
The reason she is still considered to be an antagonist worthy of sympathy is because of her home life. Her father ignores her when he’s not hitting her, and the activities she participates in after school lets out are dismal at best – namely donning heavy makeup, a wig, and entertaining older men as she drinks the night away. It’s honestly just plain sad to see a teenage girl coping with her life in such a toxic manner – no matter how unpleasant she is. She’s definitely not my favorite character, but the entire drama is a thoroughly enjoyable watch, especially if you like slice-of-life high school dramas with minimal romance!
Zhang Xian Zong in “Wu Xin: The Monster Killer”
Only Zhang Ruo Yun could play this complex role so perfectly! Zhang Xian Zong is the power-hungry right hand man of the main villain in the 2015 drama, “Wu Xin: The Monster Killer.” He is a high-ranking army officer who has no problem harming others on demand, especially if the deadly Yue Qi Luo (Chen Yao) tells him to. To fuel his own revenge, he teams up with her as they each strive for their own blood-driven goals.
For starters, the unforeseen feelings he develops for her had viewers reeling. Their relationship is not the healthiest – it’s not even a relationship in the usual sense of the word. She uses him, and he serves her with his own ill intentions in mind. They both see the other as a means to an end. However, as Xian Zong’s ever-developing feelings for Qi Luo grow, he begins relinquishing what has been utmost on his mind for so long: the need for revenge. His genuine care and affection for her, along with his willingness to give up on his own desires to help her achieve her goals, cannot help but be noted. Is it his fault that her goals essentially involve killing off everyone who gets in her way?
All joking aside, as displaced as his loyalties and love are, Xian Zong caught viewers’ attention in a big way. He takes the typical, one-dimensional sidekick and raises you a complicated character with both dangerous and sweet (in his own way) instincts. It’s difficult to put into words the brilliance of Zhang Ruo Yun’s performance; it might just have to be something you witness for yourself.
Hey lovely Dramacool, which terrible antagonist do you secretly feel for? Be sure to let me know in the comments below!