King Yeonsangun, now firmly convinced as to the existence of anti-royalist conspiracy, is now summoning political enemies. Of course the joke's on him- King Yeonsangun's real political enemies are the ones using bizarre gossip to detract attention from their own power plays. If it's any comfort I'm skeptical any of these people are going to survive the drama's entire runtime. Given King Yeonsangun's reputation as a general crazy person it seems rather inevitable that his paranoia will spin completely out of control.
Not that any of this matters right now. Here Won-goon (played by Kim Jung-tae) is made to play sucker to Gil-dong's elaborate revenge scheme, which finally climaxes with Gil-dong's na´veáidiot act being used in such a way to maximize plausible deniability while still getting what he wants. Gil-dong's plan is a more elegant version of Amogae's previous machinations, since chaotic political situation notwithstanding, immediate blowback is rather unlikely.
...Which does, as usual, present a bit of a problem in variety. At this point King Yeonsangun's royal conspiracy, and even Nok-soo's attempts to ingratiate herself to King Yeongsangun as a classical artist, are actually a lot more interesting than the main Gil-dong plot because, well, we've already seen all this other stuff before. And much like Amogae's gambit in the opening episodes, the prospects of long-term consequences directly stemming from this act of revenge are murky at best.
It doesn't help that Won-goon is a rather empty villain. The actions of his which led to Gil-dong seeking revenge in the first place were very indirect, and seeing him get his comeuppance in this way is not as satisfying as it should be. "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" and "Saimdang: Light's Diary" would both be greatly improved were their villains to swap tones. It would just plain make more logical sense if the guy who was super strong was getting into street fights and the epic poet was the one outsmarting people.
That's not a fair comparison in all honesty. "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" is consistently clever and well storyboarded, but it always suffers in comparison to the lofty aspirations so clearly held by the early episodes. Even the title character feels somewhat wasted. Gil-dong could just be any old everyman living in the age of Joseon and his actions would carry just as much dramatic urgency. Even now Amogae is the one with the most spiritual influence on the plot.
Review by William Schwartz
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Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 13"
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