For a brief moment Ga-ryeong shows herself to be smarter than she looks when it comes to questions of imminent personal danger. Alas, right when Ga-ryeong is starting to seem important and interesting "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" decides not to give her any screen time, instead focusing on various points of back story that we know which the actual characters are as of yet still mostly ignorant. Also Gil-dong appears to be trying to gaslight King Yeonsangun.
This is what I mean about "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" getting into increasingly murky ethical territory. Even granting that Gil-dong has the more sympathetic character backstory overall, very little of what we've seen from King Yeonsangun indicates that the guy is all that terrible a monster. Really, if he weren't surrounded by people who keep trying to egg on his more paranoid mental tendencies, King Yeonsangun might actually have a shot at being a halfway decent king.
At this point Gil-hyeon's strategy of trying to work within the system seems like the better avenue by which to affect real change. It's all too unfortunate that he inevitably brushes up against a painful bit of backstory that will probably ultimately be used to push Gil-hyeon toward more anarchist tendencies, even if the coincidence in question is a tad too inconvenient. Not to mention irrelevant. The Korean royal line itself is evidence of how sons aren't necessarily their fathers.
I think that's why the larger plot arc in "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" of Gil-dong becoming his father in spirit falls rather flat for me. Given that, once again, we know this is all going to somehow end up with Gil-dong fighting a literal army, a lot of the foreshadowing we see for that storyline event looks fairly preventable. Time and again that first scene succeeds in making me like "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" less, to the point I kind of wish I hadn't seen the first episode at all.
Once again it's not that "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" is all that bad. The plotting is very meticulous, even if the timelines are kind of hazy, and writer Hwang Jin-yeong is making a very clear effort to insure that all the various events connect to each other thematically, if not always logically. Compared to "Saimdang: Light's Diary" that kind of writing is a breath of fresh air. But other issues with pacing and direction still work to make "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" a very imperfect product.
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 email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 17"
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