Gil-dong's big plan for trying get out of prison is just to try and have faith in King Yeonsangun's better nature. This seems logical enough from our perspective, since the scope of King Yeonsangun's involvement in all the bad stuff that's been happening has been murky at best. It's a bit more difficult to justify why Gil-dong thinks this is a good idea, since he has no reason to believe King Yeonsangun has any moral scruples.
Ironically this would have been the perfect opportunity for Gil-dong to be taking advantage of his prior relationships with Gil-hyeon and Nok-soo, both of whom could be plausibly expected to suggest that Gil-dong take such a course of action. But their main contribution is just to save Gil-dong's life at a critical moment with a desperate personal plea. Alas. "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" frequently comes perilously close to tight plotting, but there's always these little holes.
A lot of this is just emblematic of how Gil-dong is a fundamentally archetypal heroic character. Aside from the occasional flash of an oafish personality, Gil-dong really is just a normal guy who happens to lead a team of bandits and happens to have super strength, being forced to rise to the situation as necessary. Maybe I've just dealt with too many stories in my time, but it's hard to get all that excited about Gil-dong's adventures when it's all so strictly by the book.
King Yeonsangun, by contrast, is a completely different archetype as the morally ambiguous leader. And maybe it's just a consequence of modern real-life political foibles, but I find King Yeonsangun's rationalizations to be increasingly fascinating. King Yeonsangun is obsessed with getting people to like him, yet is genuinely completely incapable of understanding that his unpopularity is a direct consequence of bad policies that keep getting innocent people tortured and killed.
The inability of any noble born character to grasp this is just plain bizarre. There's a great scene later on involving a massive plea to King Yeonsangun on the basis of family loyalty. The twisted part is, I think the character in question actually believes there's some sort of moral principle at play here. Time and again King Yeonsangun's sycophants talk of the greater moral good, oblivious to the fact that in the short term, their motive is always to screw other people over and steal their money, and they'd probably do the same to King Yeonsangun if they could. The bad news for them is, King Yeonsangun himself is starting to figure this out.
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 21"
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