King Yeonsangun starts us off by declaring a war on babies. I...wish I was exaggerating but King Yeonsangun really does jump from typical jerk evil to cartoonish supervillain evil so fast that I barely had time to process what was happening before babies started getting smothered to death. My initial concerns about this being mere egregious scriptwriting are mostly alleviated by mid-episode recitations of what I presume are actual royal orders that are consistently in line with King Yeonsangun's actions in the drama.
And what does Gil-dong do while all of this is happening? Oh, he breaks out of jail. We don't actually get to see him breaking out of jail, and it's not totally clear how his allies managed to get out either. In fact, I was wondering whether Gil-dong's first big appearance was just King Yeonsangun going into a paranoid hallucination. And maybe it was a paranoid hallucination because I mean really, a war on babies? At that point the gloves really need to come off.
It should be noted that while the phrase war on babies probably makes this episode sound rather exciting it's actually overall one of the more boring ones of the drama. Gil-dong still isn't really actually doing anything- his team appears to be caught in this endless cycle of just making more plans. Coupled with the big boulder scene I kind of got the impression that they weren't really taking the whole war on babies thing seriously, so I lost interest pretty rapidly.
King Yeonsangun, by contrast, is extremely proactive when it comes to accomplishing his obviously terribly and stupid goals. But historical justification notwithstanding, I'm still a little shocked that Nok-soo thinks there's any way to negotiate going forward when King Yeonsangun's actions have turned so preposterously outrageous. There is a pretty potent political allegory in there, though. Sure we can get women jobs, but maternity leave? Eh war on babies is easier.
While I want "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" to get back into heroic swashbuckling justice crusade mode, I'm a little worried at this point that this might not be possible anymore. The drama has just...kind of gotten to be a huge downer. The situation really is that hopeless, especially since we know Gil-dong can't win. Well, I guess the real Gil-dong did start his own kingdom, but he was a fictional character. Hm. Yes, the inherently fictional nature of Hong Gil-dong makes him a fairly awkward character to challenge a real-life tyrant.
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 23"
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