Increasingly I find myself thinking that the most logical interpretation of Gil-dong's character in "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" is that he's just a figment of King Yeonsangun's imagination, blown completely out of proportion. It's hard to think of any other reason why Gil-dong inexplicably leaves King Yeonsangun unharmed instead of just killing the guy outright. A figment of imagination, that I can understand going into long-winded speeches. But a guy who's actually going to war against the state?
The rather limited scope of Gil-dong's war doesn't help matters. While we've seen plenty of preparation and exposition it's not totally clear what Gil-dong and his team are actually trying to do long term. They just seem to be attacking King Yeonsangun's bad policies on a piecemeal basis. The way with which King Yeonsangun is specifically singled out as the main bad guy is also confusing, considering how for most of "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" corrupt nobles have been the real problem.
Which brings me back to that speech, where Gil-dong is referencing Amogae as if this is a person King Yeonsangun should be familiar with. At the time when all that bad stuff was going on, from King Yeonsangun's perspective, Amogae was just another random bad dude whose punishment needed to be rubber stamped. King Yeonsangun's personal involvement in Amogae's case was pretty limited, so why is Gil-dong taking all of this so personally?
Now, as to why King Yeonsangun takes all this personally, that's a much easier question to answer. All the constant whispering among close subordinates about how great King Yeongsangun is have ruined what little objective decision making ability the man ever had. Again, this is why I've been finding more appeal with the whole "Gil-dong is just a figment of King Yeonsangun's imagination" theory, because in that case, King Yeonsangun's paranoia about Gil-dong being Nok-soo's ex-boyfriend is less about him being smart and more about his being crazy.
Obviously that theory can't be true, since we've seen ample evidence that Gil-dong exists outside of King Yeonsangun's imagination. It's just, I'm finding so much of "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" to be dull right now I'm desperate for any sort of alternate interpretation to help spice things up. The drama keeps obsessing over Eorini's position in greater palace politics, once more stalling any sort of dynamic action. It's another one of those careful what you wish for situations. Hard to believe I used to be annoyed that we weren't hearing enough about Eorini.
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 25"
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