[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Song of the Bandits" Episodes 8-9

By the end of the seventh episode, the conflict in "Song of the Bandits" had come to a small frontier town. For reasons not entirely clear to me, Gwang-il and his own Japanese military detachment arrives and immediately picks a fight with the local head of the Japanese security forces. This allows Yoon to make an escape. As the eighth episode opens Gwang-il is able to catch up with Yoon outside of town, as have Yoon's own allies, effectively leading to the end of Yoon as an antagonist.

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With Gwang-il gone, the role of antagonist falls to the bandit leader who was tricked into going after money that wasn't on the carriage. The money in general isn't that important for the last couple of episodes. Hee-shin succeeds in taking that money where it was supposed to do, and has about as little to do in these final episodes as she did for the rest of the series, despite marrying one of her two love interests.

Anyway, the bandit leader has been working for the Japanese, and is trying to smoke out rebel forces in Gando- or Yanbian, is what this region is called today. Yoon and the rest of the squad is left to pull one last hustle in an attempt to break free, and it's not much of a spoiler that they're able to succeed. If the first seven episodes of "Song of the Bandits" were an overly long heist movie, the last two episodes are something else altogether.

Calling them a movie in their own right doesn't seem appropriate, since "Song of the Bandits" in its final acts is more akin to a teaser. The bandit leader has gone from a one-off buffoon to a serious villain with his own menacing team of comparable competence to Yoon's. Technically Yoon has never really been in charge of the team. That role has gone to Choong-soo (played by Yoo Jae-myung), in more plot that's necessary to explain what's going on but not that interesting.

"Song of the Bandits" ends on such a weak note it's clear that the production team was hoping for a second season. The numbers for the drama have been lacking enough this seems unlikely- as of this writing "Song of the Bandits" is the third most popular series in South Korea and isn't charting anywhere else. The action in this show is neat enough, but unfortunately the melodrama tends to drag it down.

Written by William Schwartz

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"Song of the Bandits" is directed by Hwang Joon-hyeok, Park Hyeon-seok, written by Han Jeong-hoon, and features Kim Nam-gil, Seohyun, Yoo Jae-myung, Lee Hyun-wook-I, Lee Ho-jung, Kim Do-yoon-I. Broadcasting information in Korea: 2023/09/22, Fri on Netflix.

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