After 19 episodes, i finally get why this drama is titled Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People. Nineteen.
Well, maybe i was too dense to figure it out sooner, ’cause while i got the “rebel” part, i’ve wondered about the “thief” part until the drama’s middle third. Even then, the true meaning of “thief who stole the people” eventually dawned on me on the said episode.
Ahmogae has been quite a rebel since the beginning, and although the business he ran with his little bandit compatriots wasn’t entirely lawful, they weren’t stealing anything. Aforementioned, following his downfall and Gil-dong’s rise to leadership, the focus is then on retaliation that the tagline is lost on me as long as it was. The road until that ‘lifestyle’ is long and winding, which is also what puts him at odds with the king.
I initially thought the animosity would stem from them going after Choongwon-gun (Kim Jung-tae), the king’s uncle who pinned Ahmogae for murdering his slave, especially since they’re trying to bring him down based on a false accusation. While i don’t entirely agree with this approach (i mean, i can’t believe they couldn’t find anything else to criminalize a scum like him — or to make him fall out of the king’s favor, as per their mission), the end result is as gratifying as it can get, so… yay?
As much as i hate the way things/law work in that era, if it could rid of one nemesis, i guess that’s a good thing? Problem is, Choongwon-gun isn’t defeated that easily. He’s quick to plot a counter-revenge with the help of Madam Jo. Sigh. I guess the gang’s biggest enemy is this lady. As long as she’s still around, our dark heroes cannot live in peace. One of her life goals is to see the end of Ahmogae’s family, and she is unstoppable. That’s why an eye for an eye is rarely a good punishment. It’ll only incite more hatred and create an endless revenge cycle.
And despite the successful mission, Ahmogae’s name isn’t necessarily cleared. However, that arguably gives him the justice he deserves, restores his social standing, enables him to return to his ‘hometown’, and eventually allows him to leave in peace. I’m deeply saddened to bid him goodbye. I definitely would love to watch more of him, but i also thought his character has overrun its course. While delighted by his survival, i was left wanting when he stopped contributing to the plot besides being the symbol and a shadow leader to Gil-dong. He hardly interferes with second-son’s plans and decisions and gives only some advice along the way, like this:
“Do not think too much about it. We live because we were born, fight when we must fight, and die when it is our time.”
They’re insightful and all, though i wonder if that’s enough to prep Gil-dong for leadership, given his conflicting modus operandi to Ahmogae’s and the members’ reluctance to follow suit. It probably is to differentiate the two characters, that although influenced by his father’s ideals and legacy, Gil-dong is not Ahmogae. Which i don’t mind, though admittedly there are times when i wonder if i even like him as a person, or rather the kind of person he becomes after taking the helm. He’s just hard to read that it’s difficult to tell if he knows what he’s doing. He isn’t as shrewd as Ahmogae and at times i’m unsure if he has a concrete action plan for anything. Ahmogae is good at reading people and choosing his allies and whether or not Gil-dong possesses similar skills remains unknown. His collaboration with Heo Tae-hak went south and i’ve had a bad feeling about him sparing Mori (Kim Jung-hyun) “just because”. I know i shouldn’t compare the two, but it’s hard not to when there have been a lot of mirroring between the father and son, from the little things like gestures and parallel scenes to the copied tone and pet phrases.
Gil-dong might never get out of Ahmogae’s shadow, which could be the reason why the latter’s arc is closed. ‘Cause honestly, i didn’t understand why he needed to go at this point, though i definitely saw it coming the moment i saw how much he’s aged during his lying-low period compared to the 12 years he’s risen to be the Ikhwari leader, when the rest of the gang stayed pretty much the same, even Soboori (Park Jun-gyu) whom i thought is around his age. Nevertheless, Ahmogae is definitely one heck of a character. He managed to get his family out of slavery, leverage his kin’s socioeconomic status, and literally make a name for himself — a surname they all deprived of.
Ga-ryung naturally refuses to affix “Hong” before her name (as that would make Gil-dong her ‘real’ orabeoni. Heh). The father smiles knowingly while the son throws a quizzical look. *facepalm* I said romance wasn’t the show’s biggest draw, but i do want some progress and development in this area between the leads, no matter how slow. It’s unclear if Gil-dong still has lingering feelings for Nok-su because he never searches for her after she ‘left’ him, or regards Ga-ryung only as a younger sister because in more than one occasion, he sees Eorini in her.
BUT! We’ve seen slight traces of jealousy (such as the time he almost whacked Eop-san’s (Lee Myung-hoon) head with a pot for flicking her head, or when he was being judgmental about her suitor. Hee). That she’s having it bad for him is so obvious and everybody but him notices it is just bizarre to me. Is he playing dumb or truly that dense? The former is more likely given how he nearly lets it slip one night. But then nothing else seems to happen between them following that for the next four years and i was…frustrated.
Ga-ryung perhaps feels the same way cuz she finally resorts to age-old trick to make him act on his feelings for her: provoking him by bringing another man into the picture. And girl must’ve waited too long as she goes from confessing to requesting that they sleep together while holding hands to popping the question within like two days. Haha.
Nevertheless, i don’t think i’m fully satisfied with this loveline. I was surely glad the relationship eventually went somewhere, i just wish it could be more organic. Because it feels really one-sided thus far. I mean, even after spending an awkward, tense, cramped — not to mention adorable — night together, Gil-dong doesn’t pay more attention to Ga-ryung. He’ll completely ignore her when some issues surrounding the business or his people crop up, which is understandable yet cruel to her nonetheless. She seems his least priority that i’m not entirely convinced he keeps her by his side because he loves her so much. For instance, i wonder if he’d rather marry her then have her wait for him for who knows how long while he’s on the road to locate Eorini because he truly can’t afford to lose her or simply because she asks for his hand? While it’s refreshing to have her lead the relationship, i can’t help expecting to see more (initiative) from his end.
On a different note: their first night(s). I found it cute that Gil-dong was (the one) getting all flustered and hiccup-y at the idea and would totally lap it up… if only it was actually his first. Unfortunately, we cannot pretend he didn’t spend the night with Nok-su back then, can we?
So… Gil-dong and Co. embark on a nationwide journey in search of Eorini upon learning that she’s still alive. The phase which eventually matches the drama’s title, as they unwittingly deliver street justice to those who might know about her whereabouts, who also happen to be entitled jerks who evaded the law, under the pseudonym of “Hong Chum-ji”. (My favorite part about this underground hero movement is the cosplay they do, lol) The story of certain thief who steals the riches quickly spreads throughout the country, which the king barely cares for until the elusive thief ends up stealing something else: his people — his people’s hearts.
Bad news is, the king isn’t the first person who wants a piece of Gil-dong (there are already Madam Jo and her son, Choongwon-gun, Mori, and Ahn Nae-sang’s character, Scholar Song, on the list) though he’s probably the last person he wants to anger. Gil-dong may be unaware of the king’s autocratic reign and tyrannical tendencies to maintain that, and the two may actually have the same thing in common: both deem people are the same. The fundamental difference is that our Mighty Child thinks everybody is equal while the king believes everybody else is below him. And now that they’re face to face for the second time, i simply hope Gil-dong has a good plan under his sleeve. Also, what are the chances of the king not recognizing his as the “Footstool” who testified
against for Choongwon-gun?
Again, a lot has happened in the span of five weeks although i continue to feel the plot moves too slowly or meanders too long at times. (I’m watching every episode at 1.1x speed, for the record) Some of them feel choppy and not fully developed, but what bugs me the most in this middle third is the mystery surrounding slightly grown-up Eorini. Show hid her for weeks then teased her comeback, looking all happy and healthy, and put her on a back burner again until another time jump, after which we got a different actress playing her. Thing is, now we have two girls and we don’t even know which one is her. Honestly, i don’t see a need for actress change or the resulting guessing game because it’s ‘only’ a four-year period and the current one(s) doesn’t look that much older than the previous one, if only for a twist.
Based on the before-after sequence, Jung Da-bin (the right girl in the three-shot picture above) is Eorini although Lee Soo-min (left) is closer to Jung Soo-in (middle) in terms of looks. Whichever she is, i just want Show to reveal it to us already. Or address the more important question: is she amnesiac? Otherwise, the girls’ non-reaction upon seeing Gil-dong is weird.
Or… maybe it is weirder that Gil-hyun and Eorini never spot each other when they’re both residing inside the palace? Okay, he may be working as undercover officer, but it’s still odd that he chances upon Gil-dong first. That’s not to say i’m not happy the brothers are finally reunited. Next, can we have the complete Hong family reunion without losing any other member?
The more burning question is, however, regarding Mori being a Mighty Child. He’s been quite a formidable and capable fellow, yet the reveal was still shocking mainly because i didn’t anticipate the possibility of having more than one Mighty Child in the drama, at least not in the same generation. Also because of the weight and consequence that come with the gift. A shaman has warned Ahmogae and Gil-dong himself that misusing the ‘superpower’ will lead to the latter’s death. If Gil-dong risks dying (young, i suppose) by living in the grey zone, why is Mori still fine and healthy (and able to regain his power) when he’s stayed on the dark side for as long as we’ve seen him?