Well first of all I’ve just about completely given up trying to figure what we’re supposed to be calling Nok-soo / Royal Consort Gong-hwa at any given moment, since apparently we weren’t supposed to be calling her Nok-soo either. I’m trying to remember if anyone has ever actually called her by her original name or if it’s always been generic terms of address. See, this is why I lean on promotional materials more than I probably should. Even official news articles are more likely to just refer to the character as Lee Honey.
I bring this up because I’ve decided the only real problem with “Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People” is the promotional materials, and especially that misleading first scene which was covered head to toe in spoilers. Gil-dong’s story is interesting to watch, not because of where it’s going, but because of the genuine ambiguity about how the character development is going to happen and in which direction.
Consider how, even as he tiptoes into a more decisive role, it’s still unclear how far Gil-dong can really go because of Amogae’s ominous position in the shadows. At times it’s hard to tell whether Amogae is dishing out wise meaningful advice or if everything is just a rationalization for the man’s shiftless and depressed demeanor. Gil-dong only seems able to maintain sanity because he’s really into the current task of acting like an idiot.
Meanwhile, King Yeonsangun still isn’t really showing any clear moves toward villainy. This is due to the fact that corrupt ministers are trying to corrupt King Yeonsangun’s spirit with beautiful art and yeesh, isn’t that a depressing thought? All this classical art appreciation would go down a lot more smoothly if we could entertain the idea it was going somewhere. Although admittedly, I’m personally more depressed that so far “Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People” has somehow managed to contain more informative discussions about classical art than “Saimdang: Light’s Diary“.
One part of my analysis remains unchanged- the pacing in “Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People” is freakishly slow, more befitting a thirty episode drama than a fifty episode one. But the drama overall works much better as a careful character study than it does the action series it was so blatantly marketed as. It’s the little questions that are interesting here- is Gil-dong ignoring Ga-ryeong because he’s too dumb to notice her feelings, or because he’s too mentally beaten down to notice that kind of thing right now?