Review: Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People (A Hong Gil Dong Story)

Unlike many dramas, I actually started watching this drama from the beginning air date and I waited for it weekly.  Yup, it was that good.  About 20 episodes in, the drama was reaching the climax/turning point (or so I thought) so I waited until I could binge watch the rest.  I am actually glad I did.

When I first started watching this drama, it took me a moment to connect it to it’s predecessor Hong Gil Dong- The Hero (2008) because the style of the drama is so different from that version.  What I didn’t realize was that the story of Hong Gil Dong has many iterations, including a musical version.  Who knew?!

Rebel: The Thief Who Stole the People is a 30 episode, historical Korean drama airing from January to May 2017.  Starring Yoon Kyun Sang as Gil Dong, it is a classic underdog/Robin Hood tale with many plot twists and turns along the way.  I have only seen Yoon Kyun Sang in a couple of dramas (OK- 4 of the 6 listed on Viki) but his parts were minor compared to this one where he was the main staple driving force.  His height of 6’1″ (187 cm) helped him to literally stand tall in the face of adversity.

Although this is a longer series, at 30 episodes (plus 1 special), the pacing of the drama was really well done.  Each episode kept you wanting the next, the previews were fairly consistent and the beginning recaps were short (for all you binge watchers).

The storyline centered mainly on the family of our main character, taking on a whole new meaning to the idea of “You can mess with me… but don’t mess with my family.”

So what made this historical drama so good?

The brotherhood- much like Robin Hood’s band of merry men, this cast came together wonderfully and created an unstoppable, often really silly and funny, band of brothers.

The family- in the case of this drama, the “family” unit was a really big one.  With the main focal family being Gil Dong, his older brother Gil Hyun and his younger sister Eorinie.  The father provided the guidance and the mother provided the warmth.  The “family” didn’t stop there as it grew throughout the series. Wonderfully done.

The corruption- unlike many in your face sort of corruption plot lines, this drama brought out a more insidious side to it.  What defines good?  What defines evil?  The lines get blurred and re-drawn.  Add in a crazy king (King Yeonsangun,)  some power hungry villains and yup, the plot is set. This drama has one of the most epic, heart filled, spirit filled battles ever… daebak!

The romance- Love vs. power is the question for these love lines.  The main love line was sweet and tender (don’t expect hot and steamy in a historical drama 😉 although there was a nice bonus kiss that I didn’t expect- won’t tell you where!) but it took a while to develop.  That didn’t really matter though because Gil Dong and his escapades were so fun to watch!

The angst- You know me and angst.  This drama had the PERFECT level.  Tears, check. Smiles- check. Giggles- check.  Anger at the villians- check.  Perfectly balanced.

To top it off, the original sound track (OST) was haunting and placed throughout in really different feeling sorts of ways.  Sometimes songs were sung by characters or groups of characters, other times they were the professionally recorded version.  Sometimes one blended into the other.  With traditional music placed throughout the show, the cultural flair in this drama was awesome and not overt like in some dramas.

Finally, the ending-  You waited for it for a long time and yup it was there.  The payback… seriously sweet payback. Plenty of time to wrap up dangling story lines and get a bit of “after the tale” sort of satisfaction.  This was probably the *weakest* part of an overall powerful drama.  And by weak- I really mean compared to the rest it felt a tad forced.  Maybe the writers didn’t want to wrap it up as much as I didn’t want to see it wrap up!  What’s great is that I really don’t feel the need for a second season or more.  My imagination can fill it all in wonderfully.  Awwww… loved it.


Follow the historical drama trail
For more historical adventures around this same time period in Joseon history, check out these dramas:

King Yeonsangun- Queen for Seven days (Premiering now), The King and the Clown (movie that launched Lee Joon Gi to stardom- not for the faint of heart with sexual and homosexual overtones- but seriously profound.

The Flower in Prison– (Korean, 2017) – A story starting with King Jungjong (reigned after King Yeonsangun) but focusing on the time of King Myungjong.  Just finished this series and really enjoyed it.  A longer review coming later!

The Jewel in the Palace-  (Korean, 2004) – A story starting with King Seonjong and running through King Jungjong.  A classic, must watch for historical drama lovers!


If you watched Rebel: The Thief who Stole the People, I would love to hear your take!

Thanks for stopping by!


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