I was trying, really hard, to hold off writing about this drama until it finished airing, just in case it ended up being absolutely awful at the end. Obviously that didn’t work, seeing as how I’m sitting here, ready to gush profusely over this month’s (highly) recommended drama: Rebel, Thief Who Stole the People (역적: 백성을 훔친 도적).
I don’t think I’ve ever recommended a historical drama, as a “Drama of the Month.” (Probably because every time I watch one I end up having my heart-broken and I just don’t want to be responsible for someone else’s pain.) But this month, I just couldn’t help myself. I fell in love with MCB’s 30-episode take on the story of Hong Gil Dong the very moment I started watching and with every passing episode, that love grows deeper and stronger and OH MY GOSH! I’M HOPELESS!
For those of you who may not know the story of Hong Gil Dong, the best Western comparison I can make is to say it’s similar to the English story of Robin Hood. Hong Gil Dong is a hero of the people, rising up against a corrupt government, to stand up for those unable to stand up for themselves. But Hong Gil Dong as a work of literature is so much more than just a story. Scholars have declared it to be the single more important piece of classic Korean prose ever written and for good reason. It’s the story everyone knows. Gil Dong is the hero everyone loves. There really isn’t a person in Korea who doesn’t know about Hong Gil Dong. His story has been adapted into everything from comics to films, video games and, of course, dramas.
With so many adaptations of the Hong Gil Dong out there, you may wonder why you’d need to give this particular one a try. The fangirl in me wants to tell you to watch it simply because Yoon Kyun Sang (윤균상) makes my heart melt but there’s so much more to love about this drama than one giant teddy bear of a hero. The entire cast of this drama is incredible. Each one has stepped up to their role in such a fantastic way, it’s impossible not to be drawn in by them. Kim Sang Joon (김상중) broke my heart as Gil Dong’s father, Amogae. Chae Soo Bin (채수빈) is the most adorable peanut and I love her to pieces. Every one of the members of Gil Dong’s band of brothers brings his own personality and special skills to the group and together they’re the most perfect band of outlaws you could ever imagine.
As wonderful as this story’s heroes are, the villains are equally awful. The king, Lee Yoong (Kim Ji Suk, 김지석), is the absolute worst of the worst. As the story progresses, his vileness begins to manifest itself in some of the most horrendous ways possible, making Gil Dong’s work as the people’s champion more important than ever. Alongside the king are a handful of evil, wretched, awful people who make you want to punch them in the face, every time they’re on-screen. Prince Lee Jung (Kim Jung Tae, 김정태) ranks high on my list of people in this drama I hate but I think it’s the ancient scholar, Song Do Hwan (Ahn Nae Sang, 안내상) who wins the award for worst sidekick ever. His twisted, black heart and lust for power make him a despicable person and watching his influence over the king is nothing short of infuriating. He really is the worst of the worst and all I can say is I really hope he gets what’s coming to him before this drama ends.
Clearly this drama has stirred a lot of very strong emotions in me but that’s a good thing. Anytime a drama can make you feel a wide and intense range of emotions, you know it’s good. I love a drama that can make me laugh and cry and scream and swoon, all at the same time and this one does it so well, I’ve barely been able to watch anything else. The intensity of this drama has me so hooked, I’m not really sure what I’m going to do once it ends.
I suppose I should point out that this drama is intense on more than one level. The emotional intensity is one thing but the intensity of the violence is another. As one would expect from a drama centered around a revolutionary, there’s quite a lot of blood that flows as the story unfolds. While I wouldn’t call this a graphic drama, there’s still enough violence depicted in this story to make the squeamish feel a bit uncomfortable. There’s also enough tragedy to make me wonder if anyone living in the Joseon era ever lived a happy life. But that’s another question for another time.
If you’re looking for a drama with a storyline that draws you in, a whole slew of well-developed characters and a hero who melts your heart, you can’t go wrong with this one. Gil Dong is the hero of heroes, his story is legend and this drama does a fantastic job of retelling his tale. With several weeks worth of episodes to go before the end, I suppose there’s still a chance this one will disappoint me but somehow, I don’t think I’m going to have to worry. Everything up to this point has been done so well, even if things don’t go the way I want them to story-wise, I think I’ll be okay. But what about you? Have you been keeping up with Rebel: The Thief Who Stole the People (역적: 백성을 훔친 도적)? If you have, I’d love to know what you think so be sure to let me know in the comments below!