Gil-dong is still going through the wringer as “Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People” makes the most of its runtime to show that our noble hero is suffering with little to no apparent hope and sight. What’s worse, the people suffer with him. King Yeonsangun shows off a nasty sadistic streak, not just by bullying Gil-dong in person, but also by showing off to Gil-dong all the people he can’t protect. Which of course includes more gratutitous crying infants.
“Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People” can get pretty amazingly goofy at times- there’s no denying that. About the only thing keeping King Yeonsangun palatable as a character is the twisted consistency of his logic. King Yeonsangun seems to have decided that the reason why people like Gil-dong is because Gil-dong is really strong. Ergo, by beating Gil-dong up in a fight, King Yeonsangun can earn their love as well.
What King Yeonsangun consistently misses is that the reason why people like Gil-dong is because he sticks up for them against bullies, while King Yeonsangun tries to solves his problems via bullying. For that matter King Yeonsangun can’t even tell the difference between problems people care about and problems people don’t care about. Consider how Nok-soo manages to achieve a small “victory” by getting King Yeonsangun to consider women from all backgrounds as potential artistic performers.
It’s a pretty good political allegory for today, where with all the awful problems in the world somehow the main social justice cause ends up being representation in the media rather than the actual bad stuff people have to endure on a daily basis. Nok-soo’s flaws in this context are fairly interesting. We still find her sympathetic, yet she is so completely out of her depth that King Yeonsangun’s reliance on her advice is just another demonstration of the man’s poor sense of overall judgment.
Of course, it needs to be noted that even if a political allegory works for the King Yeonsangun portions of the story it doesn’t function well for Gil-dong’s screentime at all, which is little more than constant misery porn coupled with the usual piecemeal movement toward Gil-dong finally finding out that Eorini is alive. Maybe. Honestly at this point I’m kind of leaning toward neither of the girls actually being Eorini, even if there too, I may be giving writer Hwang Jin-yeong more credit than she deserves.