The Fangirl’s Review- Rebel: Hong Gil Dong


Sadly, the sageuk drama Rebel: Hong Gil Dong has aired its final episode.  Which means it is now time to let our readers know if we loved it, hated it, or wished that we could watch these characters for another four months?  So join Kmuse, Drama Geek, & Kdrama Jen, as we chat all things Hong Gil Dong!

WARNING: There will be spoilers in this post.  You have been warned!


Initial Thoughts:

KMUSE: This drama is just shy of perfection.  As my readers know, the #1 thing I need above all else in a drama is good writing.  Without a great script, I don’t care how sexy the leads are, I will drop it faster than you can say khottie.  Thankfully, you don’t get better writing and character development than what was present in Rebel: Hong Gil Dong.  I truly enjoyed every single character’s story arc (and I do mean every single character down to 3rd lead & side characters) and could not have dreamed of a more satisfying story.

Kdrama Jen: I loved this drama!  There was an intricate, yet supported storyline.  It felt like there was a clear plan and purpose for every character.  They were all flawed, but almost every one had something about them I could understand and appreciate.  The superb acting helped bring the writing to life, so it just worked!

Drama Geek: I am very selective when it comes to historical dramas. I tend to only like ones that have some kind of supernatural twist. I just can’t handle the child portion or the same old same old politicking. Not only did I immensely enjoy the child portion, I felt it was integral to the story. And the politicking was done in a way that I didn’t feel bored or bogged down by it. From beginning to end this drama kept my attention and I loved each and every character portrayal.

The Family:

KMUSE: Those of you who are Sageuk fans know that it is rare that we get a hero with a stable and functioning childhood.  Not to mention supportive parents and loving siblings that don’t die horribly.  Pretty much I am saying that Rebel: Hong Gil Dong is the white whale of family story lines.  I was so impressed with how the family never faltered from being there for each other no matter what happened arround them.  For crying out loud, the dad actually accepted his children’s decisions on what they wanted to be when they grew up. Despite the fact that it differed with his dreams. That alone is mindblowing.


Drama Geek: The reason I felt the child portion was so paramount to telling this story is that the family, and mostly the dad, become the foundation for everything that happens later. I loved that we saw what a slaves life was like, and how even in a system where you were born someone’s possession that a little family like Gil Dong’s could flourish and be a supportive loving unit.

The Heroes:

Ah Mo Gae


Drama Geek: Gil Dong’s father wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes and he paid for them. But he was an inspiring and loving father. He found a way to save his family when all he’d ever known was being a slave. He was smart and ruthless when he had to be. And he became a leader to people who were desperate for someone to help them out. Again, his thug ways proved he wasn’t without flaw. But he allowed each of his children to be who they wanted to be, and never forced them to do what he thought what was best for them. His deep voice singing the theme song, even after his death, always warmed my heart and spurred those left behind to become something more.

KMUSE: I think I teared up more times during Amogae’s storyline than any other place in the drama.  He was a perfect father, a perfect leader, and an all around good example of a true hero.  And once again, he let his children be who they wanted to be.  That is truely a father’s love right there.

Hong Gil Dong


Drama Geek: Gil Dong was everything I could have asked for in a hero of the people. He as fierce, even at a very young age, when anyone tried to hurt one of his own. He loved deeply, and forgave those that deserved to be forgiven. He, like his father, became a leader when the people needed him the most. His deep respect for his father showed in how he emulated him. He was at his best when he realized that he could make different decisions than his father and still live up to his legacy, and surpass him in the end. He was also clumsy and goofy and had a wonderful sense of humor. When he finally allowed himself to fall for Ga Ryeong it was one of the sweetest displays of love I’ve seen onscreen.

KMUSE: I really loved Hong Gil Dong.  He was a larger than life character that somehow was grounded for the love he had for those around him.  I also really loved how he stood by his ideas of right and wrong regardless of how it might make things more difficult for him.  It is also interesting in how he inspired the people to fight for what is right and didn’t just force them into rebelling.  He was a leader that lead by example, not by intimidation and that is what made him so unique.

Hong Gil Hyun


Drama Geek: It honestly took me a little bit to warm up the older version of Gil Hyun, but once I did, I loved him with all my heart. His love for his family was just as fierce as Gil Dong’s. He may not have been the big boss like his dad or Gil Dong but he was just as important as they were. I’d say that the group would have never accomplished everything they did without him. He was more thoughtful and less likely to jump into something without having a plan, but he was just as deadly when he needed to be.

KMUSE: I have to agree that it took me a while to really get into his character.  But by the time he found out about his siblings being alive, I was firmly on team Gil Hyun.  One of my favorite scenes in the drama is Gil Hyun going to all the people that were against his brother and admitting his identity.  He totally rocks as a hero and a brother.

The Vigilantes


Drama Geek: You can’t have Robin Hood without his merry men, and the Hong Clan was no different. Each member wormed their way into my heart and made me invested in every last one of them. They weren’t just a group of people working together, they were a family.

KMUSE: I got chills everytime the vigilantes stood together against corruption.  Whether it was getting justice against evil princes, evil kings, or just evil nobleman, they continued to work as a unit that could not be broken by anything short of death.

The Ladies:

Honey Lee (Nok Soo)


Drama Geek: Honey Lee was made for period dramas. She became Nok Soo and was stunning in every scene she was in. Some of the most breathtaking moments of the drama were when she was performing. And even though she stepped into baddie territory at the end, you could still see what in her past brought her to that place. Being a gisaeng was not something you lived through undamaged, and this show didn’t shy away from showing that.

KMUSE: Honey Lee blew me away in this drama.  She wasn’t the leading lady, but she was 100% the queen of this sageuk.  The way she was able to come across as regal and above it all, while still portraying occasional weakness was brilliant.  I also appreciated that she was very smart and knew how to work people’s traumas to achieve her goals and gain the security that she was desperate for.

Ga Ryeong


Drama Geek: Ga Ryeong could have walked the path that many female leads do in historical dramas. She could have been just a pawn to push the hero to change or finally  step into his destiny. She could have been just a love interest. She could have cried for 15 episodes and made me want to scream. Thankfully, she was none of those things. She was as much a hero and rebel as the rest of the group. Yes, she had to fight within the confines of her gender barriers of the time, but early on she was active in helping the group pull off their schemes. And when they were all captured, and she thought her husband dead, she didn’t wallow in grief. Instead she snuck into a forbidden forest (an action punishable by death) and sung her way into the heart of the king. Yup, when her husband was gone, she created her own plot for revenge. But what I loved most about her was how much she loved and took care of everyone, with all her heart.

KMUSE: This is another character that took a while for me to warm up towards.  She wasn’t as obviously stunning as Honey Lee and began with a more traditional lovesick heroine personality.  But what was amazing about her character is that you could literally see the character growth happening as she switched from lovesick servant, to family member, to wife, and finally heroine.  Ga Ryeong is what every historical leading lady should asspire to be

Sang Hwa


Drama Geek: I absolutely adored the younger version. The whole which girl is the sister tainted by view of the older counterpart a little, and I was a bit disappointed that once she joined her siblings she fell to the background. But she was still a very important part of the family. Honestly, her story could have been it’s own drama if they would have explored her time growing up where she was brainwashed, and then found her family again.

KMUSE: I also was so sad that the younger version had to leave the drama.  I also hated the which girl was the sister, although, I did enjoy learning how she lost her memories.  Considering the situation and the age that she was taken, it made a lot more sense than your typical amnesia storylines.

The Bad Guys:


Drama Geek: Guys… I straight up cried for him at the end. Not that I didn’t despise him. He truly was a horrid and evil man. Not only did he kill people so the nation would fear him, but he truly believed that he was above everyone and that other people’s lives were dispensable. I think the reason I cried at the end was how they played out the scene. Nok Soo and his faithful eunuch by his side, both devastated that he was both crazy and being dethroned.

KMUSE: The King had so many layers of crazy!  I loved how this character was developed so much.  I also went through periods of hating him and pitying him and his ending was literally perfection.  Sadness for what could have been if he had not been raised in a corrupt and ruthless system.

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Drama Geek: My biggest issue with most historical dramas is how one note the conflict tends to be. The king has power, old dudes try to get the power away from him. Either side could be good or evil in this scenario. But with this drama the system that still plays out in every day life was front and center. Those who are born of privilege deserve that privilege and those who are born underneath them deserve to stay where they are, and are lesser than. And depending on which rung of the ladder you were born on, sometimes you aren’t even considered human, but a possession. So you see these “bad guys” running around treating our heroes like crap, and you realize that it is engrained in them. They see themselves as the hero of the story. They are saving the nation from falling into disarray because the people below them do not know their place. It’s this type of conflict that is rich and if you have the right bad guys, you can see yourself understanding why they are doing what they’re doing. So in the end, the slave owner mother was a person I wanted to die a horrible death, yet I still understood her motivations each step of the way.

KMUSE: I don’t think I can improve on what Drama Geek said about the bad guys.  I did appreciate that they all had a common theme despite not all being the big bad evil at the same time in our heroes lives.  All around, the bad guys were used to progress the story and each had their own character devleopment which made the drama all the more enjoyable.  Once again, the writer has done what few other sageuk writers do.  Give us bad guys with depth.

The Romance:

KMUSE: Considering the romantic storylines were really a secondary focus of the drama, I am amazed at how strong an impact they made.  From Gil Dong and Ga Ryeong to Nok Soo & King Yeonsan Gun, it was the couple relationships that were the backbone of the drama.


KMUSE: I was iffy on our OTP when they first hooked up.  I was still kind of in love with the Honey Lee/Gil Dong pairing so it took a while for me to warm up to our new couple.  By the end of the drama, I would say they are one of my all time favorite OTPs in Dramaland.  The strength of their characters both individually and as a couple just made them the definition of true love.

Kdrama Jen: I was not a fan of Ga Ryeong and Gil Dong in the beginning.  I was vocal about my dislike for this pairing, and then… something happened.  Somewhere along the way I found myself impressed by Ga Ryeong’s quiet support.  It was not the kind of relationship we usually see in Kdramaland.  It did not have the fireworks and romantic tension of other epic romances, but it felt real.  I grew to love this OTP in much the same way as Gil Dong grew to care fo Ga Ryeong.  In the end, it felt like a truly epic romance.

Drama Geek: I was on their ship from the start. I did love his whirlwind romance with Nok Soo, but there was something about the way Ga Ryeong saw him from the start that I knew would last. Maybe it was how alike a felt she was to Gil Dong’s mother. And once Gil Dong finally admitted that he loved her, they exploded with chemistry and had this unwavering foundation that I knew nothing could break. Their kissing scenes were made of magic, and I will forever be enamored with men moving tables aside and pulling their woman to their side before planting one on them. Fans self.

KMUSE: OK, I know that these two (Nok Soo & The King) were not really a good example of true love.  Unless by true love you mean a totally dysfunctional co-dependent relationship based on greed and serious mental breakdowns…. but still, in their own way, they were true to each other to the end and I think it should be noted.  If I could ask for one storyline to be better fleshed out, it would be between these two characters.  I feel that their storyline as a couple lacked the layering of everything else.  But even then, they still made me cry in the end.

Kdrama Jen: She was ambitious and jaded.  He was seriously insane.  Somehow, it kind of worked.  I was truly moved by the way he reacted when he saw her shoes and the pile of stones.  It was totally dysfunctional, but there was something real beneath all of that crazy.

Drama Geek: One of the most dysfunctional couples ever, but like the other ladies said, her devotion to him to the end was something to behold. His feelings on the other hand, I don’t think ever went past obsession. I’m not really sure the king knew what love really was.



KMUSE: I was so satisfied with the ending of the drama.  I know that there were a lot of viewers scoffing at how everything was wrapped up in a nice bow and how all the bad guys got ran over by the karma train.  I personally, was totally OK with this outcome.  It was a nice change to not have the heroes die tragically.  Not to mention, I was impressed with how the writer made me care about the bad guys even as they were reaping what they sowed. To the very end, we witnessed the humanity and how circumstances created our bad guys.  This is rarely ever the case as we usually have one-dimensional bad guys who we are glad to see the end of.

Kdrama Jen: I totally agree!  It was a nice change that a sageuk left me feeling content instead of broken and bereft (Yeah, I am looking at you, Warrior Baek Dong Soo).  I felt like I was betraying someone by having a soft spot for Mo Ri, so I am particularly glad he was given a redemption line!  On a side note, I am hoping he says yes to the School 2017 offer!

Drama Geek: I was imagining myself standing up there singing along with them and cheering until my little heart was content. This drama was about a few rising up and trying to create a better future for their nation. And nothing is more comforting than knowing that not all heroes have to be martyrs . They can fight the good fight, and live to keep fighting. Evil doesn’t always win, and there is hope for the future. I think we could all use this message sometimes, and I’m glad that Gil Dong managed to shine that into my life.

The Soundtrack:

Drama Geek: I can not gush enough about the music in this drama. It became a part of the rebels battle cry, and I’ve never wanted to sing along with the people as much as I did with this one. Each song that comes on, instantly brings the imagery and emotion of the drama back to the forefront of my mind. It’s in my top 3 soundtracks for kdramas.

KMUSE: This OST has earned its way on to my top 5 drama OST list as well.  It is spectacular, extremely unique, and how they mixed the music into the actual plot was brilliant.

What Makes This Drama Different From Other Sageuks?


Drama Geek: The characters and the theme. The writer took the time to develop the characters and give them all so many layers. They really used every moment to sculpt and craft a group of stand out characters. As I stated before, because we weren’t always fighting with black and white of good and evil but theology and engrained teachings that are still prevalent today, I think it made me more invested.

KMUSE: For me this drama was all about the character devleopment.  There was not one character that graced the screen who didn’t have a purpose and helped in progressing the storyline.  There was not one filler or mediocre character.  Everyone from the heroes to the small servants D-leads were created to weave a complex world for the story.

What Would We Change?


Drama Geek: There were two things I remember griping about along the way. I felt they spent too much time as thugs and should have spent more time developing them as rebels. And the guess which girl is the sister. I don’t think it was necessary and actually diminished my love for the sister. Another small gripe is I wish some of the crowd and fighting scenes could have felt more epic, but I know they did the best they could with their budget and sets.

KMUSE:  I actually liked the thug storylines and glad that it was the length it was.  However, I have to agree that the sister mystery could have just been taken out completely.  That was beyond annoying.  The one big thing I would change would be to give the show more time and money to really develop the fighting scenes.  You could tell when live shooting started because Hong Gil Dong become less of a mighty child and more of a great leader who was really tall and imposing.

What Were Our Favorite Scenes?

KMUSE: I adored when Gil Dong and his friends got revenge on the Prince who supposedly killed his siblings.  It was their first attempts at being vigilantes and it was so satisfying to see the Prince realize who had taken him down in the end.

Drama Geek: There were so many, but one that really stands out to me is at the standoff toward the end when everyone, even the king’s soldiers, start singing the theme song. To see a group of people rally together in the face of death touched me deeply. The other scene that I felt encompassed many things was the opening scene with Ga Ryeong tied up, and then when we came back to the same scene later in the drama. When you see it the second time you realize how hollow it was the first time around because you didn’t know the people on screen. But when you return the second time, it punches you it the gut so hard and makes you cry in agony for everyone involved. Because we were taken on a journey with these people and they became our family and our friends.

Do We Recommend This Drama?

Drama Geek: I’m sure you can already tell by how wordy I’ve been, I 100% recommend this drama. Even for people who are a little saguek shy I think you will enjoy this one. And the thirty episodes seem to fly by, even for someone who stays away from the longer dramas.

KMUSE: I can not recommend this drama enough.  If you are a person who loves a good story than this is a must watch.

You can find episodes Rebel: Hong Gil Dong (Rebel: Thief of the People) HERE.

Be sure to check it out and come back and tell us what your favorite moment was.  Also, spread the Hong Gil love far and wide on social media since this is one of those hidden gem dramas that everyone needs to watch.

Til next time,

The Fangrils



5 thoughts on “The Fangirl’s Review- Rebel: Hong Gil Dong

  1. Thank you for a very thorough review! This was such a satisfying drama to watch, I always waited to the end of the day to snuggle under the blankets and savor every word, expression, and song. Your review helped me relive some of my favorite moments.

  2. I Love this show & everything u’ve mentioned 🙂
    Funny how we all take some time to warm up to the brother’s grown up actor. Initially I kept thinking his face looks like that of a villain. But in the end, I also love his character!

  3. I love this drama so much for all things that you have mentioned! It didn’t take me that long to warm up to grown up Gil Hyun, mostly because he’s so older brotherly to both GilDong and young Eorini back in Ikhwari. I was also annoyed by the Answer Me Eorini 1497 game during the show, but I forgave the writer after that awesome scene when Uhrini regained her memories, and I thought the brainwashing added more layers to her stories. Drama is not perfect, I still have some unanswered questions at the end, but the way the storytelling was done, the characters, the actors, and the ending just gave me nothing but happy feelings. Now excuse me while I spend my Saturday morning re-watching all of GilRyung FMVs 😀

  4. If I could change one thing about the show, then I wound’t let the sister have her memory back before she betrays her brothers! I know I’m being mean but that’s the only way the ‘guess the sister’ would make some sense in otherwise a perfect show.

    Thanks for the review! 🙂

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