Hello everyone. I decided that I won’t be able to keep up with recapping ALL of the dramas airing this month, so I’ve chosen this one over the popular and much anticipated Saimdang, Light’s Diary. Although I have been anxiously awaiting both from the moment they were first announced, I want to enjoy watching them and feel that it would be impossible to do so if I’m watching 7+ dramas at a time (I already have enough on my plate as it is). As a result, I decided to save Saimdang, Light’s Diary for a later time, and will recap it in the future when I am less overwhelmed.
I chose to watch this one first because it has a ton of my favorite older actors in it, including but not limited to: Park Jun Gyu (Warrior Baek Dong Soo), Lee Joon Hyuk, Ahn Nae Sang (both from Moonlight Drawn By Clouds) and Son Jong Hak (Scholar Who Walks the Night). Yoon Kyung Sang looks promising and I can’t wait to see how he performs in his first major lead role. Of course, I already know Chae Soo Bin, and I’m excited to see her taking on a lead role too. I also thought the small bits of cinematography we got to glimpse in the preview were amazing, so I ultimately knew this was the one for me. If you’re on the fence about watching, or just want to see what happened, check out the summary of episode one below.
[Be Forewarned: Spoilers Below].
In a voiceover, a father asks his son, Gil Dong, if he’s heard of the Mighty Child. The son has not, so the father begins to tell him the story. As this happens, we see a much older, bloodied Gil Dong (Yoon Kyun Sang), who is just as powerful as the ferocious Mighty Child his father describes. The voiceover continues with the father warning his son that the Mighty Child’s failure to suppress his own power will lead to the death of his loved ones. The child Gil Dong asks who kills them. His father replies, “The King.”
Winter, 1505, 11th year of King Yeonsan’s reign: the King’s concubine, Jang Nok Soo (Honey Lee) hums a melody as the servants brush her hair. The King (Kim Ji Suk) enters and motions the servants to leave quietly so he can switch places with them unannounced. He begins drying Nok Soo’s hair and comments that he likes the scent. She smiles but her expression quickly changes to one of alarm once the King mentions Hong Gil Dong. He supposes that she knew Gil Dong before entering the palace.
An army opposing the Gil Dong threatens to kill their hostage, Song Ga Ryung (Chae Soo Bin), if he doesn’t open the gate. Gil Dong, clearly conflicted, looks out at Ga Ryung with tears forming in his eyes. Knowing he’d choose to save her, Ga Ryung suddenly cries out that if Gil Dong stops here for her sake, she’ll never see him again. Her tears show her devastation and fear of the consequences, but she’s willing to sacrifice herself for the cause. Gil Dong wells up as Ga Ryung persistently keeps telling him not to give up here. He readies an arrow as the people around him cry out in horror telling him he shouldn’t. He grimaces, draws back the arrow and then we see one pierce Ga Ryung right in the heart, the blood spreading across her chest.
King Yeonsan and Gil Dong cross paths on horseback, where the King tells Gil Dong to answer a question truthfully. He’s heard Gil Dong descended from an exterminated Goryeo royal family, and wants to know if it’s true. If not, he’s heard Gil Dong rose up because he was angry about his life as the son of a concubine. He asks if that’s true. Gil Dong laughs, which prompts the King to ask who he thinks he is? Gil Dong responds that he is not the descendent of a Goryeo royal family, nor the son of a concubine, or a fallen noble.
“I am just…my father’s son. My father is…the servant Ah Mo Gae.”
The King sneers in disbelief and says that cannot be. He’s angry at the prospect of such a lowly man having a son like Gil Dong, and says it’s not possible. Gil Dong responds by asking how the Yeonsan could come to be such a lowly man when he was born from such a mighty King (the clapback heard round the world).
We rewind to start from the very beginning of Gil Dog’s childhood. In a voiceover, Gil Dong speaks of his father, who was born a servant and lived as one under the given name Ah Mo Gae (Kim Sang Joon), which means nameless, until his death. Gil Dong exclaims how he could never forget the way his father lovingly called his name “Gil Dong.”
Gil Dong’s father and mother Geum Ok (Shin Eun Jung) are shown discussing the Mighty Child in light of the recent death of a fellow servant’s son. Bones were protruding from his back, and Gil Dong’s mother wonders if he may have been the Mighty Child. She asks her husband what he’d do if their son were the Mighty Child, and he replies that he’d get rid of the child. We see the infant Gil Dong who is hungry for Milk. Because Gil Dong’s mother is a servant, it is against the rules for her to feed her child first, since her duties lie first with the mistresses’ son. She defies this by letting Gil Dong feed a bit first before a fellow servant comes to retrieve her to feed the young master and reprimands her for disobeying the rules. Ah Mo Gae looks down at his son, who smiles brightly despite getting gypped out of his meal. He recalls what his wife mentioned about the neighbor’s son dying and having protruding back bones, and peels away the blankets to take a look at his own son’s back. He smiles at his son and muses that no matter what they say, his name will be Gil Dong.
Nobleman Jo (Son Jong Hak) announces which of his servants will get to move out this year. Much to his surprise, Ah Mo Gae is not among the lucky few. He tries to converse with his master on why this might be, since he’s been told several years now that next year will finally be the year, but is quickly shut down. Back at home he asserts that he will do whatever it takes to be able to move out next year. His wife says she doesn’t mind living in the Master’s property, because it means they are taken care of, and could never go hungry. The baby Gil Dong lies on the floor, holding a gardening hoe (?), but the image switches to a toddler Gil Dong (Lee Ro Woon) who bends the metal tool in half.
His brother, Gil Hyun (Lee Do Hyun), calls out to him, and they along with the rest of the child servants are given orders to collect rocks. The journey is long and dangerous, as the boys cross over some steep and narrow cliffs in order to find and carry home the rocks. Gil Hyun tires out and tells Gil Dong he needs a rest. Though Gil Dong doesn’t appear to be tired at all. He picks his nose and decides to take on his brother’s burden so he can get home. Gil Hyun wakes up and is shocked to see that his rocks were taken and no one is around. He runs home in search of Gil Dong who greets him with a cheeky smile. Gil Hyun asks who carried home the rocks, and just as Gil Dong is about to speak up, their companion Eobsan (Jo Hyun Do)shows up, and Gil Hyun assumes it was he who did the deed. A deflated Gil Don frowns in disappointment.
Later, Gil Dong’s mom struggles to move a large crock. Gil Dong visits her, and she asks of Gil Hyun. Gil Dong mentions that he’s home too, and then goes on to ask his mother for boiled crusted rice. She says she’ll make him some yams but he wants boiled crusted rice because Eobsan mentioned that his mom hat made it earlier. His mother concedes because she’s too busy struggling with the crock to argue. She tells him to go and play with the other boys and leaves to go retrieve help. Gil Dong picks his nose and stares at the crock. Geum Ok requests help from her husband who’s currently working. He agrees to help here much to the dismay of his working partner. When the two arrive, the crock has already been moved, causing Geum Ok much confusion. Then we hear Gil Dong singing, about blue skies and crusted rice. The crock is basically next to him and he smiles widely at his parents before cheerfully requesting some crusted rice. The parents share a bewildered look, but Gil Dong’s just thinking about that crusted rice.
The family sit down for dinner, which includes a nice steaming hot bowl of crusted rice. Gil Hyun mentions how Eobsan carried back his rocks for him, but Gil Dong interjects that it was he who carried back the rocks. The family laughs, and Gil Dong frowns. His mother says he must be a strong man. Gil Dong inhales his rice like a vacuum cleaner, and his father takes some of his own rice to add to Gil Dong’s bowl. An excited Gil Dong is scolded by his mother for taking his father’s food, and Gil Hyun calls him a little pig for eating so much rice in such a gluttonous fashion. Gil Dong argues that he’s not a pig, but continues wolfing down the rice with a smile on his face. His father watches, with a look of concern, probably realizing that it is abnormal for such a small child to eat such large portions of rice.
The next day the boys escort the young master to town in order to see a performance troupe. One of the acts includes a strong man who is able to break large logs in half after taking special medication. The logs are actually made of foam (? or some similar type of material) but the crowd is unaware of their trick. Gil Hyun and the young master seem to be excited by the performance, but Gil Dong asserts that he could easily break a log like that in half. They laugh at him, which makes him angry, so the young master encourages Gil Dong to go up and do it then. He alerts the troupes of Gil Dong’s bold claim, and the whole crowd laughs. Gil Dong insists that it’s true.
Meanwhile Ah Mo Gae asks where the boys are. Geum Ok tells him they went into town for the performance with the young master. She describes the nature of their shows, including details about the strong man breaking logs. Then she adds in a final piece about Gil Dong saying he wants to see if he is stronger than the strong man, and Ah Mo Gae becomes pallid with fear.
That’s when we see Gil Dong, telling the troupe he can break the log and walking over with complete confidence. One of the troupe members replaces the fake logs with a real one to ensure the child will fail so they don’t get found out. Ah Mo Gae starts running s fast as he can to get to the town before Gil Dong makes a scene. Gil Dong picks up the log, and much to the crowd’s surprise it starts cracking as he begins ripping it in half. It’s definitely not easy for him, but it’s one hell of a thick log, and the fact that he’s making a decent amount of progress is alarming for everyone watching…even the young master is shook. Suddenly, we hear Ah Mo Gae’s voice call out Gil Dong’s name angrily, yelling for him to stop. Gil Dong is surprised and asks his dad why he’s there. The crowd begins their whisperings about Gil Dong possibly being the Mighty Child. Ah Mo Gae becomes stricken with worry for his child, and does the only thing he can think of. He picks up a fake log and breaks it, exposing to the crowd the troupe’s antics but also giving a perfectly viable explanation as to how his son was able to bend the log. The crowd doesn’t know that the log Gil Dong was holding was real as opposed to the fake ones the troupe was using, and Ah Mo Gae capitalizes on this in order to get his son out of the sticky situation.
Of course, this upsets Gil Dong, who not only loses his credibility amongst his child peers, but feels disheartened because he wants people to know he is strong. One of the troop members however, quietly asks Ah Mo Gae if Gil Dong is the Mighty Child. She knows the log he bent was real because she made sure he wasn’t using one of their fake props. Ah Mo Gae escorts the children home, where the young master abuses his power over Ah Mo Gae by riding on his back in order to humiliate him in front of his sons and anger them. He then adds extra salt to Gil Dong’s wounds by asserting that he knew Gil Dong wouldn’t be capable of breaking the wood.
Later that night, Ah Mo Gae sits up awake thinking about his son. Geum Ok asks her husband what’s wrong, but he only gives her a cryptic answer, where his tells about his own strength and how he would tell his mother he thought it would bring misfortune to the village. Geum Ok asks why he’s talking about it now and he warns her to keep her eye on Gil Dong. He looses his temper easily so he asks her to look after him so that he doesn’t cause any trouble. Geum Ok is doubtful about how much trouble a little boy could make but Ah Mo Gae is firm in his request.
The next day, Gil Dong is sweeping while the bratty young master continuously keeps putting sticks in the areas he’s already cleaned. One of Geum Ok’s servant friends comments on how the young master is beyond brutal and takes after his father. The young master then starts instigating Gil Dong, requesting he break something to prove his strength. Gil Dong says no, but the young master threatens that if he doesn’t he’ll tell his father and have Gil Dong’s whole family kicked out. Gil Dong still declines, as Geum Ok walks around and thinks about her husband’s words from the previous night. Then the young master digs his claws in deep by saying his father warned him to be aware of lowly things because they are all liars. This is the final straw for Gil Dong, who rushes forward and kicks a giant stone mortar at the young master. It starts flying it the bratty boy’s direction, and Geum Ok sees and reacts just in time to push the young master out of the way. He’s mostly unharmed minus a small scratch on his cheek. Horrified, he starts bawling his eyes out and then his mother comes flying out to rescue her minimally injured son Soohak (Kim Ye Joon), as if he’s just been stabbed fatally in the heart.
Soohak is quick to point the finger at Gil Dong and Geum Ok explains that she rescued Soohak from a flying mortar. Nobleman Jo’s wife (Seo Yi Sook) is a pill and screams at Geum Ok that it is impossible for a mortar to fly. Geum Ok then receives a public punishment for her son’s wrongdoings. She’s whipped in the calves pretty nastily as Gil Dong thinks to himself that he will not let the young master Soohak get away with this. He threatens to break the young master’s legs to himself. Ah Mo Gae speaks or should I say grovels in front of the young master for forgiveness before going out to the courtyard to rescue his wife. He grabs Gil Dong and drags him to the center where he boldly and angrily claims to Nobleman Jo’s wife that he will teach his son a lesson. Then we see him drag Gil Dong off in an aggressive manner as Geum Ok shouts his name in horror. The two head into the forest, where Ah Mo Gae sits his son on a tree log and tells him to lay his hand down flat. He lifts up a wooden bat with conviction as Gil Dong’s eyes fill with tears. It’s an extremely emotional moment, where the two both cry. Ah Mo Gae can’t bring himself to crush his son’s hand with the bat. He ends up laying the bat down and hugging his son instead. A look of sorrow, defeat, and exhaustion covers his face.
Ah Mo Gae piggybacks Gil Dong on the way home and asks him why he didn’t try to escape. Gil Dong explains that he knew his father wouldn’t hurt him to the point where he wasn’t even worried a little bit. His father chuckles defeatedly and asks why he cried then. Gil Dong reveals that he was quiet because he was sad. He says he saw the tears in his father’s eyes and asks how he could not cry after seeing something like that. Back at home, Geum Ok cries from the pain of her wounds and the circumstances of the situation.
Ah Mo Gae tells the Nobleman and his wife that he could not cut off Gil Dong’s wrists and asks that they move out as punishment. They scold him for suggesting such a thing instead of offering up everything he has. Ah Mo Gae asks if the dried pollack they received over the summer is still in the shed and comments that they will be spoiled soon since they are so old. He requests a box of them and promises that he will repay them with ten rolls of cotton. Nobleman Jo wants to know how Ah Mo Gae plans to turn old dried seafood into ten rolls of cotton. Ah Mo Gae simply responds that he’ll have to make it happen no matter what. He says that if he doesn’t keep this promise, he won’t say anything even if Nobleman Jo sells off Gil Dong somewhere far.
Ah Mo Gae has a drink with his son. No Literally, he lets Gil Dong try some alcohol (LOL!) but Gil Dong crumples up his face in disgust at the taste of it (same buddy). Gil Dong’s father says he has an interesting story to tell him before he leaves on his journey. He asks Gil Dong if he’s ever heard of the Mighty child, to which Gil Dong replies that he hasn’t. Ah Mo Gae tells of a barren couple who prayed to the skies for 300 days in order to have a baby. They finally got one, and it was the Mighty Child. He was strong like a bear, quick like a tiger, and no matter how much he got hurt, he got better overnight. He was like a general. Gil Dong exclaims that it must be great, but Ah Mo Gae tells him that was not the case. It is great if the Mighty Child is born to a noble family, but he will be punished if he is born in a servant’s family. Servant put up with everything because they have no power, but the Mighty Child is strong so he wouldn’t stand for mistreatment. A Mighty child cannot hold back. That is why he is dangerous. Gil Dong asks what happens if the Mighty Child cannot hold back. Ah Mo Gae reveals that everyone dies: The Mighty Child, his father, his mother, and his brothers all die with him. Gil Dong asks who kills them and his father replies with “His Majesty.” The King will not let the Mighty Child be born of a servant’s family. Gil Dong’s father says the Mighty Child cannot reveal his identity to anyone and must not use his power even if things are unfair if he wants his family to survive. He asks Gil Dong if he understands what he’s saying, and Gil Dong nods affirmatively.
Geum Ok in her husband lie in bed that night. She asks in a worried tone how he’s going to exchanged moldy pollack for ten rolls of cotton and is fearful of him getting hurt along the way. They cuddle and she states regretfully through tears that she should not have tied him down to her. Ah Mo Gae tells her not to say such things, and says he became someone worthy after meeting her, but she continues to apologize. He says he’ll become a different man from this moment on. Early the next morning, Geum Ok prepares him some food for his journey. They share an emotional goodbye (but it’s mostly Geum Ok who’s teary eyed) before parting ways. The kids cry and wave to their father from the top of the hill. Through their tears they request items for him to bring back, like rice cakes and honey taffy, but it’s clear they’re devastated. The goodbye lasts quite a while with the kids crying and calling out and Ah Mo Gae turning around at least three separate times to give them what I’m sure he tells himself is the final wave. He says he’ll return quickly and bring the alphabet book for Gil Hyun and the honey taffy for Gil Dong. They share one last wave before letting him go. Ah Mo Gae looks sad and distraught, but he’s determined to complete his mission for their sake, and finally walks off.
Ah Mo Gae arrives in Gaeseong County, where he struggles to even get people’s attention in such a crowded market space. It’s loaded with people, but no one is interested in his case of rotted fish. He treats himself to some food after struggling for much of the day and then hears some commotion. A thief, Soboori (Park Jun Gyu), is being chased down in the streets and Ah Mo Gae helps him get away, leaving the thief super confused but with an opportunity to escape capture. The thief comes back and finds him later bringing his friend, Yonggae (Lee Joon Hyuk), along. He asks why Ah Mo Gae helped him and Ah Mo Gae says “just because.” This stumps the two men, but Ah Mo Gae isn’t leaving them time to think. He gets up and says he must go, since he’s a busy man. But the thief says that he knows he’s a servant trying to sell those crusty pollacks and muses that he must be useless to his master. Since they’re so critical, Ah Mo Gae asks them how to make money. They take him to a gisaeng house where they explain the luxurious foods inside that have been prepared for the Ming Dynasty banquet. The thief says that stealing bits of the food could win them a lot of money. Yonggae explains the many elaborate foods that are prepared for the banquet. Soboori says there’s huge profit to be made, but the problem is that he and Yonggae are already infamous in the town and can’t risk being caught.
He tells Ah Mo Gae to go instead, and follow the gisaeng who will lead the way. Then all he has to do is hide in the shed. He agrees to join, and follows the procedures the next day. He gets in the shed and successfully hides until they lock it up for the night. Soboori and Yonggae come to retrieve the food, which Ah Mo Gae passes one tray at a time through the small window. Once he’s done, he asks to come out, but Soboori says he’ll just have to wait there and leave in the morning until the gisaeng comes to collect him. Ah Mo Gae accepts the answer and the thieves relish in his stupidity, knowing right and well his ass gon’ be found and whooped when the officials discover the food missing and Ah Mo Gae there in the morning. Ah Mo Gae isn’t as stupid as they think. He already smells trouble and attempts to escape out the window. However, the two thieves have already blockaded it so that he can’t get out. Instead he finds some tools and injures himself. He has a plan.
In the morning, the officials unlock the shed and are horrified to discover that the food is missing. We hear Ah Mo Gae groaning in the corner begging for help and he looks badly injured. They have a doctor take care of him and he explains that the thieves robbed and beat him when he was stocking the food (clever man!). They ask if he remembers the face and he helps an artist draw up a sketch by describing the culprit. He gives the perfect description of Soboori, who has a big black mole next to his nose. Yonggae and Soboori discover the wanted add of Soboori and are captured shortly after. They put Soboori in a line of of other men so Ah Mo Gae can choose the offender. They ask if the thief is among the chosen ones and one by one Ah Mo Gae says no as the line narrows down closer and closer to Soboori’s turn. In an unexpected turn of events, Soboori peels off what is apparently a fake mole (LMFAO) and then it’s suddenly his turn. But Ah Mo Gae says it’s not him, which really confuses Soboori and Yonggae.
Later that night, Soboori and his homies are having a drink. Soboori dips to take a whiz but when he’s done and ready to go back to the drinking table, Ah Mo Gae grabs him from behind, holding something (I can’t tell what it is, but it’s not actually threatening) to his neck. He asks for his cut of the profit, and then pulls out a more threatening object, which I believe is a hair pin and holds it right over one of Soboori’s eyes. He asks Soboori if he wants to get beaten up by a crazy fool and Soboori surrenders, giving Ah Mo Gae his full cut without explaining it to his crew, who are completely shocked and outraged. Soboori is still wondering why Ah Mo Gae didn’t rat him out when he had the chance, but Ah Mo Gae just tells him to come visit sometime before giving him a thumbs up. He walks off confidently, and Soboori can’t help but smile a little at Ah Mo Gae’s antics.
Ah Mo Gae reaches the bottom stretch of the hill where Gil Dong anxiously awaits him at the top. He doesn’t see his father yet, and wonders if he’s on his way back yet with the honey taffy. His father journeys forward, stopping and pulling out some honey taffy from his pocket. He smiles to himself before saying,
“Gil Hyun, Gil Dong, your father is coming.”
The episode ends.
I really enjoyed this first episode. I think the music and cinematography have shattered my expectations in just one episode alone. It’s so beautifully shot and the color pallets are simply dazzling. I am enjoying this child portion very much. Although I’m excited for Yoon Kyun Sang and Chae Soo Bin, I think this background is going to be crucial for later episodes and am willing to patiently wait for the older portion of the story. I’m already so invested in Gil Dong’s family and especially his father’s story. I even welled up at the scene in the forest where he was going to punish Gil Dong. AND…let me just say that little Gil Dong has to be one of the cutest and funniest child actors I’ve ever seen. His facial expressions are priceless and he’s undeniably adorable. I think he’s doing a fantastic job! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for this drama. I have a feeling it’s going to be a very intense and emotional ride.
Are you watching Rebel: Thief who Stole the People? What did you think of this episode? If you haven’t already, you can check out the extended highlight trailer for it here.