- Overall 10
- Story 9.0
- Acting/Cast 10
- Music 10
- Rewatch Value 9.5
Rebel was right where it needed to be in story and plot, but it absolutely excelled in characters, acting, and OST.
To establish the perspective of this review, I'm a complete sageuk/historical junkie (scarlet heart, orange marmalade, queen inhyuns man, rooftop prince, splash splash love, the moon that embraces the sun, the princess weiyoung(c), saimdang, rebel, nirvana in fire, to name quite a few in my list) and will review this show read more both standalone and within the context of this genre.
The story isn't especially surprising, but that's what I liked about it. Modern television has been pushed to an almost ridiculous level of pursuing thrill factor that other aspects of shows lose their luster. Rebel isn't overly ambitious in its writing, but that allows it to shine as a whole. Of course, it is indeed gripping and refreshing, but that is due to the attention to detail and fleshed out characters. Rather than seeking originality through complete innovation of this genre, it finds originality in the writer's care for the story rather than pandering to an audience. Weaker points of the story would get into spoilers, but let's just say that there could have been more episodes (surprising because I usually call for less) and that while the antagonists were good, they weren't my favorite.
Now the acting- this was just phenomenal. Kim Sang Joon's Ah Mo Gae is arguably my most favorite portrayal in a historical drama. Ever. His irresistible charm pulls in viewers and his control of emotion makes him like the most human character. I'll cut the character/acting section short because I'll sound repetitive but tldr every character was unique, properly developed, and absolutely charming in their own ways.
The music. Oh my god. I just found out the OST was on spotify and have had it on repeat since. Before we start, I must say that I take OST very seriously- it's just as important as cinematography, casting, everything. Rebel has a distinct and unified sound that matches its story. It ranges from your typical heart-wrenching ballad and love song that every kdrama has, to the intriguing music of the palace. But what really takes the cake is the section of the OST that has the traditional sound more akin to what common people actually sang and still do sing. Fiery tracks like If Spring Comes are what get me excited and even sing along while watching. Definitely 10/10
Overall this drama is absolutely my top sageuk because it deals in complexity with great care. I live for nuance, and most of my favorite media involves ambiguity. No plot spoilers, but I'm going to say that Rebel somehow pulls off complexity without ambiguity and excessive nuance, which made it work as a sageuk really well. Definitely recommend, and I will be posting a spoiler-included review later on my blog!