The Penultimate Crescendo
It seems crazy to think that Rookie Historian: Goo Hae-Ryung began way back in the middle of July. Since then, this historical drama has danced its way through several different subplots, a myriad of slapstick comedy events and some nicely contained narratives nestled around the royal family at the centre of this drama. Stepping it up this week, Rookie Historian delivers an episode of poignant moments, drama and shocking reveals as the drama reaches fever pitch.
We begin with Prince Lee and Goo searching Nokseodang for the records. After Goo poetically compliments Lee, they continue to search for clues. Despite looking everywhere, they fail to find anything and give up looking for now.
During one of the meetings that morning, it’s revealed that the Queen Dowager was the one who spread The Story Of Ho Dam. With conflicting ways of dealing with this information, both the Second State Minister and the Crown Prince plead with the King to follow their way of reasoning with her. After siding with the Minister, in private the King reveals that Prince Lee is the dethroned King’s son and the Queen is spreading these stories to make Prince Lee the King instead of him. As he deliberates over what to do with this new information, outside the palace he shoots a knowing glance at the Queen Dowager who simply walks away.
Goo meanwhile continues searching for clues over the whereabouts of the records. Eventually they find them in the signboard above the building and lo and behold, inside they find Kim’s records. Unfortunately, as this is a historical record only historians can actually read what’s on the paper, leading Goo to decide what to do. Unfortunately Lee refuses to play along and instead decides he’s waited too long and needs to know who he is. Storming into the Queen’s chambers, he tells her exactly how he feels.
With Lee the only true heir to the throne, the Queen spills her secrets to him, telling him that she endured all this time, sacrificing to make sure he makes it back on the throne. It’s here we learn Prince Hamyeong killed her son and she pleads with Lee to hang on a little longer. As they both weep, outside the doors Sam-Bo does the same.
Back at the Office, Song returns to work as Goo finishes her writing and hands it in to Min. In doing so, she also hands him a note which prompts him to follow her into the records room. She asks him about revisions which prompts her to tell him she’s found Officer Kim’s records. As he wonders just who would tamper with documents, he realizes the horrible truth and tells her they can’t interfere and tell anyone.
We then cut back and see Officer Min receiving his official documentation in the past before in real time he heads to Goo’s house and tells her about a time in the past when he came across a passage. This leads him and Goo to share the documents with the rest of the historians, who relay the real history based on this new evidence. It’s here we learn everything is tied together.
In the documents, it speaks of the French priest arriving to Joseon to propagate Catholic beliefs and as they continue reading, they learn the details around Seoraewan and the rebellion that took place there. It turns out someone changed the content of the letter to justify the dethronement too, leading them to realize it was done with treasonous intent. Officer Yang snaps and immediately goes on the war path, wondering whether the records were deliberately tampered with or whether a historian was coerced into doing it.
They decide to take this information and confront His Majesty about the records. After using a hostile tongue gets them nowhere, Goo interjects and calms the situation down, pleading with the King for help in uncovering the truth behind Officer Kim’s words that have been lost over the years. As they all discuss what to do next, Goo reminisces over times gone by.
Just before an official meeting, Goo writes up a letter to bring before the council regarding Officer Kim. Out of all the 42 officers available during that time, the petition, signed by the entirety of the Office of Royal Decree, asks that everyone there be questioned to find out the truth. The Crown Prince however, decides he doesn’t want to accept any petitions on this and waves it away.
Out in the open, Goo learns that Jae-Kyung was the one who swapped the letters over and did so to protect Goo, simultaneously succumbing himself to years of suffering. She tells him he no longer needs to carry the burden and clasps his hand with her two hands. Unbeknownst to her however, back home guards arrive and ransack her house; all of this a direct result of her petition brought before the council.
As the episode closes out, Lee heads in to visit the Crown Prince. He tells him he’s the dethroned King and stands his ground while the Prince hits back, telling him he should know his place as Dowon and that he has no business wearing the crown. Their confrontation ends badly too, as the Crown Prince tells him he’s to stay inside his palace and not leave, much to the disdain of Goo who watches on in agony from afar.
Dramatic and full of shocking reveals, Rookie Historian delivers one of its best episodes here, one that manages to increase the drama and tension ten-fold over what we’ve seen before. It’s pretty impressive too and although I’ve been a vocal supporter of the comedy rather than the drama, there’s no denying that this week’s episode was incredibly tense and full of some really nicely worked drama between the characters. Hearing the historians discussing Kim’s records and tying that back in to Jean, the French priest, was a lovely touch too.
The finale tomorrow looks set to be a really dramatic one too and although I share similar thoughts with a lot of the comments over the weeks (Officer Min and Goo feel like a more natural match), Prince Lee’s tragic backstory and upbringing is enough to make me root for him and Goo to have a happily ever after. Whether we’ll actually receive that or not remains to be seen and if I’m honest, right now I can’t call which way this is likely to swing.