After a little over 3 months of weekly episodes, Rookie Historian bows out with a pretty good finale, one that leaves little question over whether a second season is coming, wrapping up all of its plot points in a relatively satisfying manner. Although these final couple of episodes have felt a little more urgent compared to what we’ve seen before, there’s enough here to make for an enjoyable watch nonetheless.
We start 20 years ago with the King finding out the treasonous Prince Hamyeong has invaded the palace with a group of soldiers. As chaos descends on the palace, the King is told to bend the knee and give up power thanks to the recovered documents found. When he refuses, he’s stabbed through the heart. Jae-Kyung bursts into the Office of Royal Decree soon after and tells the historians what he’s done. Tasked with protecting Hui-Yeong no matter what, we see them leaving the palace before cutting back to present day.
Hae-Ryung heads to see Jae-Kyung. With Prince Lee’s safety compromised and the King unwilling to listen to anyone, she asks what the plan is and decides she wants to be part of it. Meanwhile whispers from the Second State Minister speak of Prince Lee being assassinated and, during a particularly restless night, Lee hears a sword being unsheathed outside and immediately gets up to investigate. When he finds nothing, he heads back to head. The next morning however, Officer Min finds himself arrested on orders of the Second State Minister, although Goo’s attempts to deflect this back to herself are waved away.
Goo asks the Chief for a favour before grabbing Lee and hurrying back to the village with him, where Jae-Kyung and the others are waiting. There, he learns that they’re putting their plan into motion at the banquet in several days’ time and implores Lee to stay out of it. Sensing a trap, the Second State Minister tells the King they need to be vigilant and prepare for the worst. While the Crown Prince and Song meet again on the eve of the banquet, Lee tells Goo that he’s been waiting for her all this time and kisses her passionately.
The day of the banquet arrives and Jae-Kyeong gets up infront of the group and tells the King he was the one who fabricated the letter. He shows them too, laying the documents infront of him while pointing the blame at Second State Minister Min as the one who was behind the Dethronement. The Minister hits back, backed up by several other Officers, who tell him that he’s just trying to drive a wedge in the Royal family and that anyone who supports him will be punished for treason. The Queen then speaks up and tells Min that he’ll have to kill her first. As they all begin bickering, Prince Lee arrives and purposefully walks past the colourful officers and up to the King. Defiantly, he tells him he’s no longer “Prince Dowon” but instead Yi Rim.
As the historians continue to write down the King’s words, they defy the King’s wishes for them to stop writing and instead, Goo steps up and kneels beside Lee. She tells the King that if she dies, another historian will take her place. As all the other Historians kneel beside her, the Crown Prince steps up and decides on an outcome for them, telling the men to drop their swords. Standing infront of the King, he tells him that the Second State Minister is the one who’s trying to deceive them and take the Kingdom from him. He implores the King to find out the truth over what happened with the Dethronement and drops to his knees. This act is enough for other Officers to turn their allegiance and, spreading like a wave, everyone bows except the Second State Minister and a couple of his closest allies who stand dumbfounded at what’s happened.
It’s a seismic shift in power, and one that results in the Second State Minister opening up to Officer Min later that night while Goo informs Jae-Kyung that she’s submitted the records, taking some pressure off of him. He tells her he didn’t take care of her out of guilt but to him, she’s always been a sister. It’s a wonderfully heartwarming moment too and one that sees her tell him she’ll always be his sister.
While the Crown Prince learns everyone involved in the Dethronement process will be punished, Lee approaches the Queen and tells her to dethrone him as a Prince. He wants to live as an ordinary man by himself. He rejects the Queen despite her pleas and returns to Goo instead, telling her things didn’t go according to plan with before they leave Nokseodang for the last time.
We then jump forward 3 years to find our historians busy at work. They’re no longer clerks either it seems, as all of them have now been promoted to administrators. Song is no longer a historian either, as we see her as a teacher receiving books from the Office of Royal Decree around academics.
U-Hui is no longer married to the Crown Prince and as she walks with Min, the Office of Royal Decree head out and meet him, telling him that His Majesty wants him back at work. The King is actually the Crown Prince, who has ascended into this role. Sitting with Jae-Kyung, they warn him not to overwork but he’s determined to make Seoraewon more than just a dream and change the future.
Lee tells Sam-Bo and the twins not to wait for him as he breaks into Goo’s house and lays petals leading up to her bed. They’re now a happy couple and he’s returned from a trip far away to greet her again. He’s writing again too and after some playful banter, she tells him to hurry and lock the door. Outside however, Sam-Bo and Seol-Geum poke fun at one another about their age, clearly flirting.
As night turns to day, our happy couple part ways again after a kiss goodbye. Goo makes her way into work and as she does, the camera pans up to reveal the gorgeous architecture of the palace. We leave the episode on a happy ending after all.
Although the 3 year jump caught me off guard, the episode itself wraps up in a pretty satisfying manner, with almost all the plot threads wrapped up and resolved. The ending to this one does feel a little rushed, and the pacing for the last few episodes has been completely different to how Rookie Historian started off as all those months ago. That’s probably the biggest criticism I have with Rookie Historian too and the tonal shift from romantic comedy across to serious historical drama has certainly felt natural, but an unexpected change that undermines those early episodes a bit.
Having said that, Rookie Historian does pretty well here to wrap everything up and although a few of the plot points feel a little contrived and resolved a little too conveniently, I’m grateful the drama has received a satisfying conclusion. With a wonderful montage segment showing the cast and crew hard at work during the credits, Rookie Historian has been a pleasant little drama to watch over the past few months and while it’s unlikely to be regarded as prolific as something like Hotel Del Luna, it’s been well worth watching over the weeks nonetheless.