Burn The Books
After its surprisingly enjoyable first episode, Rookie Historian Goo Hae-Ryung returns for another slice of romantic drama, one peppered with enough humour and plot developments to keep you entertained until the end.
The episode itself begins with Prince Lee convincing Goo to admit the truth to the crowd. With a heavy heart, she heads outside and reveals that she’s not really Maehwa. Of course, she’s met with inevitable hostility which she deflects onto Prince Lee, telling them all that he’s the real Maehwa. Before he can do anything to react, the King’s guards rush in and seize the books as chaos descends. Unfortunately for Lee, Goo pushes him into the soldiers who arrest, and later interrogate, him after locking him up for the night.
Believing he’s the author of the books they’ve been tasked with seizing, the interrogator soon realizes Lee may be someone of power and eases up. Before he can follow through with his suspicions, the “real Maehlwa” arrives to turn themselves in. Only, its actually Sam Bo. While he deals with the ramifications of his actions, back in the town square all the books are burned in a giant pyre. Goo confronts Officer Min soon after and tells them confidently that the King is wrong to burn all these texts. As she looks set to hit the Officers with a knockout blow, her brother arrives and thankfully stops that from occurring.
After learning about corruption stemming from the Royal Court, Prince Lee is summoned to visit his Father. He’s not happy with his Son and demands all books, pens, ink and anything related to writing and reading be burned immediately. While Lee laments his new predicament, Goo does the same as she realizes her brother has set her up with a potential husband.
A petition is made to find the author of The Story Of Ho-Dam, but the ministers believe the writer may be inside the palace. However, at court the Crowned Prince initially has reservations about the idea of female historians entering the palace to record everyday occurrences but agrees to think about the Second State Minister’s idea. Later that night, the Queen arrives and offers him some words of wisdom. He then visits Lee and discusses the banned book, admitting he actually read the novel and couldn’t stop reading.
With a prospective husband in the wings, Goo tries to act positively before heading outside and seeing Jang Sui, the boy she saved in the first episode, dressed in nice clothes and running errands.
The next day, court is adjourned and the Crowned Prince makes his decision – women will be allowed to take the civil service exam, much to the displeasure of those around him. After some back and forth discussion, it’s finally agreed and signs go up around the market square advertising for this lucrative position. After a tender moment between Goo and her brother, we learn soon after that he can’t go through with Goo’s wedding and announces it to the crowd while his sister sneaks out the back. As she hurries toward the gates of the palace, she tells the guards she wants to take the exam while Prince Lee tries to find a suitable exam question with the Crowned Prince.
With a little less comedy this time around and more politically charged drama, Rookie Historian backs up a little on what made the first episode so endearing in favour of fleshing out the different character relationships in court. With the promise of Goo entering court and potentially growing closer to Prince Lee, there’s certainly some tantalizing prospects waiting in the wings but for now, Rookie Historian doesn’t quite hit the same heights as the first episode. It’s still good stuff though and there’s some genuinely funny moments that help balance out some of the more dramatic political segments nestled in the episode.
The wacky sound effects are such an unusual choice here, especially next to some of the tense drama, but surprisingly it actually works pretty well. Stylistically there isn’t a whole lot different this time around but the narrative itself certainly slows down a bit. Having said that, Rookie Historian has enough to its plot to keep you sticking around, even if today’s episode doesn’t quite hit the same standard as the first.