The Trials & Tribulations of a Female Historian
We return to Rookie Historian this week and pick up right where we left off with the cliffhanger ending. With more drama this time around and a much more rigid narrative surrounding Goo’s ordeal as a female historian, the episode does little to advance the plot. Having said that, there’s still some enjoyable, comedic moments but the episode does feel a lot slower compared to what we’ve seen already.
We begin with Goo intervening to stop the assassin after his confession last week. From the shadows, an archer lends a helping hand and Lee manages to escape with his life intact for now. While he recovers, the Crowned Prince gives him a stern talking to regarding him sneaking off and berates himself for not keeping a closer eye on his Royal brother.
Still surprised over Prince Lee’s real identity, Hae-Ryung checks the records to see if the claim is true. Before she can follow it up however, her and the other female historians are tasked with heading to the royal palace for a special assignment. Refusing to hide his identity anymore, Lee dons his royal robes and prepares for Goo’s arrival as she happens to be his apprentice. It’s initially awkward between them, with none of the usual charisma and instead, gripped in silence as she records what he’s doing.
However, he eventually breaks the silence and speaks properly to her, suddenly stopping as he realizes she’s writing everything down. He composes himself before weaving the story about the fake Maewha, smugly asking if shes going to write that down too. She doesn’t, of course, but before she can follow it up with an excuse, a bell rings indicating it’s time to go.
Later on that day, the Prince manages to catch up with Goo and they have a heart to heart – off the record. Prince thanks her for being concerned and present in the evening, where she replies that she just wanted a friend at the Palace. It turns out they’ve all been working for over a month. Unfortunately they’re not improving fast enough for some of the other historians, who berate their work. The girls discuss the difficulty of their jobs after a stern talking to before Prince Lee decides to stay alone in his chambers.
In the aftermath of the nation’s floods, the Crowned Prince tries to maintain order among the ministers. The Second State Minister comes under fire too around the rumour of strange medical practices, causing him to be questioned by the King himself.
Just as Goo sets her things up to record the details of the Prince’s latest meeting, he asks her outright about Lee before telling her to follow him. He takes her to an archery competition where he and the Prince compete. A bet is then made between Lee and Goo and, as fate would have it, Goo hits the bulls-eye and wins.
Embarrassed, the Prince tells her she should remember her place and gives her the cold shoulder. He tells her if it was up to him, female historians wouldn’t be invited into the palace. However, back at the Office, the historian looks pleased with their work. He smiles and the girls breathe a sigh a relief. “Do you want to die? Is your job a joke to you?!” He screams incredulously as the facade is dropped and the girls’ mistakes are there for all to see.
The girls’ hopes of a pay day fail to come to fruition as well, just to add insult to injury, as the palace appears to run out of rice. As they drown their sorrows in alcohol, they’re called over to drink with the male Clerks who tell them they took a long time to be paid correctly too. Goo laments her fortunes back home and is warned not to make friends with anyone at the palace as it could backfire. The next day we learn Goo wrote a petition to ban assistant clerks due to their financial issues. She tells them she only pointed out an irregularity and asks why she has to be punished for it.
As Goo heads back to Lee’s, he notices her mood and asks what’s wrong. As tears flood down her cheeks, he tells her it’s okay and that she can cry for as long as she needs. Deep in thought, Lee heads outside; the sound of her crying floating poignantly out the windows where we leave our characters.
As the trials and tribulations of being a female historian begin to rear its ugly head this week, Rookie Historian eases up on the politics of the country for a much more prejudiced view of how our historians are being treated. It’s not easy being a female in Joseon Society but Goo’s strong will has got her this far. As we see her break down and cry at the end, the real toll this is having on her persona is certainly clear to see and really helps empathise with her character.
Aside from the comedic quips, Prince Lee is a difficult character to warm to. Partly due to the acting but also due to the writing – which feels a little too one dimensional for a role that should be the duet number to the excellent Goo. Still, the humour is worked really well into the episode again and for the most part, Rookie Historian continues along with another pretty good episode. It’s not quite as bouncy and fun as the opening few weeks would have you believe, but there’s enough here to enjoy nonetheless, even if this week’s episode loses some of that early charm.