A Cure For Smallpox
Following yesterday’s cliffhanger ending, Rookie Historian returns right where we left off from before, in the heart of the smallpox-infected village. With some interesting character developments, including Prince Lee finally defying Royal orders, Rookie Historian weaves its drama together nicely, even if the show appears to have abandoned its goofy comedy in favour of a more serious period drama approach.
We return with Prince Lee questioning the physician Mo-Hwa about Variolation; a high risk procedure used to try and cure smallpox. Prince Lee tells them not to conduct the experiment anymore as it’s too risky while Goo ponders over the procedure itself while writing up her notes. She heads over to the physician and lies, telling her she’s had an immunization against smallpox and as such, can work alongside her. With new knowledge on the subject, she heads off to the isolated mother and child she found in the woods yesterday, only to find the child has died from smallpox. Believing its her fault, Goo breaks down crying while Mo-Hwo comforts her back in the village.
At the palace back home, Officer Seong comes under fire after falling asleep midway through the Royal address. Instead of exile, the Crown Prince is merciful, asking that he write a letter of apology instead. This inevitably leads to grumbles inside the Office as the ministers berate their workload before a stern telling off puts them all in their place and back to their never-ending stack of paper.
The Crown Prince is told by the Queen soon after to bring Prince Lee back right away while our Prince himself speaks to Goo, who pleads with him to see reason regarding the use of cowpox. She leaves a book for him to read after outright denying the cure and, after opening his mind to the idea it could work, he tells Mo-Hwo that he wants to believe her. In order to prove its effectiveness, he proposes testing the cure on himself, which sends the royal guard into chaos. Given this was all Goo’s influence, Officer Min approaches her and tells the rookie not to interfere with history, for better or for worse.
We see the ramifications of this soon after too as Prince Lee becomes ill with smallpox and Mo-Hwa is ambushed by soldiers en-route to the Prince. Thankfully, Prince Lee does get better and he recovers from the disease, reducing Sam-Bo to a blubbering mess. Although he receives a rash on his arm, it’s also a clear sign that he’s getting better.
Word gets back to the Palace about Prince Lee’s smallpox cure too and incredulous reactions spread around the various offices with the ministers. The King demand that Lee be brought back immediately but before he leaves, he receives favours from the residents during their final night in the town. It’s a touching tribute too, one that’s all the more important given the lack of wheat around the town. As Prince Lee returns to the Palace, the King is less than pleased to see him, greeting him with a swift slap to the face.
As he looks set to punish his son for disobeying his orders, the Crown Prince arrives and reminds his Majesty that the historians are watching, leaving things hanging on a knife’s edge.
With another episode that descends deeper into the political and societal mood of Joseon Society, Rookie Historian feels like a shadow of a show it was when it began several weeks ago. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still enjoyable stuff but for me the shift across to a more serious period piece doesn’t do the show any favours, especially when it comes to Eun-Woo’s mannerisms and acting. Given his stiff delivery of lines and at times difficult-to-read face, Prince Lee is arguably the worst thing about this show, which is a shame given how prominently he features here.
Still, it’s not all bad though and the show itself is still interesting enough to watch, especially with the ensuing familial drama at the heart of this one. It’s not perfect but it’s still good entertainment, I just hope Rookie Historian returns to its fun, comedic roots sooner rather than later otherwise this one’s in danger of drowning in mediocrity.