Episode 1 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 11 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 12 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 13 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 14 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 15 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 16 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 17 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 18 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 19 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 20 – | Review Score – 4/5
Part historical drama, part romantic comedy, Rookie Historian Go0 Hae-Ryung is an interesting and enjoyable series but certainly isn’t without its flaws. It’s a show that struggles to settle into a rhythm early on before delivering a more concise and consistent second half. Although some of the subplots and drama doesn’t always hit its mark, and at times the show drags on longer than it should, for the most part Rookie Historian does well, even if it is unlikely to be regarded as prolifically as some of the other Korean dramas released this year.
Beginning as a quirky comedy, the story follows hopeful female Goo Hae-Ryung who’s recruited to work as the first ever female historian inside the Royal palace during the early 19th century. With a strict hierarchy and traditions to adhere to, the episodes progress with a mixture of historical flavour-of-the-week drama whilst most of the series explores a growing romance between Goo and Prince Lee. Shunned by his Father and hidden away from political affairs, Lee spends his days writing and longing to be rid of his royal title.
As the episodes progress however, Lee finds himself thrust back into royal affairs as he and Goo Hae-Ryung become entwined together. Eventually this “will they/won’t they” love angle spills over to several important subplots that form the crux of the drama late on. All of this really peaks during the final few episodes that see shocking secrets revealed and a dramatic dose of tension that feels rushed and a little contrived, especially given the lackadaisical pacing throughout the season and the Hollywood-esque ending we receive with this one.
Although starting out as a comedy, Rookie Historian changes tone constantly throughout the season, eventually settling on a more darker, serious historical drama toward the end. While this in itself is fine, it’s a little disappointing given the show initially gives off strict comedy vibes (echoed in the trailer for the show too). It’s especially ironic given some of the best moments of Rookie Historian comes from the humour and between the crazy sound effects, slapstick segments and outright hilarious bouts of bouncy dialogue, it’s a bit of a shame there isn’t more of this throughout the show.
The drama itself is okay though and Shin Se-Kyung certainly does a good job depicting the conflicted and troubled female historian Goo Hae-Ryung, effortlessly switching between comedy and drama. Unfortunately her counterpart Eun-Woo feels stifled and at times a little wooden in his delivery. While his acting does improve as the series progresses, with some poignant and heartfelt moments toward the end, the middle portion of this drama feels bloated and overlong, with little plot or character development.
Rookie Historian is a perfectly enjoyable drama although it’s not without its faults. The story does take a while to get going and the pacing is a little inconsistent across the 20 episodes too. Given each of these clock in at a little over an hour, it’s quite the time investment you’ll be making to this one and Rookie Historian doesn’t always make that commitment worth it.
There’s enough here to get invested in the story though and the opening few episodes will almost certainly bring you right into the heart of this one. Unfortunately the long journey toward the dramatic ending requires quite a bit of patience to sit through, so much so that it’ll almost certainly lose people long before the good stuff late on. If you’re a fan of historical dramas though, this is worth checking out. Rookie Historian is far from the worst drama released this year but its issues are glaring enough to prevent it ascending to the heights it perhaps could have reached.
Verdict - 7/10