Rookie Historian Gu Hae-ryung: Episodes 5-12 Open Thread
We haven’t found the lost key to the fourth dimension yet, but we’re loving Rookie Historian Gu Hae-ryung and wanted a space to chat about it with y’all. We’re posting weekly threads to share our thoughts and also open the comments for your discussion. There’s a lot of squeeing and ships and theories to catch up on, so let’s start!
EPISODES 5-12 WEECAP
I’m definitely a Maehwa fan in my past life because I consider the show’s conspiracies as just background for the (relation)ships. Whether it’s between friends, family, work buddies, or “just friends,” the past two weeks have given us lots of interactions to treasure.
First is Gu Hae-ryung and Prince Rim’s cute, bickering dynamic. A lot of their scenes are straight from romance tropes. From the mistaken identities to the “Let’s pretend skinship to avoid punishment,” and the “Oops, there’s only one bed–guess we’ll have to share *nervous gulps*”
But what really pulled at my heart is that scene when Rim ceased petty hostilities and left Hae-ryung to cry in peace after a very hard day at work. “No one ever visits this place. No one will hear you cry here.” Rim may be a socially ignorant prince who steals writing ideas from palace gossip, but you know that that one piece of advice is at least pulled from his own loneliness.
There’s surprisingly not a lot of angst about the fact that she’s a historian and he’s a disgraced prince. They’re smartly getting around it by using their past lies and disguises as an excuse to break protocol and hang out like normal friends. Like when Hae-ryung won’t talk to the prince at all, claiming she’s a historian, so Rim starts listing her offenses towards Maehwa and dares her to record *that* in her notebook. Or when Hae-ryung dropped by Nokseodang to thank not the prince, because that would be inappropriate, but his pretend-persona Assistant Clerk Lee.
I’m also happy to see that after spending more time with him, Hae-ryung has started to understand what Maehwa’s novels–and writing in general–mean to him. Hopefully she’ll see why those novels bring comfort and entertainment not just to the writer but to its readers too.
For this next ship, you have to look reaaally closely to see that First Historian Woo-won also seems impressed with Hae-ryung. He always scolds her for stepping all over tradition with her outrageous ideas of transparency and equality but he’s only mad because her hasty actions have repercussions she hasn’t thought through.
Despite his perpetually frowny face, you can depend on him to stand up for Hae-ryung and her fellow rookies when the bullying or discrimination becomes too much. What can I say? I love him, even if the “conflicted son of the leader of Team Evil” character has been done in practically every romance-laced sageuk ever.
We haven’t seen much of Crown Prince Jin interacting with Hae-ryung apart from that giant proud smile after the historian exam announcements. (A ship I’ve also boarded despite initial misgivings about Park Ki-woong’s sageuk beard. Let’s say it has…grown on me. Sorry!)
The show focuses more on Jin’s relationship with his younger brother. Rim is the only person the Crown Prince can completely relax with, to the point that he’s such a pesky older brother. LOL I’ll never get tired of Jin messing with Rim’s huge ego. Meanwhile Jin is probably the only regular and welcome visitor of Nokseodang before Hae-ryung started her historian duties.
There’s a lot of brotherly love and respect from both sides and completely aligned principles about good governance, the show is setting up the brothers to be pitted against each other at some point. Whether by choice or as mere figureheads for a power struggle is yet to be seen. But I swear I will throw a tantrum if you break their precious bromance and/or kill Jin, Show.
There’s also an interesting dynamic between the Crown Prince and another rookie historian, Sa-hee. She’s the daughter of one of his corrupt detractors. A fact he openly questions her about. Meanwhile Sa-hee’s matter-of-fact correction, “It’s nine, not five. My father owns nine houses, four are hidden under his concubine’s name,” made me LOL then feel fired up for her sake when she said that all those riches are pointless for her. As a daughter, she won’t be inheriting them anyway.
I sympathize with her goal to make something of herself from her own efforts, I’m just unsure if marrying the Crown Prince is the right answer. My shippy self is hoping there’s affection there at least. Jin’s current wife is just a spy planted by his enemies, and I don’t want him to end up even lonelier and used by Sa-hee.
This wouldn’t be a sageuk without court conspiracies and threats of revolution, at the heart of it all is clueless Rim. We don’t completely understand why his father hates him so much, but the clues are pointing to a mysterious book, The Story of Ho Dam, any mention of which drives the king bonkers and Councilor Min into beard-stroking and village-killing mode.
The Story of Ho Dam sounds dangerous enough that Councilor Min is willing to order the slaughter of a whole settlement of people just for making copies of the book. The unluckiest of said writers survived, thanks to a mysterious ninja with genius medical skills (a.k.a. stitches). Too bad the survivor was assassinated anyway while recuperating under the government’s protection.
The ninja is none other than Mo-hwa, a slave that used to be favored by the deposed former king. She’s now living a “quiet” life as Eunuch Sam-bo’s wife. We’ve yet to see if Sam-bo is part of this conspiracy that’s watching over Rim or if his pleas for the prince to stay safe within the palace walls are just that: the whinings of a tired caretaker. But Mo-hwa is definitely on Rim’s side and the dowager queen’s which is interesting, because we barely see the dowager queen talking to Rim while she has an amicable relationship with Jin. Sooo that’s going to be awkward if she’s planning to put Rim on the throne because obviously, nice Prince Jin is in the way…
But of course, this show is called Rookie Historian Gu Hae-ryung, and I’m glad to see that we’ve started historian bootcamp!
Episodes 5-8 dealt with the struggle of Hae-ryung and fellow rookies Oh Eun-im, Heo Ah-ran, and Song Sa-hee to be accepted by their seniors. Basically, the guys were treating them like maids because there was a royal order to exempt the ladies from the traditional hazing of newbies. So the senior historians refuse to acknowledge the ladies as real trainees.
It’s frustrating to watch their male counterparts look down on them for something outside their control. More than the exhausting tasks, what irks the most is when the ladies are insulted for not being worthy, when fact is they’ve worked just as hard and passed the same exam as the guys before them.
I didn’t expect the usually mum Sa-hee to be the one to trap Woo-won using his own words about equality and forcing him to acquiesce to the hazing. But who else doesn’t enjoy Woo-won being rendered speechless (more than usual) when she basically tells him to get his chivalrous thoughts out of the way, haze them, and be done with it. Because, really, these girls came here to learn from them, not be put in a pretty box and displayed on a shelf for fear of being damaged.
First Historian Yang is usually trotted out by the show for comedic effect, but you have to admire his genius twist on the hazing. It’s not like he can order the ladies to strip and paddle their behinds like the other guys. So a drinking party at a gibang (an establishment where gisaengs perform and serve drinks to patrons) packs the same emotionally degrading punch. Too bad he didn’t factor in Hae-ryung’s very unorthodox upbringing with her Orabeoni. The moment she picked up that bowl of alcohol and challenged Yang to a drinking match, quoting Confucius even, I knew Yang was toast.
We’ll never know if one drinking victory would’ve been enough to start the rookies’ training, but it was getting tiring and I was glad(?) for the terrifying intervention that led to a change in the senior historians’ hearts.
You know what I’m talking about: that scary scene when the court ladies cornered our newbies and gave them a taste of inner palace hazing. “You are ladies reserved for the king. Steal and your hand is cut off. Talk back and your mouth is seared. Lose your chastity and you lose your head.”
Court ladies are supposed to keep secrets. Act dumb. Not repeat anything they see or hear within the walls. Their loyalty is to the royal family. It’s the antithesis of what a historian is and NOT what our rookies were brought into the palace for. The senior historians had an awakening after rescuing their newbies from that kind of hazing. Because as the usually nice Heo-ran raged during her outburst, the reason they couldn’t stand up to the court ladies is because they themselves didn’t know what a historian’s real duty is, since all they’ve done so far are fetch water and wipe the senior historians’ boots.
First Historians Yang and Woo-won are shamed by that, and they start (finally!) our rookies’ training. There’s still a ton of exhausting work, but at least they’re now accorded the same respect as a low-level historian. Namely, attending royal meetings and getting shouted at for their terrible writing skills. Hehe.
Thanks to that, in episodes 9-12, we see more of what a historian’s job entails and the difficulties that come with it. The rookies are appalled to find out that the king’s “Royal Advisors” are just a bunch of whiny men looking out for their best interests. Hae-ryung especially has trouble staying impartial about it, something that Woo-won scolds her for. “Historians record facts, not their own opinions, otherwise you’re just writing a diary.”
Another disadvantage of being a historian is the need to avoid close relationships, as this could affect that impartiality that stick-in-the-mud Woo-won values so much. It’s a huge problem for Hae-ryung who’s obviously going to fall in love with Rim and him, her. Not to mention with her usual propensity to say whatever’s on her mind if she thinks someone is making bad decisions… our girl has a long way to go to be a good historian.
And that’s something that Woo-won has obviously been struggling with for far longer. Because in rare moments, we see that he also doesn’t approve of what’s going on in the palace. Complicated by the fact that he’s a historian, childhood friend of the crown prince, and son of the evil Councilor Min, you can bet that he won’t be impartial for long. Not with fearless rookie Hae-ryung running around, causing trouble while saying exactly what Woo-won dares not say out loud. I give him two more episodes before he cracks. Anyone else wanna guess?
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