Rookie is one of the rare sageuks I actually managed to watch through like close to 85%, mainly cos it is not your usual run of the mill stuffy period dramas. Granted, the typical Palace intrigues are still there, stirred up by those Ministers in Red, but thankfully, the plot is saved from total boredom by the cuteness of the OTP, and also our refreshing heroine.
Hae-ryung is so atypical for a woman of her times, that I sometimes find it very difficult to actually believe she hasn’t got into really serious trouble (like those where she gets her head chopped). Especially since her workplace is in the Royal Palace, where rules are orders of the day, and one misstep or misdemeanour can cost her her life. But well, this is fiction, so we will suspend our disbelief and accept that Hae-ryung and her team of co-workers actually managed to thrive in a male-dominated Palace, where women are usually either maids or concubines, not holding offices/titles.
Besides Hae-ryung, the other factor that made me not ffwd too many scenes is the historian team in the Office of Royal Decrees. Initially coming across as male-chauvinist, the guys have come round to accepting their female co-workers and become “oppas” (in the familial, not romantic sense) to them. I love it when they bristle and chest thump then go after their colleagues from opposing departments when they deemed their “little sisters” were bullied. How cute. But of cos, those ladies need anything but rescuing. While Hae-ryung might be the bravest of the lot, ladies like Sa-hui pack a punch too.
Unfortunately (for me), Sa-hui + Crown Prince almost-romance didn’t fully take off. I was kind of hoping their relationship would develop, but I suppose with Chancellor Min, and Sa-hui’s corrupted daddy (who is in Min’s camp), a too-fast development would be premature. As it is, the ending with Sa-hui becoming a teacher of sorts to children of humble origins and Crown Prince divorcing (or freeing) Crown Princess hint at a possible reunion for them in future. (and I was sad that Crown Princess didn’t get much screen time, she is both a sympathetic yet strong character…much like Hae-ryung, except she has less freedom)
Last saving grace for Rookie would be all the characters — minus a few. Other than Chancellor Min who is set up to be the 2D villain, King himself proves to be quite a sympathetic character. I suppose his temper comes from a strong sense of insecurity and having that annoying Chancellor Min constantly reminding him that King owes the throne to Min. And the fear naturally spills over to protecting his son, the Crown Prince. But I’d say he may not be that heartless or lacking in a conscience, cos he DOES listen and back down, even if it means losing face for it.
If there are any complaints about Rookie, it’d be the slight draggy-ness that came when Hae-ryung learns about Prince Dowon’s upcoming wedding. Suddenly she becomes all prim and proper — and cowardly. Which is so unlike her behaviours in the past, where she tackles a problem head on like a bull. Somehow, when faced with the news of Prince Dowon’s marriage (which never happened), Hae-ryung suddenly has a load of reasons why she needs to break up with Prince, such as …. it is customary for a member of the Royal Family to accept betrothals and marriage contracts. I was like duh? Where is that Hae-ryung who thumbs her nose at ridiculous rules??
All in all though, a pretty likeable and breezy watch. For a sageuk.