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“Goblin” Review: A bittersweet and memorable journey for many years to come

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Overall Review:

A journey which was poignant, memorable and epic for not only the people we follow along with, but rather the specks of wisdom that the show sprinkles throughout. Through its amazing cinematography, sweet chemistry and intriguing messages, this drama will indeed keep your interest as it sets itself apart from most other dramas.

Like many already have (and eventually will), I am certainly not the first nor last blogger to share their thoughts on this drama. Goblin was perhaps the most anticipated drama of the remaining quarter of 2016 and as expected, it did indeed deliver. After laughing and crying my heart out for numerous hours (and recovering from the numbing feeling that I felt for hours after watching the drama), as well as falling into a little slump for a couple of weeks, I have finally gained the courage to close this drama, and finally say my farewell to our Goblin and his bride.

*deep breath* Let’s get on with it.

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Name: Goblin/ Goblin: The Lonely and Great God (쓸쓸하고 찬란하神-도깨비)

Broadcast Dates: 2nd December 2016 – 21st January 2017

Number of Episodes: 16 (plus 1 special episode. There were another 2 special episodes presented after the drama that had interviews and BTS clips)

Note: Followed this drama around 2 weeks into its broadcast, and then followed it religiously week by week. Saved up the last 3 episodes to be watched back-to-back)

Synopsis (Credit to mydramalist):

Kim Shin (Gong Yoo) is a Goblin who is cursed with immortality and uses his powers to help others. He lives together with a Grim Reaper who has amnesia and can’t remember his past. To end his immortality, Shin must search for a human bride who can pull out the sword in his chest and return him to ashes. He meets Ji Eun Tak (Kim Go Eun), a high school student who, despite her painful reality, remains optimistic and ends up falling in love with the Goblin. She works for Sunny (Yoo In Na), the owner of a small chicken restaurant who is a bright and attractive girl, loved by all men. However, when she meets the Grim Reaper (Lee Dong Wook), all four people’s lives and pasts starts to intertwine.

Initial Impressions:

There was much to anticipate and hesitate when news about this drama first came out. Firstly, I was really anticipating about this drama since this was Gong Yoo’s return to the small screen ever since Big, and the fact that Train to Busan had come out last year really made me take more notice about him than usual. Loving the man, I knew he would do well in any new work, but that was what had made me hesitate picking this one up too. After dropping Big after the first 2 episodes, and knowing that the writer for this drama was none other than Kim Eun Sook, writer most well-known for her works The Heirs and Descendants of the Sun, I most definitely kept my expectations low in order to reduce any disappointment I might encounter.

But honestly, low expectations were unnecessary. The opening for this drama was a-ma-zing. (I kinda hate that I’m such a pessimist sometimes >.>)

First off, it is visually stunning. Clearly the choices they made for the scenery shots was spot-on. Each scene is indeed gorgeous, and never felt wasted. The way they merge the past to the present and vice versa was smooth and very addictive. I loved the fact that they really took the time to ensure that certain shots were intentional, bursting with colour. It really made the whole feel of the drama more epic, and at times it seemed more like a movie than a drama (especially at the sageuk scenes)

Gorgeous isn't it? Credit: Soompi

Gorgeous isn’t it? Credit: Soompi

The acting was pretty spot on too. Many I’ve heard complained about Kim Go Eun’s portrayal of Eun Tak, but I didn’t find anything funny about it. I bought her acting line, hook and sinker. I feel that she really did well in portraying an optimistic and bright girl who despite her circumstances, is still able to see the glass half full. Her aegyo was so cute :3

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Gong Yoo on the hand portrayed a character that was the complete opposite to our Eun Tak. He was so majestic and really impressive in the sageuk scenes that were shot. But the main thing that makes me swoon is his expressions. Each expression on his face speaks volumes, and really conveys exactly what his character was feeling or thinking. Despite the man not being that expressive, with the limited emotions he displays, we as the audience can indeed read them clearly.

Expression that speaks volumes. Credit as written on gif

Expression that speaks volumes. Credit: Yoosuns

The rest of the cast likewise seemed suited for their roles. Already I knew that the Goblin/Grim Reaper bromance was most definitely happening, and that I’m certain there will be much to love about those too. Deok Hwa was another sweetiepie who I knew I would adore, but still be curious about. Knowing the 3 of them living together really brought me much unexplainable joy; their bromance is so cute really. Plus, can I just say…I love Sunny being such a cool and badass boss? Love love love her for that (and I kinda wish that I could have a boss like her too in the future…or be her xD)

But all in all, I was extremely impressed with the opening, and knew that I had to follow it. If not for the plot, then certainly for Gong Yoo…and I can most definitely say that the experience wasn’t a waste at all.

Opinions about the drama:

All in all, the drama was certainly a unique drama that really distinguishes itself from most other mainstream dramas. Narrative wise, it wasn’t anything too mindblowing nor unexpected, but other aspects such as its lore, cinematography and overall idea truly makes this drama worth a watch. With the world it builds itself in, you will certainly become immersed into the world of Goblin, whilst having much difficulty pulling yourself out of it once you finish the entirety of the drama. It, in many aspects was most definitely not perfect (which I will go into more detail later), but it was certainly memorable and epic.

Although I had doubts of this drama because of the writer, I can safely say that this is by far her best work yet. After watching quite a couple of her past works (Descendants of the Sun, The Heirs, Secret Garden, Lovers in Paris) I was starting to doubt that I would enjoy one of her works comfortably. However, after seeing Goblin, my faith in her has returned. What I like about Kim Eun Sook is the fact that she can come up with some really interesting ideas as the basis for multiple dramas (such as a military-setting for DotS or soul-swapping between 2 people in SG) which many may not dare to try. Sure, they’re not perfect, but they are popular for good reasons too. So, thank you, thank you Kim Eun Sook for bringing such an enjoyable piece for us to watch.

And below are the reasons why I thought that this whole experience was not a waste at all (at least for me)

Positives:

1. The chemistry amongst our entire cast (especially between our 2 OTPs)

Of course, the first thing we must mention about is that chemistry amongst all the cast members. Regardless as to whether they were a pairing or not, everyone really clicked with each other. But of course, we should focus on our Goblin and his bride, along with the Grim Reaper and Sunny.

Ahhh where do I start about these two? Despite the fact that many believe the Goblin is just way too old for Eun Tak (not just theory-wise but also in real life age-wise) and believe it to be almost ‘wrong’, I beg to differ. No matter the age difference (if we’re talking story-wise, Eun Tak is 19 while our Goblin is 939 .____.) I did buy the fact that through Eun Tak, our lonely Goblin is finally starting to understand the feelings and emotions associated with caring and loving another individual. This is clearly portrayed by Gong Yoo, as his expressions really do convey his gradual discovery about his feelings towards this girl. Not only is the writing for this character really well done, but it was through Gong Yoo’s ability to really sell this character to the audience that makes it slightly difficult for us not to support this couple.

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But I believe most doubts about this couple lies upon Go Eun’s portrayal of Eun Tak. From what I’ve read online, most say that she acts like a mid-20s person trying to act younger than they really are. Again, I don’t exactly agree on this statement. In my eyes, Go Eun does a fantastic job as our 19 year old Eun Tak who despite her misfortunes is able to overcome them on a daily basis. Instead of seeing someone act younger than they are, I see a mature young adult who wants to remain the age she is, but through all the events she has encountered and endured since a young age, it has hardened her resolve and has made her wiser beyond her years. And so, I bought their relationship. I bought the fact that this young, bright child can gradually melt away our lonely Goblin’s cold heart, that her smile that is as bright as the morning sun, is able to melt away the frozen chips of ice surrounding our Goblin’s heart that has been stuck there for centuries.

But, like many, our other OTP in the drama is truly a match made in heaven. I won’t go into much detail about their backgrounds as such to avoid spoilers, but regardless as to whether you know it or not, we can’t deny that these two are just the cutest couple in their own way. While Eun Tak and Kim Shin’s relationships blossoms slowly like the spring blossoms, our Grim Reaper/Sunny couple remain almost like a ‘some’ couple for a little while towards the beginning of the drama. With a meeting which seems to be controlled by the deities above, these two go at a snail pace before things pick up before them. However, their interactions with each other make us giggle and have second-hand embarrassment moments for them both. If you’ll cringe with Kim Shin and Eun Tak, you’ll be facepalming with these two for a little while. Regardless though, this pairing clicks just as quickly as we’d expect, and to be honest, as much as I loved our Goblin and his bride pairing, I was anticipating just as much to see our Grim Reaper and his Sunny come on the screen just as often.

This scene was sooooooo cute :3

This scene was sooooooo cute :3

Aside from the pairings though, of course the others closely involved with our pairings were just as adorable and fun to see on-screen. Deok Hwa was just an adorable nephew of Kim Shin (and the Grim Reaper’s too in a way) who did provide that comic relief when needed (as well as a contributor to the plot too at some stage), as well as Secretary Kim (many adored him, as did I) who was an amazing helper in times of need. And of course, who could forget the trusty ghost friends Eun Tak had, and helped along the way. That was indeed a component of the drama which I enjoyed, but I’ll go into more detail later in this review.

2. The cinematography as well as that OST

The next best aspect of this drama that many will agree on is the physical setting of the drama. From the first episode alone, you can see that they certainly did not cut down on the production value of the drama which definitely paid off. As the drama shifts from the sageuk setting to the modern, you are just simply blown away from the visuals and backdrops of the drama. Whether it’s Canada or in Korea, your eyes would just drink everything in. My personal favourites are definitely that shot of the ski resort, as well as some shots in Quebec. Like many, this drama has certainly convinced me to check out Canada in the future, and visit the same places that our Goblin and his bride visited during their trip there.

Stunning... Credit: Soompi

Stunning… Credit: Soompi

Just look at that shot :o Credit: koreandramaland.com

Just look at that shot 😮 Credit: koreandramaland.com

Alongside with the amazing cinematography is the OST. So many iconic songs have appeared with this drama, and even now I’m addicted to so many of them. Below I’ve linked my personal favourites. The only disappointing one is most definitely the song that so many fans were anticipating on – “Round and Round”. It’s sad to learn that they didn’t ask for the original singer to re-record the song, and likewise not give her the most proper credit, but still the song is a good one. (On a side note, you can probably tell that my taste in sad ballads was heavy during this period xDD)

3. The whole concept of the drama

This is most definitely my main love for this drama, and indeed the biggest reason why I hung on and followed it religiously week by week. This drama teaches so much from accepting the inevitable fate of mortality, to concepts and ideas about deities and the supernatural. On the surface, this drama appears to talk about how two individuals try to fight against fate and the inevitable, but indeed this drama explores more than that. And so, what I ultimately loved about this drama was not the idea that love can conquer death, but rather that this concept wasn’t new and instead was refreshed to become something new, even though it wasn’t. Writer Kim allowed such small ideas about the afterlife and mortality to come alive (pun unintended) and built her own mythology around it. I’ll try to take my time to break this down to the best of my ability.

Firstly, the drama’s focus on the afterlife and the concept of reincarnation. What the drama concludes is that every human has four lives, and that once you complete your last one, you will either go to heaven or hell. Although this idea itself isn’t exactly anything new or amazing, but in terms of in the dramaworld, the idea has been rarely explored, which adds to the refreshing take this drama has. This being inspired from faiths such as Buddhism and Christianity, is interesting as the drama attempts to re-create its own faith system alongside with the world building of past/modern Korea.

Along with this, the drama also introduces deities into the mix, which indeed has been rarely seen in K-dramas. Rather than just simply using supernatural creatures such as vampires and ghosts (which we’ve all seen before), they introduce gods that all subject to ‘The One’. Other characters such as the Grim Reapers and the Red Lady (who I assume is similar to the Goddess of Birth) adds to the world building, and makes us assume that there is perhaps a different world and system apart from our own human society, which is such a thrilling thought.

Finally of course, is the matter regarding mortality – that everyone will have ‘their time’. Adding to the lore and mythology of this drama, I love the fact that despite these certain deities (such as the Goblin and Grim Reaper) are immortal, they are still given traits that allows them to connect to the human world in their own way. Just like how the Goblin makes it rain every time he’s sad, or that the Grim Reaper can move alongside humans invisible through the use of his hat, I believed that that is indeed what happens among us. I believed the lore. Now looking outside my window, I do wonder if it is perhaps a deity or demi-god that is currently upset about something which is causing the clouds to collect outside. Now whilst walking to somewhere, I am curious to know if there is another ghost, another being that is following me by my side, step by step. That we were able to explore this world through the eyes of the Goblin and the Grim Reaper, as two immortals living amongst mortals, and how they choose to interact and treat human life, is what made this drama find a special place in my heart.

Credit: Dramafever

Our two deities (ie two cool ahjusshis xD) just saving the day Credit: Dramafever

And so, I cannot thank Writer Kim enough for this beautiful drama. Yes, it’s not perfect, but certainly this is by far her greatest work that I’ve seen so far. So much to love about this drama, truly.

Negatives:

1. The drag of the plot for the first ½ of the drama

This was one of the main reasons why many (including myself at one point) wanted to drop the drama. The reveal of the plot was a drag, as we don’t get to see the huge plot twist of our characters until a little past the halfway mark. There was also the issue that many like myself were able to already make very clear assumptions about what would happen, and guess who is who. Not to mention the change in tone from a rom-com to something more like a melodrama, but plenty of foreshadowing had been made that that would be inevitable, so there isn’t much to complain there. But definitely the middle of the drama (like most of Kim’s dramas) tend to lose its pacing and drags on for a while. However, it’s those last 3 episodes that just made me a mess of a human…*runs away in embarrassment*

2. Those last 3 episodes…

SPOILERS ALERT! Do not continue if you do not want to be spoiled for the last 4 episodes of the drama.

After going through traumatic episode 13, despite it placing me into almost a depressive state, I was just as determined to continue with watching the drama. However, I never imagined that the story would try to make itself come together so conveniently, especially when it came to Eun Tak and the whole memory loss thing. Come on, really? She looks at the leaf and conveniently remembers everything? Yes, she was in Quebec and saw places that would have triggered something, but to be just standing there and have all her memories flood back to her seemed…sloppy. Too convenient, and it to be honest angered me slightly. I was expecting more like “the Goblin’s kiss” like the whole ‘true love’ thing could jolt her memories, or even that she has to meet a deity of some sorts to get it back. Aside from those reasons (which in my mind seem to fit the context of the story) any other reason just seems too easy. Otherwise, if you’re gonna give her memories back that way, explain that perhaps a deity gave them back to her, but at a cost of some sort (which would inevitably lead to what happened in episode 16). Just…sigh, I was slightly disappointed that that was how they were gonna give her memories back.

And also, that ending?

After watching the last 3 episodes in a pool of tears, when it came to the end of episode 16 and seeing that ending, I was left, like many, a bittersweet feeling about it. Because we know that that ending would only bring our Goblin and his bride couple temporary happiness, until Eun Tak has to die again and return a couple of decades later to spend another lifetime with her lover. Although my brain acknowledges that that is the most suitable ending for them, I’m also sad that the story couldn’t create an exception for this couple, who must suffer through lifetimes to just find temporary happiness. It was just hard to take for me, seeing as how hard it was for them to finally be together, only to be pulled apart again. I mean, the Grim Reaper and his queen are able to live a lifetime as two mortals to their heart’s content, but our Goblin will have to continue roaming the Earth as an immortal once Eun Tak reaches her last life? How is that fair when you compare to what he has done for so many people who needed a helping hand?So many questions, with little to no answers…I guess it is better this way. To just leave it to the imagination, to accept that these two, for now, will have another 3 lifetimes together, to be able to live in the now. Let’s just wish them well then.

So many questions, with little to no answers…I guess it is better this way. To just leave it to the imagination, to accept that these two, for now, will have another 3 lifetimes together, to be able to live in the now. Let’s just wish them well then.

END OF SPOILERS!!!

Final Rating:

And so, this drama took us on a ride, and really made our eyes open towards the idea about there being another society that exists among us, something more multifaceted than supernatural creatures we’d swoon over, or have beings haunt us in our sleep. This drama went above and beyond for so many reasons (mainly due to the great cast and unique concept) and despite some negatives that made the drama a little disappointing, the positives still outweighed the negatives in my opinion. Personally this drama made me realise the importance of valuing life, and to appreciate the idea that life should hold no boundaries to what you want to do, and who you want to be with. That our humanity can overpower even the most powerful of gods and saints, and if we still try to remain true to ourselves, and help those left fortunate than us or need our help, you will be rewarded in the end, one way or another.

For me, this drama made me realise the importance of valuing life, and to appreciate the idea that life should hold no boundaries to what you want to do, and who you want to be with. That our humanity can overpower even the most powerful of gods and saints, and if we still try to remain true to ourselves, and help those left fortunate than us or need our help, you will be rewarded in the end, one way or another.

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So, borrowing the rating system from the lovely goddesses of Kdrama reviews themselves Javabeans and Girlfriday, I would rate Goblin as:

How much I liked it: 8.5

How good was it objectively: 7.5

Thank you to the cast and production crew for bring us such an unforgettable journey following our 4 main leads which was not only interesting, but also a joy to follow (despite the amounts of tears I shed for them). Although it wasn’t perfect, it was still enjoyable, and something that I would recommend many to go and check out.

Thank you all for checking out this review. I do apologise for the ridiculous length of it; it was really hard for me to actually place this all in writing, as I can’t seem to admit that now it is time to finally let this drama go. Thank you Goblin, you will be greatly missed.

❤ Hyunnie ^^~

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Author: Hyunnie

Hello~~ ^^ I'm a young blogger opening her first ever blog in order to share to the world reviews on some of the best and worst Asian dramas, movies, music; you name it! I am also currently guest-posting on Dramafever News. Mainly, I post about dramas on that site so if you are interested, check me out there! Please fill free to comment on this site and maybe suggest some stuff for me to talk about ^^ Hope you guys enjoy and see you later!

2 thoughts on ““Goblin” Review: A bittersweet and memorable journey for many years to come

  1. This was a good drama that became great because of the production. There where so many beautiful shots. 😮

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