The phenomenal, almost cult-classic hit drama, Goblin, just ended hours ago, and this review must be done before it gets late.
Goblin is not just a regular Korean drama with either the standard fluff or the suspense thrillers we are used to. The story is grounded in myths and legends about a character called a 도깨비, roughly translated to mean a goblin. He is an immortal person who has achieved his immortality because he has certain debts to repay. In the drama, our protagonist Goblin, whose real name is Kim Shin (played by Gong Yoo) is a Goryeo general, who has fought a war in the name of the king. When he returns to claim his victory at the capital, he is treated as a traitor and all of his army is killed along with his supporters by the king’s men; the king (Wang Yeo, played by Kim Min Jae) that he was protecting. As Kim Shin walks into the castle, he meets the queen, who appears to be close to him, and tells him not to worry about her and do his duty. While he is walking towards the king, one of the king’s courtiers keeps whispering orders into his ears, and forces him to order the public killing of all of Kim Shin’s family and friends. The courtier also suggests that Kim Shin should be killed since he is a traitor, and the king takes this suggestion into account and repeats the command, adding that his body should be left to rot in an open field where animals can feed upon him. He also orders an archer to shoot his own queen with an arrow since she is an accomplice to the betrayal. Afterwards, while, Kim Shin lies in an open field, with a sword (the sword had been Kim Shin’s very own) through his body, a butterfly appears hovering about his dying figure and god’s voice is heard saying that he will turn this almost dead man into a goblin, so he can seek revenge on everyone who has done him any wrong. As Kim Shin wakes up, with the sword still lodged in his chest, a farmer and his grandson watch this event in awe, and announce that they will serve the Goblin forever. The catch is that the Goblin will remain an immortal figure until he meets his bride, who will help dislodge the sword that only she will be able to see and once she does this deed, the Goblin will return to dust, a part of the world around him.
As we come towards modern times, we see an old woman (played by Lee El) selling hair accessories and jewellery at a roadside while narrating the story of the Goblin to a young woman (cameo by Park Hee Bon). This young woman is greatly interested in a ring, which she even tries on, which looks exactly like the ring that the queen was wearing back in Goryeo. Sometime later, this woman is run over by a car, and begs god to save her from her death. This plea is heard by our Goblin, who decides to help her for the sake of the baby she is carrying in her womb, even though her death has been written down with god and the grim reapers. The fact that the Goblin has helped this woman survive makes her child a miracle. When the Grim Reaper (played by Lee Dong Wook) comes to take away the soul of this woman, all he finds is blood marking where she got hit and lay dying. Later, the baby is born and ghosts discuss how she is the Goblin’s bride, because she even bears a birthmark that suggests so. This child, Ji Eun Tak (played by Kim Go Eun), has the ability to see ghosts which makes her odd and has difficulty fitting into society. Her mother finally does pass away when Eun Tak is nine but when the Reaper comes to collect her mother’s soul, she is able to see him, despite the fact that he is wearing a hat (apparently when a Reaper is in a hat, he can’t be seen by humans).
These three characters form the base of the drama, though added to them is Sunny (played by Yoo Inna), the owner of a Korean fried chicken shop, with whom Eun Tak finds a part-time job. When Sunny meets the Reaper, she falls head over heels in love with him for his good looks, while the Reaper feels constantly sad in her presence, and yet also feels a certain attraction towards her.
Eun Tak and Kim Shin, destined to meet run into each other on Eun Tak’s 19th birthday while she blows the candles sitting all alone by the sea. Once she realizes that he appears beside her every time she blows a candle, she makes it a habit to conjure him in front of her. She feels attracted to him and soon admits that she loves him, and if she does then the ghosts may be saying the right thing when they tell her that she is the Goblin’s bride and if so, he must be the Goblin himself.
This is the entire premise on which the show is based. Accompanied by beautiful cinematography, an excellent soundtrack and well-constructed characters, Goblin went on to capture the hearts of many by introducing us to a new fictional universe filled with tales of immortality and reincarnation. The acting was more or less flawless, particularly the Goblin/Reaper romance which made for amazing humour throughout most of the show. The script, on the other hand, left a gaping hole in my soul, making me wonder why I had wasted one precious 1.5 hours after another. The script had laid down certain guidelines and rules defining the universe that was Goblin, but the same rules that had been established and pressed upon us in all the episodes just turned on their heads to give the audience a huge slap on the face. With such a strong story line, one would have expected a greater level of vigilant checking for any loopholes left in the script. With a drama surrounding death so greatly, I would have liked to have gotten more death, whether symbolically or literally. A story set around tragic events cannot and should not end as happily as a romantic comedy.
The saving grace of the drama towards the end had been around the Reaper and Sunny and their deeply moving story line. With both characters being more layered than Kim Shin and Eun Tak, they had all the makings of a tragic romance, the likes of Romeo and Juliet. Yet, the drama dealt with death so casually as if it really never happened, making me so unhappy with how the story just went completely off-kilter in
that last episode. The tragedy that happened with the script was much greater than the tragedy that would have been if the story had just taken its course the way it was supposed to. A drama about death should have been more about death than reincarnation so it left a certain impact on the audience. Goblin, I am so disappointed…