It’s over. I can’t believe it’s over. Goblin was an amazing show in a lot of ways, not least of which was the records it broke and set for cable ratings. And while it wasn’t necessarily a crack show for me like W: Two Worlds was that doesn’t mean I didn’t really love it. Because I did, and I’ll miss it for a while to come.
- OTP–together and apart
- Grim Reaper
- The Writing
- The Tone
- The Ending
OTP–Together and Apart
Kim Shin and Eun-Tak were one of the most interesting Kdrama OTP’s I’d ever seen. It wasn’t just the combination of a nearly 1,000 year old Goblin and a recent High School graduate that boggled my mind, but rather the way they interacted (potentially because of that). They were both very lonely characters–loneliness being a central theme of the show–and that made them both very guarded and desperate for love at the same time. And so when they first founded a relationship, despite Eun-Tak’s constant declarations of “I love you” it seemed clear that what she mainly needed him for was a sense of family. And he wasn’t much different, transitioning from disinterest to a more passive concern to an innocent first love and onwards from there. It wasn’t until much later that they really had a sparkling chemistry, which they did have.
Kim Shin was definitely my favorite character of the show, in no small part thanks to Gong Yoo’s delivery of the lonely, shining Goblin. He was a complex character both incredibly mature and disillusioned and refreshingly simple minded and innocent at the same time. He was in his own words “A well adjusted Goblin” who interacted with the world around him, but he also had no idea how to really live as a human anymore. And always so lonely, even when he wasn’t.
Eun-Tak was… interesting, for me. I never had any problems with the actress, in fact I think she was a wise choice for the role–but she wasn’t like a regular Kdrama heroine. I suppose you could argue that she was the average money-desperate candy, optimistic and hardworking and willing to do anything. But I really didn’t see her like that. She was definitely a bright spot in the show, but she was such a layered character. If she had really been after money, she would have found a way to use that bank book. And she wouldn’t have hung around her aunt’s family for so long. And if she’d really been so happy, she wouldn’t have always been so desperate for company. She just seemed like a really lonely kid to me at the beginning, and I loved watching her bloom.
Oddly enough, it took me the longest to warm up to Reaper as a character–although I really loved him once I had. He just seemed so… stuck at the beginning. He was a deep character, to be sure, but for the first 6 or 8 episodes I didn’t feel like there was much movement in his characer, and that frustrated me. Once everything came to light about his past and Sunny things changed, however. And I began see more than just the reaper but the man who wanted to live again, the man who wanted to remember his past but didn’t at the same time, the man who wanted to move forward with his life and his “new” love but couldn’t. I loved the reaper.
I have never been a fan of Kim Eun-Sook shows. I didn’t like Secret Garden, I read some recaps for DOTS and couldn’t get into them enough to watch it… but I don’t know if it was the cable station or if she’s growing as a writer, but I liked her here. The pace was slow, to be sure, and she tended to spend most of the time in fluffy laughs and character scenes–saving the last ten minutes for all the real plot–but it wasn’t like her previous shows.
This showed especially in the details. Bad writing can be the downfall of many a kdrama, just like it can make up for a lot in others. And here, her use of the details, of planting a plot point episodes in advance and then fleshing it out later was amazing. It wasn’t always subtle (that’s not really her strong suit) but it was skillful.
It was definitely a slow burn show for me–I was always aware of and enjoyed the epic, weighty tone of the show, even when it meant it took longer for me to really see the chemistry between the leads. They took their time to get to know one another, love one another and see each other as family before really making the jump to being in love with one another. It made for an interesting couple, one that I rooted for as a family–as two lonely souls who both needed each other–before I ever rooted for them as lovers.
This show perfected a melancholy, haunting tone that sucked me in and kept me there. It wasn’t a trudging sadness like Misaeng (also very good) or a dark scary sadness–it was beautiful and stunning, like those rainy days it showed when the colors seem more vibrant and the world a bit more quiet. And it hurt all the more because they all wanted so badly to be happy. In that respect, I really should have seen the ending coming more than I did.
The Ending (Spoilers ahoy, if that’s not obvious)
For anyone interested, midnight when you’re slightly ill is not the best time to watch this ending. It’s been a while since I’ve actually cried during a K-drama, but watching him say goodbye to Eun-Tak just put me over the edge. Even more so when Reaper and Sunny left (together! I was so relieved and happy about that!) and he was left… alone… again. Because that’s how it had always been for him.
The ending of Goblin was a lot of things for me–stunning, unexpected, disappointing, fulfilling. I’d like to say I was completely satisfied with it, but I did see a few problems:
- How did she remember him? This show has been very good about obeying its rules and finding loopholes, so I felt a bit let down when she just… remembered him.
- Why were they all reincarnated with the same face this time? Sunny didn’t have the same face as her past, so why did they all have the same face this time around (that’s a little complaint, I know). And Sunny and Reaper totally didn’t remember him!
- Why did she start seeing ghosts again? They never really explained that one or used it for much, it just… happened.
- Why was he still a Goblin in every sense of the word? Why couldn’t the deity have made him human again? Narratively, I think that would have made more sense. His punishment/grace was over, the sword had been pulled out–it would have made more sense for him to have come back as a human after limbo rather than as a Goblin. It would’ve been sad to lose his Goblin powers, but I would have found it more fulfilling story-wise.
That’s it, though, and I’m being nit-picky (which you know is the sign of a good show. A mediocre show can end however it wants–a good one will get torn to pieces).
And she died! I couldn’t believe we’d made it through 15.5 episodes safely and then she really died. While on the phone with him. That was just cruel, really. I was grateful she was in the hands of friends though, and that we didn’t have to wait entire episodes for them to be reunited (can you imagine that for separation angst? Oof!) It was really the most fitting ending considering how the show had started, and what Goblin was. We might have loved the happy, funny, bromantic moments–but he had spent 900 years doing the same thing, watching everyone around him leave, and I’m glad the show didn’t just ignore that. I’m glad that it managed to stay true to the balance it had kept throughout the show–sad, but happy. A Sad Love. Thank you, Goblin, for such a fun ride (and such great friends to watch it with me!)
Final Verdict: 8/10