Kim Shin (Gong Yoo), a 938-year-old Goblin, was condemned to walk the earth until he finds his bride, the one who will finally put an end to his eternal existence. But when an amnesic Reaper (Lee Dong-Wook) moves in and he meets Ji Eun-Tak (Kim Go-Eun), who has the power to see ghosts, he finds that the one who can grant his wish has become his reason to live.
After The K2, I didn’t think tvN would be able to get a better, or even equally as good drama. Goblin had me especially skeptical given that its writer is none other than Kim Eun-Sook, who wrote the very popular, and very disappointing Descendants of the Sun.
An Audiovisual Delight
I decided to give this show a chance anyway, if only for the supernatural element, and the fact that the title promised a creature still relatively underused in popular culture. Within a few minutes, I was pulled in by the beauty of the decors, the directing, and by the plot, which started out well. The first episode was, in fact, so well done that it felt more like a movie than an actual TV show, and the music had a slightly whimsical, or even eccentric character that fit the atmosphere perfectly, and that I liked instantly.
But this beauty isn’t the only thing that makes this show so good and popular: more than the directing, the actors and the relationships between the characters are really what carries Goblin through to the end.
Kim Go-Eun, mostly, shines as young Ji Eun-Tak. She displays a diverse range of expressions which climax in emotional scenes, and would make the angels weep. I didn’t know her before, but you can be certain I will keep an eye on this talented young lady.
Kim Eun-Sook Rules Relationships…
As for the relationships, knowing the name of the writer makes it no surprise that the most significant one is the bromance between the Goblin and his Reaper roommate, just like the relationship between Yoo Si-Jin and So Dae-Young was the best thing in Descendants of the Sun. Reaper and Goblin are touching and hilarious at the same time—I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard because of a drama—and both can display such absolute childishness that your sides will hurt as you just won’t be able to stop cackling.
I would have liked to say that the love stories are equally as good, and they are, in part. While the show had to face accusations of encouraging pedophilia—which is so hypocritical I have no words, given the astonishing success of franchises such as Twilight and associates—it offers beautiful dynamics between the two main couples. The Reaper’s helpless stuttering and Sunny’s blunt, outgoing personality balance Ji Eun-Tak and Kim Shin’s absolute trust in each other very well, and will undoubtedly bring tears to your eyes on multiple occasions.
…But Falls Short on the Plot
And yet, just like Descendants of the Sun, Goblin is far from perfect. Indeed, just like its big brother, the show suffers from a lack of coherent plot or character development. While Kim Eun-Sook knows how to write beautiful relationships between her characters, she fails to develop them consistently—or at all, really—and to write a narrative throughline.
Which is how I found myself wishing I knew more about Sunny: the second female lead seems to have no backstory nor origin whatsoever. Given the sheer amount of soju she drinks all by herself every day, you’d think her life hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, but there is no explanation to be found about her behavior, nor any information regarding her life outside her interactions with the three other leads. Does she have a family? Any friends? What does she do in her spare time, apart from waiting for Tall, Dark and Handsome? We don’t know any of that. In fact, we know nothing that isn’t related to Kim Shin, Eun-Tak or the Reaper. It’s like her entire existence is defined by her relationships to the men in her life. That’s a major fault right there, at least for me.
It was however, a pleasure to see Yoo In-Na again. I haven’t seen in a show since You From Another Star and she deserves more lead roles.
The same thing applies to Deok-Hwa. The boy had so much potential, yet his story climaxes and falls into the void so fast that my head is still spinning. Especially since that particular part of the story made… no sense at all. I still have so many questions about it, with no answers in sight.
And again for the divinities. Those mysterious characters weren’t much developed, and while I loved the Red Divinity, beautifully played by Lee El, the other one just shows up out of the blue, with no prior clue as to its…his…her…their? existence. How many of them are there? What are their powers? What’s their relationship to one another? Do they have jurisdictions, or something? Do they all have the same powers? What do they do? I’d really like to know.
All in All…
If, this time, there’s an actual doubt regarding both couples’ future and how they’ll pull through, the plot remains messy. A bunch of subplots follow one another like lost ducklings, weird plot twists remain unexplained, and you’re left with a repetitive aftertaste similar to that of Descendants of the Sun. Another thing that followed from one show to the other was the way some characters end up in exactly the same place they were in at the beginning of the show. Had I not loved the bromance, the music, the stellar photography, and Kim Go-Eun’s acting so much, I’d probably have spared a moment to complain “all of this for that?”.
Not perfect, but a must-watch nonetheless.
Country: South Korea
Starring: Gong Yoo, Kim Go-Eun, Lee Dong-Wook, Yoo In-Na
Aired: 12/02/2016 to 01/21/2017
Number of Episodes: 16
Genres: Supernatural, Romance
My grade: ★★★★★