Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

International Phenomena: Goblin, The Lonely And Great God

The bar on supernatural Korean dramas was raised so high by this drama that it became THE standard.¬†Goblin, The Lonely and Great God came into audience’s hearts like a rainstorm and we were all drenched in its amazing power to enthrall us. Now that the last episode has been aired world wide, there is a collective dazed silence. I doubt I am the only one who feels the sting of vacuous space this amazing drama left in our souls. It gave us what we have always wanted and more. Just, now we want more. Desperately so.

Goblin¬†aired ( and was streamed) in December 2016. For those who were not in South Korea or don’t understand Korean, the drama was streamed and subtitled through the service Dramafever.com. For two days a week, thousands of fans set aside social outings, slipped on cozy lounge wear, and caused an increase in popcorn. This is no exaggeration.¬†Goblin became one of the most highly viewed shows in S. Korea and internationally. This was a legit phenomenon.

By the tenth second of viewing the first episode, one can tell that this was not a normal Korean drama or even a regular drama. This was the beginning of an epic story. An epic story that begins with fierce bloodshed and screams of death. From among the fighting there stands Kim Shin, a fierce and seemingly invincible warrior. Covered in blood and filth, he fights with barely any signs of weakness. He is a God among men.

He is still a man however. As he marches proudly back to the palace,  the young jealous King bars him from entry. Proclaiming that Kim Shin is a traitor and a disgrace, the King and his Adviser begin to strike death around Kim Shin. His sister is killed, his family is slain, until even he is struck by a sword. Not understanding why, Kim Shin is killed. He is so disgraced by the King and his Advisor that his body is not even granted a burial. It is thrown beyond the castle walls to be devoured by wildlife.

It is the love of the people for Kim Shin that brings the eye of the Gods upon Kim Shin. For the love that was given to him, Kim Shin is granted immortal life as the Goblin. As punishment for all of the deaths that he himself caused, he is cursed with a sword of blue flame forever embedded in his chest. Only the Goblins bride can take out the sword and finally grant him peace. So the story begins.However, the drama begins 939 years later. With a sad young woman celebrating her birthday alone. A young woman who could see ghosts. And Goblins.

The creator of this amazing drama is the talented¬†Kim Eun-Sook. She has already created stories that stood out from the rest of the Korean drama landscape. She has won awards for¬†Secret Garden¬†and¬†Descendants¬†of the Sun.¬†These two dramas have also been international hits. It has been speculated that the compelling power of her Korean dramas has been the superb casting. Playing the multi-faceted role of the Goblin is Gong Yoo. Gong Yoo had already demonstrated mega star power as the lead in the blockbuster zombie movie,¬†Train To Busan. He is also known as the lead love interest for the Korean Drama,¬†Coffee Prince. As the Goblin, Gong Yoo was able to shift between the pensive and tortured being to one who has simply fallen in love. As his character, Kim Shin a.k.a Goblin ¬†changes his mood ¬†(resulting in unexpected downpours or sprouting of flowers) his heart steadily grows for the Goblin’s bride,¬†Ji Eun Tak ¬†played by Kim Go Eun (Cheese In The Trap). ¬†Ji Eun Tak has led a rough life. Not only did she lose her mother at a young age, Ji Eun Tak had to struggle with seeing all sorts of supernatural beings. So when the Goblin appears after a wish, she is far from fazed. Just more concerned on what the name of flowers were. What we also quickly learn about Ji Eun Tak, is that she was never expected to have a life. Instead of dying she was able to live much to dismay of the Grim Reapers.

There is indeed a wonderful backdrop of supernatural beings being weaved into the urban background Alongside the Goblin are the Grim Reapers. Neither living or dead, Grim Reapers go about their day collecting the souls of deceased people and processing their paperwork. An interested character concept for Grim Reapers was that one became a Grim Reaper due to commuting a huge sin in the past, which they have no memory of. They imbued with pretty nifty powers such as ¬†disappearing in a blink of an eye, but funny enough they still have to eat (without tasting) and rent apartments. Ji Eun Tak has become a legendary nightmare for a particular Grim Reaper (played by Lee Dong Wok) as she is the “special case” that he needs to collect. ¬†Among them are the heavenly gods, including God and the Goddess of births (Samshin).

The heart of the story is a love story and a mystery. As the story unfolds with each episode, we get to see the interactions between the main actors. There is a huge age divide between the Goblin and his bride but their antics and smiles erases the years between them. There are so many beautiful and hilarious scenes throughout the show. From using their supernatural powers to chill beers and hard boil an egg to the most epic walk down a dark road (EVER) to when blowing a candle will always hold another meaning. There were quiet interactions to grandiose scenes reminding us of the epic weight of it all.

Not once did this show falter in maintaining interest. Every scene was important and well acted. Throughout it all, the story was maintained consistently and thoroughly. Except for the eye rolling product placements of Subway and The Body Shop, the show did not suffer from the mid-series plateau where almost every drama stereotype is played out. Instead Goblin showcased new flavor by enforcing the bromance between the Grim Reaper and the Goblin and satisfying reveals of the story. Many times the drama never hesitated to even make fun of itself making for even more delightful moments for the fans.

There are small moments too. I have never felt so much appreciation for a side character until a lone cherry blossom branch was swung. That scene is an example of how swiftly this show broke down the stereotypes. Instead of being relegated to the shadows, this one scene brought the character right into the light. I was completely blown away and impressed by this scene. This one scene that elicited an honest to goodness shocked gasp.

Then there is the cinematography of the series itself. Switching between Canada and South Korea, the drama succeeds in displacing the audience away from reality. Everything was surreal. There were lots of slow motion play but it wasn’t exhausting or annoying. ¬†It all played to display the clues for the mystery that fans from around the world analyzed diligently.

I would also add that Goblin produced one of the most beautiful and sought after soundtrack. It was aggravating and clever of the company to release only one song at time saving the the  haunting theme song for the last. Each song played during certain parts of the drama and will forever be associated with this drama. Just listening to the whole album is enough to make me wistful for it all again.

The final scene has received a mixed bag of emotions. Many, including myself,  found that it was a bittersweet ending. You would think after all of that, the Goblin would earn a much happier ending. I would even add that it felt a tad bit too rushed but it was still a pretty decent ending. Unfortunately, now millions of us are left bereft of our favorite show. I am positive that support groups have popped up as all of the fans clutch one another in solace,

It is no surprise that with show that dealt so heavily with gods, there were life lessons and stories to take away. My favorite was  Ji Eun Tak;s recollection of a long ago lesson. That every person has four lives: one that sows, one that waters, one that reaps and one that consumes.No matter which life you are living right now, cherish and enjoy this moment. Enjoy Goblin, the Lonely and Great God.


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