Korean Drama Review: Goblin

By far, this is only my second post on this blog’s review category. Frankly because I particularly write noteworthy things about pieces I deeply appreciate be it media or arts. This review covers my personal views and opinions about the k-drama Goblin (aired December 2016 – January 2017).

A quick background (about me) before I get into specifics:

  • I’ve already watched a decent number of k-dramas. Though I prefer waiting for the series to finish first before binge watching. I like continuity.
  • Fantasy fiction is a fresh genre to me being used to adult fiction in novels, movies, and TV series. I have my preferences but for some reason, I’m flexible in k-dramas genre-wise.
  • I’m unbiased. Regardless of rating and hype, I solely base my reviews on my own perception.

Music ★★★★★
The soundtrack is a good mix of Korean, English and instrumental songs, personal touches that are well appropriate to its overall theme. Korean songs are catchy but above all else, remarkably heartfelt. Scenes lightened up, moments emphasized and emotions intensified through the music. Aside from the tracks being great picks, the timing is impeccable. To me, the diversity of the playlist compliments the story itself.

My top picks from the OST:
1. Beautiful –  Crush
2. Hush – Lasse Lindh
3. Stuck in love – Kim Kyunghee
4. Winter is coming – Han Suji

Have a listen.

Setting ★★★★★
International locations are popular in Korean dramas. Colors, ambiance and architecture in Quebec, Canada wonderfully presented the character of the Goblin’s couple story: timeless. There’s a pleasing touch in using the maple leaf for symbolism more than the autumn feels can (which also exists in South Korea).
This also supports the ability to artistically incorporate a change in location to a crucial element in the story (spoiler alert: considering where the love story began and culminated). Recently this has been evident in Korean dramas, a well thought of style which for me not only diversifies but more so, expands the plot’s coverage.

Detailed list of Goblin’s filming locations

Cinematography ★★★★★

Application of today’s motion effects in Goblin is impressive. I’ve noticed a resemblance in Descendants of the Sun in terms of cinematography, only in Goblin effects were more evident and frequent. Being a fantasy romantic drama, I referred to two points: (1) the execution of the characters’ godly powers and (2) the romantic drama side.

Point 1: Animation effects are good especially during the battle scene between Goblin and Park Joong-heon. I thought the animation there is on point. Although the flaw in the teleportation scene from airport to Goblin’s mansion (ep. 15) is noticeable on my end.

Point 2: There are quick shifts of perspective, multiple angles, bokehs, flares, and intentional focus to highlight facial expressions and emotions. Pure drama. Other favorites of mine include: blowing dandelions, white butterflies, and cherry blossoms. Symbolism is effectively used in the drama.

Portrayal ★★★★ (4 out of 5)

In all fairness, the only actor in the show I’ve watched before is Lee Dong-wook. With that, reviews below are solely based on their performance in this show:

Gong Yoo as Kim Shin a.k.a Goblin

Hands down! Gong Yoo’s performance gave much justice to the Goblin’s character. I took the Goblin as calm and collected given his wisdom yet playful, not entirely lonesome despite his immortality rather someone with a precious (sort of meaningful) smile. Gong Yoo is perfect for the part. The Goblin’s emotions intensifies as the story progresses which Gong Yoo was able to portray well.

Kim Go-eun as Ji Eun-tak

As early as the second episode, I searched for the actress’ actual age since the plot is concise of age. Kim Go-eun was convincing as a 19-year old to me in her expressions, movements and tones. However, I felt short of sentiment in some important points of the plot. To me, pain does not always show through loud cries and screams. There’s more to it than a person lets on.

Lee Dong-wook as Grim Reaper

Pale skin and crimson lips. By the looks he’s right for the part with the black suit, hat and all. He’s the same height as Gong Yoo! Which makes their tandem even more fitting. He’s good with puns and a fair enough crier for the sorrowful parts. To me there’s still a lack (of intensity) for his side of tragedy in the plot. But he delivered much of the plot’s substance which suited him well.

Plot ★★★★ (4.5 out of 5)

A creative play between fantasy and reality is Goblin’s main theme to me. This isn’t obvious with its love story front but substance lies within. First off, I’m not exactly fond of a story ranging from ancient times to modern day. History is not always an interesting subject but with my curiosity on how the Goblin came upon, I paid attention carefully.

I reckon every plot is often in need of history to make sense out of something. In Goblin, it’s fate, life and death. These are the focal points surrounding the story. Pleasant surprise: it’s not a love story. These points were brought to life by the representation of each character. To me, it’s an ambitious feat to depict the actual complexities of these points but the show was able to execute it in an enriching way.

Second, the missing .5 for my rating is the sequence of events. The first half of the story is heavily about the Goblin couple while the remaining half (aside from the climax) is centered on the ancient times and its drawbacks to the present. Compared to other k-dramas and novels I’ve read and watched before, I feel that mysteries could’ve been spread evenly throughout the series for a more exciting flow. Hints pop-out here and there but for a couple of episodes there Ji Eun-tak is missing. My anticipation dialed down at this point until climax arrived.

Third, the script solidified the plot as a whole. Personally, this is the quickest way for something to appeal to me. Did I enjoy? Was it worth my while? Did I learn something? Was it remarkable enough?

Below is a list of some memorable quotes from Goblin:

“Fate is the question I ask. The answer is for you to find.”

“Your choice is the only answer (in your life’s great questions).”

“Above all else, every human dies at some point. That’s why life is even more beautiful.”

“I should have lived well in return to all the love you gave to me.”

“Everything went perfectly to bring me to this moment.”

“A human’s sacrifice is something the Almighty cannot predict. It wasn’t a part of his plan.”

I cannot emphasize enough the weight of these words but to state the obvious, they’re reflective. The intention is there. 

Verdict

I am moved. I give multiple yes-es for the questions aforementioned above. Goblin supplied doses of love, romance, inspiration and, reality. It’s a sufficient combination to conclude that it’s indeed remarkable. Allow me to share my own reflection of the plot:

       Fate – Deity and the Almighty

Life and Death – Goblin and Grim Reaper

Freedom of choice – Goblin’s bride

Immortality truly isn’t all that. There is loneliness. Meanwhile, death is both an end and an opportunity for rebirth. There are several points that are subjective per individual: afterlife, reincarnation, middle ground between life and death even, fate, and destiny. But the plot appealed to me as such: fate is not a fixed equation. There is no formula. No single solution and no problem completely similar. It’s a given test that’s open for variables and factors. What’s constant is purpose – the bigger plan behind that can only unfold through a decision, a concrete step. Fate brings us to places where our faith and our choices can take us.

Our finite time in this life tells us to create goals, to never waste time, and to appreciate life in its entirety. We lose this value if this life has no end.  There’s a reason for existence making us think and believe there is in fact a right time, an absolute perfect moment leading us to what we’re supposed to be, who we’re meant to be and where we actually belong. This is my take from Goblin’s plot.

Personal Favorites

  • May to December love affair (Goblin couple)

Well-justified! The age gap is clear from the beginning which is relevant to the story. No ageist comments for that matter. There is respect as intimacy level properly intensified from wholesome to passionate. Even so, there’s a common ground of humor and love between the main characters. ♥

  • Goblin and Grim Reaper Bromance

Need I say more? Definitely what I enjoyed the most in the span of the series. Even when there’s a twist in their relationship, I can’t help but feel they’re #BromanceGoals.

  • Reincarnation concept

“Humans have four lives: a life of planting seeds, a life of watering the seeds, a life of harvesting and a life of cherishing the harvests.”

  • Human stories in Grim Reaper’s Tea Room

It’s a time and place no one is certain of. But in God’s time, I hope we already know the right words for the stories we choose to pass on. The tea of oblivion (from the plot) for me is part of our freedom to decide if we’d rather remember than forget.

  • Goblin’s bride fate

This twist strengthened the whole concept of the plot in my opinion. Fate, life and death were evident althroughout but it’s only in the latter when sacrifice and freedom of choice came to light. There’s fate but there is always, always the a part (within) where we decide. It’s vital. The story solidified this way.

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