Series Review: GOBLIN

Descendants Of The Sun. Love In The Moonlight. Goblin.

These are the list of the dramas that took Korea (and beyond) by storm in the past 12 months, and Goblin is the most recent one – about a goblin (duh) who has lived a thousand (ok fine, 939) years and has to meet his bride who’s the only one who can end his torturous immortal life. It’s a star-crossed lovers premise, albeit with different circumstances and stakes — i love you but i have to kill you to end your pain — that could have gone down the route of weepy painful angst. But thankfully, Goblin tried its best to circumvent that troupe, to decent success.

What Goblin pulled off very well was in building its supernatural world filled with ghosts, deities, grim reapers, and goblins, very very believably. It didn’t feel tacky or cringe-worthy, even when Gong Yoo had an invisible sword sticking out of his chest (which was actually not CGI). The rules of the world were crafted with sufficient detail for the audience to be entirely immersed in this separate world. Each episode left you with enough revelations and new rules that made you itching to find out more about this hidden world.

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While Kim Go-eun and Gong Yoo pulled off stellar performance, it was really the side stories that made this show so addictive. The bromance between the Goblin and the Grim Reaper ranks one of the best ever in K-drama history, with the childishness and pettiness of the two boys bringing out the actor’s comedic chops, mixed with their reluctant-but-growing care and concern for each other, which was against the conduct of their “warring races”. The second couple, Grim Reaper & Sunny also enjoyed a more exciting and heart-wrenching love story, with their love ignited in their previous lives, but having no lasting memory of it but still kinda feeling the attraction. It sold the whole idea of love never dies and soulmates forever wonderfully and you can’t help but root for them behind it all. It was actually really beautiful the way the show tied in their past lives with their present, and the constant morsels of flashbacks just kept you wanting moarr.

The plot did get repetitive at points with the damsel-in-distress constantly needing to be saved from danger, and the typical noble idiocy of hiding the truth from you for your own good. But it never failed to recover from it quickly to give us the poignant moments and the sweet relationships developments. It was a complicated world and it felt like one. The stakes were serious and lasting, and the audience realized it. The budget was probably crazily high with the amount of effort put into the props and location shoots, but it elevated the show and the atmosphere that much more.

I really appreciate that this show gave the main cast much of the recognition they deserved, since most of them have met with middling response in most of their recent dramas. When faced with such a out-of-the-world premise, it was really the character immersion that sold the strange strange plot. They were in it, they committed, and they delivered. The casting was spot-on and the chemistry was almost always on fire.

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#coolestCEOaward

At CNY lunch, CEO of my company was sitting at my table. The topic settled on what people do on long flights…

Person 1: I like to watch Billions, it’s this drama about insider trading

CEO: Oh, I don’t like watching all these finance stuff on flights, I already see so much of it at work.

Me: Then what do you do?

CEO: I watch Korean dramas

Me: *immediately sits upright* YOU WATCH KOREAN DRAMAS?

CEO: Yes, I watch it to destress. The latest one I watched was Doctors, with the –

Me: PARK SHIN-HYE?

CEO: Ah yes yes. My favourite one so far is that alien drama –

Me: YOU FROM ANOTHER STAR?

CEO: Ah yes that one. I really liked it. I really like the male lead actor –

Me: KIM SOO-HYUN?

CEO: Yeah, him. He’s really good at acting, I really like him.

Me: *jaw still hanging loose*

Yes, newest development in my work place, breaking news: My company CEO watches Korean dramas and is a Kim Soo-hyun fan. Hohoho.

Anyway, my department boss was joking later that we all needed to start watching Korean dramas so we could discuss it with our CEO. And I offered to be the subject expert hehehe

Shining the Spotlight on The Goblin: Gong Yoo

Wheeheee. I’m so delighted that Gong Yoo finally has his turn to shine after the Song Joong-ki and Park Bo-gum phenomena earlier in the year. I first chanced upon Gong Yoo in my all-time favourite drama – Coffee Prince, and that drama got me so entrenched in the Gong Yoo camp. For all the right reasons, I’m sure. Not ’cause of those dimples or those boyish good looks.

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His first starring role was in Biscuit Teacher and Star Candy, opposite Gong Hyo-jin. I only started watching this show a few years after it aired, after falling in love with Gong Yoo in Coffee Prince. And while I’m usually totally against teacher-student romances, Gong Yoo was reason enough for me to marathon this show. Biscuit did fairly well in Korea and it definitely put Gong Yoo on the list of “Up and coming actors to watch”.

Gong’s style of acting is very natural and sincere and he manages to make his characters relatable to the audience, which is likely what got him casted in Coffee Prince, good looks aside. Coffee Prince did wonders for his career and popularity — It managed to reach 30% ratings during its run, and the Choi Han-gyul craze throughout Asia was very real (similar to the DOTS craze, just rewind 9 years). Everyone wanted a Choi Han-gyul for themselves and it skyrocketed Gong to Korean Wave star status.

Not to put down Gong Yoo, but I think any capable actor who acted Choi Han-gyul would have made it big. It was just Gong’s luck that he hit the jackpot and met this amazing character who that was destined to make girls swoon to the ends of the earth and back. There’s something very addictive about the cross-dressing nature of Coffee Prince that makes it extra romantic. He falls in love even when he think she’s a guy! He’s falling for the real her! This is true love!

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Whether you’re a man or an alien, I don’t care anymore. I tried getting rid of my feelings, but I couldn’t. So let’s go, as far as we can go. Let’s give it a try.

*swoons*

It’s hard to really capture what’s so memorable about this iconic scene, goodness knows how many times I replayed it. But it was really Gong Yoo’s heartwrenching portrayal of his rollercoaster emotions though the accumulation of events — his pent-up frustration over his possible gayness, his confusion about his feelings, and his eventual surrender to give in to his feelings without concern for the possible societal insinuations. His hit every emotional moment perfectly, and it’s no wonder his character made the impact on the K-drama the way it did.

Gong had to enlist in the military shortly after his Coffee Prince success. And when he entered back into showbiz two years later, he was understandably conscious about his follow-up project since there was so much hype about how he would follow up his Coffee Prince success. Is he a one-hit wonder, or would be use it as a springboard to further his career?

He filmed a couple of movies (Finding Mr. Destiny, The Crucible), which were his attempts are broadening his acting scope. Crucible is based on actual events that took place at a school for the hearing-impaired, where young deaf students were the victims of repeated sexual assaults by faculty members over a period of five years. His co-star in the movie was Jung Yu-mi, who teamed up with him again in Train to Busan. The film did very well in Korea, and it sparked such public outrage that it resulted in a reopening of the investigation of the incidents. Pretty much the goal for any actor.

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In 2012, Gong Yoo eventually chose a body-swapping comedy Big (Freaky Friday style) to star in, and anticipation was sky-high for his follow-up drama after Coffee Prince. It didn’t reach the same craze factor that his previous drama did, but it was still fairly successful. The drama was hilarious and he did a great job of being a nineteen-year old stuck in a thirty-plus year old’s body. Unfortunately, the drama was marred by a not-great ending, which is honestly the one thing all viewers remember from a drama.

He went back to the silver screen with The Suspect, taking on a much grittier role as a North Korea special forces defector. He shot most of his action scenes without the use of a double, and his change in image was very drastic. In fact, he was almost unrecognizable after three months dieting to cut down his body fat for the role.

His next hit was Korea’s first zombie movie Train To Busan. And as you all know, it was incredible popular, inside and outside of Korea. It was a fairly significant risk for Gong to take out this new genre in Korea, and a lot relied on how well the overall effects and editing was handled. Fortunately, it was such a big hit throughout Asia, and it propelled Gong to higher heights of popularity. And 2016 continued to be Gong Yoo’s year with his hit drama Goblin.

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Goblin is written by the same writer behind DOTS, and I’m pretty sure that was enough for Gong to sign on to the project. As ridiculous as the premise sounds, the Goblin is actually #husbandgoals, save for his 900+ years of age and his strange abilities. The role requires a fairly versatile actor,  injecting comedy whenever the situation requires, but also pulling out the melodramatic chops at the right moments. And save to say, Gong is nailing it. It’s the perfect role he needed to remind people that it can be 9 years on from Coffee Prince, but he’s still one of the rom-com kings out there.

It’s ironic that this Goblin-Grim Reaper pairs seems way more popular than the Goblin and his bride, but one can never get enough of bromance between two handsomegoodlookingtall frenemies (more friends though). The age gap between the Goblin and his bride makes me uncomfortable, but then I remember, he’s actually 900+ years old anyway.

Part of what makes an actor successful is the skill (and perhaps luck) to pick the right projects. Choi Han-gyul is one of K-drama’s iconic characters, and the Goblin looks set to follow suit as one of those #neverforget K-drama characters. Gong’s filmogaphy isn’t as long as some of his counterparts, but what he lacks in quantity, he makes up for it in quality. He could have easily typecasted himself as a typical romantic K-drama lead, but his action-thriller forays have proved that he’s interested in being more than that. Granted that his images fits perfectly with rom-com, I think it’ll be interesting to watch where his directs his career path in the future years.

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And he’s also freaking adorable.

RUNNING MAN WILL END FEB 2017

Oh the horrors.

It was a very messy ending I must say. For those who are in the dark, let me break it down for you.

14/12/2016: Kim Jong-kook are Song Ji-hyo rumoured to leave RM, RM was courting Kang Ho-dong to join the new season

15/12/2016: Their respective agencies announce that Jong-kook was only informed about his departure two days prior, and Ji-hyo actually found out through the media about the line-up change. Due to this controversy, Kang Ho-dong decides to turn down the show. (Which is quite sad because Yoo Jae-suk & Kang Ho-dong in one show would have brought things back to epic X-man days.)

16/12/2016: Cast and production team hold emergency meeting to sort things out. It has been thus decided that RM will end in Feb 2017 with all 6 cast members. There will be no Season 2.

Sigh. From what I see, it’s highly likely that the higher-ups in SBS issued some sort of ultimatum to the RM production team. It’s no secret that RM has struggling quite badly in terms of ratings (~6%), it’s a far cry from its heyday (~15%), and probably the only thing keeping this franchise alive is its incredibly humongous international popularity. I think RM is the only variety show that flies its casts overseas for fanmeets?!?!

Back to the ultimatum, production team was probably on a fairly tight deadline to turn this sinking ship around, and thus they rushed the whole process of proper communication with Jong-kook and Ji-hyo and the recruitment of Ho-dong. And now that Ho-dong bailed, this Titanic ship started to sink even faster.

So rather than trying to save this sinking ship, they decided to let RM end on a high (as high as it can be with poor ratings, but at least on good terms though?). So Ji-hyo and Jong-kook will be joining back the cast for the remainder of the episodes. Um… won’t things be awkward?

Actually, if RM really wanted to save its ratings, they shouldn’t have recruited Ho-dong. I think Song Joong-ki is the REAL SOLUTION. Even if half the people in love with DOTS tuned in, it will still be a good 15% ratings 😉

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