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.
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.