Kim Sin (played by Gong Yoo) was once a mighty warrior in olden times. Then he made a series of bad decisions and became the "Goblin", a godlike being who occasionally makes friends but more typically just ends up killing bad dudes with the same generally indifferent and impersonal attitude he had toward mowing down enemies in battle. That's a good attitude to have since the first episode is filled with death to a frankly comical extent. The Grim Reaper (played by Lee Dong-wook) evidently has his work cut out for him.
Whoa whoa whoa, you're probably thinking. It's not enough that the main character is a Goblin with vaguely defined omnipotent powers, but the Grim Reaper is hanging around too? Yeah. I'm kind of grateful that the first episode of "Goblin" is ninety minutes long, because there is a lot of worldbuilding going on here, and a lot of it remains unexplained. It's so complicated that even the Goblin himself is baffled when Eun-tak (played by Kim Go-eun), rather than simply dying like a normal human, exhibits supernatural powers of her own.
The magic in "Goblin" is so simultaneously omnipresent and implausible that there are entire exchanges where characters just mock the worldbuilding. Honestly, it's hard to blame them. On top of everything else "Goblin" also features ghosts, who similarly operate under their own arbitrary set of rules. After a point this just gets to be a little overwhelming- which is probably why the Goblin himself has clocked out.
The lack of any apparent villain puts the actual plot of "Goblin" into a bit of a quandary. On on end, I think I could enjoy a drama where the Goblin and the Grim Reaper just use their powers to pull petty pranks on each other- Faust without the whole sell-your-soul bit, so they end up being petty jerks ad infinitum. On the other end, are we really supposed to be rooting for a romance between a centuries-old demigod and a teenage girl?
Writer Kim Eun-sook isn't even trying to hide the creepiness factor. Note how tragic backstory notwithstanding Eun-tak still has the same shallow Cinderella-style wishes any other teenage girl has. So overall I'm too fundamentally dumbfounded with the sheer weirdness of "Goblin" to really evaluate it just yet. I will admit, though, those special effects are pretty ace. Although I don't anticipate there will be much future opportunity for shipwrecks.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Goblin" Episode 1"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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