It’s a beautiful life.
- Gong Yoo as Kim Shin/Goblin
- Kim Go Eun as Ji Eun Tak
- Lee Dong Wook as Wang Yeo/Grim Reaper
- Yoo In Na as “Sunny” Kim Sun
- Yook Sung Jae as Yoo Deok Hwa
- Lee El as Grandmother/Deity
- 16 episodes
- Original run: December 2, 2016 – January 21, 2017
Kim Shin was once a great warrior during the Goryeo Dynasty, but now lives as an immortal goblin after he met an untimely and wrongful death. Legend has it that only the Goblin’s bride can pull out the sword impaled in him for hundreds of years and set him free. He meets Ji Eun Tak, a girl who sees ghosts, and she claims that she’s the one he’s been searching for all along. Along the way, Kim Shin also befriends a grim reaper who doesn’t remember his own past and a chicken shop owner, Sunny. All of their lives seem to be intertwined together, but how? Will Kim Shin find his freedom or is he destined to remain on Earth forever?
Out of all the monster/magical being/mythological creature dramas that I’ve watched in recent years, Goblin is undoubtedly the most creative one. Unlike many of the others in this genre, Goblin displays a shockingly high level of mythology and philosophy that is just so rare in episodic dramas. Although the overall plotline is atypical of the usual drama, elements of it are more familiar and predictable. For that reason, I wasn’t totally shocked or surprised by most of the drama’s big reveals. The ending, however, did catch me off guard. I’ve become so accustomed to either the “happily ever after” or super sad, super depressing endings that the conclusion of Goblin felt like a breath of fresh air. This is yet another testament to the drama’s strong writing that not only did it give us a unique story with fully developed characters, it manages to wrap up all loose ends in a logical manner.
Each of the characters in Goblin seemed to have been written exactly with the actor or actress in mind, and vice versa. Everyone embodied their characters so well that it almost made me forget their past acting roles. I had been looking forward to Kim Go Eun’s next drama role since she was perhaps one of the few bright spots in Cheese in the Trap. She doesn’t disappoint in Goblin as Ji Eun Tak, further building her case for the most well-rounded and skilled actress amongst her peers. Gong Yoo brought his A-list credentials to the titular role and added gravitas to the character when required. He’s also surprisingly goofy and funny! Lee Dong Wook played the Grim Reaper’s aloofness and childish tendencies perfectly, and Yoo In Na was pitch perfect as the vain but vulnerable Sunny. Even Yook Sung Jae as Deok Hwa was really fun to watch! Both couples were great, but we all know the real MVP/OTP of the drama was the Goblin & Grim Reaper. Now, that was a bromance for the ages.
Due to Goblin‘s semi-confusing premise, it might be slightly harder to become fully invested in it right away. Keep going, though; your dedication will pay off! I also wasn’t immediately pulled in by the story upon first viewing, but I was too intrigued to not continue. A story that gets better and more coherent as it progressed (a rarity, to be honest) and a cast of strong actors make Goblin a very worthwhile drama.
The first thing you have to get over is that the main couple is a 30-40 year old man (although he is actually a 900 year old immortal demigod), and a high school senior. The writers try to normalize this a little by not having the Goblin immediately jump at the jail-bait, but I felt weird watching at first because the schoolgirl is easily impressed with the Goblin’s wealth, even if she’s upset. It felt like she was a bit of a gold digger, especially because in the first episode she already declares confidently that she will marry him.
Though the story is well-done and evenly paced, it remains pretty standard as there aren’t any real surprises. It starts with the usual tragic backstory, and then jumps to everyday life with the average school kid whom you discover has a special ability. Soon after, she gets introduced to a strange world by a mysterious man! *play dramatic music* (is this a Japanese shonen anime?!) There are the ensuing romances and inevitable misunderstanding (that could probably be resolved if they would just talk to each other), the “oh no!” moments and betrayal, Korean roadside pullover confession, etc.
While the special effects and action scenes feel very epic and cool (benefits of a large budget production), they are otherwise unnecessary. The best part of the drama is the small quirky interactions between the Goblin and the Grim Reaper. They squabble and fight like cute little children… except they are hundreds of years old and have god-like powers. All of the characters live in the same house, reminding me of the feel-good atmosphere of Friends or Full House.
The real thing that drove the plot for me was trying to figure out everyone’s past life identity. Almost everyone in the story is trying to figure out who they were in their past lives and how they are all connected. That way, we can feel torn by their desire to get-on-with-their-lives(!) and fated love.
Overall – Very lovable characters, decent action and special effects, good plot pacing with no large plot holes.
This & That:
Estelle: do we really even need this section? Everyone is famous in this drama!
- Gong Yoo is famous for his portrayal in The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince. Since then he has starred in numerous movies, including Finding Mr. Destiny, Silenced, and most recently, Train to Busan and The Age of Shadows. He graduated with a BA in theater from Kyung Hee University.
- Kim Go Eun was most active in movies before her first foray into television with Cheese in the Trap, a drama based on a webtoon of the same name. She received the 52nd Paeksang Arts Award for Best New Actress as a result. Prior to this, she swept almost all major awards for her role in the crime thriller, A Muse. Kim lived in Beijing for ten years until she was 14 years old. She also aspired to become a filmmaker after watching Chen Kaige’s famous movie, Together for more than twenty times, crying each time!
- Lee Dong Wook is most noted for his role in My Girl and more recently, Hotel King. He has starred in a number of dramas as well as a few movies, such as The Recipe and The Beauty Inside. He also participated in a South Korean variety show called Roommates which aired from 2014 to 2015.
- Yoo In Na initially intended to debut as a kpop singer, but after years of training she decided to call it quits because she couldn’t remember dance moves. Since then, Yoo has experienced great success in dramas, including The Greatest Love, Queen In-Hyun’s Man, My Love from the Star, and My Secret Hotel to name a few. She is supposedly in Chinese movie Wedding Bible opposite Godfrey Gao, but no words on when the movie hits the big screen yet. She was also in the movie Little Black Dress.
- Yook Sung Jae is a member of South Korean boyband BTOB. You might remember him for his cameo in Reply 1994 as Ssuk Ssuk. He has since starred in Plus Nine Boys, Who Are You: School 2015 and The Village: Achiara’s Secret. He also made big waves in We Got Married; he was paired off with Joy from Red Velvet.