Goblin: The Lonely and Great God TV Review
Goblin: The Lonely and Great God just ended its 16-episode run and is now available to stream in its entirety. And trust me, if you haven’t seen this Korean phenomenon, drop whatever you’re doing and start watching now!
Goblin: The Lonely and Great God is one of those shows you look forward to watching each week. And now that it’s over, every other show seems to have lost its color. Why? Because nothing is as good as Goblin (I’ll admit Legend of the Blue Sea was a close second – which also sadly just ended).
If you love fantasy, fairy tales, romance, supernatural stories, and all-around good drama, then Goblin should be the next show you watch. And if you have never watched a Korean Drama before then this series is the perfect one to start with.
Goblin tells the story of Kim Shin (Gong Yoo – major sexiness alert), an immortal goblin who longs to end his life. But only when he finds the Goblin’s Bride will he be able to end his immortality and return to dust.
The tale itself begins with the Goblin’s past as a human – a warrior betrayed by the king he loved and served. And then follows him through his long life to the present day where he becomes roommates with an immortal Grim Reaper (Lee Dong-wook – another sexiness alert) who has no name and no memories. And it’s in the present day, Kim Shin meets the 18-year-old orphan girl, Ji Eun-tak (Kim Go-eun) who not only has the ability to see ghosts but also claims she’s his future bride. It’s only when he has the opportunity to finally die that he wants to live as he falls in love with Eun-tak and becomes friends with the reaper.
Meanwhile, Grim Reaper meets Sunny (Yoo In-na), a depressed chicken restaurant owner who he instantly falls in love with. The two are mysteriously drawn to each other in a compelling way that will leave you rooting for this odd pair.
Then to add in even more fun, you have ‘gods’ discussing the fate of humans and their immortal creations as they weave briefly in and out of the characters’ lives. Not to mention Deok-hwa, the spoiled “nephew” of Kim Shin who comes from a long line of descendants that help the Goblin keep his identity hidden. The sequence when Kim Shin reveals his true “goblin” identity to Deok-hwa is hilarious and will likely make you laugh out loud as it pokes fun at the clichés of keeping secret identities and revealing the truth to someone else.
Thoughts on Goblin
While I love Korean Dramas (and I mean LOVE), I admit, as a whole, there are a few weaknesses often found in their many productions. One is that at some point many of the shows drag for an episode or two – typically near the middle or end. However, Goblin rises above this Korean Drama stereotype. There is not one weak link (or episode) in the series. From beginning to end, Goblin flows and continuously explores a fascinating and rich mythology in a story destined to stay in the memories of the audience long after it’s over.
Bromance Steals the Show
Still, as entertaining as the show is, what truly makes Goblin a standout series is the friendship between the immortal Goblin, Kim Shin and the immortal Grim Reaper (who has no name – at least in the beginning). The two become unlikely friends and roommates in a similar fashion to the fantastic BBC series Being Human. One, in fact, wonders if writer Kim Eun-sook was heavily influenced by Being Human and even Doctor Who.
No doubt, you will find some similarities there. However, Goblin is something entirely new and refreshing. No one has explored this type of folklore (the Korean Dokkaebi – aka Goblin) to the extent writer Eun-sook has in the television medium. So, if you love fantasy and supernatural series but feel fatigued by all the vampires, werewolves, and witch stories out there, then you’ll appreciate this unique take on supernatural folklore and immortal characters.
The Incredible Performances
The performances from the cast are also all brilliant. Lee Dong-wook as the Grim Reaper may have found his niche in acting in this role. His performance is reminiscent of Johnny Depp at his eccentric best (and not some of Depp’s later performances where he became a caricature of himself). Dong-wook plays this depressed, obsessive-compulsive, and peculiar immortal with such warmth and heart that one can’t help but love this incredibly nuanced character. The more he’s on-screen the better.
The same goes for Gong Yoo as the lonely, depressant Goblin. His performance is heartbreaking, charismatic, romantic, and incredibly lovable. No doubt you’ll fall in love with Gong Yoo as Kim Shin. There is a reason why he is one of Korea’s top stars. His smile will melt your heart, and his tears will break it. He’s able to convey emotion onscreen in a way that endears him as a character to the audience.
The female leads also do a fantastic job in the roles they play. Kim Go-Eun and Yoo-In-na both inhabit their roles to perfection, making us root for both as characters and relate to them on an emotional level. It was especially nice to see such a rewarding friendship between women onscreen.
Grim Reaper and Sunny
Beyond the performances, I was “mostly” impressed with the romances in Goblin. My personal favorite, however, was between Grim Reaper and Sunny. Their awkward interactions are romantic, sad, and incredibly funny.
Take, for example, the scene featured below. This moment showcases just how amusing their interactions are. What happens when an immortal catches you from falling but you can’t actually see him?
Besides their wonderful moments throughout the series, without giving anything away, I can also say their ending was absolutely perfect.
Kim Shin and Eun-tak
The main romance between Kim Shin and Eun-tak, on the other hand, is presented in an epic, swoon-worthy way that was likely influenced by Jane Eyre. You have the young orphan girl who lives with a horrible aunt and two abusive cousins. Eun-tak then later finds solace and a home with a brooding hero. Sound familiar? However, one aspect of this romance might be hard for some of the audience to swallow.
While Jane Eyre is young, we automatically accept her romance with Rochester because of her independent spirit and emotional maturity. Jane and Rochester also have a meeting of the minds where they understand each other on an equal level. The same can be said for the Doctor and Rose in Doctor Who, whom share an almost identical age difference as found in Goblin.
However, while Rose and Jane both display extreme maturity for their ages, Eun-tak feels much younger and at times comes across as a little immature (befitting of the character’s age in modern day) and cutesy. This makes the romance between the Goblin and Eun-tak perhaps feel a little awkward at first. Thankfully, as Eun-tak ages and matures, the romance becomes believable and the chemistry between the actors shines through. By the end, you’ll be rooting for these two. I was especially impressed with the writer’s ability to present such a beautiful, old-fashioned romance in a way clearly influenced by classic literature of old.
Quick Rundown – Why Should You Watch?
Overall, Goblin is a must-see series for anyone who loves a fantastic story with memorable performances, fantastic writing with unique folklore and impressive mythology, and all-around relatable characters you quickly grow to love. This is easily my favorite new series of the past year. Goblin is part fantasy, part fairy tale, part romantic drama, and when put together is 100% awesome.
Content Note: The series is rated TV-14, but the content is relatively mild. There are a few scenes of violence comparable to battle sequences in Lord of the Rings (so not overly explicit) but are few and far between.
Where to Watch: You can stream the entire series on Viki.
Have you seen Goblin? What are your thoughts on this fantasy romance series? Let me know in the comments!
(More like a 4 1/2 but I rounded up!)