There’s a certain confidence about the Goblin that’s admirable. It has an uphill task of building a credible supernatural world within which the narrative functions and it does so through interactions between the characters which are completely natural and often light-hearted and animated. We learn of the rules of the supernatural world in a variety of settings – in a hospital, in a cafe, in a park, at home, with hints or rules dropped here and there that never detract from the main story-line being developed. There’s an artfulness in how the show never pauses its plot just for the sake of world-building.
What I found interesting in this episode was that while Goblin is the supernatural being with the ability to manipulate all the elements, he’s actually also powerless over those he protects. In the kidnapping scene, his initial plan may have been to kill the two kidnappers, which explains why Grim Reaper came along, but Eun Tak’s merciful request not to kill the two of them results in a “lighter sentence” for them, by being trapped there for two days. In helping those over whom he’s a guardian of, he usually meddles in the lives of those who threaten them, but not directly in their lives. This is seen in how he brings the gold bars to Eun Tak’s aunt’s family and also the man and woman in the cafe. Towards the end of the episode, Goblin tells Grim Reaper that he can’t find Eun Tak, because she won’t summon him.
Eun Tak clearly has the upper hand in the relationship as Goblin doesn’t know if she can see the sword or not and cannot tell if she’s lying. While he earlier expressed difficulty locating her, she has no problems finding his home, through relying on her connections with the ghosts. In fact, she may even be more well-versed in the supernatural world than Goblin. While Eun Tak has had a hard life and does have moments of despair, there’s much strength in her as she tells Goblin that she’s happy with her life even though she’s had her ups and downs.
We learn more about Grim Reaper too and that Grim Reapers are selected because they have sinned a lot, but they are also unable to remember the past. Our Grim Reaper though seems to recall something from his past and I’m wondering if he was actually the young king who killed Goblin’s family members. The handling of the historical storyline is also well done in this series, because it’s only brought in when required, not as a predictable component each episode. We learn as well that reincarnations need not look the same, hence making the drawing of connections more tricky and a real mystery.
Beyond the above mentioned strengths, it certainly helps that the cast is so strong, with all the actors exuding such confidence and versatility in their performances. Gong Yoo does fantastically as Goblin, switching between wacky silliness, stoic protectiveness and forlorn lover so seamlessly. He carries such a presence that I cannot imagine any other actor playing Goblin. Lee Dong-Wook is everyone’s favourite Grim Reaper and the scene between him and Yoo In-Na, though brief, was fascinating enough for me to want to see them interact more. Dong Wook and Gong Yoo have such great chemistry that every scene with them is a delight to watch. I especially loved the scene in the supermarket where Goblin almost flared up! It’s great to also see them developing a genuine bond besides just teasing each other. Kim Go-Eun is doing a good job in her role as Eun Tak, balancing both the character’s despair and inner strength well in her performance. Yoo In-na still hasn’t had much room to shine, so I am hoping for more development for her in ep4.
While I cannot say I have full grasp over the world that Goblin is creating, it’s clear that this show knows what it’s doing and much credit must go to writer, Kim Eun-Sok, for her stellar writing. My only concern is with her losing steam towards the end, which was clearly the case for Descendants of the Sun where the final stretch of episodes were riddled with many logical loopholes. The directing is excellent as well with so many breath-taking scenes and well crafted sequences. The show certainly deserves the high ratings it has been receiving!