The Lonely and Shining Goblin: Episode 5

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What fun this episode was! There was certainly no shortage of humour in this episode as our Goblin and Reaper mope together while Goblin warms up his egg and Reaper cools his drinks, explore the world of smartphones, engage in childish butter-knife fighting after breakfast and Reaper gets jealous of Goblin’s cool name. The scenes between Reaper and Eun Tak are also surprisingly delightful as he asks her for a suitable name and they share a moment of bonding while folding towels, and he tells her not to use the word “killer” with her.

One of the strengths of Goblin is that its scenes are so intricately and poetically constructed that it’s worth rewatching, just to appreciate how beautifully it melds the words, the music and its images together. I mentioned last week’s “Physics of Love” sequence and this week, we have two of such sequences, all involving Goblin. Gong Yoo’s delivery is just so spot on and he’s able to convey melancholy and sorrow in such a moving and stirring manner.

The first sequence comes early on, when he’s musing at the table with Reaper and he says:

“Her smile reflected the light of the sun when it is the brightest. It reminded me of the moment my life was taken away. I made my my mind. I have to disappear before I feel a stronger longing for my life. Before I become happier than now. It’s the decision I have to make for you. I have to end my life.”

Throughout the sequence, we get the sun shining on Eun Tak, then the sun shining on Kim Shin’s face while the camera draws slowly away from Goblin’s face in present time, which also represents his decision to step back and disappear before he becomes happier. It’s a powerful portrayal of the tragic state of Goblin’s life and his predicament – he can only find peace when the sword is pulled out, yet that’s also the moment when his existence ends. His choice is therefore between living a life being tormented by the deaths he has seen, or to die and finally have peace.

The next scene, which was equally tragic, was the final sequence where we return to Quebec. It was made all the more powerful because it took me by surprise, when the episode was generally moving in a positive tone. As he walks into the restaurant, Goblin suddenly pauses and looks on, as he sees the future life of a waiter in the restaurant.  This is where the camera work is fantastic too as it scans across the restaurant, with everyone else moving but Goblin stationary. We then zoom into Eun Tak 10 years down the road on the phone, talking to someone (is it Sunny?) about meeting some man. He looks and her and says:

“At the age of 29, you’re still shining, but I’m not… by your side. My life of eternity has finally come to an end. Times after my death, you are still here. You’ve forgotten me and your life is perfectly complete with me gone. I have to disappear. To make you smile. This is the decision I have to make. I have to end my life”

We then get scenes of him fading away from all the key scenes of them together, and he finally says, “In the end, that’s the decision I made”, with a tear rolling down his face. It’s a tragic ending, because his end will come very soon, perhaps even in the next episode. This also opens up fascinating possibilities for storytelling as we are not sure what will happen after that – perhaps there will be an encounter between Goblin and the deity that Reaper and him were talking about earlier? While being moving, the scene also interestingly introduces a new aspect of the show’s mythology – once the Goblin’s wife takes out the swords, his existence and all memories of him will be erased. All joyful memories and the pain of loss will only reside with Goblin and his wife will go on with life. The scene also opens up many questions like who Euntak is speaking to on the phone, who she is meeting and why is she in Quebec again.

In a time where most shows rely on heart-stopping plot developments to keep viewers engaged, there’s a refreshing touch to Goblin in its willingness to draw out its protagonist’s emotional turmoil and fate so vividly through such extended, lyrical sequences. Great credit goes to Gong Yoo, of course, for being able to portray so much emotion through these sequences. There’s a depth to his turmoil as expressed in an important scene with Reaper, where they speak about the deity which they’ve never met. At least if Goblin has met the deity, he would have someone to resent, but he can’t – so he’s left with resenting himself and his life. While referencing an often quoted verse in the Bible, he shares that the deity may have over-estimated how much he can handle. After handling so much loss and witnessing so many deaths, Kim Shin has taken a detached approach to life, standing by the side and not allowing himself to get emotionally involved. He thus approaches Eun Tak with such caution, because joy for him is dangerous, and joy for him always inevitably leads to pain.

As the series progresses, I realise that this is a show where we should not focus on finding out what happens next, but simply dwell in the present and appreciate every single moment. And perhaps this is the philosophy we should adopt with life as well, given that our lives and futures are not fully in our hands.

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