I wasn’t intending to watch this drama since I was already following Legend of the Blue Sea on Wednesdays, but there was so much hype about it on dramabeans that I decided to give it a go.
I started with episode 10, which was the episode where Bok Joo won the title, but still felt so down throughout the episode because of Jae Ho’s gentle rejection of her (which made her feel even worse) and also Coach Choi’s departure. Even though it was my first viewing of the show, I could feel Bok Joo’s emotions so deeply and could connect so easily with her character. I was drawn to how the show took much effort to portray its characters mental and emotional states so convincingly and powerfully and also how the show had built a tightly knit world of characters who genuinely cared for each other and whose actions had an effect on each other. I was captivated already and decided to watch it from the start.
After finishing the first five episodes, I have to say I am remarkably surprised by this series. It’s fallen on the way side in the rankings game because it’s up against Legend of the Blue Sea but I have to say it’s certainly a very strong series that deserves as much attention as LOBS.
For one thing, every character in this drama is so lovingly crafted and engaging, such that there’s never a dull scene throughout. The key protagonists – Bok Joo, Joon Hyung and Shi Ho – all excel in their sports but face their respective challenges too, highlighting the different pressures faced by young athletes as well as their tumultuous love lives. All of them are doing silly things because of love, and are so completely relateable because we were all there once before. Besides them, the entire ensemble is a hilarious bunch and I enjoy Joon Hyung’s interactions with Tae Kwon as much as Bok Joo’s interactions with Sun Ok and Nan Hee. Shi Ho’s character is a more serious than the others, but that’s ok because she does provide a nice counterbalance to the other storylines.
Bok Joo’s story is so compelling because while we are rooting for her and her affection for Jae Yi is so sweet and adorable, we can also see it cannot end well because of the age difference and the doctor-patient relationship. Yet Bok Joo’s web of lies and deception just keeps growing and it gets so difficult to watch as it starts to affect those around her and ultimately herself too. Episode 5 was painful to watch, when she’s so determined for Joon Hyung not to spread any rumours about her crush that she stands in for him to carry the rice sacks, which results in the swimming team becoming first and the weightlifting team losing the championships for the first time. This is yet another defeat for the team that has already met many setbacks since the cutting of funding.
Joon Hyung is an equally fascinating character who obviously likes Bok Joo, which manifests itself in his incessant teasing of her to rile her up. He defends her when the men at the restaurant put her and her friends down and he even gives her a ticket to a concert so she gets to spend time with Jae Yi. He does care for her and Shi Ho can see that, which leads her to go on the offensive and even elicit Bok Joo’s help when she tries to get Joon Hyung back.
Shi Ho’s attempts to get Joon Hyung back are also equally difficult to watch, as we can see that she’s at a stage in her life where she’s grasping at straws to gain any shred of happiness she can get. She’s back at the university and reached a plateau in her sporting performance, yet she does not want her family to send her overseas because she knows they cannot afford it. She doesn’t seem to have any friends at all and seems estranged from her family. In her desperation, she reaches out to the one person who may not give her what she want, but will at least respond to her and talk to her.
It’s such a lovingly crafted show that’s such a joy to watch. It manages to build so many convincing characters that are so easy to connect with. I’ve tried not to be spoiled, but I know that good stuff happens in ep11 and 12, and I can’t wait to get there!
This episode deals with what happens after all our characters’ secrets are out and it’s a sweet reversal of expectations that it’s Sim Chung who has a harder time dealing with Joon Jae’s true identity, instead of Joon Jae dealing with her being a mermaid.
Upon realising Joon Jae is a conman, Sim Chung returns all that he has bought for her to the stores and leaves his home, checking herself into a sauna. Even when he finds her and tries to entice her back with beef short ribs, she’s adamant in turning him down even though she would love to eat the short ribs. Sim Chung may be naive and simple-minded, but she stays true to her principles and trust and truthfulness are important to her. After realising that he’s the person that Sim Chung loved previously, Joon Jae has newfound determination and moves into the sauna with her, doing all he can to protect her. Yet Sim Chung is unmoved, till a woman in the sauna tells her that Joon Jae’s presence is disturbing them. It’s only when Joon Jae joins her to bring joy to Yoona and also promises her that he’ll never tell lies to harm someone, much to Nam Doo and Tae-O’s surprise, that she’s won over by him. It was fun to see the roles being reversed and Joon Jae requiring to go into Sim Chung’s “space”, where all his pretensions are stripped away, just to win her back.
On the other hand, Joon Jae’s realisation that Sim Chung is a mermaid brings out the best in him. He realises he’s becoming that boy in the myth, who can hear the mermaid’s voice because he loves her. Unlike Joon Jae’s life as a conman where he entered people’s consciousness for his own gain, this time, he uses what he hears of her thoughts to become a better man by caring for her, fulfilling her wishes and ultimately becoming a person who can keep his word to her. Learning about her mermaid identity and how sensitive she is to water makes him even more protective of her and he goes all out to protect her in the sauna. Most significant is his decision to turn away from being a conman, warning a group of girls about how they’d end up being like him and ultimately promising Sim Chung that he’ll not tell lies to harm others. He puts on his “conman” attire in this episode not with the aim of deceiving others, but to bring joy to Yoona by supporting her in her concert. When he gets arrested, he turns himself in without struggling, displaying a true desire to turn away from his criminal ways. Lee Min Ho puts in a good performance here and I really enjoyed the scene of him realising that he’s the person Sim Chung spoke about.
There was certainly a light-hearted and magical fairy-tale feel to this episode, with wishes being made and fulfilled, Joon Jae and Sim Chung going all out to fulfil Yoona’s wish and all the references to stars and the moon. We also have our evil stepmother as we realise that Seo-hee has “blinded” two previous husbands and Joon Jae steps up to truly becoming Sim Chung’s prince charming. While protecting the mermaid in the Joseon era involved sword fights, bloodshed and racing on horses, protecting her in this episode is a more unassuming, down to earth affair of simply protecting her identity, which means keeping her away from water. This leads to many funny scenes of Joon Jae getting kids to play their water guns elsewhere, moving the water dispenser and asking the staff for long pants. It’s really heroism in its plainest, most unadorned form.
The other plotlines surrounding the fairy-tale don’t fare too badly as well. Shi-ah, who I’ve always felt was bland, is getting slightly more development and I found her scene with Tae-oh very funny as she offers him her friendship, even though she can’t love him back. We realise that Dae Young has been having similar dreams as Joon Jae, which leads him to realise too that Sim Chung has an important role to play in Joon Jae’s life. Jin Joo’s continues to be a delight to watch and I find her mannerisms so entertaining.
I’ve been thinking about how all the publicity of the show prior to it may have done more harm to it than good, as there were expectations of an epic, grand story with comparisons to Descendants of the Sun. However, from what we’ve seen so far, this show remains content with being simple, light-hearted and fun. As the show moves towards its final half though, I do hope we get into more serious, intense storytelling with the tightening of the links between past and present, our villains taking more concrete action and a greater sense of danger and threat for Sim Chung.
Wow – Christmas comes early this year as RDTK gives us its best episode ever. It’s such a beautifully crafted episode which is not only chock-full of fascinating medical details, but also many wonderful character moments which I’ve been yearning for from this show for the longest time and this episode delivered all that and more. Warning – very long post ahead!
As we’ve come to expect, Doldam Hospital is swamped with medical cases again. The good news is the MERS case turns out to be a false alarm and merely paragonimiasis caused by unfermented crabs. Once that case is closed, our doctors barely get a few minutes of respite before they have to tend to three patients coming in due to a traffic accident and the comic book artist returns and turns out to have respiratory acidosis, thus requiring an ECMO (Extracorporal Membrane Oxygenation) operation, which Master Kim gets In Beom to do and he fails badly at. We also find out more about Chairman Shin’s operation – firstly that he’s hiding something that has happened 20 years ago, but secondly that he will not just need to change the batteries, but replace the artificial heart altogether. I’m really wondering how doctors/surgeons will feel watching this show – this seems like the perfect show for them to geek out over and I really appreciate the show putting in that much effort to paint the medical scenarios accurately and not just milk them for emotional impact.
That being said, what I really loved about this episode was that every character had significant moments and I can only do this justice by going through our main characters one by one.
Master Kim – It’s been a while since we’ve seen him harshly scold someone, since Dong Joo has now come into his good books. In Beom gets it this time, and as always, Master Kim proves himself to be sharp in observing someone who just memorises facts and theories compared to someone who has done it before. He tells In Beom that his hands reveal everything and then tells him, “Don’t degrade yourself by acting as if you are expendable”. Master Kim made similar comments to Dong Joo previously about him degrading himself or feeling so low about himself and that’s his own style of “teaching”. A more nurturing teacher might have told In Beom that he was valuable in this hospital and should not just think of fulfilling his father’s purpose and then leaving. However, Master Kim likes to deliver comments that hit people hard, which ironically also affirm them at the same time. I’ve come to miss that spark in him and it’s great to see it coming back.
What we see also in this episode is what the surgery of Chairman Shin means to him. Initially it seemed like it was just a move to spite President Do and to prove that a hospital like Doldam could do a surgery as well as Geodae. However, from this episode’s exchanges, it goes deeper than that – especially when Chairman Shin tells him that both of them are similar because they are both men of great tenacity – he is a man who struggles to save lives, and Master Kim is a doctor who tries to save a person’s life. This brings us all the way back to the video he observed of Master Kim saving the chef’s men in the kitchen. Chairman Shin saw that Master Kim is not a doctor who merely administers a treatment, but really goes all out to save that person’s life. Master Kim, who is usually very assured and arrogant, seems intimidated by this operation and even asks Chairman Shin why he has so much confidence in him. At the end of the conversation, we see that what’s at stake here for Master Kim is his own personal beliefs in saving lives and how far he will go for that. It’s his whole status and conviction as a doctor that’s at stake, and the best part is he’s pulling a team along on that journey to discover what it truly means to save lives.
Dong Joo – As a character, Dong Joo is certainly softening up in recent episodes and we’ve even started to see him smile more and have awkward, bumbling moments. I really enjoyed his cute moments with Manager Kang choosing a Christmas present for Seo Jung and his reaction when Manager Kang brought it into the room.
One thing that’s good about Dong Joo is that he knows what he wants and does not back down easily, even after being repeatedly rejected or hurt. In his scenes with Seo Jung, we always see her turning away repeatedly, only to have him hold her again. I was never convinced by their first kiss in the premiere and did not find it meaningful at all; however, the kiss in this episode was really touching for me because both him and Seo Jung have grown so much through their time in Doldam. It was sweet to hear him tell Seo Jung that all he wanted to hear from her was that she likes him, and all other things can be worked out along the way. On a broader note, I once again appreciate how the show is not allowing the romance to sideline the main focus on medical storylines. Dong Joo and Seo Jung’s relationship has been well-developed in recent episodes and it’s certainly cute that everyone in the hospital is rooting for them. How funny was the scene between Master Kim and Nurse Oh when he winked at her and said there was no way he could have stopped Seo Jung from treating Dong Joo!
Separately, Dong Joo’s overworking and giving his all for his patients, sacrificing sleep and his own health is also a sign that he’s learning to do all he can for his patients, rather than focusing on becoming the best doctor. During the whole MERS situation, it was clear that what drove him on was not promotion, or recognition, but merely doing the best for his patients.
Seo Jung – Seo Jung has always been the focus of the previous episodes and once again she shines in this episode. I thought what Master Kim said about him not being able to stop her showed how she had grown from the meek, timid person who was so subservient to Master Kim’s wishes to the confident person now who’s willing to stand up to him. However, what was more meaningful for me was how the accident with her ex-boyfriend was not swept under the carpet and we are actually going to see the show tackle it. I’ve been rather disappointed with how her PTSD just conveniently disappeared, but deep down, I also saw Seo Jung’s repeated rejections of Dong Joo as being because of that accident or fear that it
might trigger the PTSD. I thought the scene of her dolling herself up in the mirror, putting on make-up then removing it all was a very meaningful one, because it shows how the accident has affected her sense of herself too. She’s afraid that moving on to love someone else would mean that she’s forgotten about the accident, which she still feels guilty about. Let’s hope this is explored further.
In Beom – He’s been sidelined for a while, but comes into focus again in this episode, especially after getting a scolding from Master Kim. He asks his dad in this episode how long he has to stay in Doldam, which is a sign too that he thinks of his time in Doldam as temporary and can’t wait to go back to Geodae. It has not hit him that he is not just a valuable member of the Doldam family, but that there’s so much potential for him to grow and so much to learn here. I sense that there’ll be a journey of greater realisation for him. Master Kim’s decision to still involve him in Chairman Shin’s operation as the assistant to Seo Jung is a sign that he does see potential in In Beom and wants to nurture him. Let’s hope he grows in the upcoming episodes beyond just being someone used by his dad, to someone with a stronger sense of will-power. I do miss seeing him interact with Dong Joo and Seo Jung, so let’s have more of that too!
Manager Jang and Nurse Oh – Are we going to have a romance storyline between the two of them? If so, I say that’s going to be great and so much fun. Manager Jang has mainly been used for comedic effect so far, so it’d be good to give him something more substantial to work with. Nonetheless, he’s been a great character that adds a lot of fun to the show. Really loved how he hinted at Dong Joo to get something for Seo Jung as a Christmas present. And how great was that epilogue! It just made an excellent episode even greater because both of them were so funny together.
Yoon Hwa – Yoon Hwa finally returns in this episode and decides to come back as a resident. We learn that she used to be a resident at Gangwon Hospital who fled because she felt that being a doctor was too exhausting. However, her time at Doldam has inspired her again and she now wants to become a “real doctor”. Her entry as an intern gives a good energy to our team, especially as we see the other doctors so keen to give her advice, especially Seo Jung who’s extremely excited. I foresee some fun moments ahead as we now see Seo Jung playing on a mentoring role and inspiring others too.
Wow, this entry was longer than expected, only because this episode was really solid and everything I had been looking for in the show. We’re certainly in for a great time as the show moves towards its final stretch!
We start moving into the key event that’s driving the entire series, the heart surgery of CEO Shin, and if that’s not enough to keep our characters occupied, we have potential MERS patients which causes the whole ER to be quarantined, a child with lacerations and a patient with appendicitis – all stuck within the quarantined emergency room.
If there’s one thing this show is fond of, it’s with the piling on of intense and challenging medical situations. I’ve always felt that the series would be better if there was more room for the characters to breathe and process what has happened, rather than rushing on immediately to the next set of cases. To the credit of the show, it has created a world with many lovable, fascinating characters, all of whom have potentially interesting back stories. I’d be keen to see them interact more and get to know each other better, rather than simply focusing on cases each week. Nonetheless, I’ve come to appreciate too that what distinguishes this show is its powerful use of medical situations to explore ethical and emotional issues, hence something has to give.
I do admire how the show is unafraid to go into the details of its medical procedures and treats the whole craft of medicine with such affection. Our doctors and surgeons go into lengthy explanations with medical jargon and terminology, yet none of it is boring and they speak of it with such passion and familiarity. The medical jargon being used never sounds forced or fake, and they deliver it so naturally as if it’s part of their everyday language.
This week, we go into the intricate details of the processes involved in artificial heart transplant and surgery with a very beautiful scene between Seo-Jung and Dong Joo. I appreciated all the precise shots that captured the intricate purse string suture process and the focus on both Dong Joo’s and Seo-jung’s hands as they engaged in the practice surgery. It’s so apt that it’s their passion and dedication to medicine that draws them closer together and kudos to the series for not allowing the romance to detract from its medical focus.
What I love about the show is how it also exalts the medical profession and the important work they do. Seo Jung once again shines as she stands firm against the intimidation of Chairman Shin who is adamant about not having a female doctor and insists on seeing Master Kim. She stands up to him not just because of her spunky, courageous nature, but also because of the pride she has in her role as a doctor and her dedication to doing the best for her patients. She knows what she has to do and will give her patients what they need, instead of what they want – regardless of who they are. She’s unafraid to turn off the TV when CEO Shin chooses to ignore her and tells him straight-up that he may have pneumonia.
If that’s not amazing enough, she even stands up to Master Kim at the end of the episode and tells him that she should be the one in the ER treating Dong Joo and not him, because he is a surgeon with a triple board and should be focusing on Chairman Shin’s case. She takes things into her own hands and even does a handover to In Bum, without seeking Master Kim’s prior approval. What’s great about this decision of hers is that it’s not just because she cares Dong Joo, but it’s because she’s thinking about what’s best for hospital overall as Director Yeo also mentions that Master Kim is critical to Doldam’s operations. She makes that decision knowing that it will mean she will give up the chance to operate on Chairman Shin – something she has been preparing for for ages. Seo Jung truly represents someone who’s not focused on being the best doctor who gets all the best patients, but just wants to be a good doctor to meet the needs of her patients.
The other characters unfortunately don’t get as much attention in this episode and I would have liked to see more of their emotional journey. We’ve lost focus a little on In Bum and he’s been rather undeveloped as a character lately. I would have liked to see what was going through his mind when he was not selected by Master Kim, or when he was brought in to see Chairman Shin by Dr. Song, or when Seo Jung handed over the position of first assistant to him. Even Dong Joo gets little attention this week, development-wise, though we do see his tireless dedication and devotion to ensuring everything goes smoothly, to the detriment of his own health. Nurse Oh does get a touching moment with Master Kim as we see her fearless exterior breaking down when she talks to Master Kim on the phone.
There’s so much depth of emotion that this show can explore and delve into, especially for its key characters, and it’s such a waste that it’s not doing so. Nonetheless, what it offers is an episode with lots to keep us engaged and several good character moments here and there.
I usually don’t blog about previews because they’re generally quite bland and sometimes can be quite deceiving, but this week’s LOBS preview had me really excited. Here it is:
3 reasons why I’m excited:
I’ve been rooting for the longest time for the show to have a convincing villain and looking for the show to develop Dae Young’s character. Turns out Seo Hee is the true villain and Gil-joong (Joon Jae’s dad) was not her first victim – she’s poisoned two other spouses before. It’s always more exciting to watch when there’s a stronger sense of threat and danger and I’m glad that the modern day storyline is amping up it’s excitement factor.
Sim Chung returns everything that Joon Jae buys for her. I’m glad that her affection for him is not just a blind devotion, but rooted in her belief that he’s fundamentally a good person that she can trust. I’m interested to see how Joon Jae will win her back. Besides his love for her, there’s now the added dimension of Dam Ryung’s instructions to him to protect her.
The final point – and this is what fascinates me the most – is what Joon Jae says at the end, “Am I just entering the fairy tale? Or you are the one who comes to this world?”. This opens up some interesting possibilities beyond what I’ve speculated previously about fate repeating itself, but now there’s even the possibility of Joon Jae being the one who enters into another world. How did that happen? I recall in the first episode, we get a scene of Sim Chung swimming under the sea and picking up the bangle, before she next appears on land. Is there more to it than we previously imagined? Is it the bangle that causes Joon Jae to become a part of the fairy tale?
Wow, a lot happened this week in the kdrama-verse as all the dramas I’m following (RDTK, LOBS and Goblin) hit significant milestones – Dong Joo stood up against President Do’s threats and decided not to forge the death certificate, Joon Jae and Sim Chung find out the truth about each other and we realise Eun Tak is unable to pull out the sword from Kim Shin.
Here are my favourites of the week!
Favourite character growth moment –
Dong Joo in RDTK Ep 12 when he decides not to forge the death certificate
While I had some issues with the execution (explained further in my Ep12 review), it’s undeniable that Dong Joo has grown so much. It’s not just his final decision not to forge the death certificate, but from the very beginning of Private Park’s case where he stands firm against the army authorities and tells them the surgery needs to be done in Doldam. Later on, when facing the lady who calls him a murderer, he takes complete responsibility instead of blaming it on Geodae or those in power for forcing it upon him. This is miles ahead of the Dong Joo we saw earlier on, who blamed the world for everything. In the end, his final decision to stand firm to his values as a doctor, and give up more salary and career progression, is certainly worth celebrating. Probing deeper into the medical/legal issues in the episodes only made me admire Dong Joo even before as he was put in a very stressful position as a young doctor.
Favourite couple moment-
Joon Jae and Sim Chung finding out the truth in Legend of the Blue Sea, Ep 10
There’d be too many choices if I had to select for sweet couple moments this week, so I’ve decided to choose this scene because of its intensity and depth. While the focus has mostly been on Sim Chung hiding her mermaid identity, Joon Jae has also been lying about who he is by telling her he’s a civil servant. The tension mounts this week when they are at Jin-Joo’s home and Sim Chung senses throughout that something is amiss. When they come back, she asks suspiciously what was going on and then gives Joon Jae the most intense, angry stare yet from her. The fact that the truth was confronted through telepathy with them staring at each other made the scene even more powerful.
Favourite character dynamics –
Kim Shin and Reaper from Goblin
I know we’re supposed to be invested in the romances, but Goblin/Kim Shin and Reaper/Wang Yeo have such great chemistry together that every scene with them is a delight to watch. In this week’s episodes, they help each other heat up eggs or cool drinks, intrude on each other’s personal space, figure out smart-phones together and engage in butter-knife fights. They also have serious heartfelt discussions about God, death and fate as the both of them are really in the same boat, being mere servants to the deities and struggling in their love lives.
There’s a brotherly bond being developed as we see Wang Yeo’s concern for Goblin growing. When Goblin says he deserves to die, Reaper tells him confidently that there’s no life that deserves to die, and then jokes that there may be exceptions in an attempt to bring some cheer to Kim Shin. Later on, he opens up his arms to offer him a hug, which is charming in a sweet and awkward manner. When Eun Tak tells him of her decision to take out the sword, he responds with concern. I’m looking forward to the friendship between the two of them deepening and many more hilarious moments.
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Review continues below
Following the big reveal in episode 6 that Eun Tak could not take out the sword, I became more intrigued and started my attempt to piece things together about the Goblin and Goblin’s bride mythology.
One thing we know for sure is that Eun Tak has been selected as the Goblin’s wife, because she has the mark on her and she’s able to see the sword. The question then is why she cannot pull out the sword and I believe the reasons can be explored from two different angles – the significance of the sword and the importance of the ‘Goblin’s bride’.
The sword: award and punishment
While Eun Tak can see the sword, she does not understand the full implications of what pulling out the sword entails.
All she knows is based on what Shin told her, that the sword is a punishment for the innocent lives due to him approaching the king.
Now, what Shin tells her is not the complete picture, if compared against what the deity/God says as he resurrected Shin in Episode 1:
The souls of your people are saving you. However, the blood of thousands are on your sword. The blood of your enemies, who were also descendants of deities. You shall be immortal and watch your loved ones die. You will not forget a single death. This is the award I give to you and the punishment you shall receive. Only the goblin’s bride shall remove the sword. Once the sword is removed, you shall return to ash and be at peace.
It’s not just about those innocent lives which were lost in the palace, but the thousands of lives lost during his battles, some of whom were descendants of deities. It’s quite clear how his immortality is a punishment, but as to how it’s an “award” – I’ve been thinking about it and the best theory I can come up with is that it’s because the immortality gives him sufficient time to make up for his sin of taking away the thousands of lives. The abilities given to him to protect and watch over others could therefore be a means of enabling him to make up for his wrongdoings.
If that’s the case, then Goblin’s journey on earth is not done – the punishment is not complete; he has not completed his work on this earth and hence cannot leave. This is similar to the ghosts who remain on this world as we learn in Episode 6 too that the daughter ghost moved on once her mum was at peace. This opens up the question of what exactly is the unfinished business that Goblin has and my conjecture is that it has to do with Sunny, who’s somewhat being paralleled to the queen who died on his behalf. The connection is not concrete enough yet, but she seems to be the only plausible character in all of this.
My theory is that the sword only becomes more concrete when Goblin’s punishment is complete, and therefore his wife can then remove it.
The Goblin’s bride: Loving & Living
Another theory that I mentioned in an early review of Episode 2 was that Eun Tak is also not ready to remove the sword. While she bears the mark of the Goblin’s bride and can see the sword, that alone cannot be sufficient to confer upon her the status of the Goblin’s bride.
There are theories I’ve read about them needing to fall deeper in love first before she can truly become Goblin’s wife. That’s certainly plausible and here I’ll bring in certain beliefs in my own religion that even if you believe someone is the person God has planned for you to marry, there’s still a need to develop the relationship, get to know the person and grow deeper in love, before the decision to get married can be made. This is not just a case of Eun Tak not being ready, but also Goblin not being ready. We’ve seen in recent episodes that he’s always holding back, afraid to love her because it will make death more painful – the most painful punishment would be for him to love so deeply, only for him to have to lose it.
In the quote from episode 1 earlier mentioned, there’s a suggestion that he was not fully at peace when he died. Perhaps experiencing the fullness and purity of love through a marriage will help him to find that peace too. This is where also what God mentioned about this immortality being a award/reward comes in – that it’s also an opportunity for him to experience love that he never experienced in his past life. What Eun Tak says in episode 6 ties in with this, when she tells him:
The deity would not have given you those abilities as a punishment. If you were truly a bad person, he would’ve created only the Goblin. He would not have created the Goblin’s bride to remove the sword.
What she says makes a lot of sense and brings in a more balanced picture to the depiction of God. When Kim Shin is first introduced in episode 1, the narrator mentions that God is on his side and even when the young king tries to kill him, Shin’s man runs up to ask the king if he’s not afraid of the heavens. God is certainly not all out to punish Shin, as much as Shin thinks he is. My theory therefore is that while his immortality has been given to him to repent of his sins, it has also been given for him to experience the fullness of life.
Indeed, meeting Eun Tak has helped Goblin on this journey because he mentions in episode 6 that she’s the one who’s supposed to make him die, but she keeps making him live. Reaper mentions that Goblin did live before meeting Eun Tak, but Goblin mentions he has no memories of that. In the final sequence at the buckwheat field, it is clear that he remembers every moment with Eun Tak so vividly and clearly, and he has started living. I believe it’s only when he’s fully appreciated how his immortality is a reward, then the sword will fully materialise and even so, his bride will have the ability to decide when she will remove it.
All this is speculation based on what has been revealed so far, but it’s been very fascinating and fun stuff! Shall wait and see whether these theories pan out in subsequent episodes!
After building up our anticipation for an entire episode, the episode ends off with Eun Tak not being able to grasp the sword at all and thus not being able remove it from Goblin. In any other series, that would have been a frustrating turn of events because it would seem like the writers are simply delaying the inevitable or using the episode as a “filler”. But that’s not the case with Goblin.
Before that final moment in the buckwheat fields, Kim Shin keeps procrastinating, telling Eun Tak “tomorrow” when she asks to pull out the sword. In the meantime, he takes a walk with her, picks her up, looks at her. Before she pulls the sword, he tells her:
Every moment I spent with you shined. Because the weather was good, because the weather was bad, and because the weather was good enough. I loved every moment of it.
In delaying the pulling out of the sword, Kim Shin learns not to focus on that final moment, but to treasure life itself and every moment it has to offer, good or bad. Unlike the start of the episode where death brings tears in his eyes, his final moment before she pulls out the sword is one where he is at peace, because he’s had the chance to savour life in its very simplicity.
In some ways, this is how the show calls us to respond to it. There are no big fall-outs, surprising catastrophes or fast-paced sequences. For a show that’s supposedly about the supernatural, our characters spend a lot of time doing very normal, everyday things, like eating in cafes or at home, reading, walking, peeling garlic. Yet these everyday moments are all imbued with a certain shine because of what our characters bring to them and how the scenes are crafted. Unlike many series where the camera often switches quickly between different characters’ expressions, the camera dwells much longer on every character’s face, even when their expressions do not change. Because of that, there’s an intimacy that’s being established between us and the characters. Attention is drawn towards the characters, their expressions and their emotions.
The result of such attention on our characters is that we also flow seamlessly with the emotions that they are feeling. This show has a genius way of moving from serious to funny within a split second and there were many such moments in this episode. The sequence right at the start with Eun Tak questioning Shin about whether he was a criminal and the significance of the sword is a masterful example of that. The scene starts off lighter, with Eun Tak simply questioning Shin about the sword, but as he recounts his painful past, the emotions get more intense with both of them tearing and Eun Tak wiping the tears off Shin’s face, telling him that he’s loved now. All of a sudden, as emotions are building up, Shin asks her to make him “prettier” now, and she turns him down and suddenly the mood takes a 180 degree turn as Shin looks upon Eun Tak with surprise. It’s hilarious, but more importantly, it’s also natural as we wouldn’t have expected Eun Tak to agree too. On that note, it’s also so characteristic of this show that something as grave as removing the sword becomes referred to as something so trivial as making Shin prettier.
There are many more moments like this where the humour emerges so naturally and we just smile along with our characters. Shin’s solemn reading of his deed to Reaper becomes a funny moment when Reaper responds that he can’t hear him, then proceeds to fiddle with his smartphone in order to get better reception. That final sequence in the buckwheat fields also manages to meld humour with seriousness, as Eun Tak shows Shin her wish-list and asks him to sign it and also asks if he’ll become a broom.
As a result of this episode, there will be countless questions about the sword, Eun Tak’s status as the Goblin bride and even about Reaper and Sunny. However, I’m willing to go along with the ride and appreciate every moment that the show offers to us, big or small, as I know the journey will certainly be an enjoyable one. Nonetheless, if I may have a small request, it would be to have more substantial developments for Reaper and Sunny because they have had so little screen time so far.
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.
Wow – what a powerful ending that was, especially that tense staring match between Sim Chung and Joon Jae where the truth of both their identities came out. I have to admit I was disappointed that Joon Jae didn’t meet his mother and that Shi ah didn’t join in the dinner at Jin Joo’s place, but the fallout of that incident was greater than what I expected.
I loved the unspoken confrontation between Joon Jae and Sim Chung because it brings out a problematic aspect of the show that hasn’t quite been addressed, which is the fact that our protagonist is a conman and we’re supposed to be rooting for him. Regardless of his family issues and background, there’s no running away from the fact that he’s committing crimes and lying to manipulate people. Even if it’s the spirit of “robin hood” (i.e. stealing from rich to give to the poor), it’s still against the law. This episode brings that to the forefront as Sim Chung stares upon Joon Jae, in stern anger and condemnation when she realises he’s a conman. In fact, her realisation that something is amiss with him begins from the moment they enter the gate and Joon Jae tells her not to call him by his name. Throughout the meal at Jin Joo’s place, she’s silent because things are not right.
It’s bold and daring for the show to confront this because it almost breaks the romantic nature of the attraction between Sim Chung and Joon Jae. Now that Sim Chung knows he’s a conman and his words cannot be trusted, will she still love him with that single-hearted devotion? When she holds on to her heart at the end of the episode, my interpretation of it is that her heart is broken and disappointed because firstly, she can no longer trust this man’s words and he may not actually have a plan to love her. Secondly, and even more importantly, her view of him has changed and she cannot bring herself to love him anymore too. Both interpretations are valid as Sim Chung is increasingly being emphasised as being a moral compass for Joon Jae, as he’s starting to look into a job in the civil service and in this episode, Nam Doo also expresses his concerns that Sim Chung will turn him good.
It might ultimately turn out that Nam Doo is the big villain and not Dae Young. Given that Nam Doo has worked so hard to convert Joon Jae and win him over to his side, he wouldn’t so easily allow him to turned to the good side. I’ve always sensed that the relationship between Nam Doo and Joon Jae was more functional more than a friendship. I’m quite sure Nam Doo will have no issues turning on both Joon Jae and Sim Chung if he discovers there’s potential for much greater benefit for him.
The show is now moving into more serious territory by more concretely establishing the connections between the past and present. In doing so, so many questions are being raised. Why are events of the past repeating in the present? Why does Joon Jae need to protect the mermaid? Why does Dam Ryung die so young? How is it that Joon Jae can now hear Sim Chung’s thoughts? We are led to believe that the memories from Spain have started flooding back to Joon Jae – how come?
I do hope we get some satisfactory answers or clues in next week’s episodes.