Wow – now, that was an epic hour of television!
The entry of the Park Joong-Won has definitely brought much more tension and urgency to the story. I was expecting his presence to last for at least an episode or two more, hence I was surprised that it was brought to a close within this episode and in such a meaningful, poignant and brilliant manner.
After failing to kill Park Joong-Won in the previous episode, Kim Shin recalls what he says about how he can’t be killed with a sword made out of water. It then dawns upon him that the purpose of the sword in him all along was to kill Park Joong-Won. His original plan therefore to delay the pulling of the sword until he finds a door to change the deity’s plan no longer works.
At the very core of Kim Shin’s being is his identity as a loyal warrior – even after 900 years of life, he still remains a warrior, and keeps in mind the instructions given to him both by Wang Yeo’s brother and by Wang Yeo. Unlike earlier episodes where he kept swinging back and forth between whether to pull the sword at all, there is a clarity in him once he realises the sword’s purpose. As much as it pains him, he knows it has to be done. He thus says his final goodbyes, before enacting his final plan to kill Park Joong-Won by bringing Eun Tak to a tall building and asking her to wait there for him and summon him once he calls. This brings us to the most epic, heart-stopping and heart-rending ending sequence of any TV show I’ve watched in a long time.
As Eun Tak waits for Kim Shin, PJW teleports himself there and Eun Tak can no longer see him anymore because the birthmark has completely faded away. He strangles her, but she manages to blow out the lighter just in time to summon Kim Shin.
However, once PJW releases his grasp on Eun Tak, she realises to her greatest horror that PJW’s plan all along was to use her to kill Kim Shin, since she’s the only one who can take out the sword. She desperately pleads Kim Shin to kill her instead, since she was meant to die all along. She’s too late though and PJW manages to possess her and clasps on to the handle of the sword. Just as he’s about to pull the sword, Reaper appears just in the nick of time, and summons Park Joong Won out of Eun Tak by screaming his name.
Eun Tak collapses in Kim Shin’s arm and we almost heave a sigh of relief, but… what happens next just took my breath away as Kim Shin grabs her hand and uses her hand to pull the sword out of himself.
He then swings the sword to deliver the final blow to PJW, which ultimately kills him.
This also Kim Shin to his final moments as he informs Wang Yeo of his heroic death and tells Eun Tak that his life was not a curse, but a reward because he met her. He tells her too that he will ask the deities/god to allow him appear once a year, as promised before he finally disappears.
There have been many negative comments about Kim Go Eun’s acting, but nobody can deny that she certainly put in a stellar performance in this episode, especially at the final scene. She played such a range of emotions and expressions, from the desperate anxiety when she realised that PJW wanted to use her to kill him, to the fear-inducing, creepy moment of possession and her deeply felt sorrow and completely anguish when Kim Shin disappears. She totally embodied every single emotion and brought them to life.
Gong Yoo was excellent and has always been provided with many moments to shine from the start. However, another character whom I felt had greater opportunity to shine in this episode was Lee Dong Wook who essentially played two characters in the episode and brought such depth to both of them. As Wang Yeo in the Goryeo era, Lee Dong Wook played to perfection the king’s loss of purpose and utter dejection after Kim Sun died, living a life completely devoid of love – so much so that he would willingly drink the tonic, even though he knows it will ultimately cause his death.
As Reaper in the modern era, he portrayed such a range of intense emotions so well, from that utter sense of disorientation when coming to grips that he’s Wang Yeo, to the torrent of guilt and pain that overwhelms him when memories of his past life return as a punishment and finally to the sorrow felt when Kim Sun breaks up with him once again. The separation from Kim Sun is made even more bittersweet because she tells him that none of her memories with him were erased, because all of them were happy ones, even if they were difficult and painful ones.
The biggest question now with Kim Shin gone is what next? How is the show going to keep us engaged for the next three episodes left?
His early death certainly leaves room for his return, though in what form, it isn’t clear yet. Perhaps he’ll be reincarnated as mortal and then grow old together with Eun Tak, which would certainly be the best ending of all. We know Eun Tak will be strong and go on living a good life, based on what she told Kim Shin when Grandpa died. It almost seems too obvious now that the person who appears to Eun Tak when she’s 29 is Kim Shin, but I’m keen to see how the show makes it interesting.
With both Goblin and PJW gone, it seems like the only area for further exploration now is Reaper and Kim Sun’s relationship. What can Reaper do to make it up to her or to win her back, especially when she realises her brother has died once again? How will Kim Sun respond to the news of her brother’s death and how will that change her life?
In the bigger scheme of things, the death of Goblin opens up a new space for storytelling as we can now go deeper into the world of gods, with Sam Shin and Deok Hwa/deity. Thus far, we’ve only heard Reaper and Goblin talk about them, but have never really seen how they function. It’d be interesting to see them relate to Kim Shin and Reaper and for the rules of the ‘bigger’ world to be shown to us.
Next week will certainly be a great week for Goblin, with 3 episodes shown with a double episode finale. This has truly been one of the richest and most wonderful viewing experiences ever and I’m very sure the ending will be equally epic and brilliant!