Analysing k-drama has helped me realise how much work goes into these shows and appreciate them so much more. Having written over 200 blog entries, I would like to share my approach on how to analyse k-dramas so as to enjoy them so much more. I have a degree and Masters in English and will be applying literary and film analysis techniques in the webinar.
I will be launching a webinar very soon titled “Unlocking the Keys to K-drama” soon. The webinar will cover my Genre, Characterisation, Technical Details approachusing dramas like Healer, Queen In-hyun’s Man, Legend of the Blue Sea, Goblin, Suspicious Partner, Hotel Del Luna and The World of the Married. If you are interested to sign up, please indicate your interest by clicking this link and you will be placed on a mailing list to be notified once the webinar is up. Spaces will be limited since it is my first run. Thank you!
There’s no doubt that this show has been a great success and it delivers a finale that showcases all its strengths – the versatile cast, poetic dialogue, cinematic direction and thematic depth. While I still have issues with the final 3 episodes in the series, and I’ll talk about that after commenting on what I felt were the strong moments in the finale.
Wang Yeo and Sunny’s final farewell
It seems like the two of them have never had a moment of joy ever since the revelation of their identity, yet every time they meet on the bridge and regardless of the number of times they say goodbye, the pain still feels so raw and real. She has decided to leave this time, because she can’t forgive Wang Yeo as much as she wants to. Yet before she leaves, she wants to see him one last time and even asks him for a hug. Wang Yeo doesn’t resist her decision, even though he really wants to – all he does is nod when she’s speaking and lets her go. Unlike the young king who refused to let Kim Sun make her own decision and forced her to make a choice between him and her brother, Wang Yeo completely respects Sunny’s decision, even to leave him, regardless of how much pain it causes him. His willingness to let her go and to respect her decision shows the depth of his love for her.
Wang Yeo forgiving the servant-girl who served him poison
This was one of the most meaningful scenes in the episode for me. Wang Yeo shares with the girl that becoming a Reaper is a punishment for having committed suicide. He adds that Reapers have no identity, yet have to live in a home and have to eat food to stay alive, because the ultimate goal is to make them desperate for life and want to live life again. It’s a great life-affirming message and so apt that it comes after Sunny’s departure where he has displayed his greatest act of love in this lifetime.
Kim Shin and Eun Tak’s wedding
Beyond the fact that the buckwheat field is stunningly beautiful, this scene is also meaningful because the field was exactly where they signed the contract too that Goblin would return during the first snow when Eun Tak summoned him. That contract becomes the very reason why their marriage is possible. It also symbolises them overcoming the fate that has been set for them, that one has to die in order for the other to live. The direction in this scene is top notch – so private, so perfect, so sweet – unfortunately, the perfection of the scene is exactly why I already sensed something would go wrong in no time.
Eun Tak’s death
Just as their marriage was an act of their will, Eun Tak’s death also comes about due to her decision to save the school children – a spontaneous act of sacrifice that couldn’t have been foreseen by the gods or Kim Shin; an act of sacrifice that only humans can make for themselves.
Prior to the marriage, we see her telling Wang Yeo that she has made peace with death and has resolved to live each day perfectly, as if it’s her last. She’s completely at peace with what happens when she meets Kim Shin in the tea room and decides not to drink the tea of oblivion, so that she can meet him in her next life.
It was also structurally beautiful to see how the end of Wang Yeo’s term as a Reaper coincided with Sunny’s death, thus allowing both of them to walk into the afterlife together and thus be reincarnated at the same time.
I thought having Kim Shin outside of the window of the tearoom looking in was a beautiful parallel to him walking alongside her in the Goryeo era, while she sat in the sedan on her way to get married to Wang Yeo. The departure of both Reaper and Sunny unfortunately returns Goblin to his alone state again, with completely nobody beside him – the only difference this time is that it’s a choice he has made on his own, rather than a destiny or punishment thrust upon him by the deities.
Now, onto the issues I had with the final 3 episodes…
While I did enjoy the final two episodes more than episode 14, I still question whether the removal of Goblin from the memories of those who knew him, namely Eun Tak, was a good choice dramatically. While it did help to extend the reunion between Goblin and Eun Tak, it also made some parts of episode 14 seem rather draggy and repetitive, especially since we knew that Eun Tak’s memories would definitely return at some point. It might have been even more meaningful to show how Eun Tak decided to move on and live strongly after Goblin had left. Also, Kim Shin and Kim Sun’s reunion seemed far too brief and it would have been nice to see how Kim Sun reacted to the death of her brother, which was largely unexplored in this series.
Also, I felt that the final three episodes was in many ways more style than substance. We had many scenes that deliberately paralleled previously scenes to show structural similarity, but it would have been more meaningful to have actual conversations. For example the scene highlighted above where Kim Shin stands outside the window to see Kim Sun. Is there any reason why he’s standing outside rather than in the tea room to say goodbye – to give Reaper and her a private moment? I understand why Reaper wouldn’t approach Kim Sun, but why didn’t Kim Shin go to find Kim Sun after he knew her memories were still retained?
Finally, and this is on a more personal note, I am not entirely comfortable with the message that the show is ultimately trying to convey. It seems to suggest that we can find hope in the next life for issues that we can’t be resolved in this life, or for happiness that cannot be attained in this life. While the show’s worldview is consistent in that it has established a world where everybody has four lives and happiness is ultimately achieved, it’s not necessarily a very affirming and meaningful message for those watching the show. Why couldn’t Kim Sun work through her unforgiveness and find peace with Reaper in this life? Given that Kim Shin and Eun Tak already got married and been perfectly happy in this life, was it necessary for them to reunite in the next life for them to make peace with Eun Tak’s death in this life?
Overall though, this was production of very high quality that truly deserves the record-breaking ratings it received. While I felt it faltered a lot towards the end, I still regard this series as one of the most ambitious, truly epic stories ever told – one that spans across time periods and across worlds, yet never losing sight of its emotional core and being able to deliver some of the most beautiful, moving, and breathtaking scenes I’ve ever seen in Korean dramas. It’s certainly a series that will not be forgotten in a long time and I can foresee it sweeping numerous awards over the year.
I appreciated this episode much more because I’m getting a clearer sense of where the series is heading in this final stretch. It is, and has always been, about our characters exercising their will to free themselves from the control of deities and the fates determined for them.
Watching this episode I was reminded of Shin and Reaper’s encounter of the man who barged into the tearoom just to use the toilet – which prompted Shin to realise that the power of the human will was strong, and that he’d keep finding ways to open doors and change the tragic fate between him and Eun Tak. In fact, Park Joong Won’s entry was a detour from the Kim Shin’s bigger journey which was to find a way of growing old together with Eun Tak, the Goblin’s wife.
His simple act of going to Quebec in an earlier episode to buy the necklace for her gains greater significance in this episode, as the shopowner remembers the man who came to buy the necklace for her 10 years ago. We learn that the necklace symbolises “a match made in heaven, a destiny outside of man’s boundary”. In getting Eun Tak that necklace, Kim Shin was already subtly asserting his claim on this relationship as something ordained by Heaven, rather than something that Heaven wants to tear apart.
This also ties back in to Kim Shin’s decision in the previous episode to stay in the space between life and afterlife, where there is no god – so that he can be both the rain and the snow, and fulfil his promise to Eun Tak. Although this decision is painful and torturous, and ultimately also means he’ll not have God watching over him, at least Kim Shin has the freedom to decide to be with Eun Tak.
Eun Tak certainly also wasn’t a passive figure in this destiny as well, because she also quickly scribbled down notes in her own notebook about Kim Shin before her memories of him were erased. These notes served as useful triggers that slowly helped her to remember who he is.
One has to wonder what the deity was thinking about he said he was being kind by removing the memories of Kim Shin, because we clearly see that Eun Tak has suffered because she would cry uncontrollably whenever it rains. She’s suffered psychologically, so much so that she’s sought medical help. Even when Kim Shin finally appears and they have plenty of happy moments, the trauma and pain of losing him still remains raw, and she can’t believe it’s true – she wakes up from her sleep, trembling in fear that this joyful time with him is merely a dream, asking him to appear within less than 3 seconds. While Eun Tak may be successful in her career over the 9 years, we get hints that her mental state may have been rather unhinged, because while the memories of Kim Shin are gone, the emotional experience has left an unremovable mark on her – a mark that even the deities cannot remove.
At the end of the episode, when Kim Shin asks her to be his bride and she agrees, it is a mark of triumph for them. Previously, the identity of Goblin’s bride was thrust upon Eun Tak and both of them had to play by the rules set by the deities, i.e.removing the sword kills Goblin, Eun Tak must remove the sword or she will die. However, they have now set their own rules by creating a binding contract between the two of them. The marriage between them is something they both make a choice to do, rather than something bound by the deities.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Sunny and Reaper who aren’t living such a happy life. It was a great development to see that Sunny hadn’t forgotten anything and still held on to all her memories. I’ve always found her to be a strong character, but this illustrates her strength even more as she’s made to hold back her emotions, even in front of Wang Yeo, when she clearly remembers him – and she knows he remembers too!
Sunny’s ability to hold on to her memories are due to her headstrong nature and her will to fight against the deities. In a very telling scene with the young boy that Shin saved from bullies in ep13, she displays her complete disdain of the deities/God, calling him a jerk and saying that she has the right to speak ill of him, because of all she’s gone through. She claims the right over her life and her memories, and says that the deity has no right to interfere.
This is not the first time she has held on to memories that were meant to be removed – even when Reaper tried to remove memories of himself from her, she held on to them. Here, the deities attempt to remove the memories of Goblin fails once again, because she’s resolute and refuses to allow the deities’ interference. It’s an interesting twist that while she was the last to find out about Goblin, Reaper and Eun Tak’s identities previously, she’s currently the one who’s identity is the most “hidden” from three of them because they all think she has forgotten them. Even though she doesn’t believe in a deity, Sunny’s hope and faith remains strong as she writes in a letter addressed to Reaper and sent to the radio station that she believes they will find a happy ending together, perhaps in the next life.
As for our poor Wang Yeo, he continues to suffer in pain and in silence, as a means of repenting for his previous sins. While we do not see him proactively trying to change his fate, unlike the others, his act of staying away from Sunny and not trying to restore her memories of him is also an act of strength, because it goes completely against what he really wants to do.
On the other hand, he is not completely down in the dumps because the deity has been kind and allowed him to retain his memories of his friendship with Goblin, which also allowed them to pick up from where they left off 9 years ago. They continue to be a delight together and I’ve really missed their antics and bantering – the scene where both of them tried to show off to Deok Hwa was truly fun! Goblin bringing Eun Tak back into the house restores the family once again.
Even as lots of good things happen to Eun Tak and Goblin, we know that something bad is on the verge of happening as Eun Tak starts seeing ghosts again and Reaper recalls what he told her about how she will meet a Reaper when she’s 29. Even as I write this entry, I know that my interpretations may be influenced by what happens in the finale, yet I am glad to see how the show’s pulling pieces together from all over to ultimate build towards a grand story about fate, destiny and will power. It’s not necessarily a worldview that I hold personally, but I appreciate the efforts taken by the show to explore this issue in such a deep and compelling manner.
I let out an audible groan when we were told that all memories of Kim Shin was erased from everyone and that we moved forward by 9 years. Ahh… We’re back at the typical k-drama trope of memory loss or the “reset” button, and it’s not one I particularly enjoy, especially when we’re so near the end and when the energy had been building up so well till episode 13.
The only real good I can see out of the reset was that after the intensity of the last few weeks, we finally go back to a more light-hearted mood and get to see the bantering between Goblin and Reaper that has been sorely missed. Loved how Reaper teased Goblin about his hair, and then how he pretended to drink from two beer bottles to hide Goblin who hid so poorly behind the sofa, and how Goblin kept opening the door to ask for more money or favours from him. It was certainly fun and provided many laughs.
However, on all other fronts, I felt the show severely suffered from the whole reset, because the energy level seriously dipped. The bigger question now though is what really is at stake for Eun Tak and Kim Shin, now that there’s no longer any sword in him. Why can’t they just date and then live happily ever after? I have to admit I was rather bored seeing Eun Tak slowly put together the pieces and them getting to know each other again. It was also rather predictable that the person Eun Tak saw in Canada would be Kim Shin.
As for Reaper and Sunny – they barely even interacted in this entire episode and we learn that Reaper has kept himself away from her for 9 years, as a punishment for himself. Also, I’m a little confused about the reset – if it involved only removing the memories of Goblin, then why don’t Eun Tak or Sunny remember Reaper? Or was it that he erased his memories from them too? It feels like we’re back at the start of the series again, where Reaper and Sunny’s story took ages to develop.
I’ll keep this review short because I want to reserve my judgement to see how the show brings everything together in its finale tomorrow. I am not entirely hopeful, but I’m prepared to be surprised – in a good way.
After that epic ending for episode 13, my mind is now buzzing with theories on where the show is going to go next. While I’m sure the show is going to surprise us, here are some of my ideas on what may happen next.
1. Given that Wang Yeo has broken up with Kim Sun once again, Eun Tak is the one who breaks the news of Kim Shin’s death to Kim Sun. They both support each other through their pain of having lost a loved one and grow closer.
2. Eun Tak tells Kim Sun that Wang Yeo played an important role in summoning Park Joong Won out of her at a critical moment, which allowed Goblin to kill him. She tells her that Park Joong Won was also targeting her and Wang Yeo’s move also helped to save her life.
3. Kim Sun’s heart softens towards Wang Yeo and she decides that she is willing to give him a second chance, but waits for him to make contact again this time. Unlike the first time where she was unwilling to date him because he had no identity, Wang Yeo now has memories and an identity – which makes him someone easier to relate to.
4. Wang Yeo and Kim Sun slowly start to re-establish their relationship, building it from the start and we get scenes of them at a cafe, introducing themselves to each other once again. This time, Wang Yeo is no longer awkward and fumbling for responses, because he knows who he is, even as that identity causes him guilt. Wang Yeo’s desire to re-establish his relationship with Kim Sun also stems from Kim Shin’s final instructions to him, to protect her from any harm.
5. In the meantime, Wang Yeo use his contacts through his fellow Reapers to find out what happened to Goblin and tries to update Eun Tak of how Goblin is doing. He also meets with the Reaper who was the servant that poisoned him, and tells her that he forgives her for what she did.
6. Eun Tak tries to be strong after Goblin’s death, but it’s too hard for her because of how significant he was in her life. Wang Yeo sees her pain and wonders if it’s better for her if her memories of Goblin were erased, so that she can move on and live without the pain. Even though he risks violating the rules again, he offers her the option of helping her to remove her memories. She really wants to do so, because it’s too painful to remember Goblin and decides to do so. However, at the final moment, just as Wang Yeo starts removing them, she holds him back and decides against it – because she realises that as painful as it is, her memories make her who she is and give her strength to carry on. Her memories give her hope as well, knowing that perhaps someday Kim Shin may appear.
7. Given that Eun Tak is no longer a lost soul and has fulfilled her destiny, death no longer keeps knocking at her door. She’s free now to live a happy, successful life and does well in her career.
8. While all this is going on in the earthly realm, we see Kim Shin in the heavenly realm, talking to both Sam Shin and the deity/ Deok Hwa. He negotiates with them to see Eun Tak once a year as he had promised her. The gods are reluctant, also because as Goblin, he had violated his power many times for his own personal pursuit and tampered with human lives just for the sake of saving Eun Tak. However, Goblin’s resolve to find that door to change the destiny between him and Eun Tak doesn’t change, even as he is in the heavenly realm. He tries to find a way to get himself reincarnated, appealing to the merciful deity based on all the good he has done as well. Sam Shin plays an important role in negotiating for him and finally, Kim Shin is reincarnated in human form and meets Eun Tak when she’s 29 years old.
Besides the key events above, there may also be a reunion between Kim Shin and Eun Tak’s mum in heaven and the young boy whom Goblin helps in episode 13 may eventually come back to help in some way. These are some ideas for now – they may evolve as I continue to think about the show this week. I welcome more thoughts on what’s going to happen next or on my suggestions above!
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!
Words cannot even begin to describe the experience of watching this episode – seeing all the pieces fall together, with scene after scene of revelations both to us and between characters, evoking a range of emotions from fear, shock, pain, despair and amazement. This episode was certainly an emotional roller-coaster!
The show has created such a rich world, where every relationship has several dimensions to it, rooted in history, the unseen world or both. Yet each relationship still retains such a moving emotional core, which is carried by the script, direction and amazing performances put up by the cast.
I usually don’t do recap style reviews that go through the events of the episode chronologically, but there’s no other way of capturing this episode fully. So here’s my review, presented through what I saw as the top 10 moments or revelations in this episode.
1. Deok Hwa is a vessel for God, Almighty.
The forums and groups were rife with discussion about this, following the ski-resort scene with the butterfly but that didn’t make the reveal any less powerful, especially once our characters started to put the pieces together.
Even though Goblin and Reaper had complained previously about not meeting Almighty before, he had been right in their midst, orchestrating everything that happened and setting things up. However, the important message that comes through is that destiny may be set by the Almighty, but the choice and free will remain in the hands of Goblin and Reaper. I have a sense that Deok Hwa will have a role to play in finally defeating the ghost of Park Joong-won, which will definitely be interesting to watch!
How interesting was it that the confrontation with Almighty took place in a disco, with strobe lights and dance music – and not in a temple or a church. And also, the tilted camera angles as they made their way towards him highlighted that sense of disorientation.
2. Grandpa dies.
We had seen this coming as well, but that certainly didn’t lessen the emotional impact. Gong Yoo plays the scene to perfection, capturing the emotions in such a raw manner. This also gives Eun Tak an opportunity to understand the pain of immortality and to be the one to support him. We also got to witness the closely knit family within the Goblin household, as they all rallied to console Deok Hwa in their own little adorable, unique ways, like Goblin offering to make gold. Hah!
I loved Deok Hwa’s response to his Grandpa’s death, telling Goblin that he’ll learn everything from the ground, start learning go and become Goblin’s brother, father and grandfather. Goblin responds with a smile of pride and joy. That was a lovely scene between the two of them.
3. Kim Shin gives Eun Tak the necklace.
In the midst of the intensity of the episode, we still had time for some sweetness between Kim Shin and Eun Tak. He gives her the necklace from Quebec that he saw in his vision of her at 29. She hilariously purses her lips, expecting a kiss, only to get teased by Goblin, who then sets out the ground rules for her in school. It’s a brief but meaningful scene, and we know this necklace will definitely have implications in subsequent episodes.
Taking attention away from the whole Goblin’s bride and sword pulling business has actually allowed Kim Shin and Eun Tak to have more time to develop a more compelling relationship.
4. Kim Shin meets the reincarnation of his friend.
What I liked about this segment was how it showed that reincarnation need not always be about unfinished business in a negative sense, i.e. revenge. Reincarnation can be about getting your due reward from your past life and Kim Shin’s friend and his family gets luxuriously rewarded in this life for his loyalty to Kim Shin.
5. The ghost of Park Joong Won informs Eun Tak of his plans.
I have to give props to the ghost of Eunuch Park – he’s so creepy and scary that I seriously cringe every time he appears on the screen. It’s not just the make up, but the way he moves, the way he speaks, the way he looks at Eun Tak – his eyes are the creepiest of all.
While we had earlier seen that Deok Hwa was the one who had arranged for Goblin to stay with Reaper, we learn through the ghost that this arrangement can be a bane as well. Little does he know about the bond and uncanny partnership that has developed between Goblin and Reaper. My question though is why he tells Eun Tak all of this – what exactly is her role in this? I’m sure it goes beyond her just being a messenger, which is related to point 8.
6. Reaper helps Sunny uncover her past life.
This was such a powerful scene that no words can justify what went on during this entire sequence. Reaper makes the most painful sacrifice of all, for the sake of Kim Shin and Sunny. Helping Sunny remember her past life can bring no benefits to himself, because it will reveal who he is and distance her even further from him. However, he decides to do so, because he wants the siblings to be reunited. He even removes all the negative memories from Sunny at the end of the whole sequence.
The whole sequence was so poetically and beautifully filmed, especially when the young king and Kim Sun transformed into Reaper and Sunny – which was so heart-wrenching and painful. Lee Dong Wook’s performance was simply stunning, with so much conveyed through his eyes and facial expression.
7. The siblings’ reunion.
It amazed me how moving this scene was, given how little we’ve seen Kim Sun and Kim Shin interact thus far. The sibling connection between them was so palpable and real, as Kim Sun walked towards Kim Shin and asked why he did not write to her, even when he was in battle. Their joyful reunion is subsequently complicated when Kim Shin approaches her regarding the truth about Wang Yeo.
8. Eun Tak no longer sees ghosts!
This was a real shocker and mystery to me. I initially thought Eun Tak was just pretending, but it turns out she can no longer see ghosts! Why is that so? Was the purpose of giving her that ability ultimately for her to convey Park Jong Won’s message to Goblin? Or is it because she is now more settled in life and thus no longer needs the “company” of ghosts? Does it also have something to do with the necklace – because I noted it being quite prominently shown in the scene?
9. Kim Shin confronts the ghost of Park Joong Won.
Given how the show initially dragged out the whole sword pulling business, I’ve been impressed at how fast things are moving now and within the span of one episode, we now have Kim Shin confronting the ghost of Eunuch Park. However, his sword cannot harm him at all! Eunuch Park has also enlisted the help of a Grim Reaper, so I’m sure we haven’t seen the end of him.
10. Kim Shin confronts Wang Yeo.
What an epic, grand and powerful way to end the episode, especially with the parallels drawn between the Kim Shin walking towards the young king in episode 1 and this final sequence. Yet, what Kim Shin does not know is that Wang Yeo was responsible for his reunion with his sister. Unlike the historical young king who came between the sister and brother, Wang Yeo has now been responsible for bringing them together. In fact, Wang Yeo was responsible for both Kim Shin’s realisation that Kim Sun was his sister, and Kim Sun’s understanding of her past life. Even without any memories of his past, Wang Yeo has unintentionally already repented of his past sins.
What a mind-blowing episode this was! I can’t believe we have to wait 1 week for the next episode!
You know something big is coming when all the truths keeps rolling out in each episode, such that almost all characters are on the same page.
At the end of episode 10, Sunny was still in the dark about Goblin and Reaper’s identity and had no clue about her past as Goblin’s sister. However, within the span of one episode, all these reveals come fast and furious – who can blame her for being so shaken?
Given how the show has previously treated the whole Goblin wife issue, I was expecting a more slow reveal, with Goblin taking his time to observe Sunny and get to know her before telling her the truth. However, in this case, Kim Shin goes straight to her immediately after Wang Yeo tells him that Sunny is the same person as the one in the painting. He wastes no time and even shows her the painting of her past self in the Goryeo era. This is a huge news for her, because she doesn’t even know if she believes in reincarnation. However, in spite of her beliefs, she starts feeling emotionally connected to Kim Shin, the painting, and what he tells her about what she liked in the past – ripe persimmon, flower shoes and silk. She tells him she doesn’t believe, but that he’s not to be disheartened.
From what we see about Sunny, she’s one who’s keen to protect herself from uncertainty, pain and tragedy. Even though she’s moved by Kim Shin’s words, she refuses to allow him into her life and still keeps him at a distance. This is similar to how she’s been treating Wang Yeo – if she can’t know who he is and his identity, she’d rather break up with him than continue in the relationship, in spite of her feelings for him. Where does this protectiveness come from? Why is she like this? It’d be great if the show could explore this further.
If this revelation is not big enough, she gets another shock, which is the truth about Wang Yeo being Grim Reaper. I really liked how she found this out on her own and not because Wang Yeo, Eun Tak or Goblin told her. As much as she’s fearful of the truth, she wants to know the truth. The scene is also beautifully played out – Wang Yeo may be quick enough to hide with his cap, but he can’t hide his affection for her and desire to be close to her. It is exactly his desire to be physically close to her that causes him to be revealed, because he stands within the range of the branch with flowers she’s holding. Yoo In-na really shone in this episode and she plays that mix of clarity, confusion and shock that Sunny feels so perfectly. You can literally see her facial expressions evolving as she processes all that she’s hearing, moving from shock, to clarity, to disbelief, to confusion, to sadness and ultimately a sense of loss. Just like Eun Tak mentioned, Sunny’s world has been completely overturned in one day and her beliefs have been challenged by what she sees and feels. She cannot reconcile what she feels with what she believes – she feels love for Reaper and a tinge of connection to Goblin, but all this makes no sense at all.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have Eun Tak who is so comfortable with the supernatural world. She has always been so from the start, but what we start seeing more in this episode is her growing sense of rootedness in the human world as well. The Eun Tak we saw in the earlier episodes always seemed adrift in the world, but things have changed now that she’s grown up and graduated, and is closer to achieving her ambition. She’s also more rooted because she’s found a home where she belongs. Kim Shin decides to tell her the truth, that if she doesn’t pull the sword, death will keep coming to find her. While she acknowledges this as a tragic fate, she doesn’t mope for long. She immediately perks up the next day and tells Kim Shin, that even if I die tomorrow, I must live today well. Her passion for life and desire to live well was refreshing and even inspiring, though I would have appreciated her living life a little more carefully after Kim Shin’s warning. Her repeated mock-blowing of candles got tiresome after a while. I also wondered what in the world was going through her mind when she followed a stranger all the way to the top of a building, after Kim Shin’s warnings! It’s one thing to be unafraid of death, but another thing altogether to court death. Nonetheless, the one thing I liked about that was that she put herself in danger out of her selfless desire to help others.
Just as things are going well and Kim Shin saves her from yet another death, we get that shocker of an ending. In my previous review, I had mentioned that the show was getting a tad predictable and was looking forward to some surprises. Little did I know that the show has this in mind! My jaw literally dropped and heart stopped as I saw the reincarnation of Park Joong Woon float into the restaurant, with his ghastly expression, creaky fingers and blackened tongue. That was one scary ghost! Beyond the scares though, it’s so fitting and makes so much sense that he’d be a misplaced soul, because he has not fulfilled his purpose.
While we haven’t been told why Joong Woon’s ghost is still lingering, my theory is that his purpose is to torment Goblin further. Now that both Goblin’s wife and reincarnated sister have emerged, it’s the perfect time for him to appear to seek his revenge. Perhaps this is why Reaper’s memories are coming back too, as a way for him to repent and make the right decision this time to protect both Kim Shin and Kim Sun, instead of being swayed by Joong Woon. This development is exciting indeed and I can’t wait for the next episode!
Deok Hwa had such a brief appearance in this episode again. I’m missing him already. Let’s have more of him in the subsequent episodes!
Sam Shin continues to be mysterious, but right now, she instils more fear in me than love or warmth, which is strange given that she’s supposed to be the deity of birth and fate. That scene with her going into Eun Tak’s class to give her a hug creeped me out actually.
I’m loving that we keep getting more Goryeo scenes recently, which shed more light on the love shared between Kim Sun and the young king, Wang Yeo. I can foresee we’ll definitely be getting more Goryeo scenes and I’m welcoming them a lot.
Speaking of Goryeo scenes, that scene of Kim Shin looking into the future of the teacher and seeing Eun Tak, plus everyone holding on to handphones was hilarious! Loved it!
We get a much-needed break from the sword-pulling business in this episode to focus on other key storylines and the Kim Sun-Kim Shin-Wang Yeo backstory is given much needed attention.
The Goryeon storyline revolves around the machinations of eunuch Park Joong Won, who decides to take control of the kingdom by controlling the young king. What throws a wrench in his plan is the previous king’s decree for the young king, Wang Yeo, to marry Kim Shin’s sister and his instructions to Kim Shin to protect Wang Yeo and ensure he grows up to become an upright man. In order to combat this, Joong Won decides to sow jealousy and eventually tells Yeo that there are two kings in this nation, two suns in the sky and that cannot be, because the people respect Kim Shin as much as the king. The king then decides to send Kim Shin away, bestowing the sword upon him. We also see conflict between Joong Won and Kim Sun as Kim Sun sees through Joong Won’s ploys and continually advises the Wang Yeo against following his advice. How this all ends is familiar to us.
Just as some questions are unanswered, several remain resolved, namely the role of the jade ring in all of this. Kim Shin has no idea what the jade ring is, so it must have been something private shared between the young king and Kim Sun. The final scene also confirms our suspicion all along that Reaper is the reincarnation of the young king, Wang Yeo. I hope we get more scenes between the young King and Kim Sun, especially since what we see in this episode suggests that he was enamoured by her and that the both of them were deeply in love.
Even as Reaper finds out about Sunny’s identity, what remains a mystery to himself is his own role in all of this – his memories still remain hidden from him, though the emotional connection remains as evident from the triggering of tears. The question remains as to why the deities are bringing these memories back. The bigger question is whether putting Goblin and Reaper together in the same house has also been something divinely arranged, which ties back possibly to the theory that Deok Hwa is a deity since he was the one who brought Reaper into the house.
It was nice to see the focus turned more on Reaper, though I still wish we knew more about Sunny to really care more about her. Reaper’s break-up with Sunny provide opportunities for much laughs especially the scene where Eun Tak and Kim Shin try to bring them back together and Kim Shin completely ruins it by commenting on their colour combinations and likening them to fried egg, then a beansprout. Eun Tak later apologises for bringing Kim Shin along, after which Reaper says in an annoyed manner that the look he was going for was an angel. Heh. Goblin and Reaper just crack me up!
And wasn’t that scene of them walking with such swag and style through the tunnel while holding leeks just so hilarious? It’s so refreshing to see the show continually undercut our supernatural beings’ illusions of grandeur in such fun, teasing manners. And who can forget Goblin teasing Reaper about being his sister when Reaper shows him the ring? These two are really the most fun thing about the show, never ceasing to amuse us and touch our hearts.
Things move ahead on the Goblin and Eun Tak front too, as Eun Tak hits 20 and gets her best present ever, which is a boyfriend. She also learns that her mum has been watching out for her through her friend Jung Hyun, who passes her a stack of bank books – the ones which the aunt accused Eun Tak of taking – so that she can use it to pay for her school fees. Just earlier today, I had been reminded of the scene between young Eun Tak and her mum in the first episode and how moving and touching it was. Once again, the scenes of Eun Tak and Jung Hyun manage to tug at our heart strings and she tells Jung Hyun to be her mum’s friend for eternity. Her mum may have left Eun Tak at an early age, but she certainly ensured Eun Tak was well provided for through providing the scarf, Jung Hyun and also, Goblin.
We also get our first genuine kiss between Kim Shin and Eun Tak and it was nice that it took place in such an ordinary setting at a street side restaurant – no need for sweeping snowscapes or buckwheat fields – because the kiss itself is beautiful and captivating on its own. They had to go through a lot to get to that moment, in terms of their emotional journey and coming to terms with their destiny and it was certainly an emotionally satisfying moment.
While the story moves backwards to the Goryeon era, we also move to the future in the Quebec scene with Eun Tak at 29. I’ve started to realise that the show’s tendency to repeat similar scenes is purposeful because each repetition does not just serve as filler to remind audience members of what happened – each repetition also reveals the renewed perspective that the character has when reliving that memory. This time, when looking back, Goblin realises that he may be able to influence the future and decides to take a trip to Quebec to buy her the necklace. The show isn’t exactly clear on this, but I’m sure we’ll return to that scene again and I’m almost certain that the person Eun Tak meets is Goblin – because who else can it be? I’m open to being surprised though.
While things are falling in place nicely, my hope for the series is that we can get more surprises in the episodes to come because things seem to be a little predictable so far. As viewers, we now know more than the characters hence we can foresee several key events, like Reaper realising that he’s the young king, Kim Shin connecting with Sunny, Sunny realising she is Kim Shin’s sister, Sunny realising Goblin and Reaper’s true identity and Eun Tak realising that she’s likely to die if she doesn’t pull out Goblin’s sword soon enough. While I have no doubt the show will be able to handle these key events in a poetic, beautiful and meaningful manner, it would also be nice to throw in some surprises or reveal some hidden connections that we’ve not seen coming.
There’s lots to love in episode 9 of Goblin, which sees fascinating developments on several fronts – Kim Shin’s will to live grows stronger and he realises he needs to persistently open doors so as to change the deity’s plans; Kim Shin and Kim Sun finally meet and Reaper gets more clarity on the historical connection shared between him, Kim Sun and Kim Shin.
Eun Tak decides to leave the Goblin household after learning the truth that pulling out the sword will result in Kim Shin’s death. She no longer feels like she belongs in the household, because she feels that Goblin never genuinely cared for her, and only brought her in to pull out the sword and end his immortality. When he first meets her, she tells him she won’t pull out the sword; subsequently, when in the forest, she asks him again if he had ever loved her. She recalls how he said he loved her in such a cold manner when she asked and sees that his plan right from the start was just to convince her that he loved her, so that she would pull out the sword.
In a touching sequence, Kim Shin confesses that to Eun Tak that he’s so fearful of loving her, and instead, he wants her to say she needs him, so that it will serve as an excuse for him to keep on living. She does exactly what he says later when she’s freezing, telling him that she needs him, to do that too and that she loves him. Later when he meets her at the top of the mountain, he tells her, “I too” – a much delayed response to her expression of love, but it’s a genuine expression of his love for her and thus she decides to return to the Goblin household. Well, that and the fact that Goblin pulls his connections to get her sacked from her job at the ski resort. LOL. I guess he more than makes up for it by paying for her course.
What we see for Kim Shin is a quiet overcoming of his fear of attaching himself to life again. He’s detached himself after living so long, because he’s witnessed so many deaths that he’s grown numb to it. However, Eun Tak has given him reason to love again and be bold enough to even confess that love – something that isn’t easy for him. The real awakening for Kim Shin comes when both Reaper and him see a man barging into the tea room to use the toilet out of desperation. He sees the power of the human will and how it can change their fate and realises that he too should be able to change his fate of the deity. His response to Eun Tak’s question of whether he wants to live with her or die with her is to live with her, even if it means wrestling with fate and the deities.
And the best part of all is that Kim Shin isn’t fighting this battle on his own, but with Reaper, who partners with him in this episode to help save Eun Tak’s life. The bromance is truly strong between them and they’ve gone beyond bickering and teasing to develop a genuine bond and partnership. Reaper informs Goblin when he receives a card with Eun Tak’s name, putting his own job in jeopardy and giving himself more work. Reaper cares for Goblin and is unafraid to tell him that he told Eun Tak the truth because he’s on her side, and doesn’t want him to die. I loved the moment when Eun Tak returned and Reaper hears Goblin’s happy thoughts about Eun Tak calling him hers. It’s hilarious and Lee Dong Wook just plays that scene so perfectly.
Things get even more exciting for the Kim Sun storyline in this episode as Kim Shin realises that she may be the reincarnation of his sister after Reaper mistakenly calls her Kim Sun. Following a brief confrontation outside, she grabs his hands which triggers a vision in Reaper of their historical connection. He starts to put the pieces together and realises she is the woman in Kim Shin’s painting and that both her and Kim Shin have an important role to play in the memories that he has lost. It’s also touching to see that Kim Sun and Eun Tak have developed a bond, and that Eun Tak does not just have a home in the Goblin household, but also in Kim Sun’s restaurant as Kim Sun plays like an elder sister role to her, telling Goblin off for hurting her and chasing her away. The final scene with our four main characters sitting together at the table is a significant one, because we know that the characters have taken significant steps in their own lives to reach that point. It’d be interesting to see what happens from this point on.
There’s a lot that this show has to intertwine – past and present, real and supernatural, life and death, joy and sorrow – and it does such a masterful job that it’s really a pleasure to watch the storyline slowly unfold. Nonetheless, I still wish that the show could tighten its storytelling by reducing its product placements and being more concise in its flashbacks. I also find the back and forth about pulling the sword to be getting dreary, since this has been going on since Episode 4. Nonetheless, it’s still a great show and I’m really looking forward to the next episode where we finally find out more about what happened in the past.
Some miscellaneous points:
Is there more than meets the eye for Deok Hwa? Is he a deity? Sam Shin asked him out for drinks after she walked out from the bookshop. Also, after he tells Goblin that he has his ways of finding Eun Tak, we see a scene of a butterfly flying from the sky and landing on the ski resort, the butterfly being a symbol of a deity.
The scene with secretary Kim dancing like the various pop groups was hilarious, especially when he even tried to mimic what a digital camera may look like.
Cheesy as it is, I found the scene of Deok Hwa taking photographs of Goblin, Eun Tak and Reaper in their home extremely sweet and heartwarming. They really are such a weird yet wonderful family.
The editing and cross-cutting in the tearoom sequence. Perfectly-timed to emphasize each character’s reaction.
Costumery. We saw subtle changes in Eun Tak’s dressing as she graduated from high school, and shed the duffel coat for the silver parka for her part-time ski chalet job (although I’m still unimpressed by the product placement). Is it me, or was her acting less perky, more vulnerable and conflicted? Definitely preferring this.