One word: wow…
- Gong-yoo (from Big Fish) as Kim-shin. The Goblin. He used to be a General in the Goryeo dynasty, but was later executed unfairly. Out of pity (?), the Heavens brought him back to life but accorded him the punishment of immortality. Only a mortal bride will be able to rid him of the curse.
- Kim Go-eun (from Cheese in the Trap) as Ji Eun-tak. She is a girl who shouldn’t have been born and in return for cheating death, she is destined to be the Goblin’s Bride. Eun-tak’s mum nearly died in an accident, but Shin revived her (and Eun-tak, then an unborn baby).
- Lee Dong-wook (from Blade Man) as Wang-yeo. Grim Reaper. The blurb says he is “amnesiac” but as of the debut eps, he is anything but. In fact, he has such a good memory that he has been trying to trace Eun-tak’s whereabouts for a decade, as he views her as “uncollected debt”.
- Yoo In-na (from My Secret Hotel) as Kim-sun (Sunny). The pretty owner of a (rather empty) fried chicken shop, and Eun-tak’s newest part time job’s boss.
- Yook Sung-jae (from Who Are You) as Yoo Duk-hwa. The Goblin’s Steward. He and his family has been serving Shin for generations as a loyal butler and friend.
The debut eps span several centuries, but luckily Goblin does it chronologically, so there’s not much head scratching on what transpired.
Goryeo: Our Goblin, then General Kim-shin, is a fearsome General in the fields, but who is well-loved and respected by the people. Unfortunately, that earns him the jealousy of the young monarch, who orders his and his entire family’s death (including the Queen, supposedly his sister?). Shin’s body is left in the wilds for the vultures, but out of respect, generations of the Yoo family has been taking care of his “grave” (which is juz the broad sword that killed Shin). One night, Shin is brought back to life by the gods. In return for the second chance, Shin is granted the curse of immortality and never ending pain (the broad sword which pierced his body will be a “cross” he has to carry). Shin becomes the Goblin. Only a mortal bride who can see the sword will be able to pull it out and end his misery.
1988 Seoul: Years of wandering with the “n” generation of Yoo family’s firstborn sons have led Shin nowhere on the issue of removing the sword and ending his infinite life span. He returns to Seoul, and one night, happens to hear a woman (Eun-tak’s mum) crying for help. She has been hit by a car and she and her unborn baby are dying. Shin saves her on a whim. Yeo, who arrives a second too late, is annoyed that his “charges” have evaded death.
9 years later: Eun-tak is now 9 and a precocious little girl. She’d be rather popular with her sunny personality – if she is unable to see ghosts. On her 9th birthday, she returns home to a birthday cake…and a mummy who has become a spirit. Her mum (who had been living on borrowed time, thanks to the Goblin) has died in another car accident. Eun-tak manages to evade “capture” by Yeo, when Granny Samshin (Lee-el) intervenes on her behalf. Granny Samshin instructs Eun-tak to move house and stay with her aunt’s family so that Yeo will not be able to harass her.
A decade later: Eun-tak is now a high schooler, but again, due to her ability, she doesn’t have many friends. Her aunt and family treat her no better than a servant, and her aunt keeps pestering Eun-tak for her mum’s insurance inheritance (which Aunt claims to have disappeared on the day she entered their house). By chance, Eun-tak brushes by the Goblin on her way home from school. And on her birthday, after blowing out the candles on her cake, the Goblin appears in front of her. Shin is more curious than annoyed at Eun-tak’s ability to call him on demand. Eun-tak later finds out that snuffing a fire out (even if it’s a virtual one) calls Shin to her (and she wastes no time irritating Shin with that). Amazingly, Eun-tak’s ability also extends to teleportation with the Goblin. Something which even Yeo, the supernatural being, cannot do. Shin verified that by testing on Yeo (who has taken up residence in Shin’s huge mansion). However, Eun-tak is unable to see the sword that is sticking out of Shin’s body, so Shin writes her off as a potential Goblin Bride, much to Eun-tak’s dismay and hurt pride.
Again…ermygawd! WHAT A SHOW! The cinematography (with LOTResque opening battle scenes) lends itself to the epic-ness of Goblin, a narrative with a character that spans across a wide reach of time. And of course, there’s the fantasy premise which is done up hero-style. The Goblin and the Grim Reaper are not cloaked wraiths out to scare you, but border more on Marvel Super Heroes’ type.
But while Shin and Yeo are impressive with their supernatural abilities, I can’t help but feel a tinge of pity for them. Both of them are lonely beings. Shin, with his curse of immortality, lives past generations of Yoo stewards. And Yeo, who is a Grim Reaper, has to carefully avoid human touch in case they die on him “by accident”. Which is why Eun-tak, with her gift to see both of them, and her sunny disposition, is the best fit for a friend. (or in Shin’s case, a potential lover)
The other characters in Goblin, even though they may be humans (or some form of humans), possess some form of supernatural abilities. Eun-tak technically isn’t supposed to be born, and in return for being alive, she is able to see the spirit world. Granny Shimsan is the opposite of Yeo. She is a Birth Granny, so that may explain why she can “reverse age”, and Yeo’s slight deference to her. Duk-hwa, despite all his mischievousness, is as sensitive and adroit as his great-great-great (…) grandfather. Without prodding, Duk-hwa already knows Shin’s true nature. And he doesn’t bet an eyelash when he learns of Yeo’s identity either. At the moment, we don’t see much of Sunny to figure out her “ability” and “fit” in the fantasy world, but she does exude a charm similar to a nymph.
But what all Goblin’s characters have in common – a certain disengagement from “normal” human society.