I began looking for more Korean dramas after enjoying Crash Landing On You. On most of the shows that kept being posted in Korean drama checklists and challenges was Guardian and Descendants of the Sun. (Both happen to be written by Kim Eun-Sook who seems to be the Shonda Rhimes of South Korea.) So naturally, I watched them both over quarantine. Since it is one of the most supernatural themed drama I have viewed, Guardian has made the cut for me to review the week of Halloween!
Viewing Platform: Rakuten Viki
Number of Episodes: 16
Episode Length: 1 hour 22 minutes
Kim Shinh is a 900+ year immortal being with god-like abilities, but also is cursed. According to Korean legend Kim Shinh is a Dokkaebi referred to as a goblin. Cursed and executed by his emperor, he is doomed to walk the Earth until his bride can pull out the sword. Enter Ji Eun-Tak, a 19 year old with the ability to see and speak to ghosts. Ji Eun-Tak shares an unknown link with Kim Shinh that may be deeper than she realizes. The cast is topped off by a sassy business owner, funny heir, and hot grim reaper.
Let’s Spill the Milk Tea
This drama is such a well loved and analyzed class. This made me a little nervous to throw in my two cents. However, I really enjoyed this one so I am going to give it a try!
From here on, I will refer to this show as Guardian: The Great and Lonely God as its nickname Goblin. First, I will say that the filming style and imagery was beautiful in this series. The music is also catchy and appropriate. (I am humming it to myself as I type this review!) Listen to them here and here.
The beginning of the drama gives a brief snapshot of Kim Shin’s (Gong Yoo) past and the events that led him to become a Goblin. However, do not get frustrated with the lack of details since all will be revealed slowly throughout the course of the series. The timeline jumps around before landing to the modern day with Ji Eun-Tak (Kim Go-Eun). She is cheerful, but lives tormented by her aunt who is on the hunt for the insurance money left by Eun-Tak’s deceased mother.
This is where the paths of Eun-Tak, Kim Shin, and grim reaper (Lee Don-Wook) intersect. And boy do they by the second episode! I enjoyed the interaction of these three as they become this odd little family to each other.
There are a lot of layers to this drama. There is the issue of reincarnation and characters recurring in different lives in the course of the timeline. Eun-Tak has a complicated life because of the fate she avoided when she was young. The grim reaper is also shrouded in mystery. In order to become a grim reaper, one must have committed a terrible sin.
Let us first talk about the goblin sized elephant in the room. The age difference between Kim Shin and Ji Eun-Tak. She is 18 turning 19 at the beginning of the series and Kim Shin is over 900 years old. However, he died as a 30 year old and is frozen in that body. So it gets kind of weird with the age difference. Although it does not seem to bother anyone in the show and they don’t begin dating until after she is 19 on New Years it is still odd.
I have mixed feelings about it and it does get better when she ages in the series. Eventually, I suspended reality like I did reading/watching the Twilight series. It helped that Kim Shin had been doing his mopey god thing for so long he found a lot of childlike enjoyment in things. (Like the scene they went to the scary movie.)
Then there is the tumultuous romance between the Grim Reaper and Sunny (Yoo In-Na) who happens to be both Eun-Tak’s boss and the reincarnation of Kim Shin’s sister. It is a tug of war between their chemistry and the tragic past that they share from previous lives with each other. (Even though this is the spoilers allowed section, I am not going to give it all away!)
I love the overarching theme of whether our lives are dictated by fate or choice. This is brought up several times during the series in both Eun-Tak’s decisions and the Grim Reaper’s name cards. It also comes into question when Kim Shin gets involved in the lives of humans. Some seem random only to have significance later in the story. There are a few larger god characters as well that appear in human form that also make a point to keep the order of things.
Again at the end of the series, make sure to pay attention because again the timeline gets crazy.
Pull the Sword and Check it Out
This series is kind of like A Nightmare Before Christmas. It would work great for Halloween or Christmas time since so many of the scenes are set during snowy weather. It is best enjoyed in cozy socks and a warm beverage. Then you can spend the rest of the night mulling over it like I did. If you want some more opinion and thoughts on Goblin I recommend checking out the podcast KDrama My Eyes Out where they dedicate episodes 13 to 20 to deep analysis of Goblin.
What is your favorite Kim Eun-Sook drama?
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