Side dish: If you get a huge sword stuck in you, you should learn how to use it properly. Learn some knife skills from this post over on The Kitchn.
Kim Shin (Gong Yoo), a Goryeo era general, returns to the palace from the battlefield, only to be betrayed by his jealous king. Killed with his own sword, his body is tossed onto a field, where his servants find him. Their desperate prayers reach the ears of the gods. Shin is brought back to life as a goblin who can only die when the Goblin’s Bride takes his sword out of his heart.
Shin returns to the palace to take his revenge on the prince, only to find him already dead. Distracted by his thoughts of revenge, the last of his loyal servants dies, leaving Shin with only his elderly servant’s grandchild as a companion.
Several hundred years later, in 1998, Shin arrives back in Korea. He meets his future servant (a descendant of his first servant), an obnoxious child named Duk Hwa. While drinking his sorrows away, Shin hears the pleas of a woman who has been struck by a car, and saves her and her unborn child. Shin’s actions inadvertently put out Wang Yeo (Lee Dong Wook), a death god who arrives to usher mother and fetus to the next life only to find them gone.
Nine years later, the unborn child Shin saved has grown up to become Ji Eun Tak (Kim Go Eun), a girl who can see spirits. Lucky for her, this ability comes in handy when her mother dies, and she’s able to say goodbye to her. Unlucky for her, when Yeo comes looking for her mother’s errant spirit, he realizes that Eun Tak is the missing child who should have died. Eun Tak is saved by the neighbourhood granny (Lee El), who turns out to be more than she appears.
Fast forward 10 more years to 2016, and granny has transformed into a young and glamorous woman, while Duk Hwa (Yook Sung Jae) has grown up into an idiot playboy. As Shin prepares to leave Korea once again in search of his bride, Eun Tak is in her senior year of high school, a loner who sees ghosts and is abused by her aunt’s family. On her birthday, Eun Tak makes a wish before blowing out the candles of her birthday cake and inadvertently summons Shin.
Surprised to be summoned against his will, Shin takes pity on Eun Tak’s miserable life regardless, and grants her wishes to escape her family and to get a job, though he ignores her third wish for a boyfriend. Disgruntled Shin returns home to find that Duk Hwa has rented out his house to Yeo in anticipation of his long trip. Neither man is inclined to leave, and so the goblin and the death god reluctantly end up living together, while trying to drive the other out of the house.
When Eun Tak puts out a fire in a garbage can, she accidentally summons Shin again, but he has little patience for her antics. Inspiration strikes in a church, where Eun Tak puts out a candle, and purposely summons Shin for the first time.
Having figured out how to summon Shin, Eun Tak can’t resist doing it again, much to his annoyance, since he was on his way to a memorial. But, Eun Tak is undeterred, and asks Shin if he’s a goblin. Eun Tak reveals that she’s the Goblin’s Bride, showing him the identifying birthmark on her back. Shin realizes that she’s the child of the woman he saved in 1998, and demands that she describe what she sees when she looks at him. Eun Tak is taken aback, but fails to see the sword in his body, much to his disappointment.
Shin walks away from Eun Tak, going through a door that magically transports him to Canada. But, both of them are shocked when Eun Tak follows him there. As he questions who she is again, Eun Tak decides on the spot that if he’s able to do things like transport her to Canada, then she’s definitely going to marry him. Shin is taken aback as Eun Tak announces that she loves him.
JK is away, so our substitute Noona this week is Jinjoo. That’s not her real name, but then again, Only isn’t my real name either.
Only 만: So, did the first episode of “Goblin” blow your mind?
Jinjoo 진주: Totally. The special effects were movie quality awesome, Gong Yoo looks better than ever before, and the female lead is super charming. What did you think?
Only: I’m effectively hooked, for all the reasons you just mentioned, but also because the story-telling was surprisingly good. Sure, there were some wobbly bits, but I’m willing to follow where the show is taking me.
Jinjoo: Which bits looked wobbly to you? For me, there were a few loose threads that could have used some explanation. At this point, they seem like they’re thrown in just for dramatic effect. Like why was Lee El’s character shown as an old woman first? Just so we can be surprised when she looks young and sexy later?
Only: Agreed. Maybe we’ll get an explanation later, but right now a lot of these things are just hanging there. Like the scene in the boat, or the scene in Paris with the abused child. We have no context for these scenes right now, so they seem like loose threads. Heck, I’d even like a longer explanation for what happened in the past, because it felt like we skipped over a lot of it to arrive at Shin becoming a goblin.
We’ve talked about some wobbly bits, so let’s talk about what’s good. What did you like?
Jinjoo: I thought one of the best scenes was the battle scene from his old life. It was epic, in Hollywood proportions even. Plus, Gong Yoo looked really good.
Only: It’s true. I don’t often find mullets attractive, but Gong Yoo was pretty hot as a medieval general.
Jinjoo: And then we switched to modern era Gong Yoo, in all black in the rain, walking past our heroine for the first time. Dreamy.
Only: Not that I ever object to gushing over Gong Yoo, but should we talk about something other than gushing over Gong Yoo?
Only: I know, but we really should.
Jinjoo: Oh, fine. Let’s talk about the storyline.
Jinjoo: This episode left a lot of loose threads, like we mentioned earlier. For example, Eun Tak’s mom seems to have been granted a longer time on earth, because we never see Lee Dong Wook’s Grim Reaper usher her to the afterlife. But it’s just left hanging there, and we don’t know why or what happens to her. But I’m confident that the writers are actually going to give us a good explanation at some point, and work this into the story.
Only: You haven’t seen “Heirs”, and I have, which is why I’m a lot less confident that whether writer, Kim Eun Sook is going to tie up anything plausibly. I’m half convinced that the male lead is about to show up in some terrible sweaters and the female lead is going to start weeping uncontrollably. That said, this first episode left me wanting to follow the loose threads in the story to the end. That’s a pretty good sign.
Jinjoo: I was surprised to find myself emotionally involved with this first episode. The scene with Eun Tak and her mom on her birthday was heart-breaking.
Only: It caught me off guard too. I often think of the first few episodes of a drama as something to get through until the show develops into something. Instead, I was not only caught up in the action, but I even cared about Eun Tak’s mom, a character who only showed up long enough to die.
Jinjoo: What other serious things do we need to talk about?
Only: The visuals?
Jinjoo: Can we talk about Gong Yoo again?
Only: Not yet.
Jinjoo: Fine, let’s talk about Québec City. Shout out to Québec City!
Only: It’s true. Québec City looked great.
Jinjoo: Yes, it did. They really showed you where the budget went in the visuals, because we don’t ever get just a talking head view of the characters. Instead, they’re situated in gorgeous views of real locations. Like Québec City, or the King’s Palace, or Shin’s house.
Only: I loved Shin’s house. I love it even more now that Shin has a roommate in Yeo. Hottest odd couple ever.
Jinjoo: You can already see the combative bromance developing between those two (claps her hands in glee).
Only: I can hardly wait. Also, can I mention how cute Kim Go Eun is as Eun Tak, and how much I’m enjoying the spark between them, despite the age difference.
Jinjoo: It’s really good to see a female lead who realizes that her life is miserable, and isn’t manically cheerful about it. I feel like I can identify with her more than usual, because her reaction to her horrible life is reasonable; she knows it’s awful and she has no way out, but wishes she did.
Only: And when she spots an opportunity for escape in Shin, she hangs on for dear life, which makes sense given her situation. Hurray for a heroine who can use her brain and act in her own self-interest.
Jinjoo: Agreed. Hanging on to Gong Yoo is definitely using your brain and acting in your own self-interest.