[Review] The Lonely, Shining God-Goblin – 쓸쓸하고 찬란하神-도깨비


Once a powerful warrior and the king’s confidant during the Goryeo Dynasty, Kim Shin (Gong Yoo) is unfairly condemned as a traitor and executed.  Instead of dying, Kim Shin not only comes back to life but returns as an immortal goblin with a mystical sword stuck in his chest.  He continues to live for hundreds of years as the protector of souls but as he has lived all these years without love, he also suffers from depression and longs to end his life.  Legend says that only the goblin’s bride can remove the sword from his chest and give him the relief of death.

One fateful night, he saves a woman and her unborn child from death.  The unborn child becomes Ji Eun Tak (Kim Go Eun).  She has the ability to see ghosts because of the goblin’s touch and yet, death continues to chase after her.

The Grim Reaper himself has his own demons as people only become reapers because they committed a grave sin when they were alive.  However, people who have become reapers are wiped of their memories and they must live their life ushering people to the afterlife.  The Grim Reaper inadvertently ends up becoming roommates with Shin and the unlikely pair form a unique bond.  He also meets Sunny (Yoo In Na), the bright, chic owner of the chicken restaurant and Eun Tak’s boss.  He is immediately intrigued by her but unsure why he feels the way he does.  All brought together by fate, the four figure out how to defeat a dark curse that looms over them.

Crush – Beautiful

크러쉬(Crush) – Beautiful

It’s hard not to be pulled in by the undeniably charismatic cast as they light up the screen as they make us laugh, cry and just feel a sense of camaraderie whenever we see them.  From the trivial tiffs to the characters’ moments of quiet reflection, it’s easy to connect with them because they’re able to make us empathetic to their situation.  We loved Shin’s bromance with the Reaper, we laughed at Eun Tak’s spirited but hilarious squabbles with the goblin and was amused by the Reaper’s pitiful but misguided attempts to woo Sunny, who only was baffled by his odd behavior.  All of these nuggets made the characters lovable.

And yet, my favorite character in the drama was its title character.  As he was once a warrior, Kim Shin is also a strong and determined character but he is also filled with a lot of vulnerabilities.  And there are two distinct ways in which Gong Yoo plays those scenes.  He’s either tragically comedic or he’s delicately somber which adds a lot of layers to the varying degrees of depression suffered by his character.

I also enjoyed how the drama’s story is about characters with tragic pasts who are given a second chance to heal those wounds in the present.  The epic feel of the Goryeo storyline gives such weight to the baggage carried by its characters.  So it is especially heartwarming and that much more meaningful when they discover that despite the animosity they once felt, they have more similarities than differences.

And yet, viewers will always have the same criticism when it comes to Kim Eun Sook dramas.  She’s got a knack for hooking viewers with a great cast and interesting premises but fails to follow through with the same level of persuasive writing as the drama goes on.  Something always seems to fall by the wayside whether it’s the plausibility of the plot or the depth of character development.

I had the same notion towards the end of this drama as well.  The drama builds up the Goryeo past and the characters finding a resolution to the dark forces that plagues them in the present.  However, the drama leaves a big hold as to the roles of the other gods that are depicted in the drama.  Why do they become so invested in this particular group of souls?  And why do feel that they need to meddle in their lives?  Perhaps that’s not all that important to the larger story but I couldn’t help but feel that there was trying to make some commentary about these larger-than-life characters using these souls as pawns as part of their chess match without them actually being larger-than-life.

Kim Eun Sook is also known for tying everything up in a neat bow.  The antagonists get their just punishments while the protagonists find their happy ending.  She certainly doesn’t deviate from this pattern but I did like how the neat bow doesn’t happen for all the characters at the same time.  Similar to real life, some wounds take longer to heal even if it means waiting for the next regeneration.

As much as the drama is a fantasy, the lovely cast is effective in engrossing the viewer into the drama’s epic, emotional story.  The drama big budget also does its job in being able to tell its story in full cinematic glory.  And I’m sure for many, even though this drama ended early this year, it will remain with viewers for the rest of the year.  Maybe even longer.  I know that Crush’s “Beautiful” and its hauntingly beautiful refrain has remained with me long after the drama’s final curtain call.



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