Saturday, February 15, 2020

“Goblin” aka “Guardian: The Great and Lonely God” rom-com / fantasy (synopsis, Eps. 1-16, no spoilers)

Jump to synopsis of Ep. 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16 (Finale); How I wrote these episode summaries with no spoilers; Historical backgrounders and other information; Lessons in photography from “Goblin”

From Wikipedia: “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God” is a South Korean television series starring Gong Yoo in the title role with Kim Go-eun, Lee Dong-wook, Yoo In-na, and Yook Sung-jae. It was shown on the cable network tvN from December 2, 2016 to January 21, 2017. The drama was written by popular drama writer Kim Eun-sook. As of February 2020, it is the fifth-highest rated Korean drama in cable television history.

The drama has been broadcast on different platforms in Brunei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Brunei, Malaysia, Maldives, Vietnam, Japan, Bangladesh, and Philippines.

It won “Best Drama” awards in the 10th Korea Awards and the 11th Korean Cable TV Awards. Writer Kim Eun-sook won the Grand Prize in the 53rd Baeksang Arts Awards.

From Korea Herald: “Guardian” popular but controversial: Critics point to gender stereotyping, viewers complain about excessive product placement

How I wrote these episode summaries with no spoilers

1. I assumed that you will be reading these recaps and watching the videos chronologically.

2. I narrated the main actions in each episode without revealing the plot’s twists and turns.

I followed this structure all throughout except for Ep. 16 (Finale) where I included some spoilers. Reason - some people want to know if the drama has a good ending or a sad ending before they invest the time in watching it.

I used this same structure in my synopses of “Empress Ki,” “The Joseon Gunman,” “Gokusen” (2002, Japanese classroom drama-comedy), “Queen In-Hyun's Man” (2012, hit Korean rom-com, action drama), “IRIS” (2009, blockbuster Korean espionage-action drama), and “Descendants of the Sun.”

Episode 1

Flashback ...

General Kim Shin leads his army to victory over Goryeo’s enemies. But as he and his army march back to the capital, he’s branded as a traitor by the King, who orders the palace guards to kill him and his whole family. Among those killed is his sister, the Queen.

Kim Shin is left to die alone on a field, and he’s cursed to live forever and wander everywhere, with a sword sticking to his side, until he is mercifully released from his misery into death by a “Goblin Bride.”

1998 ...

A pregnant woman gets hit by a car, but as she’s about to die, she remembers the words of the old woman who tried to sell her some wares, including a jade ring. When she calls out to the gods, Kim Shin (“Goblin”) appears and saves her and her unborn child.

Eight years later ...

The baby is now a young girl, Ji Eun-tak, with a birthmark on her neck and who can see spirits. During her birthday, her mother dies, and the Grim Reaper appears to claim her mother. When Eun-tak sees him, he realizes that she is the baby that should have died in the car accident years ago. He wants to claim her too, but the old woman whom her mother met years ago rebukes him.

Present times ...

The old woman has transposed into a beautiful woman, and the schoolboy who was destined to serve Kim Shin has become the young man named Deok-hwa.

Eun-tak is now 19 years old and living with her aunt and two cousins. She’s ostracized by her schoolmates because she claims to be able to see ghosts. But she ignores them, just as she ignores the ghosts whom she meets and who call her “Goblin Bride.”

On her birthday, Eun-tak makes a wish: “Help me get a part-time job and do something about Aunt’s family and please let me get a boyfriend. Please!” To her surprise, Kim Shin suddenly appears before her. He is equally surprised by how she was able to summon him; nevertheless, he tells her that he will grant her a wish — she will find work in a chicken restaurant.

Kim Shin goes home where he finds Deok-hwa arguing with the Grim Reaper. Meanwhile, Eun-tak realizes how she can summon Kim Shin to appear before her again.

Episode 2

Kim Shim and Eun-tak are transported through a portal to Canada; Eun-tak gushes that she will marry him and that this is their honeymoon. But he takes it all in stride, knowing that she cannot see the sword stuck to his chest.

Kim Shin visits the cemetery where he has buried several members of the Yoo family who have served him through the centuries. Later, he and Eun-tak return to Seoul.

At home, Eun-tak is again abused by her aunt and cousins; she goes out on the street where she meets Kim Shin again. As they walk on the street, one of Eun-tak’s classmates sees them.

Eun-tak finally lands a job in a chicken restaurant that’s owned by a quirky woman named Sunny.

After getting into an argument with Reaper, Kim Shin decides that it’s time to reveal to Deok-hwa who he really is.

Eun-tak prepares a gift for Kim Shin; that night, at a playground, she lights a match and then blows it out. But when she looks around her, somebody else is there — it’s Reaper, who says that it’s time for her to die since she has cheated death once before.

Episode 3

Kim Shin and Reaper rescue Eun-tak from the loan sharks.

Kim Shin finds out from Deok-hwa that Eun-tak’s aunt is interested in the money that her mother left her, worth around 150 thousand US dollars. He tells Deok-hwa that he will seek revenge against Eun-tak’s aunt and cousins.

Eun-tak goes back to the bookstore to try and get back her maple leaf, but Deok-hwa already has taken the book. To her surprise, he tells her that he knows a goblin.

While watching television, Kim Shin thinks that he has seen the reincarnation of the Goryeo king who betrayed him. Later, Reaper meets in a hospital several other reapers.

Kim Shin prepares to leave Korea, but he warns Reaper to leave Eun-tak alone. As he packs his things, he comes across an old scroll — it’s a painting of his sister, Goryeo’s queen.

On a bridge, Reaper sees a woman selling some trinkets. He looks down, he sees the jade ring that belonged to Goryeo’s queen, but as he reaches out to take the ring, somebody else takes the ring — it’s Sunny.

Sunny sees that Reaper is almost crying about not having gotten the ring, and so, she says that she will sell the ring to him. On a piece of paper, she gives Reaper her contact number and seals the paper with a lipstick kiss.

Eun-tak finds herself homeless, after her aunt and cousins leave without telling her anything. The next day, she goes to the sea shore and laments over her life.

Episode 4

Eun-tak explains to Kim Shin why she didn’t tell him that she saw the sword the first time that they met. She also says that, being homeless, she wants to live in his house.

Kim Shin’s moods swing from one extreme to another — he’s happy that he has found his Goblin Bride who will take the sword out of his chest, thus leading to the death he has longed for, but at same time, he wants to live on. Reaper, meanwhile, goes through his own torments, not knowing what to do with Sunny.

Eun-tak summons Kim Shin and demands to know why he’s avoiding her. Tipsy after drinking some beer, Kim Shin promises that he will let her take the sword out on the first snowfall. Later on, Kim Shin picks her up in school, and they’re transported back to Canada. There, he explains how his life has been and that she can still refuse to be his Goblin Bride.

Episode 5

Kim Shin and Eun-tak return to Seoul with both of them in a sullen mood. Later, Eun-tak meets a girl-ghost who begs her to do something for her mother.

Sunny returns to the bridge where, to her surprise, she meets Reaper again. When he doesn’t answer why he didn’t call her, she takes him to a coffee shop.

Despite the lingering tension between them, Kim Shin takes Eun-tak to live in an unused room in his house. That night, Eun-tak finds Kim Shin’s journal and opens it. The next day, she witnesses the crazy antics between Kim Shin and Reaper; she demands that they not just pop up anytime but to call her first by smartphone.

Reaper learns how to use a smartphone, but he can’t call Sunny because he doesn’t know what his real name is. And so he asks Eun-tak to suggest some names that women love.

Kim Shin tricks Reaper into calling Sunny, and Sunny arranges a date. Later, to deal with the tension between them, Kim Shin transports himself and Eun-tak to the Canadian restaurant they went to before. There, Kim Shin has a vision of Eun-tak as a 29-year old woman.

Episode 6

The tension continues between Kim Shin and Eun-tak, with Kim Shin lamenting his life for the last 900 years and Eun-tak asking if he’s being punished for having committed treason.

Reaper and Deok-hwa go out on a double date with Sunny and her friend. But the mood turns dark when Sunny and her friend find out that Deok-hwa is from a “chaebol” family and begin paying more attention to him.

While in Sunny’s shop, three ghosts appear and plead with Eun-tak to help them the way she helped the young girl several days ago. The elderly woman among the ghosts then asks her if her goblin can give her the winning lottery numbers. Later, Eun-tak goes home and sweet talks Kim Shin into giving her the winning numbers.

Reaper goes to work in his tearoom, leading some people into the afterlife. On the bridge, later on, he’s surprised to see Sunny, and he immediately puts on his hat to make himself invisible. But Sunny gets mad and calls him up on his smartphone.

Outside the bookstore, Kim Shin meets Eun-tak, who asks him why he saved her mother 19 years ago. Later, at the house, Eun-tak says that she will pull out the sword right now if he wants her to.

In the tearoom, Kim Shin asks Reaper plaintively about Eun-tak: “She’s the only one who can make me die, but she keeps making me live. It’s funny, isn’t it?”

At the house, Eun-tak asks Reaper why he found her at age 9 and age 19. Reaper tells her that 9 is an incomplete number and that people tend to die when their age ends at 9.

Kim Shin says goodbye to Deok-hwa and his grandfather; he also gives some final instructions to Reaper. After giving Eun-tak some gifts, he transports her to a buckwheat field and asks her to pull the sword out.

Episode 7

Eun-tak fails to take the sword out of Kim Shin’s chest.

Back at home, Kim Shin asks Deok-hwa, Reaper, and Eun-tak to give back his gifts to them. When Eun-tak begins to question if she really is the Goblin Bride, Reaper demands that Kim Shin kick her out of the house.

Kim Shin takes Eun-tak to her college entrance exams, and there, he gets a glimpse of his future. Later, as he and Eun-tak leave to watch a movie, Reaper goes to visit Sunny.

Eun-tak applies at a university, and while there, she runs into a baseball player named Tae-hee, who was her first love. When he finds out about it and Eun-tak giddily agrees to go out on a date with Tae-hee, Kim Shin bargains with Reaper to erase Tae-hee’s memories.

Reaper and Sunny themselves go out on date, but it gets interrupted. Later, as Deok-hwa delivers to Kim Shin the scroll painting from his grandfather, Reaper looks at the portrait of the woman in the painting; stunned, he clutches his heart as he begins to cry.

Flashback ... The young Goryeo king ventures out of the palace and, on the streets, he meets his future bride.

After her wedding gig, Eun-tak tells Kim Shin that she’s working various jobs and saving enough money so that she can leave the house. She also apologizes that she could not pull out the sword from his chest.

Episode 8

As Eun-tak begins to draw the sword out of his chest, Kim Shin throws her off, sending her flying into the air. But even as he saves her, he causes a huge accident on the street. Later on, he asks Deok-hwa to settle things with all the people involved in the accident.

At a restaurant, after Eun-tak shows him her copy of the hanja from Kim Shin’s journal, Deok-hwa finds out about the sword.

Tae-hee begins going to Sunny’s restaurant, with Reaper closely watching Eun-tak’s actions. When Kim Shin finds out about it, he becomes jealous.

On the day of Eun-tak’s interview at the university, Kim Shin catches up with her at the bus stop and gives her the red scarf. As Eun-tak boards her bus, Kim Shin hears a scream from a woman whose bag has just been stolen by a guy on a bike. As the guy passes him by, he sees a vision of the guy crashing into a vendor’s table and causing multiple, deadly accidents among vehicles on the road, including Eun-tak’s bus.

Farther down the road, Reaper and several other reapers wait for the bus and the people they will usher into the afterlife.

Episode 9

Eun-tak finally finds out that once she pulls the sword out, Kim Shin will die.

After finding out from Reaper that Eun-tak left the house after finding out the truth, Kim Shin goes to Sunny’s restaurant. Finding it closed, he turns to leave, but Sunny sees him and calls him “Oraboni.”

Through Deok-hwa’s help, Kim Shin finds Eun-tak working in a sky lodge, but she doesn’t want to have anything to do with her. Later on, Kim Shin is stunned when Reaper tells him that he has received Eun-tak’s death card.

On a double date with Sunny in her restaurant, Reaper finally finds out who Sunny was in her previous life.

Episode 10

Reaper sees a vision of Sunny as the young Goryeo queen with the jade ring. When they come back into the restaurant, Kim Shin starts asking Sunny about herself. Later, Reaper compares how Sunny looks with Kim Sun, the woman in the scroll painting; he also questions himself on why he cried the first time he saw Kim Sun’s portrait and the first time he saw Sunny.

Reaper borrows the jade ring from and Sunny; at home, he hears from Kim Shin the story of his life as a Goryeo general, his sister Kim Sun’s marriage to the Goryeo king, and how they were betrayed by the foolish king who listened to Eunuch Park’s intrigues.

Eun-tak finds out her ghost-friend Jung-hyun was her mother’s friend in school; later on, Secretary Kim visits Eun-tak’s aunt in prison.

Reaper goes on a date with Sunny; meanwhile, having officially become an adult on New Year’s Eve, Eun-tak goes out with Kim Shin to have her first taste of alcohol.

After playing baduk with Deok-hwa’s grandfather, Kim Shin tells Reaper that he will soon get the grandfather’s death card. As he tries to console Reaper about his status with Sunny, Reaper tells him that Sunny is the reincarnation of his sister Kim Sun.

Episode 16, Finale (with spoilers)

Kim Shin proposes to Eun-tak; with happy tears, she says yes: “I will. I will be this shining man’s first and last bride.” Later, at Eun-tak’s studio, after having a vision, Kim Shin becomes jealous and blurts out to her workmates that they’re getting married.

Kim Shin takes Eun-tak to lunch, and Deok-hwa drops by. He’s surprised that Eun-tak knows his name, and later, he tells CEO Kim about about Kim Shin’s plan of marrying Eun-tak.

Eun-tak buys a watch as her wedding gift for Kim Shin; she writes on the letter, “All of the roads we’ll walk together, all of the sights we’ll see together, all of the questions and answers we’ll share shyly, excitedly — in all of those moments, I love you. Your bride.”

At the studio, Eun-tak finds Sunny’s farewell letter; she rushes out only to find out that Sunny has sold the building.

Sunny meets Reaper on the bridge for the final time and says, “We won’t see each other again in this lifetime.”

After being comforted by Kim Shin, Reaper goes to meet the grim reaper who was once a court lady in Goryeo. He tells her the secret that reapers are people who took their own lives their and their punishment is to be neither living nor dead and to usher people in death.

Kim Shin and Eun-tak get married in the buckwheat garden. Shin vows, “Until death do us part, to every word you say, no matter what: Me too.” And Eun-tak answers, “Even if death separates us, to every word you say, no matter what: Me too.”

While going home after work, Eun-tak sees a small bus full of children that’s about to be crushed by a speeding truck. She places her car in between the bus and truck and sacrifices her life to save the children.

Eun-tak’s spirit meets Reaper in his tea room and says that she’s glad to sacrifice her life for the children and that she has three more lifetimes to live. Kim Shin rushes into the room and breaks down in sobs. After asking for a wish, Eun-tak tells him that she’ll only be gone a short while: “I promise. This time, I’ll come to you. I’ll find you. In the next lifetime, I’ll be born full of life, and stay by your side for a long, long time.”

Thirty years later ...

On his last day, Reaper meets Sunny in the tea room; as he puts the jade ring on her finger, Sunny asks if they will now have their happy ending. He replies that it’s her third lifetime, and he doesn’t know how many lives he has lived. After Reaper and Sunny go through the door, Kim Shin realizes that he’s truly all alone now.

Sometime later, as Kim Shin takes on a new identity and leaves town, he sees the reincarnated Reaper and Sunny together in a car.

Kim Shin goes to Canada and visits the Yoo family graveyard. As he reads, he doesn’t notice a high school girl walking up to him, with dandelions in her hands.

It’s Eun-tak, reincarnated and with a new name. With tears in her eyes, she asks Kim Shin, "You know who I am, right?” He answers, “My first and my last… the goblin’s bride.”

Lessons in photography from “Goblin”

Shooting against the light, lens flare, bokeh
(aesthetic quality of the blurred areas of a photograph)
Silhouette, low angle shot
Cross dissolve
Back lighting, rim lighting
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Establishing shot
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt