in the grim reaper’s tea house

Against my better judgment, I’m watching The Lonely and Shining Goblin, a kdrama starring Gong Yoo and Kim Go Eun about a goblin destined to live for an eternity, until he finds a bride who can pull out the sword in his chest and turn him to ashes. It has a City of Angels moment, which is enough reason for me not to watch it (and seriously, I didn’t even watch City of Angels because I knew that Meg Ryan was going to die, and this was before I even met Mikah), but I’m braving it anyway. Why?

A. Because it’s beautiful. I mean, look at the Grim Reaper’s tea house.


B. The story is actually very well written and compelling and, as you can see above and below, very funny. People are saying that the friendship between the Goblin and the Grim Reaper is the best bromance ever, and I agree, actually.


C. I figured that I cried enough watching Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo that I can watch a much better written and realised show. Crying, psssh. Sad scenes, psssh. Can, lah.

During the course of watching this show, it’s not the Goblin and the Goblin’s bride’s story that makes me sad. I guess because I already convinced myself that I can handle their special conundrum – this is why I read recaps before I watch a show, I want to know who dies so that I’m prepared. Also, we obviously shouldn’t take their special relationship at face value – the goblin waits 900 years for a bride to show up and kill him, and then he realises life is worth living after finding love, holy crap that sucks! So I’m not worried about them finding their happy ending.

Instead, I’m kind of overwhelmed by the Grim Reaper (ably portrayed by the very beautiful Lee Dong Wook) and the souls he processes in his tea house before leading them to the hereafter. Those are the scenes that deliver the super punches straight to the gut. There was a scene where this blind guy finds that his seeing eye dog was waiting for him outside the tea house and it was a beautiful reunion. And this scene straight out of But You Didn’t where the guy dies during military service and the girl waited for him for 70 years.

This makes me sad because I used to believe in finding that one person you will love all your life, even when they’re not alive anymore, and well… I’m not waiting. But then, my story is a bit more complicated than this sad, steadfast couple, more complicated than the girl in yellow and the boy in pink in But You Didn’t. No, maybe not more complicated. Just not the same.

But also. The Grim Reaper’s storyline includes this entire reincarnation bit, and this has been used in other films and stories, where you find yourself drawn to the same people when you get reincarnated. So the Grim Reaper finds himself longing for this girl named Sunny-not-Sun-Hee, and she turns out to be someone he loved and miserably hurt in his past life. It’s not in the drama, but I’m reminded of the principle of karma, where you try to correct the mistakes you did in your past life and this determines the situation of your next life (sing with me, how looong till my soul gets it riiiiight???…) And in the Goblin universe, people become grim reapers when they commit the gravest of sins, which turns out to be taking their own life. So reapers actually don’t get a chance to right their wrongs, their punishment is to endure their wrongs. Which is kind of what Mom told me when I was a kid about why Judas can’t go to heaven, because he gave up, because he didn’t have enough faith. This made me sad, too. I like Judas.

I’m not particularly the most religious person and I believed less after Mikah left. I don’t want to believe in an afterlife, or in the next life. I believe in living this one to the fullest so that when it ends, I will have no regrets. But while watching this show, I’ve started wishing that there is reincarnation. I think people deserve that second and third chance of getting it right in their next life. Some specific people especially.

I’ve also briefly entertained and quickly dismissed the thought that maybe I’m already a reincarnation of a very bad person, given all my misery. Instead, I’ve decided that despite all my challenges, I’m having a good life and will strive to get this one right, regardless of whether I have a past or next one. And I want to have faith.

Another thing that struck me about that scene with the old/young couple, that was also resounding in all the other tea scenes throughout the series, was how at the time of your death, at least when you’re in the Grim Reaper’s tea house, it doesn’t matter who you are and what you’ve accomplished, what matters is how you treated other people and how much you loved. Heh, I’m still going to get my PhD and dance till I physically cannot and reorganise my life so that it looks like the Grim Reaper’s bedroom, but I’m also going to keep this in mind. Love is, after all, always a good idea.


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