Good Ol’ Review: Netflix’s “Goodbye Earth” Makes You Wish the Asteroid Would Hurry Up

Goodbye Earth Korean Drama Review

No spoilers.

Goodbye Earth (종말의 바보 /The Fool at the End of the World) is definitely not the kind of series I expected coming into it. And I don’t mean that in a good way. This big budget, star-studded Netflix series falls far short of its ambitious target. And for a big chunk of the series, you end up wishing the asteroid would mercifully make its target as fast as possible.

And that target is the Korean peninsula. An asteroid is making a beeline for Korea (with at least 300 days warning, to be fair) and all hell breaks loose. Civil war almost immediately breaks out upon the news, absolutely ravaging the country. Lawlessness runs rampant, wreaking havoc in every city. While society rapidly declines, the Korean people desperately try to secure spots on the (inexplicably) limited evacuation flights to “safe zones” elsewhere in the world. Again, with almost a year until impact.

Goodbye Earth focuses on a group of best friends and their close-knit neighborhood and parish church. Former teacher Jin Se Kyung (Ahn Eun Jin) maintains her duty to protect children, especially her students. Her boyfriend Ha Yun Sang (Yoo Ah In) is a biotech researcher in the United States who somehow makes his way back to Korea to be with her. Their friend Woo Sung Jae (Jeon Sung Woo) is the assistant priest at their local parish while Kang In Ah (Kim Yoon Hye) is a military commander.

I would say that a reasonable expectation coming into the series is that it would focus on how society completely disintegrates ahead of an apocalyptic event. Following a group of characters as they go about their lives and deal with the impending doom in their own ways. Perhaps reflecting on their lives and relationships. Some resorting to crime or falling into despair. Maybe others turning into heroes, saving people both physically and emotionally. Stories showing how the best and worst of humanity can show up at any time. Not the least of which being the end of the world.

But quite puzzling though that Goodbye Earth‘s central plot thread which runs from episode one all the way to the very last scene of the series is regarding human trafficking. … Huh?

Yes. And the other main plot thread? Corruption. Of course. Neither of which have anything to do with the end of the world. In fact, the same series with almost every plot thread, big or small, could have been told in the same way without anything related to asteroids or the apocalypse.

Goodbye Earth is actually a bit of a mess. A disjointed, listless narrative with no focus. Featuring a huge cast of characters you never really fully care about. And that’s thanks to the lack of any discernable character or plot development to support them.

Goodbye Earth Korean Drama Review

The series doesn’t engender much goodwill in its first few episodes as it employs a non-linear approach to introduce us to this close-knit community of characters. The jarring jumps and cuts back and forth to various points of these characters’ lives seem to have no rhyme or reason. None of these scenes offer any insight into the characters. And instead seem to merely depict the supposedly chaotic nature of these pre-apocalypse times.

Sometimes an investment in these kinds of shaky starts is necessary. That “Just go with it” vibe can sometimes yield to some fun and exciting stories. The big investment can lead you to wonderfully satisfying climaxes and conclusions. That is absolutely not the case here.

There’s very little explanation or exploration into what is happening to our characters. Most of the series unfolds like a series of random, sometimes irrelevant vignettes. Not of people living in the pre-apocalypse. And again, the few continuous plot threads that run through the entire course of the series deal with human trafficking and corruption.

While those themes might be interesting. And they’ve certainly fueled many an acclaimed Korean drama. But Goodbye Earth is not one of them, at all.

This isn’t your deep, philosophical character portrait of people dealing with the crisis of end times. Neither is it some summer blockbuster-worthy disaster epic. Both qualities that would make for an amazing viewing experience.

Which might explain part of why the series is so baffling. Perhaps the problem here is that the series might have been marketed one way, but ends up being something completely different. As opposed to it having been promoted as what it eventually ends up being. Without those expectations, maybe it would not have affected how to receive the series. But it’s still hard to separate expectation from reality.

Still, even on the basis of its own merits, Goodbye Earth‘s narrative is still a disjointed, unfocused mess that does not offer anything for you to hold on to.

This all makes the job of the cast that much harder. And even with such a talented and experienced ensemble, it would be difficult to carry the asteroid-level weight of the dud of a story.

Of course, much has been made of Yoo Ah In’s personal troubles and its effect on this series. It had been announced that his scenes would be greatly reduced in light of his legal troubles. And some people are already pointing to that supposed edit as to the reason why the series is the way it is.

But to be clear, Yoo Ah In is actually in the series plenty. Just as much, if even sometimes more than his fellow lead star in Ahn Eun Jin. From episode one all the way to the final seconds of the series. So it’s hard to imagine what could have been edited out unless he had been in every single minute of the original edit of the series.

But what’s even more important to think about is nothing that could have been edited out would have done anything to help the series overcome its existing problems. Not a single possible story, save for Yoo Ah In’s Yun Sang flying into the sky and punching the asteroid off of its path, would have any positive effect on the series. In fact, any other random plot thread involving Yun Sang would have just ended up being yet another underdeveloped, nonsensical story to tell alongside the other couple of similarly shallow stories.

If anything, the series should’ve edited out a lot more because 12 episodes ends up being far too much for what the story actually has to offer.

All that aside, including his legal troubles, Yoo Ah In is undoubtedly a talented actor. And he is able to show that here even with the tepid material given to him. The same can be said for his fellow lead star Ahn Eun Jin who always delivers great performances in a wide variety of roles. Jeon Sung Woo and Kim Yoon Hye also make do with what’s given to them. And the four of them are able to depict a friendship that ends up being the only firm constant that you can even attempt to hold on to through the series.

They lead a huge ensemble of many talented and recognizable faces. But at the same time, this huge cast of characters contributes to the unfocused and sometimes cluttered canvas.

Goodbye Earth Korean Drama Review

Goodbye Earth is ambitious and has high aspirations. But it ends up being very far from what it aspires to be. It is not a deep, philosophical study of humanity in a time of crisis. It is not a character-driven drama about relationships. It is not even a simple action extravaganza. Instead, Goodbye Earth is an unfortunate disappointment.

It might be an experience in and of itself just watching the series to marvel at all the many ways it goes wrong. But a fair warning, there will be many times during the 12 episodes where you wish the asteroid would just hurry itself up and put everyone, the viewer included, out of their misery.

6 thoughts on “Good Ol’ Review: Netflix’s “Goodbye Earth” Makes You Wish the Asteroid Would Hurry Up

  1. This was a mess. All the fangirlies saying it’s because of Yoo Ah In getting deleted are delulu. As you say, he was still a huge part of the series. And the so-called “cut” storyline involving whatever was implanted in his body is irrelevant. The show is horribly bad.

  2. It is not good because they edited out Yoo Ah In story. That’s why it is confusing and messed up.

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