Brighten up our Mondays for the tvN’s newest drama is here!
“Doom at Your Service” could be mistaken for a take on “Goblin,” but the show sets itself apart very, very quickly. There’s less of a sense of portentous doom (haha) and more a feel of world-weariness. Our hero and heroine are tired of a world that grows increasingly cruel by the day. But when a drunken wish brings them together, they find joy in life for the first time, even though their days are numbered.
Warning: spoilers for episodes 1-2 below.
1. The central idea: fate is cruel
“Doom at Your Service” hits the ground running with its world-building, and there’s undeniable poetry to it.
From the first moment we’re introduced to our hero Myeol Mang (Seo In Guk), he’s busy preventing the death of a killer who tried to end his life to avoid taking responsibility for his actions. The mythology in this show centers around the idea of action and consequences, of everything having a cost. At one point, Myeol Mang informs Tak Dong Kyung (Park Bo Young) that her every choice to gain something resulted in her losing something. It appears this idea of inherent balance will be the heart of the show. The gods embody this duality. Myeol Mang is destruction, death, and all things humans fear personified and he clearly hates it, whereas Sonyeoshin (literally meaning “female deity”) (Jung Ji So) is life and everything humans love.
While Myeol Mang is able-bodied, Sonyeoshin is a frail young girl with a heart condition. That is the price, she tells Myeol Mang, of their existence. She suffers physically and he suffers emotionally.
Also prevalent in the first couple of episodes is this idea of Sonyeoshin as a gardener, with this world and its people as her garden. Myeol Mang is the butterfly that touches each flower, each person. It’s a pretty analogy, but the reality is that Myeol Mang is reviled. There’s no one who is grateful for destruction or happy when bad things happen. That goes for Myeol Mang himself, no matter what he does, something bad happens. And if he does nothing, the world’s scales demand to be evened and so even worse things happen than if he did something.
It’s this idea of life as suffering and that even the deities suffer. It’s a cruel existence and it’s interesting that this show chooses to found its mythos on the idea of cruel fate.
2. Myeol Mang himself: a depressed god of destruction who yearns for death but can’t die
What makes Myeol Mang so refreshing and takes him beyond the usual trope of deities falling in love with a human girl (see “Bride of the Water God,” “Goblin,” and “Tale of the Nine-Tailed“) is that Myeol Mang’s depression goes beyond everyday weariness. He resents his existence and the fact that he will bring doom and destruction everywhere, every day forever. But he’s also inherently selfless. Myeol Mang could choose to do nothing and let the world go to hell. Yet, he knows the consequences, and after trying once (and it’s pretty clear that attempt was more out of trauma than pettiness) he keeps going about – living, breathing, attempting to smoke – when all he brings about is evil.
But when he hears Dong Kyung’s wish, for the first time, Myeol Mang thinks of himself. Here’s someone thinking the same thing he is. If there are no humans, then there’s no reason for him to exist. He can finally fade into nothingness and doesn’t have to suffer. So on the one day, he can grant a human’s wish, his birthday, he decides he’s going to end everything so he can be free. But upon meeting this human, he finds her delightful. It’s so clear that he’s fascinated by how she’s not begging for her life or wanting to win the lottery. If anything he promises her another wish on top of her wishes to end the world if she just hurries up and wishes to end the world once her 100 days are up!
There also seems to be something to Myeol Mang’s past as Sonyeoshin says he gave up on the world. He’s quite bitter but also hungers for connection and affection in his own way. Imposing a truly ridiculous condition like requiring Dong Kyung to hold his hand to “recharge” and “ensure she doesn’t break her contract” is one adorable way he shows it! The man is fascinated by her and it shows!
3. Dong Kyung: the heroine who just doesn’t care
Dong Kyung could be a typical Candy-esque role, but her weariness and practical attitude toward life and death set her apart. She’s not super cheerful and a go-getter; she’s sick of it all! She takes her own funeral portrait in advance! She has all the hallmarks of depression: no ambition, no dreams, just going through life because she has to. But Myeol Mang turns that all upside down.
Given how mesmerizing Myeol Mang is, it’s easy to wonder why Dong Kyung flees from him at first. But the Truck of Doom scene makes that all pretty clear. She’s fresh off the worst day of her life and still coming to terms with the fact that she has four months max to live. Then, this guy shows up out of nowhere and hastens her death so it’s going to happen right that second. Unless, she takes his hand and agrees to the contract he’s proposing.
She’s basically forced into a contract where she dies and brings about the end of the world in return for a pain-free 100 days until her death. Even worse, if she breaks the contract (and doesn’t wish for the world to end), he’ll keep her alive and bring the death that should be hers to the person she loves most! Like Myeol Mang said, he’s not a good guy.
But she’s starting to get interested in this guy who pops up out of nowhere, helps her, seems to care about how her day went, and voluntarily created a contract that requires him to look out for her. But what if she can’t keep her end of the deal?
4. The villain: fate
As dislikeable as Jo Dae Han (Kim Ji Suk) makes himself in the first couple of episodes, he’s a mere annoyance. The real villain here is fate. Myeol Mang has knowingly set up a game where he’ll lose regardless of the outcome. If Dong Kyung wishes to end the world, he’ll vanish along with all the people. And if Dong Kyung refuses to end the world, then the person who dies will likely be him. But Sonyeoshin also seems to have something up her sleeve. She tells Myeol Mang to do his worst and that she’ll set her own plans into action, so it remains to be seen how this will work out!
But until the inevitable pain hits, our main leads remain the cutest. Plus for someone who hates humanity, Myeol Mang understands the intricacies of playing husband just fine.
Our supporting characters haven’t been featured much just yet. We’ve only seen glimpses of Cha Joo Ik (Lee Soo Hyuk), Lee Hyun Kyu (Kang Tae Oh) and Na Ji Na (Shin Do Hyun). But seeing as they’ll be in a love triangle with each other, they’ll probably provide a more human element to a show that’s surprisingly tragic.
With our main couple set to cohabitate, next Monday looks like it’ll be a blast because when Myeol Mang smiles like that, you know things are going to get good!