Netflix's asteroid-impact series 'Goodbye Earth' is an insufferably slow disaster saga (review)

a Korean woman in a yellow coat and bloodstained clothes stands with flaming crashed cars behind her.
Ahn Eun-jin stars in "Goodbye Earth." (Image credit: Netflix)

When you start rooting for the planet-killing asteroid in a speculative disaster show to please hurry up and put humanity out of its misery, you know the series is in trouble.  

And that's precisely the case with Netflix's new dystopian sci-fi series, "Goodbye Earth," a well-meaning project hailing from South Korea, directed by Kim Jin-min ("My Name," "Extracurricular)" and starring Ahn Eun-jin, Yoo Ah-in, Jeon Sung-woo and Kim Yoon-hye. It's loosely adapted by screenwriter Jung Sung-joo from Japanese writer Kōtarō Isaka's novel, "The Fool at the End of the World" ("Shūmatsu no Fūru").

The convoluted 12-episode series chronicles the final 200 days before Feb. 22, 2026, when a humongous (and fictional) asteroid named Dina is slated to slam into the Korean peninsula. South Korea is under martial law due to riots, looting, suicides and political chaos as citizens flee ground zero for safer regions around the world. Those who can't afford to uproot and relocate are forced to deal with food shortages, roving gangs, scam artists and bureaucratic mayhem. 

Related: Images of potentially dangerous asteroids

"Goodbye Earth" takes a familiar countdown clock approach as these types of disaster films and series often do, with the predictable anarchy taking hold on society as the days and weeks tick off.

Like trying to grab handfuls of dissipating smoke or capture a greased piglet at a county fair, "Goodbye Earth" is a slippery series to latch onto. It can be difficult to watch as the body counts rise and humanity begins to tear itself apart in predictable ways. What's commendable is that the creators don't sugar-coat the reality of the dire situation and instead force us to endure the wrenching despair, deepening depression and hopelessness of the cataclysmic situation.

However, it's a severely slow-paced affair that immediately suffers from total narrative collapse within the first two episodes. This first phase of the series sets up the plight of a teacher trying to get her former students to safety, the struggling citizens of Woongcheon City, soldiers attempting to keep some semblance of order, and wealthy Koreans scrabbling to leave the country by any means possible. 

Much of this haphazard editing and scene construction is due to the fact that most of actor Yoo Ah-in's sequences had to be erased out of the series due to drug charges being imposed against him this past October.

Promotional poster for "Goodbye Earth." (Image credit: Netflix)

The confusing plot moves at a glacial pace, with characters popping in and out of episodes in no apparent order, then vanishing for hours, only to reappear with vague motivations at different points in the timeline. One bright spot is the stirring score by Hwang Sang-jun, especially the opening title song, "Farewell," by the K-pop band Pre-Holiday — it's an infectiously good tune that you'll remember long after the evil asteroid announcing armageddon appears in the night sky.

"This is a very unique dystopian genre series, which sets characters heading toward dystopia," director Kim Jin-min told The Korea Herald. "It's not about their struggles for survival, but something that throws a question, 'What would you do [when you have 200 days to live]?' The main idea is that, for all people, from 4-year-olds to 80-year-olds, life is equally blessed and precious."

If you're looking for an utterly grim and depressing sci-fi slog that hops around without rhyme or reason, "Goodbye Earth" might be a fine choice. This is a revenge drama first and foremost, not some thrilling FX-heavy blockbuster brimming with CGI shots of hurtling cosmic debris and daring asteroid deflection missions. But for anyone afflicted with insomnia, this series just might be the antidote.

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Jeff Spry
Contributing Writer

Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.