Penultimate Bittersweet Goodbye
I really don’t want Hotel Del Luna to end. On average, I watch about 8 hours of TV a day, not counting the time it takes me to sit here and write up the notes I’ve written and the late, late evenings publishing content on social media and researching new shows to watch. When a show like Hotel Del Luna comes along, breaking up the conventional norms and delivering such an enthralling watch from start to finish, it’s tough to say goodbye. The curse of a critic I guess!
The penultimate episode to Hotel Del Luna sets everything up nicely for the finale to come, answering some crucial questions that have been bouncing around the show for a while, pretty much solidifying this one is likely to end on a bittersweet and emotionally charged note tomorrow.
We begin with our trio of workers promising to say goodbye to one another when they do eventually leave the hotel and head to the tunnel. With Man-Wol leading Cheong on the bridge but deciding to head back, the hotel staff are none the wiser to her decision and prepare for what lies beyond this world, believing that Man-Wol isn’t coming back after all.
As Chan begins reminiscing about Man-Wol, seeing her around her room, Ma Go tasks Chan to head to Man Weol Lodge to meet Man Wol again, but from a different time period. He hastily agrees, before being given instructions on how to enter and exit the tree. He’s told not to eat or drink anything, otherwise he won’t be able to return and heads through the doors to what lies beyond.
As he steps backward in time, he comes across the two hotel workers, Mr Kim and Ms. Choi, none the wiser to his presence. As he spies the flowers needed and looks set to pick them, he finds the old Man-Wol and decides to play along with her. She offers him a drink and food, both of which he can’t touch unless he wants to be stuck in the past. Taking advantage of her ghostly powers, Mr Kim tells Chan about the ghost gambler helping her and it’s here our hotelier seriously considers staying in this time period, especially given Man-Wol’s lavish, extravagant outfits, even during this time period.
Deciding to try and save Man-Wol from her ill-fate of gambling, Chan offers a game of Go with the flower lady while Man-Wol and the others excitedly chatter about his Harvard degree. After defeating the deity, he speaks to Man-Wol about her stable, telling her to sell all her horses except three; a hilarious throwback to the earlier episodes and her obsession with fast cars. This playful tone continues too, as Chan tells her to find another hobby other than gambling, and suggesting gourmet food. Pouring him another drink, he contemplates drinking the cup before setting it down on the table and telling her he has to go back.
When he returns, he gives the flowers to Ma Go, just in time to learn Man-Wol has returned, leading to a giant group hug from the workers and Chan who embrace her outside the tunnel. As they head back inside, he tells her everything about his ordeal and mentions about the Moon Tree Wine. As she contemplates what this means, she remembers the first time she drunk it, during the first episode, and just what ramifications this may have for her.
Meanwhile Yu Na heads to the hospital with Hyun who finds his sister saved again at the last second, while the hotel workers chatter amongst themselves at the prospect of Hyun leaving the place soon. However, she reminds them of the bullet from earlier in the show which ties in to him unable to leave. His friend, going by his name and currently tending to his sister, is brought to the Hotel Del Luna by Yu Na. Upon seeing his old friend, Hyun runs away, the truth too painful to confront before we see a flashback and understand what happened between the two men. It’s an eye-opening and heartbreaking look at Hyun Joong’s past and one full of sadness. With his dying breath after being shot, he tells his friend to take his sister with him.
As we cut back to present day, Man Wol has a heart to heart with Hyun, who convinces him to speak to his friend. Chan appears and tells him Ji will see him and, after a touching goodbye, Man-Wol convinces him to buy the high school Hyun attended in order to see him off properly with a diploma. As the seats fill with hotel workers and old high school student ghosts, Yu Na gives him flowers and congratulates him for graduating.
After holding a celebratory dinner at Sanchez’s place, acting as a proverbial last supper, back at the hotel Man-Wol tells the staff she wants to see them off personally. She brings in a camera and, after showing off various pictures to Chan, they decide to take pictures together to remember their time in the hotel.
As the end draws ever nearer, Yu Na heads to Ma Go’s pharmacy and steals the wine used to tie someone else to the Moon Tree. She brings it back to the hotel and gives it to Man-Wol while Chan heads to Ma Go’s to find out more. If she drinks the wine, Ma Go tells him they will be able to be together again properly. He runs back to the hotel and scrambles up to the sky lounge where Chan tells her not to drink the liquid. She smiles and looks up at him, telling him he loves her before they stare out at the full moon.
Once again Hotel Del Luna delivers a wonderful, beautifully written episode here, one with welcome respites of comedy and poignant, well written bites of drama. Seeing Man-Wol and Chan’s progression over the weeks has been so beautiful and knowing their time is coming to an end, makes these fun playful moments they share all the more bittersweet. I won’t lie, I had tears in my eyes during the photos being taken and Hyun’s school diploma segments, both of which such a touching tribute to these characters we’ve grown to love over the weeks.
As all eyes turn to tomorrow’s finale, Hotel Del Luna’s success rests exclusively on whether or not it can nail its ending. If it can, this will easily go down as one of the best dramas of the year but if it doesn’t, it could so easily undo all the great work done up until this point. No pressure!