Trying In Vain Not To Cry
I’ve said it many times before but an ending can make or break a show. From LOST’s incredibly divisive ending to Memories Of The Alhambra’s ambiguous finish, right across to Game Of Throne’s frustratingly rushed climax, when the dust is settled and the excitement dies down, the ending is ultimately what people remember. With that in mind, a lot was riding on Hotel Del Luna here to live up to the lofty expectations and deliver a suitable finish to match the excellent work done up until this point.
In a way, there isn’t anything particularly outstanding done here, nor are there any real big twists and turns along the way (aside from one, which we’ll discuss later), what it does do however, is tie up all the loose ends and allow us to revel in the inevitable goodbyes. These poignant, heart-wrenching moments are what make this finale such an emotional affair and one that really adds some shine on an impressive Korean drama that’s been one of my highlights of the TV calendar this year.
We begin with a massacre in the past. Ma Go and the Grim discuss future possibilities for the young girl lying next to her deceased parents, who just so happens to be Man-Wol. It’s here where she learns of the Guest House of the Moon, as a young boy gives her water and discusses the future.
From here we cut back to present day where Man-Wol and Chan talk astronomy and the beauty of the Orion nebula. As they continue discussing stars, he tells her he’s the only star she needs and as they longingly look each other in the eyes following a playful flick of the hair. For now at least, Man-Wol puts Ma Go’s message about her time at the guest house out of her mind.
Determined to find the editor responsible for translating the novelist’s work about Kim Si-Ik, Man-Wol goes on the war path as she enlists Chan’s help to stop the book from being published before it’s too late. Taking matters into his own hands, Kim tries scaring the editor but it unfortunately has the opposite effect- spurring him on to publish the book. However, Man-Wol and Chan come to his rescue and manage to pay the man off, bringing the manuscript in and stopping the book from being published.
It’s here we see the truth, and understand why Mr Kim was degraded by his fellow scholars and shunned during the time he was alive. As Kim stays the night at Chan’s house, Sanchez learns that the Grim Reaper is with him and immediately becomes nervous, thinking the reaper may be there for him.
Meanwhile, Man-Wol and Chan put a plan into action that’ll see Kim turned into a fictional character, rather than the story playing out as a non-fiction historical record. It’s a clever plan and one that sees both writers in the hotel team up to write, while Man-Wol pitches the idea to him. With both writers’ wishes now fulfilled and the published book a hit, Mr Kim celebrates with the others over a glass of Tears. With his shame now washed away, he heads to the Sanzu River a happy, content man as the others say their goodbyes and remember his memory with a solitary glass of Tears, left for Man-Wol to drink alone.
With Mr Kim gone, Ms. Choi and Hyun Joon both make their peace with the issuess tying them to this life while Man-Wol, of course, continues to indulge in food. After receiving a Like on Instagram from Kim Jung, they discuss the past where Chan learns Ma Go changed her memories from the lodge 200 years previously.
As Hyun Mi passes away, Hyun Joon’s time at the hotel draws to an end and after an emotional farewell to Yu Na, who runs off and is unable to see him to the River, he leaves an artifact for Chan to give to Yu Na and a promise – for her to be happy. However, he does see her just before leaving, as she runs after him and gives a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Tears flowing, Yu Na breaks down at the face of the tunnel as Hyun Joon leaves with his sister.
Meanwhile, Mi Ra and Yeung Su prepare for their marriage before Mi Ra runs into Man-Wol. Entrancing her, she greets her as Song-Hwa and promises hell to pay if she mistreats Yeon Woo. Snapping her out of the trance, she offers to buy her a TV as a wedding gift and speaks to Chan about the marriage.
From here, we move on to Ms. Choi’s goodbyes, jumping back in time to see the first time she came to Man Weol Lodge and how she convinced her not to give up her life so recklessly. As Man-Wol embraces her old friend, Ms. Choi leaves with her head held high.
Man-Wol and Chan Sung’s time draws ever nearer to the end, as our hotelier looks out upon the eerily quiet hotel, now devoid of life. As memories of the past float into her subconscious, she looks out upon the various rooms in the hotel, as the echoes of her workers remind her of times gone by. All of this is snapped back to reality for the climax of our drama; Chan-Sung saying goodbye to Man-Wol.
As it turns out, the boy from the opening segment of the episode was actually Chan-Sung, somehow, and it’s here we learn they’ve been tied together for quite some time. However, as they reach the tunnel at the Sanzu River,they say their goodbyes and Man-Wol promises to meet again in another life. She thanks him for taking care of her, and they break down crying as the end arrives. She steps into the tunnel and disappears down the Sanzu River, as the Hotel turns its lights off for the last time and fades from view.
We then skip forward to Christmas with Chan living with Sanchez. He heads off to visit Yu Na whose decided to study to be a hotelier. It’s here we learn Chan actually gave her the medicine intended for him, meaning he still sees the ghosts and the flower deities everywhere he goes. Leaving things on a somewhat ambiguous note, we cut to Chan Sung sitting on a park bench, remembering the promise made earlier in the series. If he and Man-Wol meet in another life, they’ll always be together. As they sit on the bench and look out at happy, content versions of the workers, we leave the episode, and series, on a sickly sweet note. Does this mean Chan is dead at the end? Is he in another life? Or is this just a dream?
As the series closes out, we receive an epilogue where Ma Go confronts the remaining deities huddled around her table, lamenting that all 12 of them couldn’t be there. However the doors have opened on a new hotel, this time aptly named the Hotel Blue Moon, including a new owner who happens to be a famous face in Korea, Kim Soo Hyun.
Hotel Del Luna has been a wonderful Korean drama to watch, with the perfect blend of humour, drama and romance over the weeks. The finale itself, as mentioned earlier, is pretty rigid and simplistic by design and it’s partly why it works as effectively as it does. With character arcs given the time to breathe over the weeks, each player is given the perfect send-off to round out their arcs in a satisfying manner, whilst allowing those poignant, final goodbyes to be tinged with sadness and tears that will inevitably be difficult to hold back.
I won’t lie, I was pretty tearful and emotional during the finale and a lot of this is thanks to the excellent writing; the script writers do milk this for every ounce of emotion they can but because of the great work put into the drama as a whole, it’s completely worth it for this beautiful 90 minute ending. The ambiguous final scene almost hints at a second season and to be honest, it could be done (with a new cast, new hotel and guest cameos). Personally though I’m content with the ending we receive here. It’s a decent enough conclusion without falling the way of so many other dramas that leave things hanging on a cliffhanger. The famous face of Kim Soo at the end is a lovely meta touch to the work this famous face has done alongside the other actors in the show too and certainly worth mentioning.
I’m going to miss Hotel Del Luna on a Saturday and Sunday night and as the lights close on the hotel for the last time, this Korean drama will certainly go down as one of the best shows of the year. Bravo to all involved in this project.