Turmoil Of The Tormented Tiger
After an impressive opening episode, Hotel Del Luna returns for a deeper examination of Man Wol and a surprisingly emotional slice of drama.
The episode begins where it left off with Chan Seong running towards the remains of the homeless mayor. Man Wol explains that he wasn’t alive but a ghost with a grudge before we cut to a car crash where the victim is being escorted to heaven in an expensive car. The old woman with flowers arrives and places one of them on his body before we see a bridge with dead people crossing it. Man Wol explains that when people die they cross a bridge, which is on top of the Sanzu river. Unfortunately, some souls fail to find their way and get lost. Chan then asks her if she’s lost too and the silence he’s greeted with speaks a thousand words.
Man Wol then wonders about the old tree and if it’s still alive, given it hasn’t blossomed in years. The manager tells her that it’s linked to her before we see a tiger wandering around the hotel. Sensing that it’s a sacred creature, she berates the receptionist for not letting him in.
Meanwhile, Chan Seong is still being followed by the same vengeful ghost so the next morning he decides to visit Hotel Del Luna. He’s greeted by the receptionist and manager, Mr No. They explain that the ghosts sleep during the day and it’s here where he realizes how long Man Wol has been stuck in the hotel. She arrives and explains that he will be the new manager, with his main job being to comfort the lost ghosts.
Chan Seong tells Man Wol that he has saved money to pay her back and wants to leave but she refuses to let him go, instead telling him that she’s looking for a sacred tiger. They head to a museum where we see the stuffed tiger and learn this was the last of the Baekdu tigers. Chan then reflects on what she revealed to him the day before; that she’s not actually dead.
After Man Wol tests Chan with a ghostly challenge involving a coffee mug, the staff discuss Man Wol’s bad temper as they say goodbye to the current manager, who is about to retire. Man Wol arrives and reveals her anger as Chan thinks he’s too good for the hotel. She tells Mr No that, in the mean time, she has employed another human for the job and dismisses him with no emotion.
The next day, Chan Seong struggles with his new job as he is surrounded by vengeful ghosts. The same ghost with no eyes appears which leads him to jump in the pool to avoid her. He then agrees to go with Man Wol to visit the hotel chairman who bought the tiger. He explains that the tiger was never happy and died alone. Man-Wol tells the chairman that he needs to be returned where he came from however he replies that the taxidermy tiger has become a symbol of exchange between South and North Korea so won’t be that easy.
They later realize that it’s the spirit of the tiger that’s making the chairman sick. Man Wol tells Chan to speak to the chairman about giving him his expensive painting in exchange for making him better.
The old manager then visits Chan Seong and explains to him that if he tries to see it, the hotel is worth looking after. We then see the manager fading as he passes away. As he arrives at the hotel as a guest, Mr No has a touching moment with Man Wol and tells her how grateful he’s been to have lived at the hotel. She gives up her cold facade for just a minute and tells him she’s not sure she will ever see him again.
Chan Seong speaks with the hotel chairman once again and this time he agrees to give up his painting. Chan then finally realizes that the painting of Mount Baekdu is linked to the tiger and they come as a set. This leads him to realise that Man Wol wasn’t scamming him after all. He then proactively helps the ghost with no eyes. She takes off her glasses again but this time reveals that her eyes have come back at the same time as Man Wol freeing the tormented tiger.
The next morning, Chan Seong goes back to his job. A statue of a soldier comes to life with menacing blue eyes. Fearing for his life, Chan Seong runs away but just as he’s about to be struck down by the soldier, Man Wol arrives and saves him. With the danger averted, we’re offered a glimpse of Man Wol’s past; a time when she was happy before her curse. As the night draws in, Chan arrives to see the hotel come to life with all its customers in a dazzling display of beautiful lights.
With less of the creative cuts between scenes and a much more straight forward narrative, Hotel Del Luna sacrifices its creativity but more than makes up for it with strong characterisation. Seeing more of Man Wol’s past and the tiny cracks of her cold facade breaking is a much welcome inclusion here, along with the foundation being set for her and Chan to grow closer together.
The side-plot involving the tiger is a nice inclusion too and seeing this alongside the background to the hotel and lost souls helps to add some much needed depth to proceedings. The pockets of humour are well placed and work surprisingly well to counteract some of the horror elements too. So far Hotel Del Luna has been surprisingly entertaining and despite the 70 minute run time for each episode, have an awful lot going on to prevent the show from feeling like it’s overlong.
There’s a lot of potential with this one and if Hotel Del Luna can keep it up, we could be looking at one of 2019’s best Korean dramas.