Episode 1 | Review Score = 4/5
Episode 2 | Review Score = 3.5/5
Episode 3 | Review Score = 3.5/5
Episode 4 | Review Score = 4.5/5
Episode 5 | Review Score = 3/5
Episode 6 | Review Score = 3.5/5
Episode 7 | Review Score = 4/5
Episode 8 | Review Score = 4/5
Episode 9 | Review Score = 4/5
Episode 10 | Review Score = 3.5/5
Episode 11 | Review Score = 4/5
Episode 12 | Review Score = 4/5
Episode 13 | Review Score = 3.5/5
Episode 14 | Review Score = 3.5/5
Episode 15 | Review Score = 3.5/5
Episode 16 | Review Score = 2.5/5
To read a more comprehensive breakdown of the series, have a read of our impressions for each episode by clicking the episode names above
Split across 16 episodes, Memories Of The Alhambra is a well written, highly engrossing sci-fi drama, full of romance, mystery and action. Despite an overuse of flashbacks and a slow pace hanging over early parts of the series, this Korean drama is quite the rollercoaster ride and one well worth experiencing. Although it finishes on a bit of a controversial note, with many questions left unresolved and a lacklustre finale for our pair of protagonists, for the most part Memories keeps you engrossed and hooked from start to finish.
This 16 hour story has its ups and downs, with a narrative split across two time periods and two geographical locations. The first half of the show is set predominantly in the sun-soaked locale of Granada in Spain before switching to the bustling metropolis of Seoul a year later. The premise revolves around a new game being tested by the CEO of J-One Holdings, Jin Woo; an augmented reality game that changes everything around you and is on the verge of taking the world by storm. Unfortunately for Jin Woo, his ex business partner Hyung-Seok is desperate to get his hands on the game too and travels to Granada to confront him about it. A tragic accident follows which causes an unimaginable nightmare as the game glitches and Jin Woo winds up stalked by a familiar face after death.
While the first half deals with Jin Woo’s inner demons and dealing with this newfound nightmare, the second half of the show jumps forward an entire year and changes the location to Korea following a climactic mid-season set of episodes. From here, the pacing does improve somewhat and the show jumps between Korea and Granada as the plot reaches its climax. Most of this revolves around Jin Woo leveling up in the game and completing a special mission in-game that promises to answer crucial questions around the lore of the game and the biggest mystery of the show. To be fair, some of these questions are answered but there’s so much left unresolved that it does sour the experience somewhat knowing this.
The main crux of the show anchors around one of the game’s founders, Se-Ju. We first see this man during the opening scenes of the first episode running away in fear from something. What ensues is a mystery that’s kept under wraps for most of the series until the final few episodes where it’s revealed what happened to this man and whether he survived or not.
These two stories are interwoven with a somewhat contrived romance that forms between Se-Ju’s sister Hee-Joo and Jin Woo himself. While the plot itself is engrossing and keeps you watching through to the end, the characterisation between the two result in a somewhat toxic and underwhelming romance blossoming. Hee-Joo begins as an independent, strong woman but by the end her reliance and dependence on Jin Woo sets her character back on a really weak and underwhelming path. It doesn’t help that her character is never given the final hurrah she deserves, with no real resolution given to the romance or Hee-Joo’s struggles.
Still, the rest of the characters do have some really well crafted stories that help show off some competently written arcs. Professor Cha in particular has a wonderfully written journey, beginning as a concerned father through to a vengeful, cold board member at J One before eventually showing realization at the gravitas of the situation he finds himself in. The way his character bows out in the penultimate episode of the show perfectly caps this off.
Along with Professor Cha, Jin Woo’s character arc shows signs of good development over the course of 16 episodes too. Beginning as a selfish, self-centred man, his gradual journey into becoming more accepting and accommodating of others, through the course of showing us his past relationships, is well-paced and for the most part, believable. Again, all of this would be fine but for that final episode that undermines the great work done over the weeks.
Aesthetically, the augmented reality segments are really nicely worked into the story, with plenty of point of view shots to show the interface and individual elements of the game. Along with this, the musical score is poignant, well written and suitably epic, with a different theme used for each type of emotion, helping to capture the mood of each moment. I’ll never be able to hear Memories Of The Alhambra again without feeling a profound sense of anxiety. A lot of that is thanks to the excellent work done in keeping the score consistently on point with what’s happening on-screen.
At a run time of a little over 16 hours, Memories Of The Alhambra is quite the time investment. While there are segments of the show that feel unnecessarily slow and an abundance of flashbacks overwhelms the narrative at times, Memories Of The Alhambra is a well written, enjoyable slice of Korean drama. It’s mysterious, exciting and oftentimes shocking, a show that blends its mystery with elements of romance, action and drama in a compelling and engrossing manner. While the ending does leave a lot to be desired, up until that point Memories Of The Alhambra does a wonderful job building a consistent mystery and keeping things unpredictable. When the dust settles though it’s going to be the finale that everyone remembers and as a cruel twist of fate, it just so happens to be the worst episode of the series. With a better ending for our main characters things could be so different but what we’re dealt with is an underwhelming experience that could have been so much more.