Memories Of The Alhambra
알함브라 궁전의 추억
tvN (2018-19) 16 Episodes
Science Fiction, Melodrama, Romance
Grade: B, K-drama Review by Jill, USA
Warning: Spoilers




Answer: The Most Stupid, Uninspired, Unsatisfying, Disappointing
Ending In The History Of Korean Dramas!!!
Because of this totally stupid ending with no closure for the audience whatsoever this
show dropped from an A to a B (and I'm being generous because of the actors involved)

I should have known better than to be too trusting of the writer of this science fiction drama Memories Of The Alhambra (2018-19), Song Jae Jeong -- for she wrote the disappointing W science fiction K-drama, which I also gave a lukewarm grade to a few years back. She is a very messy writer in my book, her dramas are way too violent for my taste, they go off on nonsensical tangents and lose what should be their main message or moral (and all the best stories have an underlying moral to them), and they leave the audience with unanswered questions at the end which frustrate them; when you are devoting 16 or 20 hours of your life watching a television drama you do NOT want to be left hanging for ANY reason at the end. Most K-dramas do not get sequels, so Korean drama writers must give viewers definite endings, or give up writing altogether because they are not worthy of the craft. Sad or happy endings are fine, but leaving an audience with open endings is anathema to good story telling. Imagine if Charlotte Bronte wrote the end of Jane Eyre so that we had no idea if Jane and Rochester ever got together. Imagine Jane Austen writing the end of Pride and Prejudice and not telling us whether Lizzie and Darcy got together in the end. No one would have remembered their stories, they would have been lost to time due to readers' frustration and disgust.

And will they PLEASE stop using time jumps in the last episodes of dramas? They are so frustrating, such lazy ways of ending K-dramas! "One Year Later" ... "Two Years Later" ... etc. Enough! When these occur the audience is always cheated of necessary information on the characters' growth in the interim. When I see these time jumps in last episodes I immediately lower the grade to any K-drama that uses it as a plot device.

I gave this drama a chance because I've loved its two main stars for years, Hyun Bin (Secret Garden, The Snow Queen, Hyde Jekyll and I) and Park Shin Hye (Tree Of Heaven, Flower Boys Next Door, You're Beautiful). It started off interesting, the two actors surprised me by having some decent chemistry together, especially for the first seven or so episodes where they filmed on a romantic location in Spain, but then when the action returned to Korea and Seoul the story quickly fell apart and became dull: it shoved constant senseless violence in our faces, and the violence was always of the same kind - two characters trying to kill each other in a virtual world of constant torturous pain. It was redundant and so boring I kept finding myself fast forwarding through all the violent scenes because they were so tiresome to watch. You'd hear THAT PIECE, the guitar piece Memories of the Alhambra, and suddenly there would be the killer again. Since he was supposed to be dead HE SHOULD HAVE REMAINED DEAD, NEVER SEEN AGAIN! (But then there would have been no story). Aigoo!

The Basic Story:

After receiving sudden, strange emails and a desperate telephone call from a young game inventor named Jung Se Ju (Park Chanyeol, Roommate, EXO Next Door), regarding a groundbreaking AR game centered around medieval battles taking place in Spain, Yoo Jin Woo (Hyun Bin), CEO of an investment company that specializes in making contact lenses which allow people to see into a virtual world, travels to Granada, Spain to meet this young creator of the video game. Jin Woo desperately wants to buy the rights to the developed software from the young genius game inventor before any other similar company can get to him.

The Young Inventor Se Ju (Chanyeol)

However, Se Ju has gone missing (and the audience is led to believe he has been shot on a train by someone chasing him, even though his fellow passenger in the next bed stays asleep through the noise of the gun!), and while in Granada, Jin Woo meets his older sister Jung Hee Joo (Park Shin Hye), owner of the run down hostel he stays in. At first Jin Woo is not aware of the personal connection between them, and he ends up insulting the hard working Hee Joo, telling her that the hostel is an embarrassing place to stay because everything is so run down, even the electrical wires and bathrooms. She counters by saying she told him when she first met him about the condition of the hostel and that someone of his obvious wealth should go stay at a fancy hotel instead, but since Se Ju had specifically mentioned he stayed at this hostel in the past Jin Woo is determined to stay there in the hopes of meeting him.

Once Jin Woo discovers that they are brother and sister he really wants to take advantage of that connection and starts being nice to Hee Joo instead, even offering to buy the place from her so she and her family could return to Korea if they wanted to; Hee Joo decides to take his generous offer and they seem to become closer, though Hee Joo still remains in the dark for quite some time about what Jin Woo's real intentions are regarding her family, and more specifically her genius younger brother.

While in Granada Jin Woo ends up experiencing the experimental prototype of the game first hand by wearing the special contact lenses his company has invested in: people start attacking him who look like medieval warriors, and he has to fight back with magical swords to destroy his enemies. It begins to be addictive to Jin Woo to enter this world, almost to the point where he begins to lose his grip on reality: the border between the real world and the medieval AR world built by the missing Se Ju begins to blur for Jin Woo, and he even ends up hospitalized after going off the deep end by killing his surrogate "brother" while both are in the virtual world of the game, a man named Cha Hyung Seok (Park Hoon), who had been his main rival in business and love as well. Hyung Seok had even gone after Jin Woo's first wife Lee Soo Jin (Lee Si Won) and impregnated her, which of course had resulted in their divorce. Hyung Seok's dead body is found on a park bench and because there is no sign medically about what killed him Jin Woo is never charged with murder, although the police seem to want to keep a close eye on him as a possible suspect.

Apparently distraught at being killed by Jin Woo, Hyung Seok's ghost keeps reappearing suddenly and trying to kill Jin Woo in their new shared virtual world; over and over and over again Hyung Seok wields his sword and other weapons toward Jin Woo, and every time it happens Jin Woo seems to go more and more insane fighting him off. Meanwhile, Hee Joo starts falling in love with Jin Woo against her better judgment. She is just too compassionate for her own good. She can see he needs someone to care about him, to try and save him from himself. Jin Woo keeps warning her he is not a nice person, but Hee Joo brushes his assertions off.

Even when his SECOND wife shows up at the hospital, a popular actress who is flighty and selfish and who is divorcing him, Hee Joo continues to protect Jin Woo and direct the silly woman away from him. Jin Woo has enough on his plate mentally to deal with two ex-wives and their tantrums effectively. Also in the wings, with dubious intentions toward Jin Woo, is the father of the dead Hyung Seok,
Cha Byung Jun (Kim Eui Sung) who outwardly shows compassion to his son's killer, but who is in reality trying to kill him too in a secret revenge plot.

In a virtual world you never know what to expect:
even an eagle can become an enemy, or friend

Jin Woo and Hee Joo eventually end up back in Korea, and lo and behold, her game inventor brother finally shows up! Turns out he was never killed, we were just seeing a virtual world occurring on that train as well. By this time I was seriously becoming jaded and bored with this drama. Little made sense anymore, just like the drama W became fractured and boring, and Jin Woo should have simply turned away from that virtual technology altogether and attained a normal life with the woman who loved him. However we are never quite sure whether Jin Woo actually loves Hee Joo or not; he seems more enamored of a strange female vision who looks just like her, named Emma, who appears before him playing the classical guitar, and of course it's the same piece that always starts up when Hyung Seok's virtual ghost re-appears ready to kill him, again, and again, and again. She ends up stabbing Jin Woo in a church (!) and now he is stuck in the virtual world just like Hyung Seok. Will he ever be able to get out?

Well, don't stay tuned, because the writer of this drama leaves it open with the last frozen frame of the drama, shown at the top of this page: Jin Woo's dark shadow and no Hee Joo in sight. Ugh! It wouldn't have been as horrible an ending if they had shown Park Shin Hye's character at least approaching Jin Woo's character, seeing him in his virtual world, with the intent to rescue him from it, if possible, but they don't even do that! Ridiculous. Who knows if there will ever be a sequel? The writer should have given us a definite ending, and should have made it clear to the audience that too much of a reliance on video games can be unhealthy to people who immerse themselves in it. There was no moral message like that, just continuous gratuitous violence made to look cool and even sexy, until it took over the whole show. I would never bother re-watching this, even though I love the actors. There's only so much bad writing I can take.