Flash Review: Memories Of The Alhambra

So, funny story, you guys.

I was late to the party, and started my watch of this show when everyone else was well into Show’s middle stretch. I struggled enough with Hyun Bin’s character in this show’s first two episodes, that I was legit on the brink of dropping this show. And then, Show ended, and there was such a heated furore among viewers for Show’s reportedly terrible-horrible-couldn’t-be-worse-let’s-boycott-this-writer-forever ending, that I was so sure that I had dodged a bullet.

But then, I saw a couple of tweets by viewers who actually felt satisfied with Show’s ending. Well, now. That sure got my attention. If you’ve been around the blog for a while, you might know that I’ve been known to, on at least several occasions in the past, buck general audience trends by feeling completely differently about certain shows versus the majority of viewers. It was like that when I started the blog in 2012 (my first ever post was for Operation Proposal, which I really liked – and which most people hated), and it was like that recently too, when I’d been very solidly satisfied with the ending of The Third Charm – which most people also hated.

So this curious cat (with a reasonable amount of FOMO) decided to do an experiment. Instead of dropping the show, I adjusted my viewing lens using all the fragments of information I had, and jumped in for a marathon. The big question I wanted to put to the test was: With the right expectations and the right lens adjustment, would this show – could this show – actually turn out to be, well, good?


Here’s the OST album in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.


Here, in a nutshell, are the expectations that I adjusted for, for my experiment. Some are somewhat spoilery, but in this case, I feel that being spoiled a little bit actually helped me adjust my viewing lens better, for my watch.

1. This is an adventure-quest type story about one man’s journey. This is Jin Woo’s (Hyun Bin) story, and every other character is secondary.

2. Our male lead isn’t supposed to be nice. I was so thrown at first, by how abrasive Jin Woo comes across in Show’s initial episodes, but once I got it into my head that he wasn’t supposed to be nice, that helped a lot.

3. The romance is secondary. They really should’ve taken that into account with the teasers, which hint at romance more than it does adventure.

4. Park Shin Hye’s role is secondary. They really, really should have made this clear, so that everyone wouldn’t have been waiting for Park Shin Hye’s character to step up and have more to do. She was never intended to be front-and-center, unfortunately.

5. Park Shin Hye cries a lot in this. To Show’s credit, at least the tears make narrative sense. It would’ve been nice if Hee Joo (Park Shin Hye) had been written as more of a badass, but she’s wasn’t, so we just have to make the best of that.

6. The ending is an open one. Yes, that’s a little bit spoilery, but this helped me temper my expectations a great deal, as I neared the finale.

In a nutshell, these adjusted expectations did help significantly, and I ended up enjoying this show more than I’d expected to. Yes, this narrative still had its problems, but compared to writer-nim’s previous work W-Two Worlds, I thought the intra-fantasy logic held up much better in this show.

Also, since this story was always going to be the journey of one man, with everyone else being a secondary character supporting his journey, then it was probably the wrong move to cast Park Shin Hye, because of the expectations that creates in the audience. If they’d cast a lesser known actress – a relative unknown, or an up-and-comer – and then focused the marketing only on Hyun Bin, that could’ve gone a long way in terms of managing expectations, I feel.


1. A fresh and interesting premise

For all of Show’s patchy reputation, it is definitely different. Because of its Augmented Reality (AR) premise, it’s really out-there, in terms of what you can expect to see on your screen. Warriors wearing full armor, riding horses, flying down from tall poles with big swords, trying to kill you? You’d never see that in any other contemporary kdrama, for sure. So in a sense, this is futuristic, but also, because of the swords and fighting, it also has a bit of a period tinge to it too.

Show’s entire AR-gone-rogue concept reminds me of the Chinese phrase “走火入魔” (pronounced zǒuhuǒ rùmó) which is a phrase that can be used to describe the act of, or someone getting too deep into something and becoming obsessed and kind of.. losing themselves. Literally, the phrase translates as “walk fire enter magic/devil,” like, you walk into fire and get possessed by a demon. I find it very apt here. Jin Woo gets so deep into the game that he’s losing himself to it, against his will. Plus, 魔, as I mentioned, can be translated as magic or demon, and Jin Woo keeps referring to the whole game as “magic.” This whole 走火入魔 concept being taken literally, and being taken to the next level, intrigued me.

I also appreciate that because of Show’s daring premise, Show is more difficult and expensive to film than the average drama. This is especially so with the scenes when Jin Woo is in the game-world and it’s raining, and then we flash to what everything looks like to everyone else, where it’s not raining. It happens multiple times, and I can imagine how much longer it takes to finish those scenes coz they have to film the rain and non-rain versions.

All in all, the meticulous care pre-, post- and during production really shows, and Show presents its futuristic, period-tinged, hi-tech AR world consistently. Yes, there are some logic lapses, but we’ll talk about those later.

2. Hyun Bin as Jin Woo

Like I mentioned earlier in this review, I was initially very put off by Hyun Bin’s character Jin Woo. Adjusting my lens to accept that this was a quest story that just happened to feature a less-than-likable protagonist made it a lot better. Also, happily, Show unveils some of Jin Woo’s more appealing layers, in later episodes.

Hyun Bin does an excellent job of the role, and there were some scenes where I found myself with my jaw dropping in awe. Big kudos. Yes, the spotlight was heavily in Hyun Bin’s favor, but that’s not his fault, and he took what was given to him, and rose to the occasion impressively.


Times I really felt rubbed the wrong way by Jin Woo

E1. I find Jin Woo’s lack of empathy and manners to Hee Joo a bit much. He’s the one who insisted on staying at the hostel, so he’s the one who basically barged into her world and started finding fault with the place and lashing out at her for it, when she’d offered, multiple times, to direct him to a nicer hotel. So abrasive and unpleasant.

E2. Not only does he treat people badly, now he’s lying about it, after he’s found out that Hee Joo is important to his plans? UGH.

E2. Jin Woo is so unnecessarily nasty to his secretary, telling him that regardless of race or culture, a face like his has never been considered handsome. That’s mean. Also, he was actually in a hurry to get to the train station, yet he lingered in order to insult his secretary. That makes it even worse, coz it tells me what’s important to him, and it’s important enough for him to delay his departure to the train station, that he inform his secretary exactly how ugly he thinks he is.

E3. I dislike how Jin Woo is purposefully working to manipulate Hee Joo into selling the hostel to him. He’s basically tricking her into losing the patent that her brother registered for his game, and he’s doing it deliberately. Not cool.

Times when I found Jin Woo more appealing

E4. I’ll give Jin Woo some credit for paying the same price for the hostel, that Cha Hyeong Seok (Park Hoon) was offering Se Joo (Chanyeol). Although, he had used the amount to pressure Hee Joo, with the dropping offer price. That wasn’t cool.

E12. Well that’s the nicest thing I’ve seen Jin Woo do; go to keep Min Joo (Lee Re) company because he knew that she was scared on her own, and then make toast for her so that she wouldn’t go to school hungry. Aw.

E12. That’s smart of Jin Woo, to dare Professor Cha (Kim Eui Sung) to log in and form an alliance with him. Since Professor Cha is so convinced that Jin Woo is crazy and that he himself is right, it would look stupid for him not to perform the task, which is so simple and straightforward.

E12. I must also say, Jin Woo’s not a bad person. As frustratingly insensitive as he can be, he doesn’t take life and death lightly. Even though Professor Cha’s working to take him down to the lowest low, he still hesitates to form the in-game alliance with Professor Cha, because it would put Professor Cha’s life at risk. That’s really decent of him.

Times when I was just really impressed with Hyun Bin

E7. Seriously. Hyun Bin has serious dedication, to walk most of the show with a walking stick and a limp. I actually worry about his muscle imbalances.

E15. OMG. I thought Hyun Bin’s death-by-suffocating-in-an-elevator scene in Secret Garden was impressive, but his death-by-dislodging-a-weapon-to-the-heart is even more impressive. I felt like he was going to literally collapse from the effort and the pain. Eep.

Also. As a general rule, once Jin Woo gets more skilled at the game, Hyun Bin gets to be pretty darn badass, wielding swords, guns and other weaponry with panache. I was suitably impressed.


3. Min Jin Woong as Secretary Seo

OMG I just loved Min Jin Woong as Secretary Seo. He started out as an almost peripheral character, simply taking orders from Jin Woo and running errands and being a little bit klutzy and goofy about it all. But my word, did he grow on me, and I am left with a big, gaping Secretary Seo-shaped hole in my heart, as I finish my watch.

There’s just something so good-hearted, trusting and loyal about him. Jin Woo can be mean to him, but he still smiles a goofy smile, even while there’s a flash of sadness in his eyes. My heart just started going out to him, then latched on and didn’t want to let go.


One of the things I really like about Secretary Seo is that he really seems to care, genuinely. Even after all that Jin Woo puts him through, with insults and other abuse, Secretary Seo sincerely worries for Jin Woo when Jin Woo gets seriously hurt, and even sheds tears and worries whether Jin Woo will survive in America. Plus, he sticks with Jin Woo even when Jin Woo tells him to just resign and leave.

Later, when Secretary Seo joins the game and becomes Jin Woo’s ally, it occurs to me that he has to do way more than any secretary would need to, what with fighting alongside Jin Woo, and protecting him, and literally risking his life in order to protect his boss. And yet, he does it without complaint, and he seems to genuinely want to protect Jin Woo.

In the end, it’s so tragic that Secretary Seo dies while loyally following Jin Woo to Granada to attempt the quest. Afterwards, it’s even more more heartbreaking, that even in death, he’s Jin Woo’s ally, and shows up to protect him when he’s in danger. OMG. My heart.

I think that out of everything that happened in this drama, I feel the loss of Secretary Seo the most acutely. He had no idea what he was getting into, when he started playing the game, or when he asked Jin Woo to be his ally. At least Hyeong Seok knew he was entering into a duel with Jin Woo – though he didn’t know it was going to be for real. I feel like Secretary Seo was like a faithful puppy who simply believed that he needed to follow his master to the end, not knowing that he would literally meet his end. Sob.

As tragic as Secretary Seo’s final lot is, it’s painfully fitting for him, to be Jin Woo’s guardian angel in the game, just like he was in real life. Poor, sweet, loyal Secretary Seo. <3


Special shout-out: Lee Re as Min Joo

Although Min Joo is quite a minor character, I really liked the happy energy that Lee Re gives her delivery. She really made Min Joo feel like a chirpy middle-schooler, and her sunny presence was always a nice change of pace from Show’s intensity. Also, what a casting coup; Lee Re really does look like she could pass for Park Shin Hye’s younger sister.

Other random highlights

E7. I like the idea of the game being adapted for Korea. Not only is there a bit of callback comedy – this time, it’s the Subway restroom that hides the first sword – but there’s also the cool factor of Joseon warriors to fight.

E7. The whole concept of how a Subway customer gets in-game benefits from buying and eating a sandwich. That’s possibly the best PPL I’ve seen – it pokes fun at the whole concept of PPL and Subway, WHILE ACTUALLY BEING PPL FOR SUBWAY. HAHA. I love it.


1. The fragmented storytelling technique

Show has a way of playing with timelines that does make the watch feel more interesting and less linear. Basically, information is given to us in fragments, and not in a linear fashion. So it’s only later, when enough fragments are given, that certain pieces of information finally come into focus as something whole. I found this approach quite mentally stimulating, and I liked the thrill of stuff coming into focus, from time to time.

For most of Show’s run, I was happy with this approach, and felt that it wasn’t too much, and didn’t mess too heavily with my perception of time. Instead, I found it interesting to see the puzzle pieces fit together, as I saw how each scene fit into the overall timeline.

[SPOILER ALERT] For example, in episode 9, Jin Woo’s theory about what really happened to Se Joo makes a lot of sense, now that we’ve learned a lot more about the game’s inner workings. I like how the fragments that we were given before, now make perfect sense when pieced together with the right lens. [END SPOILER]

However, as the tension mounts in Show’s last stretch, Show also goes a bit hammy with this technique. By episode 15, I felt that the flashbacks were quite excessive, and because the information is presented from more than one person’s point-of-view, sometimes we see variations of the same flashback. This felt rather tiresome – and a little confusing – to watch, to be honest.

Still, I get the kaleidoscopic effect writer-nim was probably going for. With each person’s recollection of events, things shift into focus slightly differently for us as viewers. For the sake of that concept, which is pretty interesting and an effectively intriguing storytelling device (even when overused as it is here), I’ll withhold too much complaint.

2. Park Shin Hye as Hee Joo

I mentioned this earlier in my review as well, but Park Shin Hye was, er, heavily under-utilized in this show.

I think many of us were hoping that Hee Joo would turn out to be a badass female ninja, fighting alongside Jin Woo as he navigated his quest in this game gone rogue. Unfortunately for all of us, that was never writer-nim’s intention. Hee Joo was written as a supporting character, and an often bemused, confused and teary-eyed one, at that.

Even when Hee Joo is allowed to show some steel, Show is swift to soften that steel, to the point of negating it. [SPOILER] For example, in episode 2, Hee Joo finally breaks under the stress of Jin Woo’s verbal abuse, and unleashes a tirade at him, basically calling him out for every single instance of bad behavior he’s shown. But, within the same episode, we see Hee Joo apologizing for what she’d said earlier, when Jin Woo offers to buy the hostel. I dearly wished that she hadn’t apologized, because I agreed with everything that she said, AND, her apology means that she’s basically taking it all back. [END SPOILER] At this moment, I’d felt frustrated with Hee Joo because I wanted her to be stronger and more sure of herself. But this is a writing thing, not an acting thing. Writer-nim could’ve given Hee Joo more steel right off the bat. That would’ve made her – and the dynamic between her and Jin Woo – much more interesting.

Still, I want to give credit where it’s due, and Park Shin Hye did an admirable job with what she was given. In particular, I thought that her delivery of the guitar piece Memories of the Alhambra, and the Spanish dialogue sounded very natural and authentic (not that I’m any expert on either).

Last but not least, I also wanted to say that adjusting my lens to expect Hee Joo’s tears only got me so far. I mean, yes, her tears make sense, but despite getting used to Hee Joo’s tears, and despite understanding that there are valid reasons for her tears, I couldn’t help but look at her at the episode 14 mark and think, “Wow. She cries A LOT.”

What a waste, I say.

3. The loveline between Jin Woo and Hee Joo

I’ll be honest; I never actually felt anything for this loveline. Which might be apt, since this loveline was never Show’s main event anyway.

In the beginning, I was actively opposed to the loveline, and wanted Hee Joo to just run in the opposite direction of Jin Woo. There were so many red flags screaming that this was not a good nor healthy relationship choice.

[SPOILER] In episode 6, her feelings for Jin Woo are clear to see, but I was absolutely not on board with it. Seriously, when you stack it up, she should run from Jin Woo, and fast. Even if we give him a pass (which he completely doesn’t deserve) for the horrible way he treated her when he first met her, and if we discount the deception of how he bought the hostel without giving her full information (because she still doesn’t know about it), there are so many other things she should take as serious signs that he’s bad news. He’s uncommunicative unless it suits him; he treats her like a beck-and-call girl, asking her to leave when it suits him, and making her go everywhere, when he needs her. Not to mention the fact that he’s keeping an emotional distance most of the time (except when he’s drugged or in mortal danger), and therefore sending a whole bunch of mixed signals, blowing hot and mostly cold. Plus, the fact that he would leave without warning. I really didn’t think it was a good idea for Hee Joo to give him her heart, especially since he was actively trying to leave her behind. [END SPOILER]

There’s more unacceptable behavior that Jin Woo shows Hee Joo, but.. I’ll refrain from dwelling on the negatives too much.

I’ll just say that by the episode 11 mark, I found that I wasn’t as opposed to the loveline as before. I wasn’t really into it, and I do think that this story could possibly be just fine – maybe even better – without the development of the loveline, but at the same time, I found that I could finally believe why these two people would fall for each other. [SPOILER] I could rationalize that Hee Joo’s grown attached to Jin Woo from early on, and cares even more about him now that she knows that he literally risked his life to find her brother. And I could also rationalize that Jin Woo, who’s already expressed before how grateful he was for Hee Joo who cared for him and cried for him with pure intentions and a pure heart, would choose to cling to her, now that she’s the only one left who is willing to stay by his side. In this way, the kiss and the moving forward of the loveline made sense to me in a narrative manner. [END SPOILER]

One of my main beefs with this relationship, once it was cemented, was that Jin Woo remains highly uncommunicative with Hee Joo about important things.

[SPOILER] For example, he doesn’t tell her the details about how the game is invading his life, nor prepare her for sudden erratic behavior for when the game logs him in against his will and starts throwing enemies at him that put his life in actual danger. I mean, I get that he’s got a lot on his mind, but if he trusts Hee Joo the way he says he does, and trusts that she believes him no matter what, then he needs to tell her things, so that she can actually help him rather than get in his way, when things go crazy. [END SPOILER]

Because of these reasons, the importance of this relationship to both Jin Woo and Hee Joo remained a cerebral understanding for me; I never actually felt this connection with my heart, which is why I’ve parked this loveline in the neutral zone.


1. Show’s general treatment of women

As a general rule, women don’t get treated all too well in this drama world. Our female lead is relegated to a supporting role with not much more to do besides cry, and Jin Woo’s ex-wives are painted in broad caricature-like strokes. Yu Ra (Han Bo Reum) is made out to be an awful piece of treacherous work, while Su Jin (Lee Si Won) is regularly verbally abused by her father-in-law.

[SPOILER] I must say, I was surprised to see Su Jin in a doctor’s coat in a middle-ish episode. The way she’s treated by her father-in-law, and the way she’s almost always on the brink of tears, and the way she was miserably torn between two men, I’d placed her as a stay-at-home wife and mom, rather than a professional at work who is respected.

The moment Hyeong Seok had outed their relationship to Jin Woo out of spite, completely ignoring her feelings and her request to step back from the relationship for a while, Su Jin should’ve broken up with him and walked away. Instead, we see that she ends up marrying him, and then getting treated suspiciously by her husband, and coldly and cruelly, by her father-in-law. Her life is so miserable, that I wasn’t even surprised, when she attempted suicide towards the end. [END SPOILER]

During my watch, it continually surprised me, that this show was written by a woman, because the women in this show just aren’t treated right, and it’s this drama world’s norm. I don’t get that.

2. The lack of visibility into key characters’ emotions

During my watch, I realized that while I found the main narrative interesting and twisty, I didn’t find myself really connecting emotionally with our key characters. I’d felt this way with a number of works by this writer as well, namely W-Two Worlds, and Nine.

I think a big contributing factor, is a lack of visibility into key characters’ emotions. Importantly, I feel that we should have had more insight into how Jin Woo felt. The regular voiceovers where Jin Woo narrates the story is largely limited to simply telling us what happened, and occasionally, what he thought. But we rarely ever got a glimpse into how he felt, and I feel like that’s a big reason why I found myself feeling quite distant from him, even though he’s our protagonist.

To Show’s credit, there were some occasions where I felt more connected to Jin Woo than average, and that’s better than my experience with both W-Two Worlds and Nine.

[SPOILER] For example, I felt like I should feel more for Jin Woo being abandoned by Professor Cha and the company, but it all registered for me mostly at a mental level. I did feel my heart pinch in episode 11 though, when Jin Woo mourns Secretary Seo, as he looks upon his body, and as he thinks upon all the times that Secretary Seo showed his loyalty and earnestness. Sniffle.

The moment that stands out the most, for me, is in episode 14, in the church, where Jin Woo wearily hopes in voiceover that this really will be the end, with tears glistening in his eyes. This is the first proper true moment in the show, that my heart goes out to him. He’d been rather sympathetic before, with the game closing in on him, and him desperately working to survive it. But this time, maybe because he was a little more vulnerable, I really felt for him. [END SPOILER]

3. Kim Eui Sung as Professor Cha

Credit to Kim Eui Sung, I really disliked him as Professor Cha.

I was intrigued by Professor Cha pretty early on, from the episode 6 mark. He looked like a legit villain, and the way he spoke to his daughter-in-law was quietly menacing, almost.

[SPOILER] Turns out that Professor Cha is truly despicable. In episode 15, we see that he’d set a trap for Jin Woo even before heading to the hotel, and then activated that trap, with the hope that Jin Woo would die fighting the NPCs, while he himself hid in the toilet. Cowardly scum. I have to say, I didn’t feel at all sorry for him, that his own trap – which basically triggered Hyeong Seok’s appearance – brought about his own death, and by the image of his son, no less. He got what he deserved, I say. [END SPOILER]


Taking away questions that are answered by Show’s fragmented style of storytelling, and inconsistencies that are likely due to meaning being lost in translation, there are still some things that remain unclear to me, now that I’ve finished my watch. Here’s them, for the record:

E2. Question: how is Hyeong Seok able to play the game if the smart lenses are by Jin Woo’s company?

E9. Since when do all injuries by NPCs result in actual injury and death? I thought that only applied to the duel between players? Or maybe the game just keeps getting glitchier.

E10. What does it mean that Jin Woo now doesn’t need his walking stick, during the quest? Is he already being sucked into the game, in part? Or is it a convenient thing, for the plot, because we need Jin Woo to be able-bodied for the quest?

E12. How weird, that after the police stop the car, it’s Hee Joo who ends up speaking with them, instead of Jin Woo, even though Jin Woo was the driver?

E13. If you have to be at least Level 5 to talk to Emma, which we learn early on when Jin Woo first attempts to speak with Emma while he’s Level 4, how is Hee Joo talking to her, since she’s clearly only Level 1?

E16. How is Hee Joo able to see the bug powder remains and the game reset information when she enters the church? Are we supposed to believe that these people just wear the game lenses all the time now?


So.. I don’t hate the ending, even though for a while there, I was kinda mad at Show.

First of all, I was mad that Jin Woo didn’t tell Hee Joo he was at her house, even though he knew that she was waiting for him. Maybe I wouldn’t be as mad if I’d had any access to Jin Woo’s thoughts about why he chose not to see Hee Joo, even though he’d said that he really wanted to, and even though he knew that she was right there, anxiously waiting for him.

Second, I was REALLY mad when Jin Woo headed back to the church, pretty much to offer himself up as a sacrifice. My thoughts about that were literally, “If he thinks that sacrificing himself will save the company and its employees, I hope he realizes that there is no guarantee. This game has gone so rogue, so hard, that it’s taken several lives. Who’s to say that after righting it this time, that it won’t go rogue again? Hello?”

I was a little less mad when I saw that he erased other bugs first, even though I had to rationalize that he was able to take over Emma’s job of deleting bugs because he’d been made the new game Master (coz otherwise all we know is that it’s Emma’s job to delete bugs). It made no sense that Professor Cha would appear as Jin Woo’s ally because according to in-game rules, these dead allies appear only when Jin Woo’s in mortal danger, and he wasn’t in mortal danger when Professor Cha (with no weapons to speak of) appeared.

ANYWAY. The moment that really gets me this episode, is when Jin Woo (it took me 16 friggin’ episodes to finally realize that Zinu is a play on Jin Woo’s name. D’oh!) deletes Secretary Seo. Augh. Even though I know that Bug 3 isn’t really Secretary Seo in the flesh, it’s still heartbreaking to see him destroyed. Jin Woo’s tears and his desperate hug, as the image of Secretary Seo shatters and dissolves, made my heart bleed a little.

My biggest issue with the entire (rather fragmented, rather slow-moving) finale is the big question of why Jin Woo’s considered a bug. There is literally nothing in the rest of the show that backs this up. He’s not a NPC created in the image of a dead person, likes Bugs 1, 2 and 3. He’s a player, just like Se Joo the previous Master was – and Se Joo isn’t considered a bug. Show gives no explanation whatsoever for this, so we’re forced to assume that this is just part of Rogue Game’s evolving insanity (or writer-nim’s evolving insanity, if you’re REALLY mad at Show’s ending, heh).

My guess is that writer-nim basically wanted an ending where Jin Woo would be a shadow of the night within the game world, probably mostly for the cool factor, and also, for the open ending it would give us, pointing to more possible adventures for our characters, and a possible second season. So she decided to make him a bug, in order to get him out of one dimension and into the next (or in this case, the Next, hur).

To Show’s credit, at least this reappearance of Jin Woo as a shadow player is given some form of explanation, with Se Joo talking about how a Master would likely be able to create an instance dungeon in which he’d be able to hide. That’s more than other shows with similar “post-death re-appearance” endings tend to give us, so it’s at least something.

Personally, I choose to believe that Jin Woo’s alive and well in that other dimension, and will one day be released from his instance dungeon by some other high-level player, and finally reunited with the people he cares for and who care for him. Hopefully that day will be soon in the coming, since there are clearly hordes of passionate players now that Next has been officially launched.

In the meantime, may Zinu continue to be the best dragon-slayer there is.


Daring & different. The internal logic gets a little shaky, but Show’s not a bad ride – given the right (slightly blurry) lens.




103 thoughts on “Flash Review: Memories Of The Alhambra


    Just binge-watching this series last weekend with my sis and I just have to say we are both very impressed by the series (the direction! the editing! the cinematography! those AR effects! sound effects!) and Hyun Bin’s performance (neither of us is his fan and we started with super low expectations).

    And I just have to say this series is really a ‘tech-noir” in disguise. I haven’t watch a lot of series (well, because I am damn picky viewer with a preference for vintage cinema) and to be fair it does not even feel right to compare this with other dramas. However, it’s certainly one of the best I have seen so far. Best character development/growth ever; Yoo Jin Woo has to undergo at least three ‘transformations’ throughout the show. The nonlinear narrative is another astounding and brave choice for such a highly anticipated drama – something reminiscent of Memento. Without a meticulous and capable director (along with cinematographer and editor), this series would definitely fail into pieces due to its ambitious themes.

    I agree with some of the users on here. Open (hopeful) ending is the best option. 8/10

  2. Rama

    I find it very difficult to hate or even dislike a show, no matter what level of bad it’s on, it’s always passable and can suit the right audience and similarly, I tend to enjoy the shows many people dislike, for one, I did enjoy W – loved the actors, fell for the romance and at one point, I just remember something made sense to me and I was left satisfied at the end. But this show, my god, THIS show – worst run of my life!

    Hyun Bin – Amazing – killer dimples, wonderful acting. Park Shin Hye – Adorable, too much crying, too weak, but I did feel for her many times. HOWEVER, can we talk about how the show was just a deep dive into pessimism right after episode 5?

    I have never watched a show that went downhill so fast and kept rolling – shows usually have ups and downs, but starting from episode 6, it was like all hell broke loose and rained on Hyun Bin’s character and then he dies… like what!?

    Now, the ending is a whole other issue. What are the bugs? How did they develop? How does the game kill human beings? WHY does it kill human beings? WHY do their characters show up after death? and How in hell is Hyun Bin a bug when he hasn’t been killed? and again, HOW & WHAT ARE THE BUGS!? Biggest plot hole of any show. Even sad endings leave some sort of satisfaction, this just left me cold and disappointed.

    The show had SO MUCH potential, so much foreshadowing and magic going for it and this is what they came up with smh. I had high expectations from the trailer, which apparently had nothing to do with the show itself, but even after accepting that this show was not going to live up to my expectations, the ending just ruined it all.

    Oh, and let’s mention how Chanyeol is found and tells everyone he has no clue how the bug formed! S M H!!!!!!!! Also, that “open ending”? Hyun Bin’s silhouette glitched, he was turned into pixel fairy dust, the guy’s dead, that wraps that up. Had his dust not been found or had his silhouette not glitched — I’d call that open.

    All in all…..disappointment and truly, the good reviews confound me. I’ll take a death if it’s justified, I’ll take a game turned bug if it’s explained, but when NOTHING has been given even in the end… what am I left with as a viewer?

    1. agent155

      @Rama: This show has evoked widely different feelings. You hate it while I think it’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and which I rank up there with the very best, eg Healer, CLOY, Stranger et al. I think it helps to have played adventure games to enjoy the show.

      On the question of bugs, I think they are created when real life enemies “kill” each other in the game, both the killer and the victim become bugs, the victim actually dies, body is found, and becomes a NPC in the game while the “killer” can now be killed in the game. The distinction between the game and real life blurs and disappears. NPCs are “killed” in the game over and over and they regenerate the next time you start up which is standard with these games. In this sense, NPCs are immortal within the game and can only be “freed” if the bugs are eliminated which is what Jin-woo does at the end.

      This bug seems to have been created when “Emma” in the game sees Marco stab Se-joo for real in the cafe, which is supposed to be a violence free zone, the implication here is that Emma perceives that real life emotions, hatred, can be treated as real within the game and acts between enemies in the game thus have real life consequences. The game cannot be released with these bugs since actual enemies in real life may encounter each other in the game which would lead to a number of real life murders, for both the victim who is now actually dead and even for the “killer” since he is now prey for all NPCs in the game.

      The ending is open-ended and I’ve commented on it below so I won’t repeat my thoughts.

      There are inconsistencies in the show (what 16+ episode Kdrama doesn’t), but I consider them to be marginal and not really impacting the show which I found to be engrossing, tension laden and very well done.

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  4. Ryan B

    Worst. Ending. Ever. For any television show or Movie I have ever watched in my lifetime. Awful!
    Overall, a semi-entertaining drama more unique than all of the previous ones I’ve watched. Always love Hyun-Bin and is acting. I wish they would’ve developed the romance further. Why even have it in the story if there’s no culmination at the end??? Loved Park Shin Hye’s character as well, but they didn’t utilize her enough. Overall, the most meh Kdrama I’ve seen so far.

    1. beezrtp

      @Ryan B – while I agree on Memories of Alahambra, let me prepare you – if you’re going to remain in Kdramaland with us, you’ll find that you need to expect crappy, lousy endings even in shows that were amazing right up until the last episode. This was difficult for me to accept at first until I thought about most American tv shows go out with a whimper. Don’t look at Kdramas as you would a movie, expecting it to rate it based on how it satisfied you in the end. I’ve learned that the journey of the show is what I enjoy and if they stick the landing so to speak (most often they don’t), that’s a bonus and I’m thrilled.

      1. Geo

        @Ryan, @ Beezrtp
        I have a different take on the show and the ending, it’s interesting how individuals differ, guess that’s what makes life interesting. I loved the show and was surprised a bit at the ending (was prepared for an ambiguous ending from KFG’s introductory comments; I try not to read the full review until I’ve viewed the show) but was not disappointed and as I thought a bit more about it, I figured that was probably the most intriguing way to end that show. Other options I thought about:

        1. YJW dying as a bug (body found) so the game could be sold commercially; the question would be how would he have died given his level in the game and after he has eliminated the other bugs? Killed by NPCs, that’s kind of lame and wouldn’t fit with how the bugs are resolved as he would still be in the game like his secretary, Dr. Cha and his father were after they were killed. Or killed by Emma though one would wonder how she would have done so the second time after not succeeding previously.
        2. YJW surviving and returning to Hee-Joo but the Zinu bug would still exist in the game and therefore it can’t be released. He has killed a real life enemy in the game which contaminates the game for any future players in similar situations. How many players would channel their dislike for another into a battle in the game…I think lots, with serious consequences according to the show.
        3. Also, If YJW escapes the game at the end, why couldn’t Se-Joo do so at the beginning when he was already a master? This would be inconsistent.

        To some extent, the ambiguous ending avoids these issues and keeps the hero alive for a sequel? Or keeps the controversy going about the show? There’s no such thing as bad publicity, as most PR agents say, it’s only bad when there’s no publicity.

        On the romance issue, I think it’s difficult to work it in as a major component of the show unless Park Shin Hye is a player which adds another level of complications. Most adventure games are played by males so it’s not unusual the show focuses on YJW.

        At the end of the day, whether fans like or dislike the ending, the director and writer have gotten what they want , fan interest and discussion.

  5. Geo

    Hi KFG: I’m totally impressed by Memories of the Alhambra (MOTA), I would rate this as high as CLOY though for different reasons. This show grabbed me from the beginning and didn’t relax its iron grip until the ambiguous end. It’s a fantasy and once you can immerse yourself in the basic thematic construct, the suspenseful storyline overcomes the few inconsistencies I thought I perceived (I may well be mistaken). I think it helps to appreciate MOTA if you’ve played Adventure (Dungeons and Dragons) type games.

    The writer and director deserve all the praise for this show, its originality and creativity. The concept is intriguing – an augmented reality game merging and blending into reality so that participants have difficulty distinguishing the two. The development of the concept into a plausible storyline that stretches over 16 hours and holds your attention is a remarkable achievement.

    I was surprised the writer is female since two of the main female characters, Su-Jin and Yu-Ra, are not presented in a flattering light. One is indecisive and leaves her husband for his best friend and the other is an attractive but venal, grasping, empty-headed celebrity/actress type. There wasn’t a lot of fillers in this show but I don’t think the Yu-Ra character added much, maybe to help explain the hero’s situation and mindset as she’s his 2nd wife who he’s in the middle of divorcing?

    This show focuses on the hero’s odyssey but I think that’s in keeping with the plot which revolves around an adventure type video game which is overwhelmingly played by males. Like most adventure type games, the hero embarks on a series of increasingly difficult quests until he ultimately conquers the game. Hyun Bin (HB) as Yu Jin-Woo (YJW) surpasses his performance in CLOY here, looking equally at home in the dramatic and action scenes. He plays the arrogant CEO, redeemed by the love of the heroine, played by Park Shin-Ye (PSY); it’s a not uncommon theme though not fully developed here, I don’t think. I was impressed by PSY though I note your comment that the role wasn’t substantial enough for an actress of her caliber but having no exposure to her or even aware of her record, I thought she was excellent.

    PSY’s look as the guitar playing Emma as she raises her head to look at YJW’s greeting is something to marvel at. That brief moment resonated deeply with me.

    Other brief comments:
    1. I see the ending has sparked a fair degree of controversy, my take on it is YJW survives since his body isn’t found like the others who died in the game and gamers at the end talk excitedly about a super user with a pistol and wonder how he could have gotten to that level with the game just out after being reset. Some physicists speculate time is not linear but made up of an infinite number of dimensions (basis for time travel) and perhaps YJW, as the master, has slipped into another dimension (the instance dungeon?), thus preserving his high status in the game even after it was reset. The powers of the master are kept deliberately vague.
    2. I liked the ambiguous ending, the viewer can apply their own interpretation. I also think the ambiguity arises, almost out of necessity, since I felt the director and writer were hard pressed to explain any clear-cut ending.
    3. The use of the opening notes of Recuerdos de la Alhambra to signal the arrival of Hyeon-Seok is an amazing cue, the director has taken a piece of classical music and added a sinister element to it. I love this piece of music but don’t think I can listen to it in the future without expecting to see Hyeong-Seok.
    4. The climactic scene where the bugs are deleted takes place in a Catholic church and the camera pans several times to the crucifix as the scene unfolds. YJW asks a child to teach him to make the sign of the cross. Is it a coincidence the bugs are the father, Professor Cha, his son, Hyeong-Seok and Seo Jung-Hoon, the holy ghost? Not sure what the writer/director is trying to say here, that sacrifices are necessary to save the game? To ensure fantasy and reality don’t merge in future? Does anyone know if either the writer or director has given interviews on this show and commented on the symbolism or significance of religious allusions?
    5. There are some small inconsistencies:
    a. It’s not explained why all the bugs appear at the Church since YJW is not in trouble and his secretary only appears when YJW is in trouble. Also Professor Cha is an ally in the game so technically should only appear when YJW needs help.
    b. Not sure what happened to the Marco bug since he wasn’t at the church.
    c. The bugs in the system seem to be users who have killed or been killed in the game by real-life enemy, eg Marco, Hyeong-Seok and Professor Cha (by his son!) with their bodies found without an apparent cause of death. YJW was not killed in the game as his body does not appear so it’s apparent he survives but as a bug he has to be deleted, explaining I think the mound of ashes/salt representing Zinu, his user ID. So is Zinu gone but YJW surviving as himself, trapped in the game? Surely if he could, he would have returned to Hee-Ju.
    d. You comment on the difference between YJW in real life (limping) and 100% active in the game. I think in the game when you start over, you’re at 100% health, and once you accept that game injuries can affect your real life situation, this doesn’t seem as big an inconsistency.
    e. The ability to play the game without the lenses isn’t explained but one can theorize that if your real life intersects with the game situations, lenses maybe not needed since reality and fantasy are merging?

    In summary, I don’t think these small inconsistencies detract from what I consider to be a major accomplishment. The directing is tight and keeps you on edge and the well developed storyline takes the originality of the concept and enhances it. The overall production is superb with a budget that allowed for extensive shooting in Spain with hundreds of extras; a giant stone warrior coming to life, knights on horseback, hordes of ninja, archers and snipers plus many other “baddies” all overwhelm the viewer. The acting is overall excellent and Hyun Bin even surpasses his performance in CLOY, in my opinion.

    1. QINQIN

      Really, not just the director and the writer, but the whole team – pre and post production.

      If only this was a full length film (or trilogy)….

  6. A Reviewer

    Another detailed review that I really enjoyed reading. Few comments/thoughts:

    I had not seen any of the leading (more screen time) actors other than Hyun Bin before. I had no way to relate to any of those characters other than through what was portrayed on screen. As such Park Shin Hye’s character Hee Joo was young woman who was completely taken over by her emotions for a very handsome man ( I had to ask my wife why everyone was falling for this guy 🙂 ) and falls in love head over heels after a few interactions. She portrays the love stricken damsel in distress very well. Her other character, Emma is really a bad ass in the game, even though Jin Woo has a soft corner for her as she is an image of Hee Joo.

    Jin Woo is a ruthless business man (E1-E3) who evolves as time passes. “Jin Woo is so unnecessarily nasty to his secretary” – interestingly enough, I took this as two males competing for the same girl, it was in the context of who can win her over. Jin Woo uses the timer trick as he wants to close the deal before Cha can get his hands on the code.

    Lee Re portrayal of Min Joo was probably the best acting in the whole show, considering she was a pre-teen acting alongside folks with a ton of experience.

    On the relationship between Jin Woo and Hee Joo – Jin Woo is also stricken by Hee Joo, but in the beginning, he is so focused on closing the licensing deal, he keeps suppressing it. Later his leaving her behind, sending her home etc. is an expression of love (shielding her from potential harm). I see their whole relationship as a case of opposites attract.

    On the treatment of women, Prof. Cha is a jerk. Jin Woo’s ex(s) are portrayed in a certain way to show how lacking Jin Woo is when it comes to finding the right partner (till he meets Hee Joo who actually cares deeply for him). I agree, making his first wife a doctor was a bit off; I think it was written in for easy access to pills – but it just sticks out like a sore thumb.

    On Questions…

    I thought the lenses were available in the open market for other applications

    I did not understand why only some players suffered injury not others. Once game is released, there are thousands playing… how come most players but for some key players in Jin Woo’s company do not get hurt?

    “How is Hee Joo able to see the bug powder remains?” – yup this is one of the, if no the weakest part of the script. As someone who has built very large scale systems, know the resource requirements etc. I suspended logical parts of my brain to enjoy the show, coming up with justifications for how those could potentially happen, ‘remains’ was something I just could not explain away.

    “Maybe I wouldn’t be as mad if I’d had any access to Jin Woo’s thoughts about why he chose not to see Hee Joo” – my thought was that he wanted to return to her only after saving/releasing her brother, which I thought he had not done by that point – putting her feelings first in a way?

    In the end, Jin Woo reaches Master status. He can’t remove or inject bugs – same as See Joo. He can lock himself up / hide like See Joo – but from who?. Someone has to attain Master status to release him. Fits with rest of the premise. However, See Joo is never in any instance of the game when he is in the dungeon. So, how are people seeing Zinu in the game? If so, Zinu and Jin Woo are separate entities, only Zinu would be impacted by the reset and Jin Woo would not have vanished into ether?

    I didn’t hate the ending, it did not provide a closure that I wanted.

    Last but not least, “Is You” just tugs at my heart everytime I hear it (and I dont know many Korean words).

    1. beezrtp

      “I had to ask my wife why everyone was falling for this guy” quoting A Reviewer

      Is be interested in how your wife answered you? 😆

        1. beezrtp

          Hahaha! That’s kind of what I would expect her to tell her hubby. Not how the man has dimples that I could swim in, etc. lololol

          1. A Reviewer

            “the man has dimples that I could swim in” probably did not register with her as she is used to seeing it 🙂

    2. kfangurl

      Hi Reviewer, thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights! 🙂 I did enjoy this show reasonably well, in spite of the downsides I mentioned, so I’m glad that you found a way to enjoy your watch too! And yes, this one does require suspension of disbelief a great deal, and unfortunately, it trips up on the logic front more than a few times. That thing about some people and others not getting hurt is a great example. That’s so weirdly inconsistent! 😆 Also, that’s an interesting interpretation of Jin Woo’s treatment of his secretary.. I honestly didn’t think of that. Not sure if that was the writer’s intention, but it’s a possible way to rationalize it, thanks! 🙂

      1. A Reviewer

        “that’s an interesting interpretation of Jin Woo’s treatment of his secretary.. I honestly didn’t think of that.” – may our gender biases in play here 🙂

      2. Geo

        I think if you’ve killed or been killed in the game by someone who is a real life enemy. you become a bug and can now be killed in the game, even by NPCs. YJW, his secretary, Dr. Cha, his father, Professor Cha and Marco all experience this. Towards the end, when He-Joo is searching for YJW, she is in a high level area and is “killed” a few times, she just logs back into the game without injury. because she hasn’t killed or been killed in the game by a real life enemy. I think the clue is the bug was created when Emma saw Marco stab Se-Joo in the cafe which was created in the game as the one place where no battles would be fought. So carrying over real life conflicts into game battles seems to be the key to creating the bug.

        Does anyone else have another explanation because on its own, it does seem to be a major inconsistency that some get hurt and others don’t in the game.

        1. beezrtp

          @Geo – I remember that I knew what caused the glitch while watching the latter episodes but now I can’t remember the cause!

          1. Geo

            I think the glitch is caused by Emma seeing Marco stab Se-Joo in the cafe as per my note above, I’ve done a little research and haven’t come across another explanation. Emma interprets the stabbing action, real life harm, as possible within the game between real life enemies, hence the mix-up between reality and the game. I think I remember YJW saying that’s when the glitch was created – the glitch being that real life battles can be carried over into the game with disastrous consequences if in the game you kill (eg. YJW, his secretary) a real life enemy or if you are killed by a real life enemy (eg Professor Cha, Dr Cha, Marco). YJW is “killed” several times by the giant stone warrior in the beginning but it doesn’t affect him in reality as he has no adversarial real life relationship with the stone warrior and he hasn’t met Dr Cha yet in battle. It’s only when he “kills” Dr Cha in the game that both he and Dr Cha become “bugs”, albeit slightly different types. Dr Cha dies in reality and becomes a NPC in the game, stalking YJW, who now becomes vulnerable to dying in real life if he is killed in the game.

            The tricky question the director and writer faced was how to get rid of the YJW bug; YJW eliminates the other bugs in the church but what to do about the YJW bug? It can’t be left in the game otherwise the game will not be safe, if YJW is killed by NPCs in the game, he would survive as a bug like his secretary so that doesn’t work either. It seems the answer is a self sacrifice by YJW in front of Emma of his Zinu game ID.

            Eliminating all the bugs in Emma’s presence sets things right as she no longer confuses reality and the game.

            It’s interesting that a reset of the game can’t get rid of the bugs…that would be too simple and wouldn’t make much of a show, lol.

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  14. Kay

    Memories of the Alhambra was definitely a fresh and unique drama. You covered most of the pros and cons really well. I quite enjoyed the show as a whole. I loved the adventure feel to it, and it kept me engaged all the way through. I kind of expected some logic fails and lack of explanations base on previous works from this writer. But her creativity, world building, and thrilling pacing is just so fun that it makes up for a lot of that. It was a fun series 🙂

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  16. Snow Flower

    Rewatching this while waiting for episodes of The Crowned Clown, SKY Castle, and Haechi to become available. It holds pretty well in my opinion. Also, after a month of inconsistent practicing, I can play the guitar piece from memory. It is far from perfect, but I am no longer intimidated by it!

    1. seankfletcher

      That’s really good about the guitar piece Snow Flower 😊 If you ever have the time, track down the group Sky (John Williams – he is considered perhaps the most accomplished guitarist of all time). Brilliant stuff re classical music with a rock twist. Anyway, we got to see them a few times in their heyday at some amazing concerts because one of the band members lived just down the road and John himself is an Aussie.

    2. kfangurl

      Congratulations on your progress with the guitar piece, Snow Flower! 😄👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 That’s more than I could ever do, so I am suitably impressed! You go, girl!

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  18. Dame Holly Is a Bot (@Lee_Tennant)

    A show you finished but I dropped?
    What is this parallel universe?
    Where am I? How did I get here? CAN I GET BACK?

    I dropped this early. I just didn’t think it was that well-written, couldn’t find my suspension of disbelief, and the female lead made me lose the will to live.

    1. kfangurl

      Lol! You made me laugh with this comment, Dame Holly! 😆 To be fair, if I hadn’t been inspired to try this watch experiment, I would’ve very likely dropped out after E2 because Show wasn’t working for me in a good number of ways. But curiosity got the better of me, which is why I went back at it with renewed lenses. I think the whole difference was that I went in with specific adjusted expectations. I benefited from everyone else’s hair-pulling, basically, and then lived to tell the tale! 😝

  19. Raspberry

    Hahaha… Writer nim’s evolving insanity😂 So apt!
    Thanks for an Insightful review Fangirl. Truly the writer nim of this show was not sure if she wanted a virtual reality or a supernatural plot. I registered that this show was not going to be lovely dovey when Jin woo used half of an episode in launching our game (did it have a name?) But when I saw the EXs i was like ok maybe. With how boldly they producers used the inorganic plot it was no surprise that they all got confused before Episode 11.
    I too was upset at how secondary the roles of the females in this show was, like there was so much more they would have done. Alot of the game was built from Hee ju’s journal and so Park shin hye should have been allowed to shine as a character if only for her intimate knowledge of Granada and its role in the game rather than making Hee ju a faucet.Emma had more substance than Hee ju,Su jin and the celebrity wife put together. Maybe next time writer nim should collaborate with the writers of shows like My Mister🤗 or prison playbook😋 and then she may be able to create a a reality-virtual reality-supernatural-alternate dimension-people centered and romantic show while cramming it all into a 16episode series🙄.
    I don’t know much about games but people don’t just feel pain or die from playing games or create instance dungeons that can keep a mortal alive for 1 YEAR or turn living people to Bugs while Marco was never erased and Seju never became a bug without explaining HOW?. This plot was just “turningoniown”. Like what business creates a research company for someone who created a game that literally kills people, that killed 2 of the founders of company and turned the other into a crazy man, a suspect in a murder case ,a bug and later a “Master”.
    I agree with all your observations on the romance between jin woo and Heeju , Dude is just a red flag. His lack of proper communication with the women in his life probably led to his prior divorces. It’s almost like he didn’t understand the need to communicate with Hee ju when he did not need her. I wish the show took time to focus on the people too and not just the brawls. However Hyun Bin’s acting was superb till the end, I loved how cheerful minjoo is, the shows cinematography is nice and I actually liked Emma.MOA is fresh and Unique and this makes the show stand out.Any way there are so many blank spaces in this Show that makes a whole plot for a second Season

    1. beez

      @Raspberry 👍 and @seankfletcher Exactly what Rasberry said plus, in tying it in with our older sci-fi shows talk – While Memories of Alhambra was beautifully shot, I prefer character-driven stories always. You mentioned the side effects may not hold up today of Blake’s 7, but I’m perfectly fine with that. I don’t expect shows from earlier decades to have great effects. I guess it’s because I remember the horrible special effects of movies with giant insects magnified to supposedly be giant monsters. 😁 But for me it’s the characters first; story second; and special affects are a nice extra if you can get ’em. I know most people would say a good story is first and foremost but I’ve learned about myself that if I don’t care about the characters then the story won’t matter much to me.

      1. seankfletcher

        Yes, I’m not bothered by special effects, sets or costuming when I watch a show. I find if an actor has a presence (how they inhabit their character) that is what appeals to me more. For example, with Touch Your Heart that has just started, Yoo In Ah is delightful because she gets to show her full range of skills, but I’m finding Lee Dong Wook is still carrying some woodenness from Life, but he has his good moments though (and I’m ignoring all the comments out there re these two and Goblin). So, it’s a thumbs up from me. Then there is Romance is a Bonus Book. Lee Na Young just nails it as the divorcee trying to get her life back on track – you do feel for her. Kingdom is an example of a story I liked, but not so much the characters. Yes, I know it’s about zombies, but it’s not half bad because in reality it’s a commentary on living standards at the time – re health, hygiene and sanitation. Then when you watch Minglan, you end up being spoilt because it has everything going for it and just comes together so beautifully.

        1. beez

          @seankfletcher – you’ve just sold me on Kingdom Bensimon while I hate horror, vampires and zombies, I’ll always interested in how culturally things are/were done.

          I hear Minglan is good but Chinese dramas just don’t grab me, especially the ancient ones which seem to be based in fantasy-mythic lore.

    2. kfangurl

      Hi Raspberry! Thanks for enjoying the review! 😀 You’re right, it does seem that writer-nim was veering into supernatural territory with her story. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen enough of her fantasy stories to acclimatize me to that; I knew in my head that people don’t feel pain or actually die in-game, but I just accepted it as part of this rogue game’s reality. 😅

      And OMG yes, Jin Woo was not great boyfriend material, by far. And the women in this show were mainly just plot devices, unfortunately. I do think you’re right; if writer-nim had collaborated with other writers strong in developing characters and relationships, that could’ve helped this show avoid a lot of its shortcomings. Overall, Show could’ve been better in many ways, but it was a pretty good ride even in spite of its flaws. 🙂

  20. erin

    kfangurl – i just love your analysis of all things kdrama.
    I really enjoyed this one (i’m new to Hyun Bin, how is that possible?! Secret Garden going on my list… except I realized he was the lead in My Lovely Sam Soon which is the first kdrama i ever watched back in 2008. but i digress) Have you seen The Negotiation yet? He is wonderful in that!
    I agree with what’s been said about the messy, implausible or inconsistent issues already mentioned. Here’s my unanswered questions about Alhambra: Why did Jin Woo end up a pile of salt (sand?) like all the other bugs if he is, in actuality, hiding out in some incidence dungeon of his own making? Seems write needed some kind of physical evidence he had been there. but makes no sense.
    Also, what’s with all the shots of the Jesus statue and the circle of light in the final church scene?! Seemed really intentional. I was left with some uneasy correlation about sacrificing oneself for greater good… which i hope I am wrong about.

    finally – this happens in every kdrama it seems- why do they think we won’t notice that a scene that starts in the morning sunlight suddenly shifts to nighttime for what – dramatic effect? so funny. like first snow, petals falling, back hugs and falling girls caught dramatically.


    1. seankfletcher

      Erin, you raise some very interesting points. For me, the pile of salt or sand is a red herring. It may well have been another bug, which I took it to be, and not Jin Woo as such. If it is Jin Woo, then he now exists in digital form only and the incidence dungeon would cater for this. So, he will always have a place of refuge and technically exist forever.

      My thoughts re the depiction of Jesus on the crucifix is very much the symbol regarding, not necessarily sacrifice for the greater good, but how he suffered for all the sins in the world. It also represents the change from vengeance to love. The circle of light symbolises the halo or circle of light normally seen on or above (even behind) a spiritual person’s head. So, we see people everywhere embrace the game and Jin Woo in his love for the game, becomes its saviour. He also helps those who are about to be vanquished (but I guess he is more like The Shadow, or Batman or Zorro or as Beez suggests – appears like the mythic sightings of Elvis!) 🤔

      Lol re the immediate change from morning to night. I have always viewed it as a plot device – the classic deus ex machina (without the machine) if you will – we just need to change the setting without any explanation to move the story along 😊

      1. beez

        @seankfletcher “plot device” – ha! My understanding is that because of the live shoot system, if they run out of daylight, they don’t have the luxury of waiting until the next day for sunlight again. lol
        A lot of times, I’ll try to justify it by saying “the previous scene must have been dusk and that’s why it’s suddenly dark”, but then the characters will be discussing lunch or something else that doesn’t fit the time of day. heehee

          1. beez

            Thanks, @seankfletcher – I think I’m funny (I crack me up), but not everybody else does. They have to be of a certain age and level of sci-fi nerdiness to get me. 😉😆

    2. kfangurl

      Hi there erin, thanks for enjoying the reviews! <3 I must confess that I didn't dig into Alhambra as deeply as some other viewers have, in search of themes and answers. However, I thought you might find these two posts interesting. It was @Growing Beautifully who first directed me to this site, there's lots of in-depth analysis and digging with regards to many things in this show. In particular, I thought this post and this one too, would be at least somewhat relevant to the questions you mention in your comment. 🙂 I still don’t know why Jin Woo’s exit left a pile of sand though. I still don’t see why he’s a bug. 🤔

  21. Andy Mejias

    Glad you posted this. I am starting to watch it on Netflix and will take those points into consideration. I was, from the start, expecting Park S. H. to have a lead role; so I will put that in a back burner. The open ending? Well, I still hope for a rather “good” ending.l


    1. kfangurl

      Hi Andy! It’s great to see you around the blog! 😀 Yay, I’m glad this post comes in time to help you maximize your enjoying of this show. I feel like with this one, managing expectations can literally make or break your watch. I hope you’ll end up having a good time with this show – open ending and all 😉

  22. Kat

    I agree that if you watch with the expectations you’ve listed that a viewer can find this a B- drama. Unfortunately, I watched as it aired so it is in C- territory for me. This is my 4th drama from this writer and my least favorite. She has great ideas, but I think I’m a little tired of them not coming together coherently at the end. If a writer is having to explain everything in interviews (which she has) and having episodes with major flashbacks, it’s just not a win for me. I also was never emotionally invested in any relationship except maybe the secretary and Jin Woo and to a certain extent, I never connected with Jin Woo. Nothing against Hyun Bin who hard carried this drama. I will say that it is unfortunate that the writer ended up feeling compelled to come up with some sort of love line after the hiring of PSH. It was originally a male-centric drama and it is obvious the writer couldn’t do much to change this in a satisfactory way but that’s on a production company wanting a big name.

    I will give credit to both this drama and Encounter/Boyfriend for nailing the overseas filming. Both Spain and Cuba filming scenes were not the cringe experience that I have come to expect from K-drama.

    Anyway, glad it worked for you. I watched Black knowing that the ending was reeeeally bad. It was such a solid drama and, yes, that ending was godawful but I was able to just go with it because I knew beforehand that it was laughable. (I mean a total cop-out.) Oddly, I am a viewer who wasn’t bothered that much by the ending of MOA because I just didn’t care anymore.

    1. kfangurl

      I can definitely see how this drama would land completely for you Kat, since you watched it as it was airing and therefore had to be a frontrunner figuring out the very expectations that I used to improve my own watch. 😛 Despite enjoying this show better than you, I have to agree that the emotional investment and connection is one of Show’s weak points. I didn’t feel very emotionally connected to Jin Woo himself very much, but I did feel that this was slightly less problematic for me in this show than it was in W and Nine, where I felt even more distant from the characters. 🤔

      Yes, knowing a bit about what to expect from a show’s ending definitely helps. I feel like if I’d watched this live, I would’ve liked this show significantly less. 😉

      1. beez

        W felt as two dimensional as its cartoon characters. 😁
        Warning: I did tell y’all I think I’m funny whether I actually am or not. 😒 And btw, I stand behind the truth in that statement about W’s characters.

        1. kfangurl

          Lol. Can’t argue with that. 😆 I loved the early eps of W, but Show unraveled for me fairly quickly, AND I never felt connected to any of the characters. I actually found Lee Jong Seok quite flat in W, tbh. So, no arguments from me, about W’s characters! 😂

  23. beez

    I enjoyed 15 episodes.

    They could’ve easily given Park Shin hye a bit more to do (or at least a big hero moment) either as Hanna or as Hee ju entering the game and getting mistaken for Hanna thereby saving Jin woo (as the other game characters could not fight in her presence). I could see that moment as she jumps in front of Jin woo at a critical moment to take the death blow, she and us not knowing for certain the characters would see her that way.

    I thought the level 1 sword was in a bathroom in an Italian restaurant? Although I did notice it was in a Subway at the end but I thought Jin Woo’s company moved it into lots of Subways in different countries as a tie-in with their Subway promotions. I’m probably wrong and just didn’t realize the first place was a Subway. I’ve just never been in a Subway with that type of atmosphere. But hey! It’s Italy! (Even though the subways in Korea look EXACTLY like the ones here in the U.S.) lol

    I don’t buy the writing of Hee ju selling the hotel when her brother has only been missing one year. Don’t most families with missing members remain where they’re at in case the person finds their way home? They especially don’t move to another country.

    Totally agree about Hee ju should run from Jin woo but the opposite is true as well. Any girl THAT invested after just meeting a guy (who treats her bad, or not) is not in a healthy state of self either. The whole running after the train in such an emotional state after a guy who had shown zero romantic interest (at that point) didn’t bode well. It’s an indicator of clingy behavior.

    Jin woo clinging to Heeju does make sense but it shows he has no sense of selflessness toward Hee ju. He knows he’s either crazy or in a may-never-return-to-normal situation and yet he doesn’t stop acting on whatever feelings he does have but encourages hers and draws her into his craziness. tsk tsk (And then proceed to promise things he has zero intention of keeping.)

    I think Se ju’s Cracky partner provided the lens to Hyung suk for testing and negotiations.

    QUESTION E3 Ohhhh yeah. I forgot Secretary Seo was killed by NPCs!

    QUESTION E10 Exactly! I’m okay that in the game, for whatever reason, Jin Woo doesn’t limp, except we were shown that, as people watched him on cctv to their eyes he was battling no one and he was still limping but later we hear reports that he was seen (in the real world) not limping. Either he limps or he doesn’t in the game and it should be consistent based on which world he’s in. Does – real life ; doesn’t – in game. Be consistent. Can’t Show stick to its own parameters? (Or at least remember them as well as those of us watching?)

    QUESTION E12 are we supposed to believe that if you’re rich AND you’re a person of interest in a murder that the police will just let you go after you run from their point check causing a high-speed chase? I believe in rich privilege but that’s taking it too far. I’d sooner believe in murderous glitchy video games.

    E16 I believe they showed Hee joo put on the lenses on the way to the church; but explain to me how after the game reset it seemed she suddenly went back to zero of knowing what had happened? It didn’t say the game had power to wipe memories and Jin Woo’s partner’s memory was fine. It almost seemed like Show regretted filming her in the rest scene and so pretended she was never there.

    What you choose to believe, kfangurl, is my exact MAIN problem with this show’s ending – how did Jin woo’s company decide the game is safe enough to release to the public when if what you hope is true, Jin woo’s return is based on some poor unsuspecting video game nerd being trapped in his place.

    But as usual, your description of things hits all the right spots for me (except that last hope for Jin woo).

    I’m okay with open endings. And I had no problem with Mr. Sunshine’s tragic ending. All I ask is for simple logic to rule the day and some type of explanation for the goings on like the things you pointed out regarding who’s a bug, etc. I do get that Cracky partner caused the first bug by stabbing Se ju in front of Emma. I’m assuming Emma is the cause of why Se ju killing Cracky actual “stuck” but everything else, while a fun ride, the fun gets sucked out when you realize you’re not going to get an explanation for the things you want along with because you were sure the writer would reveal it. The last Show could’ve done was give us a lame explanation of how they believe its safe now. I feel my trust was betrayed which is why I don’t like magic shows. I can recall enjoying going to see David Copperfield live and the fun because I could actually figure out how he did a lot of things. But today’s magicians are so advanced, it’s not fun for me but actually frustrating because I need to know….
    But alas, these are my personal issues. Oh well.

    One thing this has done, I’ve decided to wait to binge all fantasy shows from now on. I think I’ll be better able to gauge if I should drop it or not that way.

    1. seankfletcher

      Some great observations Beez to those questions and the need for some simple logic. It highlights those things I choose to gloss over (because I go “that’s what happens in Kdrama land” and those things I raise my eyebrows at). The game being released and whether it is safe is a case in point, I just said to myself “yep, exactly what I thought would happen” and then my slight annoyance on the show’s failure to really close out those things regarding the first wife. As for the second ex wife, I went meh, but her manager’s reactions were always priceless.

      I have always enjoyed magic and used to practice tricks as a kid. There’s one card trick I can still do now – it’s simple, but flawless and leaves everyone scratching their heads because they can mix up the cards as much as they like and I can still pick the right card every time (no, they are not marked). I have a great book on Houdini and how he did things. There are also some great shows out there on how the great magicians do their tricks.

      1. beez

        Haha! @Seankfletcher – I’ve learned never to expect side characters ‘stories to be given any closure because they’re treated as fillers to film so the main characters can get some much needed sleep. It used to frustrate me no end. I’ve also learned to enjoy the journey of Kdrama and expect a less that satisfying ending. BUT, I find when a writer creates an entire world (I love sci-fi) and expects me to buy into it, then they are obligated (imo) to pay off with making that story make sense within that world they created.
        One of my all time favorite sci-fi shows is Stargate because of consistency in their world. They established early on a wormhole could only transport one way (meaning once activated you could only enter thru the activated side – no stepping back and forth through the already activated wormhole). They never took the lazy way out and wrote “oh Samantha (scientist) can bypass that because we really need this character back on this side of the wormhole. They had to write around the physics they created even if that became an inconvenience and meant they had to think harder for the team to escape another way. (Did any of that make sense that I just wrote? Oh well, if you’re a fan of the show, you’ll know what I mean. If not, sorry to waste your time. 🙂

        P. S. I had magic card tricks the most-est! lol

        1. seankfletcher

          Hello Beez. Yes, I am (we are) Stargate fans, through and through including all the different franchises (and yes, for kfangurl’s info one of the stars of Stargate Atlantis is none other than Aquaman himself). It never ceased to impress me how the writers could bring together the universe(s) they created consisting of all of the different worlds, the history of the various races, the science and technology used and of course the friendships and relationships. You wouldn’t leave home without SG1 – lol. Everyone is still trying hard on creating a reboot or next instalment 🤔

          The sci-fi shows we have enjoyed of late are Discovery, the Expanse (a personal favourite re the detective noir feel, political intrigue and mystery), Killjoys (just go along for the ride), Dark Matter (pity it was cancelled. The creator was part of the Stargate team. I follow his blog and he has a number of new shows coming). We are also looking forward to the release of Picard 🤩 Then there is 12 Monkeys – flashes of brilliance, but some may well scratch their heads keeping up with the changing timelines. I won’t mention Westworld (brilliant, then crashed and burned). But my all time favourite is Doctor Who (perhaps now the second longest running show on the planet – 56 years this year in behind Coronation Street). When it is good, it is brilliant and when it is bad – well I keep my fingers crossed for better things. The one show I am looking forward to seeing at some point is Man in the Highcastle 😱

          The one show at the moment where writers have successfully created a whole world is The Story of Minglan. If it keeps going the way it is (I’m at episode 50 – out of 73), I can say right now, it is perhaps the only show I will consider rewatching. There are very few shows I have rewatched over the years. Whereas (as Rumpole used to say), She Who Must Be Obeyed (quite right too she says 😂) watches reruns all the time. With Minglan they have even used words from the great Song Dynasty poet Li Qingzhao (who lived at the same time the story is set) in the story’s theme songs. When you read her poetry (which is very beautiful), the writer of the novel, and certainly the writers of the series have depicted things as they were. The level of detail, language used and reference to culture is stunning. If you are up for long conversations, clever and witty dialogue and a slow burn romance for the ages, this show is it. Yes, it has lots of scheming going on, but boy oh boy, the way the schemers get dealt with is so clever.

          My favourite magic trick of all time: anything to do with levitation or disappearing and reappearing bodies.

          1. beez

            I don’t know why @seankfletcher’s reply to me didn’t come through my email. 🤔 I just came across it while trying to find a cooment from @kfangurl that came to my email as a blank response.
            My son is insisting that I subscribe to CBS All Access so that I can get Discovery. I’ve been doing one of my own private protests (that nobody knows about except my son and fellow sci-fi nerds) over the price for the CBS app and the fact that they don’t participate with Hulu. But my son says the price has come down to $6 a month so I guess it’s time. The previous $20 a month was outrageous imo.)
            I liked Dark Matter but nowhere near to the extent of my Stargate (especially Sg-1) obsession.
            I could never get into Dr. Who. I think because it was impossible for me to start at the beginning and catch up to 20 years of storytelling and I just never really understood it to be honest. . But Babylon 5, especially the final season was a mind blower for me. I think it was one of the first shows with a big long running story arc throughout its seasons. Correct me if I’m wrong on that.

            1. seankfletcher

              Hello Beez, I’m glad you mentioned Babylon 5 because it was one very special show. It was masterful storytelling including the use of that big long running story arc. It was considered a novel for television – so the first of its type that wasn’t a mini-series. The level of diplomacy between the races set against a backdrop of an ancient war and Earth heading down a path of a dictatorship was so well done. Friends of ours back at the time used to get episodes sent out direct from the US and invite everyone to watch it on the big screen at a local university. The creator tried so hard back then to have the show continue, only to have things fall over again and again.

              I can understand re Doctor Who. If anything, track down the movie An Adventure in Time and Space which is the story of how Doctor Who came about back in 1963. It is a lovely movie and gives some wonderful insights into the creative team that eventually went on to develop so many of the great BBC/British shows over the years. Verity Lambert was the founding producer of Doctor Who and held such a key role at a time when women were totally ignored.

              The price of $6 a month sounds pretty good to me re the CBS App. It’s interesting where the pricing for services will end up. I find Discovery refreshing. It’s clever. Also, some wonderful performances are going on and whenever Michelle Yeoh makes an appearance, it goes to a whole different level (she performs the dual role of Starship Captain in our universe and the evil empress in the mirror universe).

              I have always been a fan of the Japanese anime re sci-fi. So much of it has been done so well. I’m really looking forward to the release of the Foundation Trilogy. Apple are making it. If they get it right, it’s one show that will blow all the others away. I don’t know if you have seen Red Dwarf – it’s as brilliant as it is funny 😂

              1. beez

                I did see a few episodes of Red Dwarf! Back in the 70’s. lol I would stumble upon it and I think it was tad late and once a week so I never send to be able to schedule actually regularly watching it. When I say once a week, that was compared to the British shoes that site daily (I think they were reruns) Are You Being Served and Hyacinth (I can’t remember the actual name of her show about extreme and obnoxious manners) lol

                But you’ve given me some good info on your post that I’ll copy and save so I can check them out.

                As to Babylon 5, are you aware there were a couple of movies and a spin off series? I’ve been trying to find them to stream but so far no luck.

                Babylon 5 – “Th One/Not The One”. 🙂

                1. seankfletcher

                  Red Dwarf started again a couple of years ago. It’s interesting in that the cast are obviously that much older, but they have reprised their roles so well. Series 13 is rumoured to happen this year. The Cat (Danny John-Jules) is currently in Death in Paradise.

                  We all loved Are You Being Served. In fact the other day, as I walked out of the office, I said “You have all done very well” using Young Mr Grace’s mannerisms. As for Hyacinth Bucket (Bouquet) re Keeping Up Appearances – we loved it, but my Mother In Law hated it (but she still watched it 😂). Patricia Routledge (Hyacinth) is such a good actress and theatrical singer – she was made a Dame in 2017 and the actor who played who husband passed away yesterday.

                  From memory, I think we watched most of the Babylon 5 movies (5 in all) and enjoyed the spin-off series – Crusade as well. I have never been able to find them streaming anywhere.

                  Then there’s Blake’s 7 – it’s a classic and close to altimeter favourite of mine, but not currently around anywhere.

                  1. beez

                    @seankfletcher – I, sadly, saw that the actor from Keeping up Appearances passed away. I always wondered exactly when these British shows aired originally? Even in the 70’s the film, their costumes, everything seemed from at least a decade before. Although, Mr. Humphries did sport the bell-bottomed trousers and large ties of the 70’s. It just seemed as if the film had a soft blurry fog over it. (Or maybe it was the tv that I always watched it on?) lol Or maybe it just looked so foreign to my American eyes. No one seemed young, not even the sexy young secretaries of “Young” Mr. Grace. lol. And I’d never seen the pink hair of the senior sales lady until years later on televangelist’s wives.

                    I didn’t understand your reference to The Cat being in “Death in Paradise”. I don’t think you’re using a euphemism for the actor’s death because you refer to Clive [can’t think of his last name] ‘s death later in your post. So is Death in Paradise something from the show? I’ve probably seen no more than 6-7 episode’s of Red Dwarf. And not from the beginning so my understanding of exactly what was going on was limited. Although, I was greatly impressed by Red Dwarf casting a black actor as the lead during that time. (I’m not taking about The Cat, but the James T. Kirk character (Was his name Lester?) Which makes it even more impressive that they cast two black actors as leads in a very small cast and during that time.

                    Yes, still waiting to see Blake’s 7. For a long time it was in my Netflix dvd queue of shows not released yet on dvd. That’s why I haven’t canceled my dvd portion of Netflix as sometimes things that will never be streamed, including older Kdramas can still be watched on dvd.

                    1. seankfletcher

                      Hello Beez, Are You Being Served ran from 1972 – 1985. And, no one was young 😂The sight gag of Mrs Slocum changing the colour of her hair regularly was interesting because it was the only thing that the other shop workers in the show never commented on about her.

                      Yes, I needed to explain the whole cat comment much better. Red Dwarf has been a huge ratings success over the years. The actor who plays The Cat, also plays the role of a police officer in the British detective show Death in Paradise. It is set in the Caribbean and is hugely popular. Ratings are basically through the roof (30% from year to year).

                      Yes, you are quite right re Lester. I have also seen the same actor play some very impressive dramatic roles in other shows as well.

                      Blake’s 7 comes from that era of really bad special effects, but the premise and the stories are some of the best ever told. At boarding school, we would watch it late on a Friday night during curfew, in the tv room, with the lights turned off. All types of personalities would be watching it. That’s how good it was.

                    2. beez

                      @seankfletcher – arrrrgggh. you’re killing me! About Blake’s 7 being good, because right after your first comment that mentioned it, I went to my Netflix dvd queue to check on it and it’s no longer in the “waiting to be released” queue which makes think they’ve given up on it ever being available. 🙁

                      If you ever hear about it being available… 😉

                  2. Snow Flower

                    Blake’s7! I remember watching this way back then, when I was growing up on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. The streets were literally empty when it was airing. I recently caught some short videos on youtube. The special effects seem kind of cheap, but there is a certain charm to that. I also remember learning words in English from this show. (it was subtitled, not dubbed, when it was shown in my country.) I can still remember the ship’s computer saying “Confirmed.” Thank you, Sean, for bringing back some memories from long ago!

                    1. seankfletcher

                      Snow Flower what an amazing experience and I deeply appreciate your thank you. Blake’s 7 was made at a time when the world needed a little bit of the freedom fighter taking down the oppressor. Zen and Orac were awesome. I remember thinking will there ever be a computer like them in our lifetime. As for Servalan, she is perhaps, well at least for me, still the greatest tv villainess of all time. One of her most famous lines is “I’m just the girl next door”. Wonderful stuff 🤩

    2. kfangurl

      Hi there beez! <3 Always great to see you around here! 🙂

      I agree, writer-nim could've easily given Park Shin Hye more to do. I myself can think of a few ways she could've been better utilized as a character. I love your ideas about having her enter the game and being mistaken for Emma, and thereby becoming more active in the main quest narrative. That would've been cool. Unfortunately, it looks like having Hee Joo be more active in the central narrative was never writer-nim's intention. :/

      The original level 1 sword in Granada was in that bar that stayed open an extra hour coz Jin Woo paid them to. So yes, it wasn't in a Subway. I was just amused that when they brought the game back to Korea to localize it, they opted to have the Level 1 sword in a Subway restaurant instead. That felt very apt, given Subway's prevalence in Dramaland! 😂

      That's a great point, that families with missing members wouldn't sell a property, so that said missing family members would be able to find them easily. I think in Hee Joo's case, they didn't actually realize Se Joo was missing until much later, when they were already back in Korea, thanks to the fraudulent emails that Secretary Seo had been sending to Hee Joo under Jin Woo's instruction. By the time Hee Joo caught on, they'd already sold the hostel.

      I heartily agree that Hee Joo does come across as clingy. I didn't mention it my review, but there's an episode where Hee Joo insists that Jin Woo stay over, and puts him in the guitar studio to sleep. She herself can't sleep, and at something like 3am, she goes to the studio, and knocks on the door, asking if he's asleep. I thought that was quite clingy, in a sense. She can't see him through the door and cannot guess whether he's awake or asleep. But because she couldn't sleep, and because she wanted to see him and talk to him, she risked waking him up by knocking on the door and asking if he's asleep. I wanted to reach into my screen and say, "Don't do that. That's not how to girlfriend!" 😂

      Good point, that Marco was the one who likely provided the lens to Hyeong Seok to allow him to test the game. Although, once all the fragmented pieces of information come together, isn't it the case that Marco never met Hyeong Seok? 🤔

      Excellent point, that Show isn't consistent even with Jin Woo's non-limping! Indeed, some consistency would've been good! 😆

      Oh, what do you mean about Hee Joo having her memory wiped after the reset? I didn't perceive that she'd had her memory wiped, only that she was miserable and very, very sad, waiting for Jin Woo to come back..?

      Ah, I guess I should clarify that in my head, Se Joo would work with the J One techies to iron out the bugs in the game (which yes, shouldn't have been released without being fully and thoroughly debugged and tested to be safe), so that a high-level player would be able to go on a quest and save Jin Woo, without having to be trapped in his place. 😅 Maybe a second season could have Hee Joo finally discovering her badass side, as she enters the game to be the one to save Jin Woo. I could get behind that! 😀

      I feel you, in terms of feeling like Show could've given us more explanations. I think that's a writing fault. Apparently there's more context that people got from Writer Song's interviews about this show, but that shouldn't be the case, that we need to seek out interviews with the writer, to figure out stuff in the show. Generally, though, I did feel like this held up wayyy better than W, in terms of being fairly faithful to its internal logic!

      1. beez

        Oh. That’s true about the family thinking Se ju was alive because of Jin woo’s fake emails. (Which that’s a lot of nerve to do something like that to anybody, but especially to a family you don’t know personally and intimately. It was bad enough (and questionable) that Hee ju made that decision as his noona to keep it from Granny and L’il Sis.) Just another example of Jin woo not being the greatest of guys, regardless of his good inventions there. That’s really arrogant.

        I think it’s fair to assume Marco supplied Hyeong suk with the lenses because I doubt he’d get as far as actually having a chance to communicate with a CEO to the point of demanding /receiving an offer of 10 Billion won unless the company had proof the game was viable and not just some huge idea in somebody’s head.

        Hee ju’s memory – but not in a Kdrama amnesia way, but it seemed (although my memory’s having a hard time remembering exactly how I meant it) as though Show cut from the church reset to her back at home and being surprised – wait, I’ll watch it again.

        Ok, watched it – That reset waited for Hee ju to drive all the way there. She was still saying to Partner Park “where are you? are you there?” into the phone while outside of her house as he discovered Bug 4 (Jin Woo)’s salt – ashes. And you were right about Hee ju not having the game lenses in! I saw her wiping at her eyes (during another bout of crying and thought she was putting the lenses in. The only way I can explain my lapse in thinking otherwise is I often doze and wake up and rewind to find my spot. I must’ve seen the eye wiping while she was talking to Se ju a few scenes before the church scene as I was rewinding & fsstforwarding, trying to find my place, and got it totally wrong). But she did have the lenses in (I guess) because they show the Bug 4 remains thru her point of view with a game info caption up top, the same as Partner Park’s view. I guess I thought she realized, by her reaction to the salt-ashes of Bug 4, that Jin woo was dead so to have her hear it from Se ju and go back to the church to pass out seemed repetitive – like why did they leave the church in the first place? They could’ve had Hee ju just pass out as soon as she saw Bug 4 ashes. But now as I rewatch, I see she still didn’t know what was going on.

        As to Se ju helping with the game – he seemed barely able to peek his head out of his room (which is that classic nerd stereotype) but he didn’t seem to even be functioning within his own family. In short – he’s messed up! As Show said, he’s got years of psychotherapy ahead of him. I think it’ll be a while before he could even go near a video game.

        I know I sound like I have hate for this show but I don’t. (Surprise!) In fact, I was enjoying it so much that that’s why I’m so mad at the ending. I want to see Kdramas keep having these great quality production values but I’m scared pissing off viewers may scare them away from watching and make the big scope projects less likely to continue.
        P. S. I do like the legend of rogue character Jin woo – it reminds me of the Elvis and Tupac sightings and I find that part of the ending great.

        1. kfangurl

          YES, it was such a terrible thing to do, to fake Se Joo’s emails to Hee Joo, even if the intention was to prevent the family from worrying. And when Hee Joo confronted him about faking the emails, Jin Woo had the nerve to remark that he should’ve written the emails himself instead of getting Secretary Seo to do it; that way she wouldn’t have caught on. I was really appalled by his answer, tbh. 😤

          That’s a good point; Marco probably would’ve supplied the game lenses to Hyeong Seok somehow, without having to meet him. Also, yes, it did seem to me that Hee Joo didn’t know what was going on, ie, she saw the pile of sand/powder and she saw the shock on Director Park’s face, and had a very bad feeling, and that’s why she kept asking him so urgently what it was – but ultimately, it took some time before she actually knew that the pile of powder was actually remnants of Jin Woo.

          That’s a good point, about Se Joo not being in good shape to work on the game for a while.. But I could imagine him rising to the occasion, in the effort to save someone trapped in the game that he created. That would plausibly be a goal/project that would give him an outlet to vindicate himself of the guilt that he probably feels for creating a game that went on to claim lives.

          Oh yes, the legend of rogue character Zinu does have a cool, badass tinge to it. Maybe it would’ve just all sat better if Jin Woo hadn’t left behind a pile of dust while being sucked into the game world.. 🤔

  24. Snow Flower


    I am happy that I am not the only one who liked the show and did not mind the ending. I decided that the show was best viewed as a modern day fairytale/hero’s quest and most everything made sense because of that. I did think that the romance was secondary, but I was OK with that. I see Hee Joo as Penelope from the Odyssey. She did cry a lot, but it was her tears that moved Jin Woo’s heart. I continue with my own quest of learning the guitar piece Memories of Alhambra while watching the dark and disturbing Red Moon Blue Sun.

    1. kfangurl

      Hi there Snow Flower! I’m glad you enjoyed this one too – or should I say, I’m glad I got on the bandwagon after all, and enjoyed this one like you did! 😉 Yes, this did feel like a fairytale quest kind of story, and seeing Hee Joo’s tears as something moved Jin Woo’s heart is a nice perspective to keep. I did see that he was moved by her tears, but it really got to the point where I wondered if Park Shin Hye had any more tears left to cry. 😝 I always love how inspired you get, from watching the dramas. I hope you’ll be able to play that piece flawlessly soon! <3

  25. snow

    Well, I was not that angry for the open ending. The disappointment comes from so many badly explained things. Like how Se Joo speculates about Jin Woo being in that dungeon after 1 year! And everyone lost their lives because of him but he did nothing. And they went on to sell and develop a game that turned out to be so deadly. LOL. Forced romance was boring and scenes were too long at times. I loved the show till penultimate week but lqst 2 episodes left very bad taste. Last episode was such a filler! Plus, unnecessary track of two wives..ok. I’ll stop now.
    Definitely points for creating something fresh and innovative. I wish writer was not so lazy in concluding everything satisfactorily. Hyun Bin was ❤ though.

    1. kfangurl

      Hi there snow! Thanks for popping by the review! <3 I don't know if my memory is playing tricks on me; I thought Se Joo did speculate about the instance dungeon before the one-year timeskip, but I could be wrong. Also, yes, the whole glitchiness of the game is glossed over, and we never are told whether they do anything to fix the bugs. All we know is that they lost everything at the reset. I had to choose to close my eyes to that disturbing bit, in order to better enjoy the finale. 😝 I think it's just one of those things that this writer does; she pulls out something that's not quite in her drama world's mythology in order to tie up her stories. Still, points for being creative! And indeed, once I got past the initial abrasiveness, I did very much admire Hyun Bin for his performance. He was really impressive! 😲

      1. Snow Flower

        This was my very first Hyun Bin drama and I was impressed. I must be the only kdrama fan who has never seen Secret Garden. I thought his delivery was particularly moving when his character was suffering. Jin Woo’s transformation from a jaded and arrogant tech billionaire to a man with a broken body and spirit and back to a man with a purpose was really something.

        1. beez

          I think Hyin bin is highly underrated. I consider it The Elizabeth Tayor Effect (affect?). When someone is so beautiful we don’t even consider just how good they are at their craft.

        2. kfangurl

          Aw, it’s actually very understandable that you haven’t seen Secret Garden, especially if you started your drama journey in recent years. I just checked, and Secret Garden came out wayyy back in 2010! That’s eons ago in drama years! 😛 I personally loved Secret Garden way back when I watched it, but a couple of years ago, when I attempted a rewatch, I was put off by how much of a male chauvinist jerk Hyun Bin’s character is and dropped it fast. It’s worth a look if you’d like to see another Hyun Bin drama. I’ve heard that Friend, Our Legend is very good too. 🙂 And yes, Hyun Bin really is an excellent actor!

          1. beez

            Secret Garden is my junk! I always recommend it, Coffee Prince, and Kim Samsoon to newbies. Yes, Hyun Bin is a total jerk and that’s what makes his falling for someone that he thinks he’s so much better than so good; and Ha ji won, unlike most of today’s heroines, KNOWS he’s a jerk and is not easily swayed. I think that Secret Garden is dated because now we understand more of how stalking is dangerous (plus “me too” movement awareness). Similarly dated, Coffee Prince doesn’t have as much impact today in a society where homosexuality isn’t as big of a stigma. Young people watching CP today would think “why are Gong Yoo’s distaste and self loathing for himself even an issue?”

            They’re still both among my short list favorites. Although I may start to change my newbie recommendatiins to stuff like Girl Who Sees Smells (it’s good. Really!) and Chicago Typewriter.

            1. kfangurl

              That’s a great point about how the evolving world we live in, would cause people to receive this shows differently. With international audiences growing, and a much wider acceptance of LGBTQ people generally speaking, I could imagine someone reacting just as you described, like: “Why is this even a problem?” So yes, recommending more recent shows might be the better way to go (tho I only found Smelly Girl just not-bad-enjoyable 😉) I think something like Weightlifting Fairy might be good too 🙂

              To be brutally honest, I’m quite indifferent to Ha Ji Won as an actress (though she’s great at the action stuff). So.. that was also not a point in SeGa’s favor. But for what it’s worth, I was hearts-in-eyes smitten with SeGa when I first watched it when it aired! 😅

              1. Snow Flower

                I usually prefer sageuks, mystery/suspense or action/adventure type of stories instead of romantic comedies, and that explains why I have not watched SG. Has HB done any historical stuff?

                1. kfangurl

                  I think the only historical thing Hyun Bin’s done is 2014 film The Fatal Encounter (aka The King’s Wrath). I saw that, and Hyun Bin is fantastic in it. If you like gangster-themed stuff, he was reportedly excellent in 2009’s Friend, Our Legend, which is a 20-episode drama. I also hear that he was amazing in last year’s crime-thriller film The Negotiation I hope that helps! 🙂

                  1. beez

                    @kfangurl – so this is the comment you made that came to my email as blank. And I think I’ve figured out why I get blank ones from time to time – I’m usually on my phone and as I searched to find this comment by skimming thru all the comments again, your comment was one of those skinny, has-become-one-line of vertical letters that I could only read once I turned my screen landscape.

                    Anyway, in response to @SnowFlower – didn’t Hyun bin do a recent saeguk with zombies? I want to see it but I’m leery. Horror is not my thing.

                    1. kfangurl

                      Ah, that does sound like a plausible explanation for the blank emails! I view the comments on my laptop, so I don’t even realize when they become super skinny 😛

      2. beez

        Because I just rewatched some scenes from Ep 16, I see they did address the game’s safety by saying an “entire year’s worth of work went down the drain to solve the unsolvable [meaning the glitch] because the glitch no longer exists and we cannot prove the game caused any deaths”.

        I guess so much was going on in that one last episode that left all our brains going “what about [this] though?” for so many parts that that voiceover by Partner Park must not have been big enough to really stand out that they did answer that question. Or maybe because we, the audience, KNOW the game caused deaths, but no one else really knew that except for Partner Park. So while I was waiting to see some time of greedy-for-profit safety issues cover up board meeting conspiracy scene – there was no reason for it.

        All of this points to I probably should watch the series again and maybe I won’t be so harsh on it. Maaaaybe.

        1. kfangurl

          Ah, that’s right! They did address the game’s safety, with that sentence! At the same time, with a game that has gone so rogue, in such a big, dangerous way, I’d still have reservations releasing it, if I were in a position to decide. 😛 But I guess for the Legend of Zinu to happen, they had to release the game, so at least they released it knowing there wasn’t any bug 😅

          And yes, this does suggest that there are more answers that Show gives than we actually picked up on. I only watched the finale (& the rest of the show) once, so a repeated viewing might throw up more details that I missed the first time.

  26. seankfletcher

    I take my hat off to you kfangurl, I think you have managed to identify and cover every issue and matter raised by viewers of Alhambra everywhere 🧐 I loved the concept of Alhambra and my favourite moments were those regarding Jin Woo and the younger sister (she was great) 🤩 Yes, Jin Woo is alive and well 😜

    A little gem right now is Wind-Bell. It is ten x ten minute episodes. It’s one of the shows you watch and you wonder why we spend so much time on longer shows 🤔

    So, right now there are two of the major Chinese reality dating program shows filming in my part of the world. Very interesting 😂

    After official Australia Day duties today, we are in Albany overlooking the harbour and islands. Tomorrow night we will be at the Field of Lights, a display of 16,000 lights installed to commemorate Australian troops that served in WW1. Albany was the departure point for all Australian troops. It’s a wonderful piece of art honouring what went before. It’s worth a little look:


    1. Growing Beautifully

      Thanks for the link to the Field of Light: Avenue of Honour. I was quite moved by the sentiment that initiated that installation and the beauty of the light.

    2. Growing Beautifully

      Oh yes, thanks for mentioning Wind Bell. It sounds like a sweet little show I could watch. I’m short of time and have run out of shows I want to watch, but a short run of little episodes with a dash of romance, sounds like the very thing! 😁

    3. kfangurl

      Aw, thank you Sean! 😀 Coming from you, that’s a compliment I take very much to heart! <3 Y'know, my decision to do this experiment came not too long after I told you I was probably going to drop this show, so as I posted this review, I couldn't help thinking, "I wonder if Sean will be surprised!" 😆

      Thanks for the recommendation on Wind-bell! I looked it up and it looks promising, so I'm popping it on my list. You never cease to amaze me; you always seem to be on top of what's coming out of Dramaland, in all of its different regions and locales! 😲

      Also, thanks for sharing the link to Field of Lights – it really is a meaningful and beautiful installation. It already looks gorgeous in the video, so I can only imagine how amazing it is to actually be there to witness it first-hand! I hope you and your family will have a lovely time tonight! <3

  27. Growing Beautifully

    Hi kfangurl, oh dear, I thought I left a comment but WordPress must have eaten it up when it asked me to login.

    What was I saying? I’m glad you decided to marathon this show. The questions you asked got me thinking that you may be interested to read the conjectures of another blogger who did ‘explain’ with clues from the dialogue and some guesses, some of the logic of the show.

    I was also saying that Writer Song’s interviews give us the reasons for why some things turn out as they did…. as to Park Shin Hye’s role, the slowness and some fails/plotholes.

    Sigh. I really should learn to save everything I write before I post them.

    Basically I agree with your sentiments and about the casting of PSH and how that raised expectations that caused the show to receive a lot more flak than it would have done.

    All that aside, I did enjoy the show. I was suitably impressed by the premise, the imaginative twists and turns, the beautiful visuals, even the music and the intriguing mystery of the game as it played out. So it was good for me! 😃

    1. kfangurl

      Your first comment got sucked into the spam folder by WordPress, which is why it didn’t appear for a bit. I fished it out of the spam folder and returned it to its rightful dimension, lol. 😉 Thanks so much for posting again, when you thought your comment had been deleted like a bug (heh) – it means a lot! <3

  28. Growing Beautifully

    Hi kfangurl, I’m glad you decided to marathon the show afterall!

    Just a little note, in case you’re interested, another blogger has taken the trouble to ‘explain’ the logic of the game. It’s still conjecture and some parts (because Writer Song did not tell us much) some assumptions had to be made, but the general logic seems to hold up well enough. I thought of that when I saw your list of questions.

    As for myself, now days after watching the last episode and reading others’ comments, I find I am OK with the ending. I found it a well made show too within the expectations that you set up above. I agree with those who have analysed this writer’s works that she has a great ability to create amazing sci-fi/fantasy premises and intriguing mysterious fantasy-reality warps, but she is not always able to follow through with a logical end. Somewhere along the line, some of us expect that she will throw in more intriguing stuff that cannot be explained, to keep the story going, is our guess.

    And this may not be far wrong, since in one interview she said that she generally writes for a movie length show but that she had to come up with 16 ‘endings’ for the episodic format and to stretch her tale for 16 hours. That explains the times when nothing much happened or the times I literally lost consciousness while watching an episode. She also admitted that it was when Park Shin Hye was cast, that she had to shoehorn in more for her character and a loveline. So that explains that.

    Therefore I agree that if they had cast a less well known actress, show would have come under very much less fire for wasting the female protagonist (I cannot call her even a lead… just a supporting actress?).

    Writer Song, it seems, also prefers to work alone. That is a pity, since perhaps another head or two could have helped her come up with ways to avoid some plotholes, flesh out the logic and give more characters more depth.

    Well, we had what we had, and despite the fails here and there, I still largely was wowed by the show, the concept, and the visuals and was happily drawn into trying to figure out the game. So although it could have been better, it was still good. 😃

    1. Growing Beautifully

      What do you know … my comment cropped up after all!!! 😂 Sorry for the almost double post!!!

    2. beez

      @Growing Beautifully – I’ve got to sit down and figure out how to get a WordPress account so I could *like* your post. Thanks for the info about PSH’s role.

      1. Growing Beautifully

        LIL @beez. I think when I tried to do stuff in blogs using WordPress it led me to the options where I could register. So somehow I did and ever since. I find that it’s easy to go around blogs (many of which are WordPress driven) to comment and Like. (Not that I do very much of that except on Dramabeans 🙂 )

    3. kfangurl

      Hi there GB! Always lovely to have you in this little corner of the interwebs! 😀

      Glad to hear that you enjoyed this show as well, despite its shortcomings. It really is a fresh, interesting, and daring concept to bring to fruition, and I really take my hat off to the production team for that.

      Yes, I’d be interested to read the explanations that the other blogger did. Could you share a link, please? 🙂 Also, yes, I did read about the loveline having to be shoehorned in. That is one of the frustrating things about k-ent, where a writer has to contend with industry pressures instead of just focusing on creating a cohesive story. That’s interesting, that she generally writes for a movie length and then expands on it to make it episodic. I mean, I get that you need to start at a conceptual level, but having to stretch out a movie-length story into 16 hours sounds quite extreme, to me. 😛 I also read somewhere that Writer Song explained in an interview that the game glitched because of the real murderous intents of the players. I don’t know.. I have to say, I didn’t pick up on that at all, during my watch. I mean, I guess you could possibly infer that, but that really wasn’t communicated in any way. So yes, I agree she might benefit from having some writing partners to bounce ideas off of, and discuss possible plot treatments.

      Still, kudos to her for having the creative vision to write stories with such different subject material than most other dramas coming out of Korea. As you said, it could’ve been better, yes, but it was still good. 😉

      1. Growing Beautifully

        Hey there kfangurl!
        Yes, we shouldn’t have to find out what helps us understand the show better from an extraneous source like interviews with the writer. It’s interesting too that she was willing (or eager?) to do that interview before the show wrapped up on air. There was maybe a tone of trying to justify why things were the way they were.

        Here’s the link to the blog. This is the page 3 link from whence the thoughts on this show first started. Pages 2 and 1 also include thoughts on the game logic. Enjoy!!

        1. kfangurl

          Thanks for the link, GB! I’ve poked around a bit, and wow, she does go into detail! A great resource for those who are struggling with the logic of the game or of the drama. 😀

          Also, yes, that’s a great point; it’s rather unusual for the writer to give an interview before the show has wrapped. Usually they’re too busy still pushing out scripts to even consider an interview! I agree, it’s possible that she wanted to justify her story and why it was the way it was. Either way, I’m happy to have more information than less, even if I’d have preferred not to have to read an interview to get it! 😉

      2. Growing Beautifully

        In case anyone is interested …

        Here’s a link to some part of the interview with Writer Song on DB. Credit to @fanwho who does the hardwork of translating long dialogues. This starts at comment 17.

        And here’s the link to the translated interviews with 2 actors of The Memories of (the) Alhambra, also by @fanwho. It starts from comment 23.

        1. kfangurl

          Aw! Thanks so much for sharing the links, GB! I thoroughly enjoyed the read (major thanks to fanwho for translating!), and I especially loved the interview with Min Jin Woong. He sounds like SUCH a sweetheart! ❤❤❤ I am so tickled that he became such a Hyun Bin fanboy, tee hee! 😂😍


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