What does it take to have a satisfying ending? There are K-dramas that run out of steam before the last week. The ending seems to have less quality than the rest of the show, as if it ran out of something to say. Some endings are unfulfilling. Maybe the villain gets too happy of an ending. Or is not punished enough for their misdeeds. Perhaps the wrong characters end up together or a storyline remains unfinished.
It seems that dramas with a completely satisfying ending are, if not rare, not exactly common. Join Wendilynn and me as we discuss how the last two episodes of “Hotel Del Luna” stack up. Was it terrible? Was it amazing?
Wendilynn: So many endings. Each character we learned to love needed a resolution. After all, this hotel is about resolving the resentments of the people who come through its doors so they can move on. I think the Scholar may have been the only story that didn’t bring me to tears as they said goodbye. Wait, no … I’m wrong. I got teary because finally our lost writer who was lurking through the show the whole time got a resolution.
Kate: So much of the plot got resolved last week I was a little worried this week would feel more like extended fanservice. Just giving a lot of happy endings to characters we’ve held so close to our hearts these last two months. From a story structure point of view there was less plot here. But it didn’t feel like that. I really was glad to see each of the main cast grow and change and find their path.
My favorite was probably Seo-hee’s (Bae Hae-sun). When she met with the pregnant woman whose child might extend the family line. A family she held a grudge against for so many years. The women’s history/gender studies teacher in me was greatly pleased to see that resolution. The pregnant mother told Seo-hee her baby carry her name. That she wasn’t stuck in the past.
Wendilynn: Soo-hee’s gone through life feeling like her daughter was stolen and then killed. Which she was. For Soo-hee to realize she could still claim her daughter as her own, that she didn’t lose her just because she was a girl or even that having a girl wasn’t a letdown was a big change for her. She really needed that new perspective so she could finally grieve properly without letting revenge color her sadness. I sort of wish we could have seen the spirit of her daughter come through after her next reincarnation. Just to let her mother know she was still able to experience life in another way. But that’s just me, I guess.
Kate: If Seo-hee was a slightly more lead role, perhaps they could have gone that way. Heck, even showing her with a child in the last scene instead of or in addition to the little dog could have accomplished some of that. Still, Seo-hee did find peace. I was so happy to see that. My sympathy for her character’s feelings of vengeance were perhaps the strongest of all of the characters in the series. The writers could have dealt with it much less deftly. I chuckled, too, when she apologized to Chan-seong (Yeo Jin-goo) for sending him into the room with the angry ghost. Just to try and get him out of the way. She was definitely ready to come clean entirely and move on.
I enjoyed Scholar Kim’s ending too. For me it was probably the least touching. But that’s like picking the least favorite of my top favorite things. Even though it was in a novel, after hundreds of years people will hear the story of his career from his point of view. It may not entirely restore his reputation, but it allowed him to have a say in how history will see him. Of course, in the meantime, one of our longtime background ghosts also got his ending. He wrote that novel and finally finished a piece of work.
Wendilynn: I had to smile at our Scholar. He waited for his “shame” to die down. The problem is he wrote stories that are part of popular culture and never go away. I had to laugh when the Grim Reaper (Kang Hong-suk) came to visit him in Sanchez’s (Cho Hyun-chul) home. The way Grim teased Sanchez just slayed me. Grim’s been pretty stoic this whole time. Yet they allowed him to show his sense of humor. Dark though it was, it was still very funny.
Kate: Another of my favorite little moments was the origin of Man-wol’s (IU) obsession with food and Kim Joon-hyun. It was a moment that kept on giving. First, the show revealed she gravitated to food and away from gambling when Chan-seong time traveled to visit the hotel a long time ago. Then Man-wol recounted that a man from her past who looked like Kim Joon-hyun encouraged her interest in food. Poor Chan-seong. His righteous indignity was hilarious as he tried to convince her it was him instead.
Wendilynn: I loved that. I wondered how Goddess Mago (Seo Yi-sook) made it so they wouldn’t remember him. Then to learn she had changed him to a cute, chubby guy just made me grin. Being a foodie is way better than gambling.
Chan-seong’s love for Man-wol moved me. It was so simple and good. His character was just so good. You could see how his gentle love for her changed her for the better in so many ways. I rewatched the beginning so I could see where she had been. She was like a stone wall of anger and jaded indignation about life. By the end, she was soft and not exactly kind, but just softer. She finally learned to forgive herself, I think.
Kate: As wary as I was about the Man-wol/Chan-seong romance, I think the series managed to play the right notes. In the performances and in the script. Yes, they would be sad when Man-wol left for her new life. But the focus on how Chan-seong’s love shaped Man-wol made the storyline less of a stereotypical star-crossed romance with people who can’t stay together. It was more of an agent for change that helped to set the pace for the entire series.
I’m a little sad we didn’t get more of a hint of what’s next for Chan-seong while he finishes his present life. In some ways that leaves him a little bit in the place of where some female leads often are. Underdeveloped except for as an agent of change for the male lead. I was glad, though, that the writers didn’t tack on a scene where Man-wol and Chan-seong found each other in new lifetimes. Or maybe even Chan-seong found love with a ridiculously underaged girl 20 years in the future of his present lifetime. (Yes, “Goblin,” I am giving you a little side-eye right there.)
When this series first started, I mentioned how I didn’t want a love story. And I didn’t. As the series went on, I realized love Man-wol needed love to learn to forgive herself. She was angry at our Captain of the Guard, but her real resentment was at herself. The love our Goddess had for Man-wol also touched me. Everyone tended to think of Man-wol’s appointment and tie to the Hotel as a punishment for her wicked deeds. In reality, it was a loving move by a God trying to save her and give her time to learn to forgive herself for what happened.
I appreciated the love Chan-seong had for her. It was never sappy or overly emotional and clingy. It was deep and caring and Chan-seong wanting the best for the women he loved. You knew, giving the choice, he’d still have gone through that journey with her all over again.
Kate: I usually don’t like endings in K-dramas that show our lead couples connected as children, and that is part of why they are fated to be together. I know South Korea is smaller than the US as far as population. So I imagine there are a number of ways this may ring more true to Korean audiences. In this fictional world, people meet again throughout different lifetimes. There was already an expectation that a past Chan-seong had been part of Man-wol’s life in some way. This setup allowed me to enjoy that last big reveal. That Chan-seong may not have been a huge part of Man-wol’s life back then. But he offered her help and sympathy after her parents were killed and she almost died.
Wendilynn: I liked that his help played a small part back then. Yes, he saved her life then, too, but it was a passing moment. Maybe that’s his role in her lifetimes? To offer friendship and kindness as she struggles through the harder times she must face.
Kate: His dreams of a happy future-life hotel staff make me think those roles can change as the lifetimes change. How else can you explain Mi-ra (Park Yoo-na) and Yeon-woo’s (Lee Tae-sun) present-day romance? I’m hoping this dream scene and this information hints that Man-wol and Chan-seong can stay together happily in some future lifetime. I’d like to hope the same for Yoo-na (Kang Mi-na) and Hyun-joong (P.O). It’s not easy to rebound after your first love ended because your boyfriend’s soul was ready to move on!
Wendilynn: I know South Korea puts a lot of emphasis on the importance of first loves. But learning to love is a crucial step in life, and there are many loves to come. There isn’t just one love that will be the only love you have. I really feel Yoo-na will go on to have other good loves too. She is living in a body that is not her own. Now she is ready to accept that and live a good life.
Her time in Hyun-joong’s care helped her heal in so many ways. He was always there for his sister, waiting for her to join him. I liked that after we knew his real story, they never truly demonized his friend for what he did. Little sister died and met her brother. She didn’t have to face the betrayal too.
Kate: That storyline felt like a double twist. First they make it seem like his friend was taking care of the sister and blameless. Then they twist it back again to let the audience know the friend was shot, assumed murdered. But you’re right. Even the context of that changed when you saw how desperate a situation the friend was in. His intent wasn’t to murder Hyun-joong. All the years he served as the sister’s doctor and caretaker. The apology to Hyun-joong really allowed him to find forgiveness. I bet Hyun-joong’s friend won’t need to spend too long resolving his time in the afterlife now.
What did you make of the part of the ending that took us to the Blue Moon Hotel and the new owner (Kim Soo-hyun). Did I miss something there? I felt like I did. Do you think this was a setup for a possible second season? Or was there some K-dramaland connection I missed? Would you want to watch another season?
Wendilynn: As of this conversation, they said there are no plans for a second season. But I would watch another season of “Hotel Del Luna” in a heartbeat. They wrote this show so well, it was so enjoyable to watch and the twists were so good I’d totally be on board for more. Let’s face it, we haven’t had a good Kim Soo-hyun offering since he left for his military service. We are all missing him something awful.
Since the hotel has a new owner, there’d be a new demented story to sustain his need for that job. The only hitch I see is he would also need a good thousand years to stew in his own juices. So to have his story resolved in our current Hotel timeline wouldn’t work well. It would need to be set in some future time, I think.
Kate: Perhaps it is for the best. A second season may not be able to sustain the delicate magic that made “Hotel Del Luna” work so well.