Memories of the Alhambra Finale Review
Memories of the Alhambra is a Korean Science-Fiction drama based on the premise of Augmented Reality (AR). It was launched in Netflix end 2018 and released it’s final episode on 21 Jan 2019.
You can read my review of the first 10 episodes here.
The detailed synopsis of the finale by thoughts ramble can be found here.
Brief Synopsis and Analysis
Upon the death of Prof. Cha, Jin Woo made up his mind to ‘sacrifice’ himself to save the game.
He took the ‘key to heaven’, a weapon used to destroy bugs (i.e. unintended characters), and headed to the Catholic Church to find the NPC Emma. In the previous episode, Emma had already tried to ‘delete’ him once using the key to heaven. Apparently, Jin woo has been categorised by the game as a ‘bug’.
As Jin woo entered the church, he said a short prayer and made the sign of cross. Next, he glanced emotionally at the crucified Jesus as prepared himself to embrace a similar fate. (Side note: there were many Catholic references in the last few episodes.)
Very abruptly, the brief moment of solitude and contemplation was interrupted as the church sanctum was transformed into a battle field. Several ‘terrorists’ NPCs appeared with guns to attack Jin woo. He neutralised these threats with minimal effort.
Next came the hyper-emotional scene where he encountered sequentially, three of the friends that have perished during the course of the game.
The first one that appeared to him was his enemy (i.e. Dr. Cha) who had never ceased to return each day to engage him in battle. Instead of pulling out his gun as usual, Jin woo drew out the ‘key to heaven’ and plunged it into his heart.
Frankly, after weeks of seeing Jin woo murder this character, this scene did not stir much emotions in me. Nonetheless, it did make me feel a little sad as this was the last time Jin woo would be able to see his former good buddy. After the dagger was plunged into his heart, Dr. Cha was reduced into a pile of glittering ashes.
Next came the NPC of Prof. Cha whom Jin woo regarded as a father and who became his greatest enemy in recent times. Jin woo, cast a painful glance at the professor and reduced him to a pile of ashes. It was sad but strangely satisfying to watch.
Finally, came his long time ally, Seo (i.e. former secretary), who supported and protected him while he was alive and even in his death continued to show up sporadically whenever Jin woo was in grave danger. This NPC still bore the arrows on his back as he did on the day he was killed.
However, instead of the childlike, clueless expression he wore in his life time, he now bore a blank expression whilst pointed the gun and scanning the environment for potential threats to Jin woo. It always breaks my heart to see him in this form. His actions spoke — “I love you to the point of death and beyond.”
His deletion was excruciating to watch. Jin woo walked up to him slowly, gently embraced him and plunged the dagger into his heart. Indeed, many would argue that the friendship between Jin woo and Seo is the most heart wrenching of this drama, NOT the love relationship between him and Hee Ju.
When he was about to reduce Seo into a pile of ashes I found myself screaming, “NO! NO! Please don’t.” In a very quick way, the viewer was brought through the five stages of grief (i.e. denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). And there it was, before I knew it, Seo was now nothing but a pile of ashes and I was a bucket of tears.
Finally, the story ended with Jin woo handing the dagger over to Emma and allowing himself to be deleted. (Note: This was not explicitly shown but suggested).
Upon his death, the game was reset and the ‘unsolvable problem’ (i.e. dead duel mates dying in real life and returning as enemies/allies) was solved. The company, J One, was able to redevelop the game and launch it in a year with resounding success. This led to some social issues and regulations had to be put in place to safeguard the safety of users.
The story ended as a cliff hanger with evidence suggesting that Jin woo now exists in a different realm (i.e. instant dungeon) and has become a vigilante saving random users from harm.
Thoughts and Feelings
Memories of the Alhambra is a good Korean drama. It was emotionally evocative and had many good references to religion and morality. In addition, it was mature enough to predict the possible business opportunities and social effects Augmented Reality games could have in the real world.
What I like best about this drama is that it focused a lot on the relationships between the characters, more than it did on story telling. The relationship between the protagonists and the other characters (i.e. Dr. Cha, Prof. Cha, Seo, Su jin) were incredibly nuanced and weighty. These complex relationships added dimension and maturity to the plot.
However, like thoughts ramble has mentioned in his review, there were some glaring technical loopholes in the story and their story telling method for the last few episodes (i.e. changing perspectives from various characters, constant flashbacks) was strenuous to the viewer’s attention.
Some thoughts: Their attempt to ‘diffuse tension’ was probably done deliberately. Perhaps, they had received feedback that the first few episodes were too intense and were trying to cut the intensity. Truth be told, I enjoyed the intensity of the show. When it was filmed from the first person perspective, it felt like I was playing the game. It was an amazing rollercoaster ride.
All in all, Memories of the Alhambra is a good drama and I would recommend it anyone above the age of 15 — Indeed, there was a good amount of violence in the film.