The following is a musing on my Facebook that I shared on two separate occasions. It’s very candid and written on the spur of the moment. I thought I will just reproduce the two FB posts which will serve as a review of this excellent Korean drama…

We are late to the party for this Korean series, Hotel De Luna. The buzz is so good we thought we should give it a shot.

4 episodes in, it is easy to see why this gets so much love. It’s very creative – imagine a hotel that exists in between time and space of which the guests are ghosts. These are ghosts with unfulfilled wishes and they are lost on the road to Afterlife. So they will wind up here for some respite. The world building is super cool – it doesn’t lay everything out in one episode; every episode will have an element on the world, it’s why and how, explained in an interesting manner.

This being a Korean drama, also expect a romance of the fantasy level. There is the owner of the hotel, Jang Man Wol, since God knows when because time has stood still for her. She is a tyrant, a hard as nail woman, who always gets her way. Then there is a human man, Goo Chan Seong, who reluctantly becomes the manager (there are only so many things a spirit can do in a human world). This is what the Koreans are good at – the push and pull between them is so exquisitely calibrated. On my side of the screen, we can’t wait to see the clash of lips and eventually the collision of bodies, but on the other side of the screen the writers make sure they take their time. Every episode brings them one step closer. If this is Hollywood, they are probably in bed after one episode. Their relationship is also hilariously depicted.

We also love the side-plots that run in tandem to the main romantic narrative spine. This being a hotel means there are lots of stories about the ghosts that work there and the guests. We just finished the one about a ghost bride, which has a beautiful twist. Who says ghosts can’t teach you one or two things about being human?

We are going to take our time with this 😍

Choo and I checked out of Hotel De Luna last night. It was an immensely satisfying and wonderful two-week “staycation”; one of those “holidays” that is so refreshing and yet so bittersweet because the magic disappears like wisps of smoke the moment we stepped out of the hotel. What’s left are the enchanting memories to be cherished forever.

It sounds like I am describing something perfect; it isn’t. Depending on your tolerance for romantic mushiness, the entanglements (and disentanglements) can be extremely sappy and grates on the nerves. There was also one reveal concerning Gu Chan Seong’s back story right at the end that for Choo and I wasn’t well-handled. That said, everything else felt like the perfect “stay” – an explosion of feels and catharsis. It wasn’t just the impeccable cast, set design, CGI, soundtrack, fashion and compelling storylines, for both of us it is the life lessons that we gleaned from the series that made it so unforgettable.

Death is not the end. This drama espouses not only that notion, but how we end it here in this lifetime matters. A hotel that hosts ghosts and spirits still bearing unfulfilled desires and deep grudges offers a treasure trove of stories. I want to share so many but I would do you a huge disservice if I do that. Some of the story ideas are so creative – imagine a magical telephone that allows the dead to make one last phone call to a person who is dreaming. In comes this father and son who were killed by a truck driver; they request a phone call to the driver who rammed into them. The eventual phone conversation not only surprised me, but brought on tears and a wave of euphoria because I picked up an important life lesson.

Throughout the 16 episodes, the writing duo, Hong sisters, maintains a deft balance between the horror, fantasy, humour and drama elements. Thematically, this one hits the bullseye. Fate versus choice, it feels like everything that happens is preordained, but Ma Go always gives the principle characters a choice. Chan Seong could have spent a lifetime with a younger Man Wol when he goes back in time, but does he? What is love? The themes of love (in all its beautiful guises), hope and forgiveness are well-examined in refreshing ways. I particularly love the life lesson of letting go (please don’t cue the music of Let It Go) which ultimately will set a person free, even a ghost. Grudges and hate imprison us, stopping us from being the best of ourselves. The sage adage of “if you love someone set them free” (don’t cue Sting please) is epitomised here to great empathetic effect. Some episodes carry a few seemingly disparate storylines, but in the last act all of them will dovetail together, serving up a superb dish of feels. What meticulous writing!

All the best writing is laid to waste if the characters are not compellingly drawn. Led by IU and Yeo Jin Goo, Jang Man Wol and Goo Chan Seong are drawn with a sure hand. We want them to be together, but we know it is impossible. Their love story is bittersweet; parting is such sweet sorrow. I love how their back stories are teased out slowly and when the full picture is finally revealed you will understand why they are the way they are in this lifetime. Not forgetting the back stories of the staffers at the hotel too. Why would Mrs Choi want to see out the death of a family line before leaving for the Afterlife is especially compelling.

If you have not checked into Hotel De Luna, I urge you to do so at the earliest convenience. It’s not Hotel California, you can check out anytime you like and you can leave even if you don’t want to, but my bet is that you will not only be entertained but will learn so much. Forgive, let go and move on. Leave a legacy of kind acts. Love yourself, others. This is one of the best TV series of 2019.

Rating 4,5 of 5