Memories of the Alhambra: Episode 1
This is amazing! From the director of Forest of Secrets and the writer of W-Two Worlds comes a thrilling drama that leads us on an adventure between a virtual world and reality. We’re given a gripping introduction to our characters, who’ve found themselves at the junction of this virtual reality in Granada, Spain. It’s a conglomeration of a magical reality, some impromptu confrontations, and enjoyable humor that all mesh to create this intriguing introduction to the story. Let’s dive right in!
EPISODE 1 RECAP
In Barcelona, a frazzled young man urgently speaks to someone on a pay phone. We’ll later know him to be JUNG SE-JOO (Chanyeol of Exo), and he suddenly looks around with a frightened expression. He quickly tells the person to meet at the hostel in Granada before dropping the phone and running off.
Se-joo runs for his life through the night streets of Barcelona, seemingly being chased by someone or something, but we can’t see what he’s running from. Out of breath, Se-joo finally boards the train and seems to be safe from the pursuit.
When Se-joo reaches his cabin, one of his cabinmates asks Se-joo to wake him when they reach Granada. Still shaken, Se-joo nods and hugs his knees on his bed. Se-joo wakes up the announcement of their approach to Granada and wakes up his cabinmate as promised. The cabinmate nods and turns around, still dozing off.
Then suddenly, the sunny weather transforms into a storm, and Se-joo looks at the dark clouds and rain with worry. He opens the cabin door, and his eyes widen at the sight of someone. A gunshot fires, splattering blood on Se-joo’s bed and piercing the train window.
When the train arrives at Granada Station, the weather has transformed back to sunny and clear skies. As the cabinmate leaves, he notices that Se-joo left his backpack on the train. In a narration, we hear that this was the last official sighting of this young man.
Bonita Hostel owner JUNG HEE-JOO (Park Shin-hye) wakes up to the doorbell ringing. It’s past 1 a.m., and she sleepily lugs herself off the couch to greet a guest at the door. We’ll soon know him as YOO JIN-WOO (Hyun Bin), and he asks if she has any open rooms. He narrates: “This is where the story begins. That person sought me, and I sought that person, here in Granda.”
Hee-joo checks in her late-night guest and notes that most people make a reservation. Jin-woo explains that he was on a business trip in Barcelona and needed to make an impromptu trip to Granada. She offers their two options — a double or quad — but Jin-woo wants a single room.
She comments that most people who want singles go to a hotel and then remembers that she does have one single room on the sixth floor. Jin-woo gladly agrees to take the room before realizing that the hostel doesn’t have an elevator. Hee-joo offers to refer him to a hotel, but he insists on staying at the hostel.
Hee-joo offers him the open space in the quad dorm on the second floor, but after seeing the mess of the room, Jin-woo decides to haul his luggage up to the sixth floor. Hee-joo apologetically leads him to the sixth floor as Jin-woo carries his suitcase on his shoulders because he doesn’t want to scratch up his suitcase.
Once they arrive at the sixth-floor single, it turns out to be a long untouched storage room with furniture piled in a corner and dust layered all over. Hee-joo hurriedly tries to open the windows for fresh air and apologizes that she didn’t get a chance to clean the room yesterday.
Jin-woo implies that she must have skipped cleaning for much longer. Hee-joo once again suggests that he move to a hotel, but he tackles the stairs with his luggage again.
When Hee-joo returns to the ground floor, her grandmother asks about their late-night guest. Hee-joo describes the guest as rich person, dressed in high-end brands from head to toe, and wonders why he wouldn’t just stay at a hotel. Grandma figures that he could be dressed in counterfeit accessories, and Hee-joo nods in agreement.
Looking disgusted, Jin-woo tries to clean the cobwebs in his room with a broom and runs into one mess after another. He pulls off the handle while trying to open the window, stuffs crumpled up toilet paper into the mouse hole, and deals with a toilet that won’t flush the toilet paper he used to wipe the heavy layers of dust on the nightstand. Ha, this is somehow really relatable.
While trying to plunge the dusty toilet water, Jin-woo picks up a call from his secretary at the hotel in Barcelona. Secretary SEO JUNG-HOON (Min Jin-woong) finds it absurd that Jin-woo left for Granada when their flight to Seoul is that morning, but Jin-woo tells him what’s really absurd: When he tried to wake his secretary for an impromptu trip to Granada, his drunk secretary wouldn’t budge and even cursed Jin-woo in his sleep, so he came to Granada on his own.
Secretary Seo sheepishly falls to his knees and explains that he was celebrating their last scheduled night in Barcelona. Jin-woo orders Secretary Seo to submit his resignation letter upon reaching Seoul and hangs up. Secretary Seo looks crushed, but he immediately receives a call from Jin-woo ordering him to get to Granada on the first morning flight.
After Jung-hoon successfully clears the dusty toilet water, he tries to charge his phone into the outlet in his room, but of course, it’s blocked. All the other outlets are taped off, so Jung-hoon resorts to outlets on the ground floor kitchen. As he charges his phone, he texts someone named Choi Yang-joo asking how much longer, and Yang-joo responds that it’ll take about 30 more minutes.
Jin-woo cooks himself ramyun while waiting, and a young girl enters the kitchen. She introduces herself as JUNG MIN-JOO (Lee Re), and Jin-woo incorrectly assumes that she’s the hostel owner’s daughter. Min-joo corrects him that 27-year-old Hee-joo is her older sister.
She tells him to ignore her dance practice for her audition next week, and she proceeds to jam out around the table while Jin-woo slurps his ramyun. When Jin-woo leaves his pot in the sink, Min-joo tells him to clean his dishes right away, so he reluctantly follows the rules. Then, he finally receives the notification from Yang-joo that he can check the thing he’s been waiting on.
Jin-woo exits the hostel and walks through the night as he narrates, “Most people come to Granada for Alhambra Palace, but I’ve come to see something else — something more mystical than the Alhambra.” He reaches a fountain in the middle of a plaza and notices buildings on a faraway hill burst into flames. Then, a rock fires towards him and explodes in the air, crumbling to the ground around him.
Jin-woo ducks and looks closely at the approaching figure behind the dust. It’s a medieval knight with arrows piercing his back, riding toward him on a horse. Jin-woo stands up cautiously as the knight stops before him, and then the knight rears the horse, much to Jin-woo’s surprise. The dead knight topples to the ground, and the horse runs off through the streets, but no other passerby seems to notice the ruckus.
After taking a close look at the knight, Jin-woo looks up to the statue in the plaza as it suddenly turns into a real warrior. The warrior leaps off the pedestal and slams his sword to the ground, causing an explosion of dust. Jin-woo falls to the ground and looks terrified as the warrior approaches him with the sword.
Then, the warrior slices his sword at Jin-woo, who just barely saves himself by bearing a cut on his arm. He sees blood dripping onto the ground, and we’re finally clued in that he’s wearing special contact lenses. We see the world from his perspective: A computer program notifies Jin-woo that the warrior killed him and logs him out.
Upon logging out, the blood and rubble disappear, and Jin-woo breathes heavily in relief before cracking a smile. Through his earpiece, he talks to his colleague Yang-joo, who’s blown away by this augmented reality (AR) game. Yang-joo fumes in jealousy when Jin-woo confirms that it felt so real that he believed that he was dying, which is a funny thing to envy.
Jin-woo takes out a contact lens, still hot from the program, and Yang-joo predicts that this form of AR could take off in the market within the next year. They wonder who this crazy genius could be.
Flashback to 4 hours prior — Jin-woo wakes up in the middle of the night to pick up a call from an unknown number. It’s runaway pay phone caller Se-joo, who nervously explains that he received an offer from CEO Cha Hyung-seok (seemingly Jin-woo’s friend) but doesn’t want to sell his game to a bad guy.
He needs to make a decision by the next day and tells Jin-woo check his email. He urgently tells Jin-woo to meet at Bonita Hostel in Granada before running off. Jin-woo seems confused by the sudden call and tries calling back, but nobody answers. His eyes widen when he opens the attached file and immediately gets out of bed to dig deeper on his laptop.
Jin-woo makes a call to a mysterious person saved on his phone as “A” (cameo by Park Hae-soo) and asks for details about Cha Hyung-seok’s stay in Barcelona. It seems like someone has wiretapped one of their phones and monitors the conversation. As Jin-woo packs his suitcase, he tells “A” that he’s headed to Granada to check out the program himself.
Back to the present in Granada, Jin-woo tells Yang-joo that they can only wait for their mysterious programmer to appear. Until then, Jin-woo says that he’ll keep trying to level up in the game to find any potential flaws. Meanwhile, at the Seoul office, Yang-joo shares this mindblowing AR game with his superior Director Park, all three of them keeping this on the down low.
Putting the contact lens back into his eye, Jin-woo logs back into the game, taking place in Granada in year 1492, during the war between the Aragon and Nasrid kingdoms. He swipes through the virtual screen, and the game instructs him to follow the map to find the basic weapon provided to all level 1 players.
Jin-woo follows the virtual reality navigation to his destination: the bathroom of a bustling restaurant. He’s charged with finding the weapon there, so he searches the mirror and sink for any sign of the weapon. Then, he pulls at a random chain, and that opens a virtual window from the ceiling to reveal a sword.
The sword lowers from the ceiling, and Jin-woo grabs it in awe. The program informs him that this is the only weapon available for level 1 and that he must level up to upgrade his weapon. From the other end, his colleagues Yang-joo and Director Park marvel at the realistic weapon, and Jin-woo confirms that it feels real.
In the bathroom, a drunk man at the urinal looks at Jin-woo’s gestures curiously and presumes that he’s drunk. As Jin-woo exits the restaurant, he waves his sword, which is invisible to everyone else.
He returns to the statue at the plaza with his virtual sword, and just like before, the warrior leaps down from the pedestal. This time, Jin-woo defends himself with his sword, but he’s knocked down by the mighty force of his enemy. When he looks around, his enemy has disappeared, but the warrior jumps from above and attacks him, much to his colleagues’ frenzy. The Nasrid warrior kills Jin-woo once again, and he’s logged out.
Adjusting to the game, Jin-woo takes on the challenge again and fights his statue enemy once more. But this time, his rusted sword breaks, and he loses his life and weapon. As they watch, Yang-joo and Director Park mock Jin-woo for his poor performance, saying that it’ll take him a year to level up at this rate.
Jin-woo logs in for the fourth time — this time with no weapon, so he returns to the restaurant bathroom to retrieve the virtual sword. The waiter who greeted him at his first visit looks at him strangely and wonders if he comes in just to use the bathroom. Jin-woo faces the Nasrid warrior multiple times while his colleagues now watch his repeated failures while munching on popcorn.
All night, Jin-woo fights, dies, and revisits the restaurant bathroom for his virtual sword while his colleagues shake their head at his incompetence. His level 1 battle seems repetitive and predictable until he switches up the fighting ground and stands by a car. At first, he doesn’t see the warrior anywhere, but suddenly, the warrior lands on the top of the car, shattering the glass and denting the top.
Jin-woo and his colleagues freeze in shock and awe that this program just incorporated a real-life item into the game in real time. The warrior kills Jin-woo and breaks the weapon once again, but Jin-woo smiles in excitement.
When Jin-woo returns to the restaurant to retrieve his weapon, it’s closed. He waves over the workers to let him in and hands the annoyed waiter some cash to remain open for one more hour. That’s some
As night becomes day, a confused elderly couple watches Jin-woo continues flail and roll around against the invisible enemy. From Jin-woo’s perspective, he’s fighting with his all against the Nasrid warrior and finally manages to wound him with the sword. He breathes heavily in this final faceoff and slices his sword at the warrior flying toward him. The warrior collapses in defeat, and Jin-woo finally levels up! Woohoo!
The dead enemy disappears, and Jin-woo is charged with a new mission: Find the Warrior’s Key. He reaches into the fountain and obtains the key, which the program instructs him to use to find his new weapon. Jin-woo looks accomplished and collapses to the ground in satisfaction.
Through the earpiece, Director Park tells him that they can’t find any flaws — only that it’s too addictive. He warns Jin-woo not to lose the bet on this AR game, and Jin-woo assures him that he has no plans to let this slip through his fingers.
Lying on the ground, he imagines how this game could be the future all over the world and how Granada will become famous — not for Alhambra Palace but as the magical city, the mecca for all users. He admits, “As soon as I imagined this future, I became fearful and dispirited at the possibility that I could lose this game.”
Jin-woo returns to the hostel just as hostel owner Hee-joo arrives on her scooter. She tells him that she plans on cleaning the sixth floor first, and he tiredly agrees to this. As he climbs the stairs, he worries that the mysterious programmer already signed over the game to CEO Cha Hyung-seok.
Jin-woo grumbles as he heads back down the stairs to the kitchen to charge his phone. He agrees to watch over another hostel guest’s cooking ramyun and picks up a call from investigator “A,” who reports that Cha Hyung-seok cancelled his whole schedule for today. Jin-woo worries that he’s already lost the game to his rival, but “A” doesn’t think so.
“A” shares details on the mysterious programmer: 17-year-old Jung Se-joo. “A” has also illicitly hacked into his emails. Jin-woo seems alarmed that this programmer is a minor, and the call is interrupted by the fire alarm, triggered by the burning ramyun on the stove.
Annoyed by the sound, Jin-woo turns off the stove and opens the window before going outside to continue his call. But the call gets cut off from the poor Bluetooth connection, and Jin-woo can’t bring his phone outside because it’s low on battery. He finds Hee-joo trying to turn off the sensitive fire alarm and barks at her to turn off the alarm faster.
Jin-woo tries to return to his call, but Hee-joo confronts him for his rude burst of anger. As the alarm shuts off, Jin-woo decides to call back later and addresses Hee-joo. He explains that he’s blaming her because she’s the owner of this wretched hostel.
As a businessman himself, he says that he detests mediocre business owners like her. He belittles the hostel for having nothing to offer other than some free ramyun and yells complaints about the clogged toilet, mouse hole, broken window, stairs, and broken outlets. Hee-joo nervously squeaks out her disclaimer that she did suggest moving to a hotel.
Jin-woo sternly warns her that if this deal worth one billion won goes wrong, it’ll be her fault. Hee-joo apologizes but also accuses him of bad manners. He finds it funny that she’s seeking manners after treating her guests without any and walks into the lobby to return the call to “A.”
Hee-joo crouches down and sobs at the harsh words while Jin-woo learns more about the mysterious programmer, who needs his guardian’s consent because he’s still a minor. “A” tells him that the programmer’s parents have passed away, so his legal guardian is his older sister: Jung Hee-joo, the owner of Bonita Hostel.
Jin-woo pauses in realization that he’s been staying at Bonita Hostel and looks back at a sobbing Hee-joo. “A” says that Hee-joo doesn’t seem to know anything, based on the emails she exchanged with her programmer brother. Jin-woo looks at her from the kitchen entrance, and Hee-joo shoots back a glare.
Jin-woo narrates, “This is how the magic started in Hee-joo’s life. Hee-joo had authority over the technological innovation of the future. And like all fairytale princesses, she didn’t know her identity, lived in a wretched house, and let in a wolf.”
I’m sold! I was happy to find that this show met the hype and my anticipations, as expected from this production team. The sci-fi fantasy element is right up my alley, and I’m excited to see how the two worlds mesh through this show. As an inexperienced video gamer (read: I can maybe figure out Mario Cart), I find the concept of virtual reality and augmented reality overwhelming but fascinating — meaning I could never excel in the game, but I am so intrigued by the idea that I would love to be good at it. I’m not sure how exciting this show was for those who’ve been immersed in the world of VR and AR for a while, but for me, this was quite an exciting watch. I think I may finally understand why people watch videos of other people playing video games.
W-Two Worlds really blew me out of the water with its creativity and exhilarating twists and turns, so I’m excited for how this drama unfolds with this writer at the helm. I can already see the parallels — in a good way — with how the two worlds of reality and AR overlap and interact. Even though Jin-woo’s level 1 failures were repetitive, it didn’t feel trite or boring thanks to the multiple perspectives and angles possible with this concept. This director knows how to get those angles and portray the clear points of view of the people privy to and unaware of the AR game. This director-writer combo already had me excited, and this was a strong first episode to showcase their potential.
I had forgotten how much I had missed Hyun Bin (and his dimples), and I think he chose a great project for his dramaland comeback. He’s a natural at the likeable ass with a sprinkle of cheeky humor, and I can’t wait to see how he tries to recover from putting his foot in his mouth. I’m not too keen on Park Shin-hye’s character being characterized as the clueless fairytale princess, as she’s played these types of characters before. I hope her character transcends that archetype and proves that she’s more than the “princess” that Jin-woo sees. I’m eager to dive deeper into the virtual world of Alhambra and as excited as Jin-woo looks when he finally conquered level 1. Level/Episode 2, let’s go!
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