Hotel del Luna: Episode 2
The more he learns about the job he’s expected to perform at the Hotel del Luna, the harder our scaredy-cat hotelier tries to get out of his obligation, to no avail. His protests fall on deaf ears, so he goes along on a job that seems as dangerous as it is unbelievable. But he learns along the way that not everything is as it seems, especially when it comes to his new boss.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Chan-sung tries to help Man-wol, who’s been stabbed with sharpened rod by the indigent former mayor she once cursed. But she stands and pulls the rod out, then sends it flying through the air to pierce the former mayor. It kills him instantly, and his body turns to dust.
Man-wol turns to Chan-sung and tells him that he gave up his one chance to run, “If you run away now, I’ll kill you.” Chan-sung goes looking for the body of the man she killed, but all he finds is the metal rod and a pile of dust. A hand reaches out of the dust and grabs his shoe, making Chan-sung leap backwards, then the hand crumbles.
Chan-sung reminds Man-wol that he said ghosts can’t hurt him, so she amends that the spirits of those with grudges can kill. He argues that he gets too scared to tell the difference, but she tells him not to be scared when she’s nearby.
HAHA, the big chicken asks Man-wol sheepishly to get his shoe out of the ash pile, and she offers to do it if he calls her “Boss,” but he repeats that he has no intention of working at her hotel. Man-wol saunters off, and Chan-sung has to get his shoe himself.
He asks if it’s dangerous to leave the ash, but she says it will be collected by the Grim Reaper. She looks mildly disgusted to see Chan-sung putting his shoe back on, freaking him out all over again, and she tells him she’ll buy him a new pair.
Man-wol takes Chan-sung shoe shopping, telling him never to wear brown shoes again, and he correctly guesses that’s the real reason she told him to throw his shoes out, ha. He doesn’t like any of the shoes Man-wol picks, but the store is about to close, so he’s forced to buy what she chooses.
Man-wol tells him to start working tomorrow since she bought him shoes, and he asks what exactly she wants him to do at her hotel. Man-wol says ominously, “You’ll console the ones who closed the doors [to their lives] with frustration. Death.”
Elsewhere, a car flips in a tunnel, killing the driver. His soul stares at his body, until a man in black puts him in a car with a license plate that says “TO HEAVEN.” The car takes the soul away, driving right through the other cars and people in the tunnel.
Mago, the deity who helped Man-wol find the Hotel del Luna, leaves a white lily beside the man’s body and wishes him safe passage across the Sanju River. We see a long, narrow bridge spanning a river engulfed in mist with hundreds of souls walking across, all holding white lilies.
Man-wol tells Chan-sung that most people cross the bridge over the Sanju River when their lives end, and go to another world. But she says that some souls get lost and end up as ghosts, stuck on Earth. She says that these lost souls are her hotel guests, and that Chan-sung will be safe as long as he stays by her side.
She tells him to be at work tomorrow and to wear his new shoes. Chan-sung asks if she’s one of the ones hanging around after the door is shut – he knows she’s not a normal human, and that she said vengeful ghosts can kill. Since she’s threatened to kill him, does that make her a vengeful ghost?
Man-wol says that the one next to his is probably a vengeful ghost, and Chan-sung jumps to see the eyeless ghost just inches away. Man-wol snickers that that shut him up, but what Chan-sung said about her being a vengeful ghost seems to bother her on the ride back to the hotel.
A mother and her young daughter feed some kittens in the street, and the little girl follows a growling shadow through an alley and into a park. She smiles at the enormous tiger that approaches her, but when her mother finds her, there’s only a tiger-shaped shadow slinking away.
Man-wol and Manager Noh stand in front of the ancient tree in the hotel, and Man-wol wonders if it’s dead, since it hasn’t grown leaves or flowers in over a thousand years. Manager Noh says that it must be alive since Man-wol calls it her “second self,” and she asks if that means she’s alive.
She suddenly senses that a very special guest has arrived and waits at the hotel gate. The tiger spirit passes by with only a short glance at her. Receptionist Hyun-joong also sees the tiger, and Man-wol says it’s dangerous for the soul of a sacred animal to be wandering around.
She snaps at Hyun-joong for not sensing the tiger and welcoming it to the hotel, but he says that in his sixty years here, he’s never seen a tiger as a guest. She tells him to do better at his job because there are plenty of souls hoping to work at Hotel del Luna.
Chan-sung sits at his friend’s house pouting, depressed because the eyeless ghost followed him and is sitting just outside. He worries that he was too mean, calling Man-wol a vengeful ghost, and his mumbling attracts the ghost and he finds her sitting right beside him.
He decides to show up at the Hotel del Luna in the morning, and he’s dismayed when it matches his father’s description exactly, though it’s also much smaller than he expected. He goes inside, where the place seems deserted — until Hyun-joong pops up from behind the counter and Chan-sung nearly jumps out of his shoes again.
Unaware of who he is, Hyun-joong shows Chan-sung the room rates, which are purposely high to discourage the living from trying to stay there. Chan-sung tells Hyun-joong who he is, clarifying that this does not mean he’s taking the job, he just wants to talk to Man-wol.
Hyun-joong takes Chan-sung in the creepy elevator to another floor. It seems equally deserted, and Hyun-joong explains that most of their ghostly guests sleep during the day. Manager Noh pops up out of nowhere to take Chan-sung to see Man-wol. On the way, Chan-sung touches Manager Noh to see if he’s a ghost, and Manager Noh says that he’s as human as Chan-sung.
In Man-wol’s office, Chan-sung gapes at the hundreds of years’ worth of paintings and photos of her, giving him a good idea of how long she’s lived. Manager Noh tells him that he’s worked here for thirty years, and that Chan-sung will be taking over his job. Chan-sung doesn’t like the thought of being stuck here for decades.
Man-wol enters, and the first thing she notices is that he’s not wearing his new shoes. He says they’re too flashy for his real job, which he’s headed to after speaking with her. Man-wol mentions the eyeless ghost, and tells Chan-sung to his horror that once a ghost forms a connection with someone, that connection lasts forever.
Chan-sung repeats that he has no desire to see ghosts, but Man-wol says that he must, since they’re his guests from now on. He says that he couldn’t find anything online about Hotel del Luna, but Man-wol shows him that it’s legally registered with the city. Chan-sung asks if they perform exorcisms, but Man-wol says the ghosts come here for healing.
As Chan-sung and Man-wol stand at an impasse, we move to another part of the hotel, where guest manager Seo-hee serves mountains of food to a ghost who can’t seem to eat fast enough. She delivers firewood to a ghost who froze to death, then recommends books to a grandmotherly ghost who wishes to read every book in the huge library.
In voiceover, Man-wol says that Hotel del Luna helps ghosts fulfill the wishes they couldn’t in life. She tells Chan-sung that ghosts deserve to leave this world without regrets, and that he’s here to do the managerial things that only humans can do.
Chan-sung gives her a bankbook to an account containing every penny that she paid his father for him, plus interest. She takes the money, letting him think that he’s bought his freedom, and cheerfully allows him to leave.
In the elevator, Chan-sung hears a small voice and he freezes. He turns to see a little girl floating near the ceiling, and he barely holds in his alarm as he pounds on the “door open” button.
A minute later, he comes screaming back into Man-wol’s office (literally, LOL), demanding to know why he’s still seeing ghosts after paying her back. She says calmly that his ability was a birthday gift, and when he asks how he’s supposed to live a normal life seeing ghosts, Man-wol says that he has no choice but to work at the hotel.
He follows her out, but only (he says) so they can keep talking about this, sticking so close to Man-wol that she may as well be piggybacking him. Bartender Kim tells Manager Noh that he’s worried that the new manager seems weak, but Manager Noh counters that Chan-sung looks courageous to him.
Manager Noh says that when he first started, he was more scared of Man-wol than the ghosts, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Chan-sung. Bartender Kim says that’s only because he doesn’t know why Man-wol runs the hotel, and that she’s scarier than any of the ghosts here.
Man-wol leads Chan-sung to a garage full of expensive cars and chooses a red convertible. Chan-sung asks if comforting the the dead is a lucrative business, and Man-wol gloats that he seems to like fancy things.
When he asks where they’re going, Man-wol tells Chan-sung that they’re going to catch a tiger. They wind up at a museum, looking at the stuffed skin of the last captive tiger in Korea, and Man-wol grows pensive at the thought that it’s dead, but made to look alive. Her mood reminds Chan-sung of her telling him that she’s not dead, she’s just here.
A sick man lies in bed, and he sees a tiger pacing around his bedroom. The tiger roars and pounces, but disappears in midair, and the man tells his assistant that he had that dream again.
Over lunch, Chan-sung tells Man-wol that the chairman of his hotel received the Baekdu tiger as a gift from North Korea, and brought it to their country. He asks why they’re in a restaurant instead of looking for the tiger, and Man-wol says that she wanted to eat here since it was featured on that drama she likes. She challenges Chan-sung to eat five rice cakes in one bite like the hero of the show, but Chan-sung wails that he needs to get to work and doesn’t have time for this.
He orders her to fix his eyes right now, but instead she says that a tiger once told a rice cake vendor that a rice cake would save his life, but the seller gave it away, so the tiger ate him. Man-wol tells Chan-sung to bring the eyeless ghost to the hotel so she can send her on her way.
The frozen ghost is finally thawed and is sent to the Sanju River by Manager Noh, Seo-hee, and the GRIM REAPER (Kang Hong-seok). Manager Noh tells Reaper that he’s retiring soon and is planning a lot of fishing trips, but Reaper informs him that he doesn’t have that much time. Manager Noh takes the news graciously, simply saying that he needs to get things in order.
Man-wol and Chan-sung end up at a cafe, where Chan-sung continues to assert that he will not be working at Hotel del Luna. Man-wol isn’t impressed by his Harvard MBA or the fancy hotel he’s been hired at, and she tells him that now that he can see ghosts, the only jobs he’s suited for are managing her hotel, or a shaman.
Chan-sung says he can just ignore the ghosts, so Man-wol gives him a test. She pinches the flame on the candle on their table, which turns black and becomes a cloud of particles. She challenges Chan-sung to get her coffee and return without spilling a drop.
Chan-sung quickly realizes that the entire restaurant is filled with ghosts, all staring at him. He walks carefully back to the table, coming perilously close to spilling the coffee every time a ghost rushes him. To Man-wol’s annoyance, he somehow passes the test, but she snaps that he can’t expect to work at a fancy hotel when he can barely carry a cup of coffee.
Back at Hotel del Luna, the other employees ask Manager Noh if he’s retiring as soon as Chan-sung begins work. He only says that he’d hoped to see them all move on to the afterlife. Man-wol storms in angrily and asks Bartender Kim if a Harvard MBA is as impressive as his passing the state exam during his time.
He says it’s not, and Chan-sung confirms the others’ background in life (Seo-hee was rich, while Hyun-joong attended the best school of his time). She yells that they were all better off in life than Chan-sung, who thinks he’s such a hotshot.
Manager Noh asks when Chan-sung will start work, as he needs to check himself into the hospital. She tells him that Chan-sung thinks he can get along just fine despite seeing ghosts, so she’s giving him a few days before he cracks. She curtly gives Manager Noh permission to go, and Bartender Kim grumbles that after all Manager Noh’s years of service, she might have shown a little concern.
Chan-sung finally makes it to his new hotel job, and he shrieks loudly the first time a ghost surprises him. He reminds himself to ignore it, but he has a harder time ignoring the eyeless ghost when she shows up in the pool area. His new boss wants to introduce him to some VIP guests, but if Chan-sung speaks, the eyeless ghost will locate him, so he does the only thing he can do — he flings himself into the pool.
As he’s drying off, Man-wol arrives and asks why he didn’t just ignore the ghost. Chan-sung says that he’ll stay at her hotel as a guest to get used to ignoring ghosts, but she doubts that he can ignore the tiger spirit. She asks if he’s curious what happened to the Baekdu tiger, and she takes him to the home of the chairman of his hotel.
The chairman (cameo by Nam Kyung-eub) is the same man who dreamed of the tiger spirit, and Chan-sung apologizes for visiting him unannounced while he’s sick. Man-wol wordlessly paces the parlor then lets herself into the chairman’s bedroom, noting an expensive painting of Mount Baekdu on the wall.
She asks in banmal if it’s real, and Chan-sung giggles nervously that she lived abroad and forgets to use honorifics. The chairman tells them that the artwork was a gift from a North Korean artist, along with the Baekdu tiger. He says that the tiger refused to mate and died alone, and behind him, Chan-sung sees the tiger’s shadow on the wall.
Man-wol intones that the tiger never mated because it had no reason to leave anything behind — he’d left anything meaningful behind. The chairman confesses that he keeps seeing the tiger in his dreams, and Man-wol tells him that the one who brought it here should return it.
He says, a little sadly, that the stuffed tiger has become a symbol and it’s not up to him to return it. Suddenly, all the glass in the room explodes, and a loud roar echoes through the air.
At Hotel del Luna, Manager Noh hangs a recent portrait of Man-wol on the wall, and says sadly, “This photo will be the only proof of the time I’ve spent in this life. Will she remember a mere human who’s just passing through here?”
Man-wol leads Chan-sung to another restaurant for sashimi, and Chan-sung asks why Man-wol let the tiger get away. She says she can’t make the tiger come with her unless it wants to, and it’s waiting for the chairman to die. Chan-sung argues that if the tiger is making the chairman ill, then this is a very dangerous situation, so they need to go back.
She agrees that he does need to go back so that he can offer to get rid of the tiger in exchange for the painting of Mount Baekdu. Chan-sung grumbles that she makes all her money extorting people who are being haunted, and Man-wol says it’s in his job description, but Chan-sung refuses to scam people.
He asks if this is how she tricked his father, but Man-wol says she got Chan-sung in exchange for saving his father’s life. She says he’d be dead without her protection, but Chan-sung retorts that Man-wol has tortured him more than the eyeless ghost. He leaves, snapping that he’s going back to his human life now.
Chan-sung sees the eyeless ghost waiting for him outside, but this time he walks right up to her and yells, “Take off your sunglasses if you want. I even saw a tiger. Nothing can scare me now!” She reaches up to take off the glasses, but she changes her mind, and Chan-sung continues on his way.
A little further on, he runs into Manager Noh outside his friend’s place, and the two sit to talk. Chan-sung asks if Man-wol kept Manager Noh at the hotel against his will, but Manager Noh says that he chose to stay. Chan-sung can’t understand how extorting frightened people is a worthy use of time.
Manager Noh explains that the value of money and power are different in the hotel, so he’s never judged Man-wol by human standards. He continues that he knows Chan-sung hates the hotel now, but that if he gathers his courage and faces it, he’ll discover it’s worth.
Chan-sung’s friend comes outside and asks why he’s sitting there alone. Chan-sung says he’s having a conversation, but when he looks again, Manager Noh’s chair is empty. Oh no… Manager Noh appears again, but this time he’s sparkling and ethereal. He tells Chan-sung that this job will show him a secret world, and that it might even be fun.
He disappears and returns to the hotel, this time as a guest. Man-wol joins him at the ancient tree, regretful that keeping him here deprived him of a normal life, but Manager Noh assures her that his life here was very meaningful. He says that his life would have been short if he hadn’t met her, so he was happy to be at Hotel del Luna.
Man-wol says that he has no family to hold memorials for him, but Manager Noh says that during his time here, Man-wol was his sister, his daughter, then his grandchild. She plucks at his sleeve and says that since she can’t die, she can’t promise they’ll meet again, and Manager Noh takes her hands and sincerely wishes that her time begins running again someday.
Bartender Kim, Seo-hee, and Hyun-joong see Manager Noh off to his reward in a limousine, bowing deeply as it drives away. Man-wol stays by the ancient tree, and her eyes well up with tears.
Chan-sung returns to the chairman’s home, and the chairman tells him that Man-wol has already come to speak to him. He says that he’s always felt guilty for trapping the Baekdu tiger’s soul so that it couldn’t return home. He tells Chan-sung that Man-wol took the painting of Mount Baekdu, but that he was willing to give it, and Chan-sung belatedly realizes that the tiger and the painting are connected.
At the same time, Man-wol visits the tiger’s body and summons its soul. She leads it to the painting, telling it that the man who brought it here prepared a place for it to stay. The tiger walks into the painting, which transforms into a real place with its footsteps, and gives one last roar.
On his way home, Chan-sung passes the eyeless ghost again, and this time he’s kinder as he offers to take her where she needs to go. He tells her that he never stopped to wonder why she was following him, and he asks her to check if she can see now that she’s a ghost. She takes off her sunglasses, and Chan-sung smiles — she has eyes again.
The next day, Chan-sung goes to his regular job (wearing his new shoes, awww), where a poster from the museum reminds him of the Baekdu tiger. He texts Man-wol to ask if the tiger returned safely, and to apologize for misunderstanding her intentions.
He stops a little boy from touching a suit of armor on display in the lobby, then hears a strange noise. As he looks at the armor, the empty eyes glow an otherworldly blue, but he tells himself to just ignore it.
That evening, as Chan-sung answers a guest’s question, the suit of armor appears out of thin air. It raises its sword, and Chan-sung recalls Man-wol’s warning that vengeful spirits can kill, so he runs for his life.
The spirit follows him out to the pool, then makes a huge leap and slashes downward with its sword. The shock wave flings Chan-sung through the air, and the spirit keeps attacking as Chan-sung narrowly avoids the deadly blade.
But he soon runs out of energy, and the spirit poises for the killing blow. At the last second, Man-wol appears and shoves the spirit, then stabs it in the throat with her needle-sharp hairstick. The light in its eyes goes dark and Man-wol tosses the armor, which dissolves into black smoke in midair.
She turns to Chan-sung and calmly tells him that the tiger returned to Mount Baekdu, and that she’s here to forgive him. Chan-sung gasps out a breathless thanks, then passes out.
In flashback, we see a much less jaded Man-wol looking up at a large tree. She tells her companion that she envies trees because they can put down roots and don’t have to wander. We don’t hear their voice, but by Man-wol’s responses, her companion had promised to build her a house with the tree — she’d refused, but with a bright smile.
Chan-sung wakes at Hotel del Luna, and this time when Hyun-joong addresses him as “manager,” he gives up on correcting him. Hyun-joong notes that it’s Chan-sung’s first time here at night, and in the main lobby, Chan-sung is astounded to see ghostly employees and guests appear all around him, and he wonders if this is the secret world Manager Noh spoke of.
Man-wol descends the grand staircase, and she catches Chan-sung’s eye. They stare at each other across the lobby, a new understanding between them.
As a long-time fan of the Hong sisters’ dramas, I’m excited to have another of their shows to enjoy, while at the same time, I’m cautious to praise it too much for fear that the show will let me down in the end. The Hong sisters are brilliant at world-building and lore creation, and I always love how interesting and complex their characters are, but the truth is that their shows tend to start out strong but lose their way by the end. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Hong sisters drama that I regretted watching (though to be fair, I’ve never seen Big), but I acknowledge the fact that they sometimes don’t seem to know how to wrap up a story that started out strong.
That said, I’ve really enjoyed these first two episodes of Hotel del Luna, which are as strong as you’d expect from these writers. We’re given just enough information about Man-wol and the hotel to make me eager to learn more, and it looks like there are a lot of breadcrumbs to follow as we look into Man-wol’s past. At the very least we know that there was a man who loved her, and whom she probably loved back, but that something went terribly wrong and sent Man-wol on her path of killing and punishment by being cursed to run the hotel. And knowing kdramas as I do, I won’t be one bit surprised if Chan-sung ends up being that man’s reincarnation, especially since the scene underneath the tree appeared to be Chan-sung’s dream.
One of my favorite genres is that of re-imagined fairy tales, and there are a lot of references here to other stories, but I’m mostly getting a strong Beauty and the Beast-with-a-twist vibe. A man stumbles into a mysterious castle/hotel, tries to take a flower as a gift for his child, and the “beast” cursed to live in the castle grants him his freedom in return for that of the child. Hotel del Luna expands on this foundation by adding in the ghosts, which should offer us some fun mini-stories like the eyeless ghost, who seemed terrifying but only wanted someone to help her find her way to the hotel. In fact, if I have one complaint about the show right now, it’s that I want more ghosts! But I understand that there was a lot of groundwork to lay, so I’ll be patient.
I appreciated how the eyeless ghost, and to a larger extent the Baekdu tiger, proved as a lesson in humanity to Chan-sung. He’s a good guy, if a little on the skittish side, but he seems to have a very rigid view of the world and what’s right and wrong. He tends to jump to the worst possible conclusions about Man-wol, such as assuming she wanted the painting as payment for getting rid of the tiger, when in fact she’d recognized that the painting was the tiger’s only way home. Luckily Chan-sung was able to admit that he was wrong and used his new insight to help the eyeless ghost, so I’m looking forward to future lessons that Man-wol and her otherworldly charges have to teach him. And I have to mention how much fun I’m having watching Yeo Jin-gu’s physical comedy, which is a first — he’s really throwing himself into this role, and he makes me laugh out loud whenever he screams and flails at a ghost. More, please!
Speaking of acting, I’ve seen IU in several dramas since Dream High, and I’ve always found her very likable but just serviceable as an actor — not bad, but not amazing. And then My Ajusshi happened, and I don’t know what got into her, but IU’s acting suddenly went from good to special. I was a bit worried when I read the character description of Man-wol, because on paper she seems to have a lot in common with Ji-an, but my fears were unfounded. IU plays Man-wol with the same understated, quiet energy as she did with Ji-an, conveying complex thoughts with just the quirk of an eyebrow or a twist of the lips, but that’s where the similarities end. She’s managed to give Man-wol a very different feel to her, making her cheeky and mischievous one minute, pragmatic the next, then she can flip and she’s suddenly very frightening. Ji-an was dangerous because she had nothing to lose, and Man-wol is dangerous for much the same reason, but she also has this air of weariness and impatience with the world and people and even the souls she serves. She’s been around for too long and she’s seen it all, and it all exhausts her. It’s a lot for an actor to convey, but IU manages it beautifully, and I’m so excited to see what other surprises she’s got in her pocket.
- Premiere Watch: Watcher, Level Up, Hotel del Luna
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- IU targets Yeo Jin-gu in new teaser for Hotel del Luna
- Spooking the guest-ghosts away in tvN’s Hotel del Luna
- IU, Yeo Jin-gu take care of spooky guests in Hotel del Luna
- IU, Yeo Jin-gu confirm lead roles in Hong sisters fantasy drama
- IU eyes a new Hong sister project for her comeback