Memories of the Alhambra: Episode 15
With the quest nearly completed, our hero sees the light at the end of the tunnel in the form of Emma at the end of the altar, but that doesn’t guarantee a safe journey to the end. Jin-woo soon learns that completing the perilous quest isn’t going to be the hardest part of his journey — it’s the consequences of the completed quest that will force him to make the decision of his life. The end is near, but there’s no telling how this story will end.
EPISODE 15 RECAP
At the dinner table, Hee-joo numbly sips on coffee while Sang-bum warns her to stay away from Jin-woo, lest she get pulled into his scandal. Later that night, Sang-bum gets a call from a friend in Granada to inform him that Se-joo appeared at Café Alcazaba.
The Granada friend recounts the story from the waiter, who recognized Se-joo as Hee-joo’s younger brother and told him that the family moved to Seoul. The generous waiter booked a flight to Seoul for Se-joo, and the Granada friend was calling to check if Se-joo had arrived.
Just then, Min-joo calls for her older sister, and Hee-joo runs out to find a figure standing in front of their house. As she approaches the familiar figure, she recognizes him as Se-joo and begins to cry. She hugs her younger brother in relief, and Grandma scolds him for coming home now after his year-long disappearance.
Meanwhile, Director Park and Yang-joo anxiously wait for any word from Jin-woo. Director Park enters Jin-woo’s empty office and places Jin-woo’s name plate on the desk as he recalls his conversation with Professor Cha. After learning about how Jin-woo was framed by Yu-ra, Director Park implored that he and Professor Cha take responsibility for this mutant game that Jin-woo had forewarned them about a year prior.
Then, Director Park receives a call from Hee-joo, who happily reports her brother’s return. Director Park finds Se-joo’s return a hopeful sign for Jin-woo’s return, and he eagerly heads to Hee-joo’s house with lifted spirits.
On the way to her house, Director Park messages Professor Cha about Se-joo’s return and then receives an unexpected call from Doctor Choi, who asks if he’s been briefed by Professor Cha about everything. Director Park doesn’t know what he’s talking about, so Dr. Choi clarifies that he was with Jin-woo yesterday after receiving a call from an unknown number.
Flashback to the day before: Jin-woo was discovered in a bathroom near the church where he encountered Emma. The restaurant ajumma was alarmed to find him nearly unconscious and tried to call an ambulance, but Jin-woo didn’t allow her to call anyone other than Dr. Choi. Having seen the news about the police pursuit, Dr. Choi picked up Jin-woo himself and treated him in a hotel room under his name.
Dr. Choi informed Professor Cha about this situation, and Professor Cha arrived at the hotel room. After checking on Jin-woo’s state, Professor Cha dismissed Dr. Choi — despite his offers to remain and treat Jin-woo — and asked him to keep this a secret. Dr. Choi called Director Park out of concern that both Professor Cha and Jin-woo haven’t answered their phones all day.
Director Park immediately reroutes to the hotel and runs to the hotel room where Dr. Choi last left Jin-wo with Professor Cha. He tries knocking on the door and calling both of them, but he doesn’t get any response.
He suddenly remembers a phone conversation with Professor Cha last night. Director Park called with concern that Jin-woo was still missing, but Professor Cha responded nonchalantly that going missing was better than getting arrested because it would buy them time. Then, he quickly hung up because he had other matters to attend to. Identifying this red flag, Director Park runs to the lobby to ask for access to the room.
In response to Se-joo’s return, Grandma celebrates by cooking up a feast and calling her friends to inform them that her rascal grandson has returned. Min-joo and Sang-bum ask Se-joo where he had been in the past year, but Se-joo remains silent. Min-joo notes that her brother is in the same outfit from when they last saw them and finds it strange.
As Hee-joo walks in the room, Se-joo responds that he’s been hiding in “Indun,” a place in the game that only he knows. He continues that he didn’t kill Marco, and when Min-joo asks if he killed someone, he frantically yells that it wasn’t him.
Hee-joo ushers Min-joo and Sang-bum out of the room and affirms Se-joo’s claim that he didn’t kill Marco. Se-joo explains that Marco tried to kill him, so he ran away. Dead Marco kept following him until he suddenly disappeared, and Se-joo presumes that someone unlocked the quest. He had been waiting for someone to complete the quest, but he doesn’t know who that is.
Hee-joo seems alarmed by Se-joo’s confusion on who completed the quest and asks if he really doesn’t know. As Se-joo cries, he nods, confirming that he has no idea. Jin-woo narrates: “With Se-joo’s return, my long and lonely journey has come to an end.”
Back at the hotel, the staff opens the door to Jin-woo’s room, and Director Park runs in to find items scattered all over the floor, as if there was fight. Director Park calls for Jin-woo and enters the bedroom, where furniture has been toppled over as well. He spots something and pauses, his eyes widening in shock. What is it?!
One day before at the church, Jin-wo sits in the pews and does the sign of the cross. He narrates, “There’s only one story left to tell: my last story.” He finds a message from Soo-jin saying, “I’m sorry,” and just as he’s about to call her, he’s distracted by the familiar classical guitar song and Emma’s appearance at the altar.
Jin-woo approaches Emma and greets her, and she responds by asking if he has the Key of Heaven. He confirms this and offers to give it to her. Emma takes the Key with her Hand of Fatima, and the game informs Jin-woo that he’s completed the quest, thus becoming the new master.
Emma’s guitar disappears, and she stands up with the Key in both hands. Then, she opens the key to reveal a knife and sticks it in Jin-woo’s chest. The puncture glows as it cracks into Jin-woo’s body, and the game notifies Jin-woo that Emma is erasing the bug from the program. Jin-woo cringes in pain, but he doesn’t resist.
The police cars arrive outside the church, and Jin-woo releases Emma’s grip on the key, unable to the take the pain. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), the bug deletion is only 65% complete, and Emma disappears because she was unable to complete the task. On the ground, Jin-woo squirms in pain and can barely move.
The police officers burst into the church, but Jin-woo isn’t there. He’s somehow escaped in time, practically crawling out of church through a side door. He notices the police presence and navigates the side alleys to escape capture, but he’s far from safety because the relentless game continues to throw enemies his way. Jin-woo shoots down his enemies, and in a moment of crisis, NPC Secretary Seo appears to defend him. Ah, my heart.
Jin-woo stumbles into a nearby building and hides behind the safety of a door. He witnesses the enemy soldier upgrade his weapon and mercilessly shoot down NPC Secretary Seo, who falls to his knees in defeat. Jin-woo has no time to process anything and runs up the stairs to a bathroom, where he finally catches his breath.
Jin-woo’s vitality continues to plummet with the key stuck in his chest, so he yanks the key out of his chest with excruciating pain. The game informs him that the bug was unable to be deleted due to an unidentifiable error, and Jin-woo is finally logged out. His injuries disappear, along with the key, and this is where Dr. Choi finds him.
As Dr. Choi drives Jin-woo in his car, Jin-woo wakes up briefly and hears the news of Soo-jin’s overdose. He asks if she died, and Dr. Choi clarifies that she’s alive but in critical condition. When Jin-woo regains consciousness again, he finds Professor Cha speaking with Dr. Choi in his hotel bedroom.
After Dr. Choi leaves the hotel, Professor Cha recalls a call with Director Park while returning to Seoul from his hiding place. Director Park assured him that the server was shut down and notified him that Jin-woo was missing. After checking on Soo-jin at the hospital, Professor Cha asked if she left any sort of will. She didn’t, but the police found that she sent a message to Jin-woo just before she overdosed.
Professor Cha contemplated all these pieces in his head: him calling Soo-jin a whore, Jin-woo proving that he’s a victim of the game, Director Park imploring him to take responsibility, Yu-ra threatening to reveal his true intentions to steal his daughter-in-law’s inheritance. Then, he received a call from Dr. Choi about Jin-woo.
At the hotel, Jin-woo wakes up and tells Professor Cha that they’re still unsafe even with the server down. Professor Cha figures that he has better chance of surviving next to Jin-woo, since Jin-woo wouldn’t just let him die.
Jin-woo then asks about Soo-jin, and Professor Cha just deprecates her, saying that she likely didn’t overdose enough to die because of her indecisive nature. That statement clearly bothers Jin-woo, but he picks his battles.
Professor Cha asks about the quest, and Jin-woo responds that he completed the quest but discovered another problem — one that involves their lives, as allies in the game. Jin-woo says that he’s still conflicted if they should live together or die together. He clarifies, “You and I are the problem in real life and in the game. We’re like bugs that only cause problems and must be removed in order to return everything to normal.”
Professor Cha starts to blame Jin-woo for failing to resolve anything, but Jin-woo demands that Professor Cha resolve the problems with the reinvestigation first by calling for a press conference. He tells Professor Cha to disclose his intentions to take Soo-jin’s inheritance, or else, he’ll agree to the investigation and reveal the truth. Jin-woo suggests the press conference as a cleaner and honorable method for Professor Cha.
Jin-woo offers a notepad for Professor Cha to write his statement and says that he’ll call the reporters to the hotel for the press conference. Professor Cha sits down reluctantly and says that his heart hurts. He asks how their relationship ended up like this, and Jin-woo asks who’s at blame here, echoing the same words that Professor Cha told him right before becoming game allies.
While writing his statement, Professor Cha asks to make one phone call before signing away his life, and Jin-woo allows it. Professor Cha locks himself in the bathroom and makes a call to a board member for the go ahead on what they discussed earlier. Uh-oh.
Jin-woo thinks back to his promise to Hee-joo that he would come to her house when he finished the quest. He notices that Professor Cha hasn’t returned and finds the bathroom door locked. As Jin-woo tries to open the door, he gets logged back into the game. OH NO HE DIDN’T.
With the server back on, an enemy terrorist appears behind Jin-woo and shoots him. Jin-woo walks around the corner, dropping his crutch as he regains function in his leg, and he freezes at the sight of multiple enemies appearing at once.
Professor Cha covers his ears and hides in the corner of the bathroom as he recalls his plan to reopen the server. After receiving the call from Dr. Choi, Professor Cha had set up a “test” server run at the hotel and confirmed that only high-level enemies would be released in this test.
The sound of gunshots become more sporadic, and Professor Cha yells for Jin-woo, feigning innocence about the situation outside. When he doesn’t hear a response, he calls back the board member and orders for the server to be shut down. Professor Cha exits the bathroom and sees the mess in the room, and we see the dead NPC enemies disappear with the server shutdown.
Professor Cha cautiously looks around for Jin-woo and eventually finds him lying still on the bathroom floor. He catches himself as he approaches Jin-woo and backpedals. Ripping his half-written statement from the notepad, Professor Cha justifies Jin-woo’s death and blames Jin-woo for bringing this upon himself.
Before he reaches the door, Professor Cha hears the thunderstorms and menacing tune of the guitar. Wait, isn’t the server shut down? He turns around and finds NPC Hyung-seok charging at him with his sword.
After getting sliced, Professor Cha runs to the bathroom and gets sliced once more by his own son. With no weapons or ally to help, Professor Cha begs Hyung-seok to save his father and explains that he was trying to get revenge. But NPC Hyung-seok lifts his sword robotically with no mercy.
When Director Park runs into the hotel bathroom, his eyes widen at the sight of collapsed Professor Cha. He runs to the still body and finds Professor Cha dead, but Jin-woo has mysteriously disappeared.
We see that Jin-woo woke up just as the game notified him that he lost his ally. After killing Professor Cha, NPC Hyung-seok turned around to kill his other enemy, but Jin-woo whipped out his gun just in time to kill his friend. Jin-woo called out for Professor Cha, but he got no answer.
As we see Jin-woo leaving the hotel with his crutch, he narrates: “I suddenly had a thought that Hee-joo would be waiting for me. I could only think of that.” Jin-woo takes the taxi to Myeongdong to pick up Hee-joo’s car and drives it to her house.
When Jin-woo arrives, he sees the light on in Hee-joo’s room and knows that she’s been waiting for him. He hesitates to ring the doorbell and ends up lingering for a while, just looking at the light from Hee-joo’s room. From the other end, Hee-joo continues to check her phone and can’t sleep all night.
When she wakes up in the morning, she goes outside and finds her car keys in the milk bag outside the house. She finds her car parked by her house and runs around the neighborhood searching for Jin-woo, but he’s long gone.
Jin-woo walks on his crutch to the church, where he last encountered Emma. He walks down the aisle and looks intently at the crucifix. As Hee-joo cries with concern and desperation, he narrates, “This is where my story ends.”
I like the eerie setting of the church as Jin-woo’s final destination because it somehow clears the clutter and insanity from Jin-woo’s reality and grounds his final moments with gravitas. The crucifix is an interesting symbol to fixate on and fitting as a metaphor for Jin-woo’s situation, but the implication of sacrifice is making me uneasy. It’s completely in character for Jin-woo to sacrifice himself for the future of the game, for his company, and for Hee-joo, considering his one-track mind over the past year. He’s so committed to make things right, and he likely feels responsible for most of the mutations in the game, even if he’s not solely responsible.
I loved the twist with peacekeeper Emma stabbing Jin-woo to kill the bug. It was unexpected and really capitalized on the element of surprise — that the peacekeeper wasn’t obliged to refrain from violence to keep the peace. I’m curious to learn how Jin-woo became the bug in the game, since he wasn’t the one to initially cause the glitches. It started with Marco when he stabbed Se-joo in Café Alcazaba in front of Emma. So how is it that Jin-woo is the bug? Does the bug manifest in the living players when the host of the bug dies? So what about Se-joo — is he immune because he lost his master title to Jin-woo? I wonder if this is a horcrux-like situation, in which Jin-woo hosts the bug, but when Emma stabs him, she’s killing the bug, not the host. I’m excited to see how this conflict is resolved, and I hope the writers haven’t lost the steam to give us a compelling resolution.
This a great conflict to end with and lead into the finale, even though the process to get there gave me whiplash. Those time jumps were a bit rough, but I can appreciate how the flashbacks were intentional in the storytelling. There were so many figures and details in Jin-woo’s rescue/sabotage that a linear storytelling strategy would have been even more confusing. The shifts in perspective and timelines gave more clarity to the sequence of events while also preserving the mystery behind it all.
I was thrilled to see Professor Cha fulfilling his potential as an antagonist, even though it was at the expense of Jin-woo’s sanity. I was cursing him for his spiteful and completely immoral decision to sabotage Jin-woo, but this was the unapologetic malice from Professor Cha that I’d been waiting for. He’s such a despicable character, and this was the icing on the cake. And of course, the show’s sadism couldn’t bear to leave out the cherry on top with Professor Cha getting himself killed. While I’m content with Professor Cha’s death, I hope we get some answers on how Professor Cha was murdered by NPC Hyung-seok with the server shutdown because it’s a gaping hole in the logic of the game.
The action and twists are the pacemakers to this show, so I was glad to see the momentum pick up in this episode. Even with episodes that were saturated with the AR world, I always found myself wanting more, but that also meant that other elements of the show never had a chance to shine — Hee-joo especially. It’s unfortunate that she was checking her phone and waiting for Jin-woo in half of her scenes of this show. I’ll admit that the last moment with Jin-woo tenderly watching the light from Hee-joo’s room was sweet, as it was a nice reminder for Jin-woo that he has someone to live for. But Hee-joo was a letdown character in general that mainly served as a rest stop for Jin-woo and us viewers. Though I was glad to catch my breath from time to time, I’ve decided that this show thrives when it leaves me breathless. I’d rather be speculating about the state of Jin-woo’s sanity and the logic of the game, even if it stresses me out. I’m ready for the finale to give me all the stress and make me hide in the corner of my bathroom in denial, Professor Cha-style.
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