Hotel del Luna: Episode 16 (Final)
If there’s one message that Hotel del Luna has taught us, it’s that parting is inevitable, but that goodbye is never forever. Life and death are a circle, and every ending is also a beginning. It’s time for our beloved hotel owner to rejoin the cycle of life and death, but she can finally do so happily and with a smile, all thanks to one man’s love.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Mago and Reaper meet in an ancient forest, where a young girl lies unconscious beside her dead parents. They’re surprised to see her still alive, and Mago asks Reaper not to take her yet as he’d planned. Reaper says the girl won’t last long, but Mago replies that you never know what might happen in that short amount of time.
Sure enough, soon a man (awww, it’s Oh Ji-ho again!) and his young son happen by, and the boy realizes that the girl is still alive. He gives her water and tells her that her parents have gone to the Guest House of the Moon, a place he heard about from a grandmother who sells medicine.
He asks the girl her name, so she traces a circle with a line through it on the palm of his hand and tells him, “Man-wol. The moon.”
Present Man-wol wonders out loud to Chan-sung if they met in a past life, considering how long she’s been alive. Chan-sung says that sometimes it takes that long for people to meet, just like it takes millennia for the light from Orion to reach their eyes. Man-wol asks where Orion is in the sky, but Chan-sung says it can only be seen in winter.
This reminds Man-wol that Mago told her that after the next full moon, the energy of the moon will be withdrawn from Hotel del Luna. There will be no more new guests, and the hotel will cease to exist.
Man-wol asks Chan-sung to show her a different constellation, but he admits that he doesn’t know that much about stars. She snaps at him for ruining the mood, sneering that he could have pointed at any star and lied and she would have pretended to be impressed. LOL, Chan-sung’s face.
He calls himself her dazzling star, and they both laugh at the cheesy line. Man-wol looks up at Chan-sung adoringly as she says he’s the only star she needs, then squishes his face and coos at him. Chan-sung returns the gesture (that would have gotten him killed not that long ago) and calls her his lucky charm.
Man-wol mentions his fear that she’ll be reincarnated as chicken soup, looking genuinely concerned about it now. Chan-sung says he’ll just be her side salad, which cheers her up, and they snuggle as they look up at the stars.
Bartender Kim stands at the entrance to the afterlife tunnel, wracked with shame after learning that a book may be published that says he was ostracized after writing salacious stories. He wonders if he should leave first, but he remembers his promise to say goodbye to Hyun-joong and Seo-hee, and he’s tortured by indecision.
Concerned, Seo-hee tells Man-wol that Bartender Kim is missing. When she mentions Bartender Kim’s full name, Man-wol’s expression darkens and she demands to know which guest spoke ill of him. She meets with the newly-deceased writer, who explains that his book is fiction, but is based on a real person.
Chan-sung and Man-wol head to the publisher’s office, prepared to buy the only copy of the manuscript from him. Chan-sung is worried that Bartender Kim will do something to harm a human, but Man-wol is certain Bartender Kim is too gentle to ever do that.
Bartender Kim is already in the office, and he follows the editor into the men’s room. He shows himself to the editor and snarls that he’s not salacious, sending the editor screaming back to his office. Aww, Bartender Kim feels bad for scaring him a little too much.
Unfortunately, the editor’s team interpret his vision of Bartender Kim as a sign that the book will be a hit. Bartender Kim gives up, and when he runs into Chan-sung and Man-wol, he tells them he’s too humiliated to go back to the hotel. Man-wol says that he’s a dignified crane, and while she tries to forcibly hold his head up, Chan-sung gets the manuscript.
They take Bartender Kim to stay in Chan-sung’s room at Sanchez’s house until he feels he can return to the hotel. Chan-sung claimed to be Bartender Kim’s descendant and Man-wol paid a fortune for the manuscript, and Chan-sung assures Bartender Kim that the editor didn’t even finish reading it. Bartender Kim whines that he’ll never clear his name, so Man-wol tells him to prove his innocence if the story isn’t true.
Bartender Kim reluctantly tells them the true story of his past — he was considered a genius because he passed the state exam at a young age, but he failed the civil service exam every year. He moved to Hanyang at the age of forty to focus on studying, and while watching others living their lives gave him joy, it also made him lonely.
Whenever he got bored with studying, Bartender Kim would write stories about the people he saw every day. The stories he wrote weren’t salacious, but the fact that he wrote them in Hangul instead of Chinese hanja was considered unconventional. Chan-sung and Man-wol recognize some of the stories he wrote, such as the stories of Chun-hyang and Shim-cheong, realizing that Bartender Kim is, as Chan-sung calls him, “the Shakespeare of the Joseon Dynasty.”
Bartender Kim wails that those stories ruined his life — he finally passed the exam and got an appointment, but his appointment was revoked after he was shamed for writing lowly stories that upset the social order. His father was so ashamed that he starved himself to death, and Bartender Kim was too humiliated to go home and face his wife, so he died alone.
Chan-sung and Man-wol return to the hotel, where Seo-hee and Hyun-joong are impressed to learn that Bartender Kim wrote some of their culture’s most famous stories. Man-wol says that they only have Bartender Kim’s word for it because there’s no proof, which is how his past got twisted by the misunderstanding that he wrote naughty stories.
Chan-sung belatedly realizes that he forgot to tell Sanchez about the ghost in his room, which is how Sanchez gets blindsided by both Bartender Kim and Reaper. He seems okay with letting Bartender Kim stay, but the idea of the Grim Reaper rattles poor Sanchez, even when Reaper promises (with a really unsettling wink) to repay him for the dates he picked from the yard.
The book’s author feels bad when he hears the truth about Bartender Kim, and he offers to get rid of the manuscript. But Man-wol stops him, and she and Chan-sung suggest the author change the story to the truth which, while it can’t be published as historical fact, would still make a great novel.
The author loves the idea, but just as he’s about to start writing, he passes out. LOL, he has the same problem as the accountant who died from overwork… he passes out within thirty seconds of picking up a pen. They decide they need another writer to help, and luckily, they have the perfect ghost at the hotel already.
Man-wol tells Bartender Kim of their plan, adding that having his legacy rewritten as a loving husband and noble scholar in a novel is better than how history currently remembers him. She even offers to have him described physically however he wants, and Bartender Kim says he’s always thought he resembled So Ji-sub, PFFT.
Bartender Kim tells the writers his story as the famous author dictates and the coffee-drinking writer types it all up. Man-wol and Chan-sung enjoy reading the (quite embellished) novel-in-progress, and when it’s finished, the author makes a dream-call to his editor to tell him where to find the new manuscript. Awww, he even lets the inexperienced author take the credit, fulfilling his last wish.
To celebrate, Bartender Kim makes everyone a Tears cocktail, and tells them they’re his “tears of regretful parting.” He says that he’s finally erased his shame, and he’s ready to move on to his afterlife. They all gather to see him off, each in their own way, and Bartender Kim has a huge smile on his face as the limo carries him through the tunnel.
Man-wol had refused to drink her Tears, nor did she cry when Bartender Kim left, but she finds another cocktail on her desk along with a note from Bartender Kim. He thanks her for making it possible for him to be remembered as an honorable person, and wishes for her “cold and icy moon” to set in warmth. She drinks her Tears and complains that it still tastes terrible as she finally lets herself cry.
Hyun-joong runs into Yoo-na outside his sister’s hospital room and asks her why she doesn’t come to the hotel anymore, and she says there’s no point since it will be gone soon. She says that she came to see if Hyun-mi had died, since Hyun-joong will be leaving soon after.
She’s sad to hear that Bartender Kim left, and she tells Hyun-joong that the way he feels now is how she’ll feel when he goes. She begs him to stay, but Hyun-joong says that they sent Bartender Kim off with joy, because nothing is sadder than staying in this world.
He asks Yoo-na if she wants to grow old and die like Hyun-mi, while he stays as he is. Yoo-na tells him angrily to go, but says that she won’t stay and watch, and will go study abroad instead.
Seo-hee watches the mother of the baby, the last in her husband’s family line. The mother asks if she’s a relative of her baby’s father, so Seo-hee says she used to be their daughter-in-law. The baby’s mother tells her that her baby will have her name, and when Seo-hee says that only boys carry on the family line, the mother tells her that way of thinking is old-fashioned.
She says that if the grandparents want to see the baby, she’ll allow it, but boy or girl, the baby will be hers alone. Seo-hee thinks about how her daughter was left to die because she wasn’t born a boy, and she asks why she never thought of claiming her child as her own. She tells the mother that she wishes a good, healthy life for her unborn child.
Chan-sung takes Man-wol to eat at another restaurant that featured on Kim Joon-hyun’s show, and she takes copious pictures for her social media followers — all three of them, Hyun-joong, Yoo-na, and Sanchez, lol. Chan-sung gets all sanctimonious about his dislike for social media, but Man-wol cuts him off when her picture gets a “like” from Kim Joon-hyun himself.
A little jealous, Chan-sung asks why she likes Kim Joon-hyun so much. She says he reminds her of someone who showed up just when she was having a hard time due to an undesirable hobby and saved her with a game of Go, then suggested she start going on gourmet trips instead. Chan-sung blurts out, “That was me!” but Man-wol insists that the guy looked exactly like Kim Joon-hyun.
She says there’s one more thing Chan-sung needs to eat for her, and gives him the medicine from Mago that will take away his ability to see ghosts. She tells him that he must eat it later, and they both understand that she means after she’s gone.
Hyun-joong dresses in his old school uniform and tells Seo-hee that he heard from Tae-seok, and it’s time for him to get Hyun-mi. He’s there when his sister finally passes, and her spirit comes running when she hears her beloved brother’s voice. She runs into his arms, the same age she was the last time they saw each other in life.
Yoo-na is there, and she sees the joy on Hyun-joong’s face when he finally reunites with Hyun-mi. He cries when he sees Yoo-na, and she runs around a corner so Hyun-joong can’t see her, but he can still hear her sobbing.
He takes Hyun-mi to the hotel to meet Man-wol, and Chan-sung asks Hyun-joong if Yoo-na knows he’s leaving. He says he saw her at the hospital, and he asks Chan-sung to give her the antique watch and a message: “Please tell her that each second and minute of time left to her is precious, so she should be a good student and be happy.”
When it’s time for him to go, Hyun-joong lingers a bit, disappointed that Yoo-na hasn’t come to say goodbye. But as he’s about to leave, she runs up with an armful of white lilies, saying they’re because he left flowers on her grave, too.
She tells him that she went to Pink Mago and bought the lilies in exchange for a promise to live a very good life, so Hyun-joong doesn’t have to worry about her. Crying again, he thanks Yoo-na for sending him off without worries, and as he leaves, Yoo-na sobs her heart out.
Young-soo and Mi-ra tell Sanchez that they’re getting married, and they want Mi-ra’s parents to meet Young-soo at Sanchez’s restaurant. They ask Sanchez to stand in as Young-soo’s hyung in case Mi-ra’s parents don’t like him, since Young-soo doesn’t have any family.
Mi-ra threatens to just tell her parents she’s pregnant, but Young-soo says that if they don’t like him, then he’ll just convince them. They simper at each other until Sanchez gets uncomfortable, then go shopping for a PPL refrigerator. They have a minor spat and Mi-ra wanders off, and she runs into Man-wol unexpectedly.
She says she wants to give Mi-ra an early wedding gift, then uses a rotating television to hypnotize her. She tells Mi-ra, “Song-hwa-yah, you’d better be good to Yeon-woo. If you ever make him cry, I’ll turn your life upside-down just like that TV.”
Later, Chan-sung is surprised that Man-wol got Mi-ra and Young-soo a gift, but she says she won’t be around for their winter wedding. Taking Chan-sung’s hand, she tells him that Seo-hee is leaving today, and they both look up at the sky, aware that the next full moon is rapidly approaching. Chan-sung says cutely that Yeon-woo is no longer the person that loves Man-wol the most, and she replies that she knows… “It’s Seo-hee now,” LOL.
Seo-hee wanders through the empty halls of Hotel del Luna, noting that the rooms are all empty. She meets Man-wol and Chan-sung at the tunnel entrance and thanks Man-wol for letting her stay all these years, then confesses that it was her idea to send Chan-sung into Room 13. She orders him sternly never to wear that tiger print suit again, hee.
Before leaving, Seo-hee recalls the day she came to the hotel — Man-wol had caught her stealing a knife and asked if she planned on killing her husband’s family with it. Rather than stop her, she’d offered Seo-hee a sword instead, though she’d said that the person Seo-hee really wanted to kill was herself for failing to protect her baby.
Man-wol had known that Seo-hee hated herself too much to go to the afterlife and be reincarnated, so she’d offered her a job where she could suffer perpetual death. Seo-hee had seen that same desire in Man-wol, so she’d stayed. Before she goes, Man-wol asks if she can hug Seo-hee, and they both cry as they say their final goodbyes.
Now that only Man-wol remains behind, Chan-sung goes to see herbalist Mago to ask how much time he and Man-wol have left. Mago says that all the energy around the hotel will be gathered together at the full moon, then it will all disappear, and Man-wol will have to go. Chan-sung asks why Mago chose him, and she points to his chest and says that the moon flower must not have shown him the last dream yet.
Man-wol stands in the hotel lobby for a long time, looking at the large portrait of herself with her friends. She imagines Hyun-joong popping up behind the desk to welcome a new ghostly guest, then fading away. She sees Seo-hee bringing snacks to a guest, and Bartender Kim offering her a new cocktail he’s created, but they also soon disappear.
Eventually Chan-sung arrives, and Man-wol says to him, “Gu Chan-sung, you came to send off one last guest. I keep feeling sleepy. Am I this sleepy so that I can leave as if I’m dreaming?” She lays her head on Chan-sung’s chest, and he promises to stay by her side even if she falls asleep.
He carries her up to her room where he tucks them both into bed. They drift off to sleep together, and Chan-sung has one last dream – that he’s the little boy who found Man-wol after the accident that killed her parents, and who told her about the House of the Moon.
Pink Mago lets herself into the hotel and runs into Chan-sung in the hallway. She says she’s here for the scissors she lent the bride who visited the hotel, and Chan-sung remembers her saying that letting go requires a bigger love (than holding on). He returns her scissors, and in exchange, Pink Mago offers to cut the ties between him and the one who broke his heart.
Instead, he asks to travel back in time just for a moment, so that he can see winter with Man-wol. He takes Man-wol to the Moon Tree, and snowflakes start to fall around them. Man-wol smiles, wondering if she’s still dreaming, but Chan-sung says that it’s a moment borrowed either from their past, or from a time they’ll spend together in the future.
Man-wol tells Chan-sung that she saw him in her dreams, and awww, she was also dreaming of when they met as children, all those years ago. Chan-sung draws the symbol that means her name in her palm, the same way she did when they were children, and tells her it’s pretty.
Looking awed, Man-wol says that they did meet again after a long passage of time. She asks if they saw this snow together in the past, and Chan-sung says that he hopes they see it together in the future. They stay like that for a long time, just watching the snow fall and appreciating being together.
Man-wol decides to make her journey to the afterlife without Reaper’s help, so only Chan-sung accompanies her to the tunnel’s entrance. She says she’s thought a lot about what to say in this moment, but now that it’s time, her mind is blank. Her voice falters as she admits, “I keep wanting to stay with you… I keep wanting to see you, and I don’t want to leave you behind.”
She says that she’s always pretended to be strong when she felt the most weak around him, and that she made it impossible for him to stop her from leaving. She caresses his cheek as she says simply, “I’m sorry.” Chan-sung cries, but he wipes away Man-wol’s tears as he renews his promise not to be lonely as he sees her off.
Man-wol cries that when she asked for that promise, she didn’t know she’d care about Chan-sung this much, or that she’d fall in love again. Chan-sung hugs her tightly as she says she’s never thought about the future… “But the only think I can tell you now is this — let’s meet in our next lives, no matter what. Okay?”
Chan-sung nods, and Man-wol lets out a shaky sigh. She says, “Chan-sung, you looked into me, took care of me, and protected me. Thank you.” Chan-sung can only say, “Goodbye. Goodbye, Jang Man-wol.” Man-wol cries even harder, but she gives Chan-sung one last lovely smile before letting go of his hand, and walking into the tunnel.
Chan-sung stifles his sobs and watches until she disappears into the mist. Moments after Man-wol is gone, the Hotel del Luna fades away, bit by bit. In the morning, Chan-sung is still standing at the tunnel, and he cries again, thinking, “My dear moon disappeared after swallowing up my night and dream. Goodbye.”
We see Man-wol walking along the bridge, as Mago narrates, “Feeling sad and disappointed is only natural when witnessing disappearances. When a flower withers away, just like it dreams of a new blossom, you’ll live, meet, and love again. I hope that is the answer you two arrogant, foolish, self-pitying yet beautiful lovers, have chosen.”
Before reaching the end of the bridge, Man-wol stops and looks around, smiling brightly. Then she turns and continues on her journey.
Eventually winter comes, and Christmastime. Chan-sung is packing up his room at Sanchez’s house, planning to move to New York. But first he meets with Yoo-na, who still carries the watch she gave to Hyun-joong, and she tells him excitedly that she’s decided to study hotel management like him. She thanks him for giving her the medicine to stop seeing ghosts, which has helped her concentrate on her studies. She assumes that Chan-sung also took the medicine, but he just smiles.
Next he visits the painting of Mount Baekdu. He remembers asked Man-wol what the tiger saw when he returned to the painting, and she’d said that he lived a dream by seeing what others couldn’t, which made him lucky. He spots Mago nearby with her basket of white lilies, and watches as she offers one to a reluctant ghost. He thinks to himself that he still remembers that secretive world; “It is where you are. And I still remember my promise to you.”
Some time later we see Bartender Kim jogging in the park (the Hong sisters and their tacky track suits!). He passes Seo-hee, who’s playing with a fluffy little dog. A basketball rolls near and Hyun-joong picks it up, stopping to pet the dog before returning to his friends.
Nearby, Chan-sung sits on a bench reading a battered copy of “Existence and Time.” He looks up to see Man-wol standing over him, and he puts his book away so she can sit and lay her head on his shoulder. He says she’s early, and she tells him she hurried so he wouldn’t have to wait. They relax, and we hear their voices:
Someday… someday… if we reunite in some life far down the road, when that day comes, I hope to always be with you. We’ll dream together, hold each other in our gazes, embrace each other, and laugh together as we live happily ever after side by side.
Mago frowns at her four sisters, wondering where the rest are — apparently there are twelve Magos in total! She announces that she’s chosen a new owner for the Guest House of the Moon, so that wandering souls will continue to have a place to stay and tell their stories.
The hotel’s new name is Hotel Blue Moon, and we see the elevator doors open to dramatically reveal the new owner. It’s a man this time, and he confidently strides past a new group of ghostly employees, drink in hand, through the ballroom and up the stairs.
He turns and finally reveals his face — it’s Kim Soo-hyun! The new owner announces, “The moon has ascended. Let’s open our doors.”
HA! What a great cameo by Kim Soo-hyun, and it leaves open the possibility for a second season, if the writers so choose. They’ve said they hadn’t planned on it, but also that it’s not completely out of the question. I know I’d love to see the hotel under new management and with a new story to tell.
One of the primary concerns that’s always raised by viewers whenever a Hong sisters drama is announced, is whether the ending will be logical according to the lore of the fictional universe, and at the same time emotionally satisfying for the audience. I think that Hotel del Luna kept its promise to deliver a great ending very well, and I’m happy that it didn’t pull any punches or introduce last-minute rescues that would have felt disingenuous. We’ve known from the beginning that Chan-sung and Man-wol would have to part eventually, and what’s more, they have known it, and I love how that knowledge enabled them to able to accept it without unnecessary drama or angst. Chan-sung simply let Man-wol go to find the peace she’d earned, and without guilt for leaving Chan-sung behind. Death is a part of life, and not every love is meant for a happily ever after… some loves are all the more meaningful for the fact that they were never meant to last a lifetime.
That last scene of everyone together at the park could be interpreted many ways, but in my headcanon, it was a glimpse into the future where they’ve all been reincarnated. We got to see them enjoying normal, happy lives after letting go of the old, painful ones, which gave me the warm fuzzies. And Chan-sung and Man-wol were able to keep their promise to meet in their next lives and love each other again, this time without the burden of the past or the knowledge that one of them would be leaving soon. It was a simple epilogue, but one that left my romantic, “I just want them to be happy and in love” heart very satisfied.
The biggest mystery has always been whether Chan-sung was the reincarnation of someone Man-wol knew when she was alive. I actually think that the answer was quite poetic, and brought things around full-circle in a lovely way. He was the boy who told Man-wol about the House of the Moon in the first place, and he heard about it from Mago. There was a plan from the beginning, and a reason why Chan-sung was chosen to be the one to see Man-wol off to the afterlife. And it was so sweet that they shared the same dream, so that they both knew before Man-wol left that they were always meant for each other.
Another thing I appreciated about Hotel del Luna is that the characters never underwent a huge personality change, as so often happens in dramas. The characters tempered each other and brought out the best in each other as they grew closer, but they remained their fundamental selves. Chan-sung was always the gentle soul who asked for flowers for his birthday as a child, and was content just to be by Man-wol’s side without asking anything of her. Man-wol changed the most, but she was bossy and short-tempered even to the end. We had seen glimpses of her softer side when she was with Chung-myung in the past, so it’s not that she changed, she just found a safe place where she could let that softer side show.
The subject of death is not an easy one to talk about, much less create lovely stories around, but I loved the tales of the hotel’s guests and the lessons they taught. For me, Hotel del Luna wasn’t so much about death as it was about concepts like peace, forgiveness, kindness, good and evil, and appreciating life while you can. Even though it took Man-wol thirteen hundred years to learn how to understand and forgive, she was eventually about to heal once she was willing to let herself be vulnerable, and by healing she enabled herself to move on and be happy. It’s a simple lesson, but an important one, and seeing her become capable of letting go is a help to me as I let her go, along with the rest of these characters I’ve grown to love.
- Premiere Watch: Watcher, Level Up, Hotel del Luna
- A possibly undead owner and a scaredy-cat hotelier in Hotel del Luna
- 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