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(This review contains spoilers)

I’m not sure how to start this review. How to preface a post when you have a divided opinion about it. Is the ending everything? Or being great for the most part obliterates the sour taste that the culmination leaves? I don’t think we can see a show half and half. If you start something, it is the drama’s writer’s duty to end it in a satisfactory manner. Still I’ll try my best to jot down the pros as well as cons. Maybe this review will have a coherent end.

Memories Of The Alhambra mixes sci-fi with fantasy as it is about an AR (Augmented Reality) game which goes wrong in a way that our hero Yoo Jin Woo (Hyun Bin) gets entangled in a web with high stakes of life and death. Oh yes, and there is the heroine, Jung Hee Joo (Park Shin Hye), to romance and cry.

The drama literally kept me on the edge of my seat throughout most of its run. I was biting my nails with every new discovery, every new threat. I loved how Jin Woo’s character arc is drawn. First we see him as this confident, arrogant and practical person who wants profit out of the new game he has been proposed. But as he faces the impossible task of solving the mystery behind the outrageous direction the game takes, we see him getting weak, helpless and then rejuvenating to face the problem and trying to win over it, with brain and determination. Hyun Bin is the sole reason for watching this show. He is simply marvellous. Add to it the never-ending excitement, with each episode opening up new problems and then being in this journey with him, I found the drama pretty great for many episodes. Albeit with an apprehension about how the writer will explain and end everything.

I did like a few other characters. Like loyal Secretary Seo (Min Jin Woong), and I cheered when he also entered the game. But he was gone too soon. Then there was Cha Hyung Seok (Park Hoon), who despite being a game character for most part, managed to be as intense as ever. Jung Min Joo (Lee Re) also gave us some cute banter with Jin Woo, mostly for him getting some breather considering the mess that surrounded him.

Park Shin Hye plays dual characters, one is sister of game founder Jung Se Joo, who gets involved with Jin Woo. The other is the NPC (Non Player Character) Emma in the game. Honestly, both were as interesting as watching grass grow. The main purpose of Hee Joo was to give some calm moments to Jin Woo, and some emotional support. The romance is totally forced with no natural development of their relationship. She cries in almost every episode and I can understand a crush, but claiming the feeling of deep love was very unnatural and out of place. Same goes for Jin Woo’s feelings towards her. Emma feels enigmatic at first but just because she is the trigger for the bug in the game, and then solving it, doesn’t make her fascinating or something more than what we see on surface. Park Shin Hye no doubt looks gorgeous but in terms of acting, she has little to do.

The show has no proper explanation for the game going insane. Even if removal of bug solves the problem, what about the bug called Marco present in Granada? If Jin Woo also had a bug, and he hid in the dungeon, who was deleted then? So many people lost their lives for the game and in bringing back Se Joo, and when he comes back, he does nothing at all. In fact, the deadly game is launched and sold in the market. And Se Joo is being made CEO of a game developing company. LOL. For making more such irresponsible games? After a year, he remembers that Jin Woo might be hiding in the dungeon. Jin Woo fought relentlessly to solve everything but in the end, he got stuck in that dungeon aka open ending. The last episode was one of the most boring ones I have ever seen. So many long flashbacks and no Hyun Bin! Even the end shows his silhouette. The whole last week is a big fat JOKE. Lazy writing at its best.

Don’t even get me started on the two wives who were totally unnecessary in the drama. What was the reason they served on being in the show? Add to that the annoying factor of their scenes. The show also suffered from pace problems from the start itself when I felt certain scenes were very slowly paced than required, with long takes and elongates scenes.

My final words about Memories Of The Alhambra sum up to this: credit to the drama for taking a fresh setting, highly imaginative and engrossing for a long time, complete with twists and turns. But forced romance, unnecessary characters, plus unsatisfactory explanation and ending leaves a very bad taste. Hyun Bin is super awesome and the only reason I can now suggest to watch this drama. Sigh. So many ”what could have been”s.

My Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (feeling sad for giving low rating. Minus points for destroying the potential the drama had and giving us a WTF ending)