Whether you love or hate this show, it has come to an end. Are you shedding tears of sadness or joy? Read on for my explanation on the timeline in the last two of a wreck episodes, as well as my theories on Marco and Jin Woo!
Final recap: Sun Ho finds out that Professor Cha was the one who called for the server to be up again but that Jin Woo later asked it to be reopened for an hour while he did his unfinished business. Sun Ho rushes to the church and sees mounds of salt (sorry ashes) on the floor. After he logs in, he sees that those were of Hyung Seok, Cha and Seo’s NPCs’ characters as deleted bugs. Through flashbacks, we also see Jin Woo stabbing the three characters.
First – Hyung Seok, where a tear rolls down at having to kill his ex-best friend for the final time.
Then – Professor Cha, where it’s a quiet sense of farewell. Ugh I actually do love how Hyun Bin stabs each of them with different emotions, and of course, the saddest has to be when he stabs Seo – montage below. Sun Ho finally finds a fourth mount, and touches it to find that it’s the remains of Zinu.
We then see Emma telling Jin Woo that he looks tired and that he should let her hold the key now.
Hee Joo, who is on the call with Sun Ho, realises that something must be wrong and rushes over. Just as she discovers the fourth mount, the game resets, and all the mounts disappear, including all the NPCs (okay, isn’t the server shut down again? So why are these NPCs still walking around Seoul).
Through Sun Ho’s narration after some time, we find out that the game has resetted, causing all memories of the game to be wiped out across the server. The company loses one year’s of hard work, Jin Woo is still gone, and the police has closed investigation on Cha’s death.
Sun Ho finds Se Joo cowering in a closet and comforts him that the thunder and lightning outside is real. Se Joo later runs out to tell Sun Ho that Jin Woo was probably stabbed by Emma and now dead, because he got deleted as a bug. Emma was programmed by him to delete any bug she sees with the Key to Heaven. Hee Joo learns of this from Se Joo earlier on and is now weeping in the church, finally realising that it was she who indirectly ’caused’ Jin Woo’s death (but nahh it’s not your fault!!). She faints and gets brought back home by Sang Beom, but after she wakes up, she returns right away to the church and cries at the non-existent mount.
Sun Ho still emails his friend regularly, hoping that Jin Woo will somehow read them. Hee Joo has now come to terms somewhat and instead of crying at the mount, she prays or looks around the church silently. This is one empty church.
One year later, we jump straight to Yoo Ra’s small press conference at her wedding. Through the host’s summary, we learn that Yoo Ra was convicted of defamation as well as driving under influence, leading to her retirement from the show business. Despite Yoo Ra’s attempts, it was revealed that she’s marrying a 60 year old man who already had 2 kids. (Lol the host even makes a jibe ‘it seems like she only marries rich man’.) Soo Jin survives and delivers a eulogy of sorts at a ceremony for Professor Cha, “He’s a man who values…his honour.” Haha, this episode is all about making jibes, aint it?
We then find out that the game has been developed and sold, because now Koreans are playing it in mass at player zones and even leaving their offices to do it. Uhm I hope you are playing during lunch time people. I do like these scenes because it shows us what it should have been like when the game is commercially launched. This was the vision Jin Woo had when he told Hee Joo all the way back in EP2 that the world would be transformed. It’s also hilarious that the toilet from which one gets their first sword is located inside Subway. Okay Subway.
J-one’s shares go sky high, and partner companies see a surge in sales – e.g when drinking a normal drink acts as a health potion in the game. But there are consequences too – people are getting injured from the game and Sun Ho, on behalf of J-One, announces new measures such as limiting game zones and play hours (to people’s lunch times teehee).
Sun Ho meets up with Hee Joo and mentions that he’s retiring out of loneliness. He wants Hee Joo to give up on Jin Woo and meet new guys, but Hee Joo doesn’t reply. Sun Ho reveals that J-One wants to set up a subsidiary company for Se Joo to do all the research he wants, and the guys at the office cheer when they finally meet the legendary Se Joo.
Honestly, my heart warms up a little at this scene. Se Joo even adorably gives Yang Joo an autograph but doesn’t know how.
Hee Joo overhears a couple of people talking at a cafe that there was a user helping players and could shoot guns. Back in the office, Se Joo tells Yang Joo that the master of the game can create an instance dungeon. He used it that time at the Granada train station where the master could hide and deceive enemies, but it worked in real life and no one could see him. Now that explains why Jin Woo didn’t see Se Joo at the platform. Se Joo reveals that Jin Woo is the new master of the game since he completed the quest, and it is possible for him to be hiding in his own instance dungeon.
Hee Joo quickly arrives at the said location and puts on her lens. As Hee Joo narrates, I don’t care if the world doesn’t believe it, but I do. I believe that we will meet again, we see a user almost gets killed by a NPC and someone fires a gun. The camera shifts up to reveal a silhouette of Jin Woo.
This episode: Honestly, honestly, that was one bad episode. Plot-wise, it was almost 60 minutes of tying up loose ends without much plot and you guys know how I feel about those endings. I also wish so badly that they didn’t stick to this awful recap-style for the finale, but they did for the first half. Thank goodness though, they didn’t cut back even further to mess with the timelines, but just shuffle between the present and the past. Essentially, there is nothing much to talk about this episode because they are all just factual happenings covered in my quick recap above already. Also, what on earth was that ending scene? You can’t even be half-assed to show Hee Joo smiling at Jin Woo from across the park or something? Ehh??? You could have at least gone down as a wreck in terms of game mechanics like W but not in execution (W was quite exciting till the very end I thought, just that rules derailed) but what you don’t have in substance, you lack in flair too.
I do still have my favourite bits of this episode/of the drama as a whole. I can never get over Hyun Bin’s acting as Jin Woo whenever he sees Seo and I feel like those were one of his best times in the drama. Every time he looks at Seo with such heartache, love and regret, it pierces through the screen and my heart. So I give the drama that (more Hyun Bin than scriptwriting since no one knows why Seo has to die either).
This highlight of this episode was watching Hyun Bin stab Seo. Just look at this fine acting:
The show had AMAZING premise and a start. It was so superbly strong in its first six episodes and it delivers as a one rather unique story. To be honest though, I don’t hate the development of the latter episodes. There WERE good stuff and important scenes to talk about, but for me, this show died at the hands of two culprits:
First, the execution is horrid. I’m not sure if this is the director’s, the producer’s or the scriptwriter’s fault (or maybe they all had a party and ruined it together) but this was one confusing way of telling a story. I’ve never seen a show so determined to cut back on its tension that was well-built (in my opinion anyway) and NOT dangle the cliffhanger in front of the viewers. I don’t think anyone is a fan of this direction at all – you could be ambivalent, but I don’t think you would love it. Even I, who actually appreciated how the flashbacks gave more information about the present, threw in the towel at some point.
I literally held a pen and a piece of paper to work out the timeline and I’m thankful (for my brain’s sake) that surprisingly, for the most part, the timeline is pretty straightforward. If only the show didn’t get all fancy. (Also why am I doing the work instead of the scriptwriter/director/producer??) So here’s what I think:
- Let’s go linearly. Say 19th Jan (random date) 6-7am is the day Jin Woo hands the key to Emma, finishes his quest and gets stabbed. 19th Jan morning/afternoon is when Jin Woo gets picked up from the restaurant by his doctor. 19th Jan late night is when Professor Cha traps Jin Woo and also meets his poetic death.
- 19th Jan midnight/20th Jan 5-6am is when Jin Woo drops the key off at Hee Joo’s house and drives himself to the church while Hee Joo cries on the road. 20th Jan 6-7am is when he deletes all bugs and maybe himself. 20th Jan night is when Se Joo comes home and also when Sun Ho gets the call from the doctor and discovers dead Professor Cha. Following which on the same night, Sun Ho traces Jin Woo’s steps and that’s when Hee Joo joins him at the church (and rest of EP16 flows from there).
It actually fell into place after I drew the timeline (I’m taking this way too seriously HAHA). So this only proves my point further that execution is vital. The timeline actually makes sense! So, so wasted.
Second, the writing was full of potential but ultimately shows incompetence. I feel like the scriptwriter did have rules in mind and I’m not sure, but it seems like some of the questions we had were meant to be resolved as ‘magic’?? If that’s the case, it needs to be specifically articulated. Rather than spending so much time on fillers, Se Joo could have talked more in this episode about the game, and if something was to be swept under the rug as magic, at least let that be said (but I guess that could be a backlash in another form).
Let us take stock of all the questions we had and see if they were ever answered:
- #1: User being killed in reality when killed in game
- #2: User dead in reality recurring as NPC (i.e dead rival)
- #3: Dead rival haunts user even outside of the game
- #4: User can get killed by NPCs
- #5: Seo who couldn’t get harmed by NPCs suddenly died at their hands – thereafter, Cha dies despite being level 1.
Are we supposed to just not think so much and relegate #1, #2, #3 and #4 as effects of the glitch which occurred after Emma failed to de-weaponise the fight between Marco and Se Joo? They were playing the game but Se Joo got stabbed in real life and that somehow triggered Emma’s glitch. And is Emma’s glitch supposed to be the only mystery which remains unsolved – i.e magic? Did Jin Woo trigger the glitch too because he killed another user, and not NPC (because remember, he did not use any physical weapons against Hyung Seok – so what’s the similarity)? But #5 remains unanswered – for Seo joined alliance with Jin Woo after level 4-ish, but only got killed at level 50-ish. Is it that Seo could already be hurt by NPCs but we never knew? But this couldn’t be, because Seo was genuinely shocked by how realistic the arrow felt in Granada, and this was the same shock he showed when he was slashed by Hyung Seok, which implies that NPCs never affected Seo. Which then leads me to think – why do NPCs affect Jin Woo? I’m assuming they do because he always reels from the gun shots. If this sounds like one incoherent paragraph/stream of consciousness to you, it’s because. Well. the game is incoherent. Okay I’m kinda rethinking my statement. Scriptwriter did not know what she was doing.
On Marco: [I had this in mind before posting this review/recap, but didn’t write it because I thought the review was already way too long as it is. I am heartened by all the comments so I’m posting my thoughts – feel free to discuss!]
We actually know what happens to Marco – Se Joo said he disappeared. So the true question isn’t really what happened to him but how did he disappear. My theory is that at some point in time, Se Joo was relinquished as the existing master and his game ends. There could be 2 points for this – either on 19th Jan morning (refer above for timeline) when Jin Woo finished his quest after handing the key to Emma or 20th Jan morning when Jin Woo deleted the bugs. Se Joo implies that it’s the former; he said that someone must have completed the quest, which was why Marco disappeared and he got out. Therefore, it’s possible that after Se Joo gets replaced as the existing master, his game ends, he’s a non-player and Marco just disappears.
Assuming this is wrong, and that Marco only disappeared on 20th Jan morning when deletion of bugs happened, my theory then is that Jin Woo hadn’t needed to delete Marco as a bug anyway. In my opinion, Marco/dead rivals in general are bugs which are personal to the user. This is why Seo can only see Hyung Seok after becoming allies with Jin Woo, and not before. In the same vein, Marco is a bug unique to Se Joo and I don’t think Jin Woo, as a non-ally, would have been able to see him, much less stab him. I thought the quest as something unique to each user and his/her allies, so it kinda makes sense that the quest also ends with whoever is related in that quest and not outsiders. Therefore, Emma only encounters and deletes Jin Woo’s bugs because she’s facing Jin Woo’s quest, not Se Joo’s quest. Although not ideal, I am half-able to accept that Emma deems all bugs deleted and resets the game, even though Marco may still be a
breathing living dead bug technically still existing (in our brains).
Moving on. You all know how I feel about Emma and Hee Joo already. I’m okay with Emma – I think it took the show way too long to show Emma’s importance but I guess as her role was to safeguard the integrity of the game, it was hard to reveal that about her at any point other than the ending. Hee Joo on the other hand, just got completely and utterly side-lined as a love interest. Already said enough through my reviews/recaps but ugh, damn just how wasted is she as a character? Sometimes, it still mystifies me that scriptwriters think they can get away with this. From a long time ago, I thought viewers had been lapping up strong female leads, not love interests who just lie on their bed and cry (sorry I’m triggered again because I re-watched Episode 15 for the timeline and boy, Park Shin Hye is a pretty crier but how many times does Hee Joo need to cry into her pillows).
Also, see how kickass Park Shin Hye looks just logging into the game. Can you imagine if she was actually allowed to play the game?
The final frivolous notes of the day – and oh dear, questions too??
- The flashbacks from way back till this final point actually uhm, serve the opposite intended effect – it reminded me of how little we have come in 16 episodes. Oops. Hehe.
- Chan Yeol doesn’t get to appear often, but when he does, I do appreciate his presence as Se Joo. This might be my favourite performance of his.
- Can’t imagine Professor Cha being of any use as an ally. What, is he going to wave a piece of chalk? Or cower in the toilet?
- Wow, all these flaking away low key reminds me of Avengers. Not that it’s a bad thing.
- Who knew that Sun Ho would ultimately be the one whose eyes through which we kinda discover the story? He’s as clueless as we are, poor dude.
- Seems like Koreans ever only drink one thing.
- Omg, I just realise the couple didn’t even share a second of screen time this episode (the horror, I realise they didn’t share screentime for TWO episodes).
I guess this is on everyone’s mind – WHAT is Jin Woo? Some have reasoned that he was turned into a NPC, but based on Se Joo’s explanation, I believe Jin Woo merely created an instance dungeon and this hides him from the view of the real dimension, but not from the users he chooses to reveal himself in front of. How does creating the dungeon work alongside being stabbed by Emma, I don’t know. I can only speculate that the bug in him as a player was killed, but the real him wasn’t killed. That actually makes sense to me – because the other three were NPCs, therefore, they could turn into mounts of ashes and be blown away, but Jin Woo should logically have kept his dead body and not turn into ashes after being stabbed. All that being said, what would possess the man to not tell Hee Joo and Sun Ho that he’s alive?? Why didn’t someone just delete Emma??? I hope they deleted her/re-programmed her in Next, because publishing the game with Emma around is asking for trouble!! Bugs galore people!
This was a crazy ride, not least because it didn’t end in a fashion which most people were hoping for. I wouldn’t say it was a bad watch because this show did deliver in some ways, but boy, is it me or do K-dramas need to work on their endings. I do feel like I need to end off on this note though: thank goodness at the very least, the acting was good. I genuinely enjoyed watching Hyun Bin, Park Shin Hye, Kim Eui Sang, Chan Yeol, Lee Seung Joon, Lee Re and so on (but best pick is Hyun Bin I think just because he had a good character and really tackled every aspect so well).
Goodbye, Memories of the Alhambra, you were such a whirlwind. Such a pity because there IS structure to the game, and could have been phenomenal if only someone thought of the answers before launching into the 16-episodes drama. But anyway, thanks guys for following on this journey!
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