“Hotel Del Luna” Finale Delivers Spell-Binding, Cathartic Ending

It’s the rare K-drama that is almost flawless from start to finish, but tvN’s “Hotel Del Luna” maintained its magic until the very last moment. The drama metered out its plot at a masterful pace, so that it balanced out the sadness of Chan Sung’s (Yeo Jin Goo) and Man Wol’s (IU) bittersweet love while still having plenty of other stories to work with even in its last week. Storylines came full arc, tearful scenes and cute moments both abounded, and the drama sent the hotel’s beloved employees off in style, creating one poignant scene after another for a truly cathartic, perfect finale.

Warning: spoilers for “Hotel Del Luna” Episodes 15 and 16 below.

“Hotel Del Luna” has mastered the bittersweet goodbye, and every single ending for our hotel employees was beautiful, healing, and yet incredibly sad.

Kim Sun Bi (Shin Jung Geun) remained the most mysterious employee, but this week we finally learned his heartbreaking story: after passing the state exam at a young age, he was considered a genius — except that he kept failing the civil service exam every year. While studying tirelessly, the lonely scholar found comfort in writing stories based on the lives of commoners around him — which, of course, the stuck-up scholars thought was disgraceful.

When he finally passed the exam, the hardworking, kind-hearted Scholar Kim was denounced as vulgar and his life was ruined. But now, he finally gets to tell his story and earn the renown he deserves, with the help of two writer ghosts. And seeing the three ghosts working together — Kim Sun Bi finally telling his story and the two writers eagerly working to set it down on paper — was as touching and heartwarming as the closure they all derived from it.

Next on the bittersweet agenda was Ji Hyun Joong’s (Block B’s P.O) goodbye, as we learn the horribly tragic secret behind his story: the man who has been pretending to be Hyun Joong was both his childhood friend and his murderer, shooting Hyun Joong after stealing his clothes in order to not be recognized as a runaway soldier. Granted, the Hyun Joong imposter has lived his life repenting for his sins, and at Man Wol’s request, he buys a school under Hyun Joong’s name. And the look on Hyun Joong’s face when he receives an honorary diploma is the most heart-melting thing we’ve seen — P.O’s innocence and heart-shaped smile were so perfect for this role!

This ghost-boy deserves the world, and it was wonderful that so many Hotel Del Luna guests came to watch Hyun Joong’s big moment.

With Hyun Joong’s story comes one of the drama’s most important themes, as Yoo Na (gugudan’s Mina) learns that sometimes letting go requires a bigger act of love than trying to force something that cannot be. At first Yoo Na wants Hyun Joong to stay with her, but she comes to understand that now that Hyun Joong’s sister has passed away, he can finally resolve his lingering regrets from his life by escorting her to the afterlife. While he loves Yoo Na, his time has come to move on.

Finally, Mrs. Choi (Bae Hae Sun) is also able to head to the afterlife, after getting a nice surprise for choosing to save the woman who is pregnant with the heir to the family she so despises: the baby that Mrs. Choi saved will bear its mother’s last name, and thus the family that she hates has come to an end after all. In choosing not to enact her revenge, Mrs. Choi ensured a happy ending for all, herself included.

It was also especially touching to see Man Wol ask Mrs. Choi for a hug before she leaves and thank her long-time employee for her kindness over the years.

The choice between revenge and mercy is one of many ways that “Hotel Del Luna” has emphasized the power of the decisions we make. The drama has especially played with the ideas of choice vs. fate, and while all of the employees could have chosen to stay behind longer for various reasons, they ultimately knew when the time had come for them to move on. This choice is perhaps the hardest for Man Wol and Chan Sung, and the deities offer each of them a chance to choose an alternate ending in which they can be together.

Ma Go sends Chan Sung into Hotel Del Luna’s past in order to collect some moon flowers, and Chan Sung realizes that he could stay with Joseon-era Man Wol and live out his life happily with her. Of course, we don’t believe for a second that Chan Sung would stay behind with past Man Wol when he is so devoted to the present Man Wol and the person she has become, so this plot line was perhaps unnecessary. Although, making Chan Sung’s time travel the catalyst for Man Wol’s obsession with visiting restaurants was a cute touch.

Even though in Man Wol’s memory the man had a slightly different appearance!

Chan Sung’s relationship with Man Wol is special largely because he must be the one to see her off; the selfless nature of his love is what makes their romance so powerful.

And so, when Man Wol is given the option of drinking moon flower wine and becoming the hotel’s manager once more to live out Chan Sung’s life with him, he asks her not to, leading to this gorgeous scene in which the two accept their bittersweet fate with finality.

The finale strengthened the narrative point that Chan Sung should be the one to see Man Wol off by showing, as we have long wondered, that the two do actually have a connection in their past life: Chan Sung’s past incarnation was the one to tell Man Wol about the Guest House of the Moon in the first place.

And while the childhood cliche in K-dramas usually (annoyingly) undermines the present by invoking some sense of fate, “Hotel Del Luna” is an exception: young Man Wol and young Chan Sung have such a brief encounter that the drama is not trying to tell us that everything was fated from the beginning, but rather is fleshing out the answer to the question of “Why Chan Sung?” that we’ve wondered about since we knew he hadn’t played a major role in Man Wol’s past. Because his words planted the idea of the hotel in Man Wol’s mind, it seems fitting that he should close this 1,000-year-old circle by seeing her off, so the deities offer him the opportunity to do so in his current incarnation — but again, the choice was always his, which is why he was not shown this particular dream of their shared past until their very last night together, when they had already decided their fate.

Also, how perfect is her moon flower dress?

And when they do finally part, it is every bit as heartbreaking as we anticipated. But the scene is also incredibly powerful: the couple’s resolve to meet again in their next lives, the agency Man Wol shows in walking down the tunnel on her own rather than being driven, and the strength of both of them to let go even though it hurts were all tragic yet undeniably beautiful.

Same, Chan Sung. Same.

Every one of our beloved ghosts left at peace, and the living characters got about as happy endings as we could hope for: Mi Ra (Park Yoo Na) and Young Soo (Lee Tae Sun) get married, although they continue to bicker nonstop, as befits their past shared history. Sanchez (Jo Hyun Chul) and Chan Sung can take comfort in each other’s friendship. Yoo Na decides to become a hotelier. And as for Chan Sung…

He decides to hold on to the special world to which Man Wol opened his eyes, while dreaming of the day when they can reunite.

Of course, there was one important loose end that needed to be tied up: someone has to run the Guest House of the Moon, and Ma Go has chosen none other than…

Kim Soo Hyun, in the most brilliant cameo of a cameo-filled drama. Because perhaps the biggest strength of “Hotel Del Luna” (aside from a flawless OST and spectacular costumes) was the way it perfectly balanced tragic stories and life lessons with comedic moments — but maybe that’s the most important life lesson of all: that even through pain and suffering and loss, it’s important to remember to laugh.

We’ll miss this lovable, quirky cast of ghostly goofballs. May they meet again in their next lives, even if it’s as….

Hey Soompiers, what did you think of the “Hotel Del Luna” finale? Did you like the ending? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Catch the finale of “Hotel Del Luna”:

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hgordon stays up way too late on weeknights marathoning K-dramas and trying to keep up with the latest K-pop releases. Follow her adventures in Seoul on Instagram.

Currently watching: “Hotel Del Luna” and “Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung”
All-time favorite dramas: “Scarlet Heart: Goryeo,” “Goblin,” and “Hwayugi
Looking forward to: “Vagabond”

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