As promised here I am writing to bid my farewell to “Hotel King” with this drama review post. Despite this drama flaws and my disappointments that I will take the opportunity to rant more about it here, I have to say that this may be one of the most memorable drama journey for me.
This drama is my first in many things, it is my first makjang drama I watch, the first weekend drama I watch and the first drama for me to cover live in the blog. So, I am sure it will always have a special place in my heart and that some of the scenes and dialogues in this drama will forever be in my memory along with the unique and very special feelings I had while watching it and our Dong-Hae/ChaMo Couple ❤
Sorry if this is going to be a long post but apparently I have a lot to say about this drama and I hope you can bear with me and share your own thoughts about it as well 🙂
[Warning: this may contain spoilers]
Although this drama seemed to be a revenge story but from the beginning we actually understand it is more about forgiveness and trust specially from our hero and heroine and also we see how that revenge always ends up hurting the person who seek for it or his beloved ones. And I really did like this message they tried to convey.
- We see from the start how JW is more looking to be accepted from his father rather than wanting to revenge from him and his doing were for that, to show him whose the son he abandoned and that was evident from the confrontation between JW and Chairman Ah (Who he thought as his father) and how he requested him to acknowledge him as his son. And even with the VP we saw how many times JW did save the VP although he knows all the wrongs he done to him and even after he knows he is his son. Also from MN, we see how much forgiven she is when she knew about JW’s wrong doings to her father and how in the end she also forgave Baek understanding their situation and reasons.
- And we see the writer showing how Baek’s revenge plan did hurt her own son in the end and when she insisted completing it with killing the VP and herself, it ended up with her and her son caught in the fire instead and she almost lose the most precious person she had.
But allow me to rant about things I didn’t like here, first of all I actually think that this a drama that would have been better if it was shorter (may be 24 episodes) so we could skip many of the unnecessary parts but still I have to say that for 32 episodes I did like the pace overall and it got me addicted to the drama. Yes I admit that I lost some interest at the mid part of the drama but overall I didn’t get bored through this journey.
As I mentioned this is my first makjang drama and here we got to see SO MUCH of that from siblings love misunderstanding to the so complicated birth secrets and family tree to the Amnesia. And while I didn’t appreciate throwing all those elements on us but I did appreciate how the script did try to handle some of those makjang elements differently here because usually those elements would be used in dramas to separate the OTP or introduce hardships but here, some were actually done for the opposite.
For example, the siblings thing was actually the reason our hero did open up for MN as JW always longed to have a family and she was the only family member left for him or so he thought and that what allowed MN to see the real him and for them to become that close and fall in love.
And also the Amnesia that Baek had was introduced through “dissociative identity disorder” and it was actually the reason that the woman and our OTP was able to bond together without the guilt feeling she had about her past wrong doings to both her son JW and also MN.
Yes, I don’t mind makjang in general as long as it is done right but honestly I wasn’t a fan of how the writer kept trying to complicate things, create unnecessary and sometimes illogical events and throw our hero into hardships over and over again to keep the viewer interest rather than keep things more simple and invest more in the characters backgrounds, developments and relations and the hotel as the place that gather them all together because it is obvious that the writer sacrificed a lot characters’ developments and even dropped some characters in general from the drama.
If I take an example of the character that I did think suffered the most from that it would be “Sun Woo Hyun” (Seulong Character). I really thought there would be more meat in his character and giving that he was introduced as the second lead I am sure that was the writer intention in the beginning but she ended up sacrificing him and the character was more like a secondary character rather than a lead. I personally thought we would see more influence from him to the main story when they introduced his father but we ended up not getting any of that. Also we see the love line which was supposed to be between him and Da Bae (The VP daughter) vanish and Da Bae character disappear which was a disappointment in its own because I didn’t find it logical that JW forget all about her knowing that she is his sister although we saw how he did treat MN at first because he thought she was his sister !!!!
Also up till now I still have some questions in my head and that is again because our writer didn’t invest much in giving us proper backgrounds and some holes in the script. Like,
- Why manager Baek waited all this time to start her revenge and move in the hotel? Did she just enjoy watching both chairman Ah and the VP fighting all this time why she didn’t try to see Chairman Ah suffer while alive?
- How Baek didn’t seem to know anything about JW by the end other than he is an orphan who the VP sponsored although she was listening to all the conversations in the hotel and we saw her listening to a certain line from the VP saying “Ah Mo Ne and Cha Ja Wan, they are more attached as a siblings than I thought“??
- I am still not convinced with how the VP didn’t know about JW not being Chairman Ah son as evident with what he said to Baek when captured her in Ep 28 although we see the doctor had that correct DNA Test (so he didn’t know about that?) and also we saw him in Ep 4 have some evidences to stop JW from saying that he is chairman Ah son, what were those? just papers about him being an orphan who worked with gangsters or that he killed that gangster who we knew later he didn’t kill??
Oh I am getting headache again thinking about those things and even if I try to put some excuses or possibilities, the fact that the drama didn’t give complete or concrete answers is a flaw already. BTW, if you have answers for those question that I missed seeing in the drama please let me know ^^
Also watching some important revelations done in such anti-climax way was really bad. That includes the whole chairman Ah’s murder mystery (how actually the characters in the drama didn’t know what really happened that night while we viewers know???!!!), MN finding the pills that her father hided which proves that there was conspiracy in his death and JW finding the correct DNA test which proves he is not chairman Ah son and both was discovered by accidentally breaking or moving some objects !!!
Actually, this post would be so long (more than it is already) if I mention every flaw I saw in the writing. But with that said, I really liked some things from the writer. So, let me point to those:
- Dialogues: Although I got confused with some dialogues which could be because of the translation or my bad English but I really fell in love with many lines in this drama specially from our OTP.
- Unconventional Second Female Lead: I did like how the writer didn’t write Song Chae Kyung character as a hateful second female lead who is just there to come between our OTP. Although I got disappointed with her actions in a few episodes but generally I really liked her character and how she was the voice of wisdom and truth for JW and MN and did also like her rival-friend relation with MN, their interaction was interesting.
- The symbolize: Usually that is one factor that makes me really excited watching any drama and our writer used that many times. From the dialogues to the paintings in the early episodes to using objects like “Bella” the doll and animals like “The stray cat” and “Vince, The VP’s dog” and even using people like “the young murderer boy” and “the top star and her fiancee story” to indirectly refer to characters behaviors and relations.
- The parallelism: This is one of the lovely things that the writer has done and which I LOVED and it actually made repeating locations really meaningful. Sometimes it did show role reversals, sometimes shows the development of our couple relationship over time or replacing some sad memories with good ones.
The Editing and Directing
This drama has two different phases cause of the director change that happened around Ep 11/12.
Both phases had problems but what was even worse in the second phase is the drop we felt in the cinematography which really didn’t flatter our actors faces specially in the indoor sets. And I guess if we didn’t have already gorgeous OTP here it would have been a bigger problem. Also this was accompanied with some shaky camera work for few episodes that was really annoying.
But the common problems in the two phases:
- We got to see many mistakes from editing and it was generally rough in multiple times and how some scenes ended up so suddenly and the how weird some transitions from scene to another were.
- And while this drama really got some amazing cliffhangers moments at episodes endings which is a very good point actually but the problem is how they dealt with those in the next episodes. Sometimes the next episode began from totally different moment or I end up feeling deceived like the case with the episode after JW was beaten and we see MN threatened by some men and the episode after the explosion of the place Baek and JW were in.
But what I liked the most about the directing and editing:
- In the first phase we really got a beautiful cinematography that was a treat to the eye and if I choose the most beautiful scene during that it would be MN’s confession scene and almost kiss at the end of EP 9.
- I really liked shots they took for the hotel surrounding view and the outdoor shooting locations they choose, From the capsule garden to MN’s garden to the Byeongbangchi Sky Walk to little Ciel to the beach and many more. All so pretty ❤
- Also I would really thank the director and editing team for not cutting out those Ad-lib parts from our Dong-Hae couple and gave them the freedom to put their touch in their scenes.
- I also liked how they used the OST in the drama scenes although I noticed some songs were featured more than others but I specially like the score ❤
I have liked the acting overall and I guess it is one of the good points in this drama. But yes there was some OTT moments from some of the hotel staff specially at the first specially from Park Chul Min and Kim Seon Yong but I admit that when they toned it down they were quite funny. And I also didn’t really like Go Yoon‘s character and how he always inject English whenever possible.
Also some of emotional scenes was over board specially from Kim Hee Sook like confrontation scene with LJK and her angry scene after JW showed that he has 20% of the shares and left and the scene which she was walking and rolling in the garden after she knew about JW being her son. But still she really did a wonderful job with her smooth transition from being the emotionless manager Baek to the to the loving mom to RL and to JW and lastly to 5 years old cute mom and she was quite impressive in many scenes.
On the other hand, I was really surprised by the idols or singers turned actors cast members. From Seulong to Kim Ye Won to N to Alex, it was the first time I see them (I am still not counting Seulong’s Personal Taste 😀 ) and although they didn’t actually have much to work with but I thought they were really natural and easy on the eyes.
But I really need to make a special mention for some of cast:
- Lee Dong Wook: I mentioned this before in my previous posts but again I say that I really saw Wookie in a new light as an actor thanks to his performance as JW. I admit that I didn’t follow his works closely after “My Girl” but none of what I saw came close to how I loved him as JW, I was really pleasantly surprised and it made me think of watching some of what I missed from his work. But as I also mentioned before, I would like him to tone down his facial expressions in his angry scenes. Also I admit that sometimes I did want to see more emotions from him specially in the scenes when JW was away from MN but overall those comments are nothing compared to how I loved him in all the rest of the scenes and I hope he keep up the good work in his next works.
- Lee Duk Hwa: With his evil performance in the drama, LJK now is on the top of my list of the most hateful characters in dramaland and that is quite impressive specially with someone who don’t quite hate characters that easy. I am sure I won’t forget his famous line “It’s a misunderstanding” and how he was calling our OTP names “Jadyen” and “Mo Ne ya ~~“
- Jin Tae Hyun: One Word “AMAZING”. I didn’t see any work of him before but one of the big advantages of watching HK for me is that I get to know him. He is totally a scene stellar here, I loved all his scenes simply because he was in them. I here acknowledge myself as his new fan ❤
My favorite secondary characters
Honestly the writing didn’t help many characters to have much effect in this drama or grow or even have a decent closure so, seeing some secondary characters fleshed out was so much appreciated.
- Roman Lee: This is a character full of emotion and inner conflicts which was portrayed amazingly by Jin Tae Hyun and this bromance between him and JW was so cute and emotional at the same time. I liked the fact that they didn’t introduce his character from the beginning. Yes while that made us miss 12 episodes of seeing him on our screen but if it wasn’t the case, it would have taken away a lot of the impact on us as viewers when revealing his whole relation with JW and Baek.
- Cha Soo An: I can’t describe how much I LOVE CSA, such an amazing character. It is not every day you see womance in dramaland and so I really appreciate it whenever a drama introduce that. And here we got to see that with CSA and her relation with MN. I totally loved their relationship development and how they eventually became that close and cared for each other. And of course I loved how CSA always played the love angel for our couple trying to get them close together even when they apart 🙂
- The cute front desk couple: while those two didn’t have much screen time but I appreciated that at least their relationship did develop through the drama and we got a lovely closure for them.
Lee Da-hae As Ah Mo Ne
I expressed this many times before but here I say it again, I LOVE Mo Ne so much regardless of how badly the character was written IMO but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t get frustrated and disappointed of the character development.
Yes, from the beginning there was a problem with the character introduction and her background that lead many to be confused or annoyed of her which I can understand. But I didn’t feel that cause from the beginning I saw how strong, courageous, stubborn, honest and kindhearted MN and thought that the character had lots of potential to be great with some maturity so she can give up her naive and impulsive attitude but unfortunately that didn’t happen. I know the drama is called “Hotel King” and I expected them to focus more on the male lead but at the same time we got from the drama synopsis that the story will also focus about the journey of the hotel heiress who wants to protect her father’s legacy and her love so did we get to see that?? I am afraid that I can’t say yes.
I got my hopes high when we got to see MN losing the hotel and coming back as a maid. I thought this was the perfect timing for building her character and show more of her development but the writer chose otherwise and focused on all the makjang of the birth secret and complicated parent relation of our hero that even the hotel felt like a side issue. But I guess what stood out for MN as a character is how mature her emotions is and her incomparable love to JW which made her really became his savior.
But while I was disappointed with the role mainly cause I thought the character could have had much more than what we saw, it wasn’t the case with Da-hae performance as MN. May be I am biased saying this (who would believe I am not when the blog is named “Crush on Da-hae”, right? 😀 ) but honestly I did think she did a really good job here. From being the annoying, weirdo and lost heiress to the woman falling in love to the hurt lover and daughter to the loving woman protecting and defending her love, she was believable showing those different sides of the character and actually it is my favorite performance of her since “Miss Ripley“. The thing that I might take on her performance here is that IMO she did go overboard in some of her funny scenes and I specially didn’t like her very first intro scene on the ship and also her drunken scenes specially the ones in Ep 14 and 32 but other than that I am satisfied and think she had her shining moments. I tried to put caps from some my favorite moments of her as MN here ❤
Actually this situation reminds me a lot of “Green Rose“, not that the role is that similar but because also there it was Da-hae’s performance and her love story with the hero that made something out of that character which was written rather flat and I ended up loving her and her character there although the role is nothing to write home about.
But I keep asking myself, why again? why Da-hae usually end up with some badly written characters? I really have no concrete answer here but as always I hope that next for our girl is a well written and meaty character that I end up fully satisfied with and I think she need to be more careful in her project choices. But all in all, I am still happy she did “Hotel King” because I know she mainly accepted the role when Wookie asked her to do it cause she really wanted to work with him again which made us enjoy Dong-Hae sizzling chemistry once again and also because I know it was hard time for her career again when she got that offer. And even though the drama wasn’t a hit rating or quality wise but it made a buzz in Korea and internationally mainly because of Dong-Hae reunion and chemistry and so, I hope it will push her career forward and get her more offers in the future.
Usually in dramas I enjoy the part before the OTP fall in love the most and after that happens I become less engaged with the romantic scenes (not sure why but this is how I am) but it was totally different here and I enjoyed every scene JW and MN were in together and I am not talking about only lovely dovey or romance scenes but also their intense scenes, whenever those two were in the same frame they just set fire on my screen ❤
I would be honest and say that if not for Dong-Hae this drama would most probably be a pass for me. Yes they surely saved this drama IMO both by their performance and with their amazing and sizzling chemistry which you really can’t miss to see. And as I mentioned before, I totally love their chemistry here much more than “My Girl”. There is no doubt they were really cute, lovely and had tons of chemistry together in MG but here it is totally on a different level, with their maturity as actors their chemistry was so much deeper and was very touching.
Many times I got confused if I was really watching a drama with MN and JW as OTP or I was actually watching Wookie and Da-hae love story, that is how real it was watching them and feeling their love. I am amazed of how much emotions they poured in their love line and that is what made it really something special. Knowing how much ad-libs they made and how those ended up being some of best moments ever in the drama is enough prove of how it would have differ for the drama if they weren’t the leads here.
So from here comes my mixed feelings about this drama, because while I am really happy with them as a couple in this project and the fact that they choose a different drama genre for their reunion but I can’t help but to wish it was in a much better and well written project instead. It is unfortunate that most of my worries about this drama which I already wrote about before when the first news about Da-hae casting became true but at least when it comes to Dong-Hae chemistry and performance here I am more than satisfied and because of them this ended up being a very memorable drama journey for me and which I enjoyed and I don’t regret spending one moment during it either watching the episodes or writing posts about it.
In the end, I would like to take the chance here to thank all posters in Hotel King Soompi thread for their insightful comments which helped me to understand lots of things and enjoying this drama even more and to fans in Tumblr for making those amazing Gifs that made my posts less dull and boring 🙂
Now enjoy some AWESOME Fan MVs to summarize our drama journey ❤
Credit: MBC, muchcloudier @ soompi, kcelebs, purplebass, taecpls and p-b-e @ Tumblr, kpopliciousable04, TheMsAyoko12 and Michelle Tran YT Channels