By: S. McManus
Now, to be honest, I am usually not one for Asian dramas. I might’ve skimmed two or three in the past but never had enough motivation or time to finish any. Perhaps it was the sense of mystery, suspense, humor, and sci-fi all in one that kept me going with Alhambra.
The series follows the story of a famous and proud tech-investment company CEO, Yoo Jinwoo (HyunBin), as he tries to find a young game creator, Jung Seojoo (EXO’s Park Chanyeol), who had mysteriously called him and set up a meeting in Granada the night before. Spurred on by the fact Seojoo had mentioned not wanting to sell his game to his biggest rival and competitor, Cha Hyungseok (Park Hoon), he immediately books a train to the city and get a room at the hostel Seojoo had mentioned frequenting. While waiting for the creator’s arrival, he tries out the AR game for himself, and quickly finds himself impressed and addicted to its surprisingly realistic medieval battles. It is clear the game is the next groundbreaking thing in AR history. However, he has more than a few issues with the state of the hostel; He shouts at the owner the next morning after playing all night, only to be soon told by his business strategy director that she is in fact, Seojoo’s older sister and legal guardian, Jung Heejoo (Park Shinhye).
The plot thickens when Seojoo is a no-show at the station where his train was supposed to arrive, and his family are quick to dismiss his disappearance as this is something he supposedly does often. While leveling up in the game and searching for a sign of Seojoo, Jinwoo comes across his rival, Hyungseok, who has also been in Granada playing the game for himself. Tension escalates when Jinwoo also bumps into his ex-wife, who is now pregnant and married to Hyungseok, who agrees to duel with him (in the game) on the next day. It becomes a showdown between the two CEOs as to who can buy the game first while settling the differences from their troubled past.
And that’s about as far as I can go without giving out any major spoilers, but this show had me laughing, screaming and even in tears at one point. It is full of unexpected plot twists that aren’t overly unrealistic, and the characters are each unique and grow in their own journeys. The ending of the show, which has a total run time of about 16 hours, is never predictable and has people grabbing onto their seats at the end of every episode. As someone who isn’t very fond of romance, the love story between the CEO and hardworking hostel owner was bearable and even a little believable at times, without overshadowing the action and story of the main plot. Overall, the production and CG of the drama are quite impressive and give new life to game and its realism. The soundtrack, as it is with most Korean dramas, is also good and accompanies the story relatively well. Perhaps the only thing I would’ve changed about this show is its rather slow pace and its sometimes too dark and tense moments, but I suppose it wouldn’t be much of a drama otherwise.
Final Ranking: 4/5 stars