Hotel del Luna Episode 1 Recap

This entry is part 1 of 16 in the post series Hotel del Luna Recap

A hooded woman pulls a horse cart carrying a wooden long box through the countryside. Her hood flies through the wind to land on the branches of a tree, and later, falls into the hands of men pursuing her. At night, the woman, Jang Man-wol (IU) stops at a shelter and asks her host—a mysterious old woman—about the inn where the souls of the dead can go to rest. The woman knows about ‘the inn off the moon,’ but says that only the dead can go there, pointing behind Man-wol. We see a group of spirits—men she has ruthlessly killed—standing behind her.

Man-wol wants to take responsibility for the souls, but gets called arrogant by the old woman. She is ready to even kill herself in order to get to the inn, but the woman informs her that the dead are heading to the inn of the moon on their own. The men who were pursuing Man-wol appear on the scene, but when she raises her sword to fight them, they turn to dust. We see the shadow of a man behind her, which turns into a tree when she plunges her sword into it and swallows the sword. As Man-wol watches, the inn materializes in front of her. The old woman mutters that the inn has met its new owner and leaves with Man-wol’s horse and wooden box, which we now see is filled with random objects caked in blood.

It’s the year 1998. A man apologizes to his son for not having money to buy him gifts on his birthday. The old woman from the inn (SEO YI-SOOK), now in the guise of a flower seller, approaches the child to tell him that he’s going to be blessed in the future. Not far from there, policemen drag the body of a woman out of water as her ghost stares at a suspicious-looking man on the scene.

Jang Man-wol, now dressed like a wealthy heiress, walks the corridors of what appears to be the inn, except now it’s much fancier. The walls in her office are adorned with pictures of her throughout the years—and she hasn’t aged in any of them. She asks the manager of the hotel to open for business, but doesn’t want to see anyone who died too gruesomely. She stares at the moon and mutters that she’s sick of it. The neon sign of ‘HOTEL DEL LUNA’ flickers to life, and what looks like a tiny establishment from the outside slowly transforms into a grand, multi-storey, red-bricked structure.

Koo Hyun-moo (OH JI-HO), the boy’s father from before, is on the run from police for stealing. He trips and loses consciousness a second before getting up and running again. He comes across Hotel del Luna and sees the ghost of the drowned woman go in with a concierge. He follows her into a grand lobby and sits with her, wondering why she’s drenched and not realizing she’s a ghost. When she asks how he died, he misunderstands and thinks she’s asking how he got hurt. As he explains, we see that his body is still on the road where he fell—but he’s not dead yet.

Hyun-moo runs into Hotel del Luna’s Manager Noh (JUNG DONG-HWAN), who immediately recognizes that he’s not dead and therefore not supposed to be at the hotel. He asks Ji Hyun-joong, the concierge (P.O), to escort him out. Hyun-moo comes across an ornate vase with a gold snake on it, thinks of stealing it but changes his mind. The snake turns sentient and follows Hyun-moo, who walks into the outdoor swimming pool area and is stunned to realize that it is an actual beach. Next, he walks into a sky bar on the top of the building and wonders if the hotel was always this big.

Hotel del Luna’s staff is terrified of Man-wol’s temper and discusses how to catch the trespassing human before their boss finds out. Man-wol notes the missing snake on the vase and realizes that a thief has entered the hotel. Hyun-moo comes across the old tree within the hotel/inn’s compounds and notes the exotic flowers growing on it. He remembers his son asking him to give him flowers for his birthday. As soon as he plucks the flowers, he gets knocked off his feet. Turns out that Man-wol has found him, and as she places her heel on Hyun-moo’s chest, she realizes that he can feel pain and is therefore not dead. When he denies that he stole from the hotel, the golden snake leaps out of his jacket. His body begins to fade, and Man-wol informs him that he’s dying.

In a hospital, doctors try to save Hyun-moo’s physical form as his son, Chan-sung, stands in a corner and cries. Man-wol is surprised to note the flowers Hyun-moo picked from the tree, because the tree has never bloomed before. Hyun-moo insists that the flowers were a present for his son and Man-wol realizes that the tree wants her to save him. She makes him promise to give her his son after 20 years, and on that condition, gives him his life back. Chan-sung watches his father come back to life and calls the doctors.

The next day, while leaving the hospital, Hyun-moo and Chan-sung happen to see the funeral of someone Hyun-moo thinks he recognizes. It’s the drowned woman’s ghost from last night, who we realize was a policewoman. Hyun-moo is struck with the realization that the events of last night actually happened.

The woman’s ghost tells Man-wol that she was an undercover officer who died after her identity was compromised. Man-wol informs her that because she died doing righteous work, she’ll be taken to the afterlife in a top quality limousine. The woman’s spirit, however, wants to catch the man she was investigating. Man-wol agrees to help her in return for money.

Man-wol turns up at the an event being held by Park Kyu-ho (delightful cameo by KIM WON-HAE), the mayor of Beom-cheon. The suspicious-looking man at the scene of our policewoman’s death is also there. Man-wol walks into the venue holding a gun, but no one except the mayor can actually see her. She fires at him as the policewoman’s ghost appears before him. In a panic, the mayor blurts out the truth—that he was the one who asked his men to kill her.

Man-wol is excited to find out that the policewoman’s ghost paid for her services in diamonds she must have busted while she was alive. Her excitement doesn’t last long however, because Manager Noh takes almost all of it away to pay the hotel’s debts and the loans she took out to enjoy her luxurious lifestyle. He also plans to send financial assistance to Hyun-moo’s son, who will replace him as manager when he’s of age.

Hyun-moo checks his bank balance and realizes that he definitely sold his son to some strange woman. He tries to find Hotel del Luna to return the money and call off the deal, but fails to find it in the daytime. Man-wol sees Chan-sung and asks Manager Noh to send him flowers on his birthday every year so that he remembers his fate.

In the year 2019, a grown up Koo Chan-sung (YEO JIN-GOO) gets a job at one of the top hotels in Korea. When his boss asks why he didn’t take the job last year, he reveals that he had promised his late father that he wouldn’t live in Korea for 20 years. Now that 20 years have passed, he’s back. He describes Hotel del Luna to his boss, wondering if a hotel like that ever existed, and sighs with relief when she can’t recognize it.

Chan-sung’s relief evaporates when a staff informs him that someone sent flowers for his birthday. Along with the flowers is a note by Hotel del Luna’s owner Jang Man-wol, asking him to come to work starting tomorrow with instructions on how to get to the hotel. Chan-sung stands at the subway station wondering if he should go, then chucks the flowers in a bin.

When Chan-sung gets on a train, he’s surprised to find an empty carriage in an otherwise crowded train. Man-wol sits alone, holding the flowers he threw away earlier, and Chan-sung realizes who she is. Man-wol asks if he ran from country to country so she wouldn’t come after him. When Chan-sung asks her to give up on him, she decides to give him an unusual birthday present. She blows over his eyes and lets him leave.

Chan-sung wonders what she did to him and decides to pack his bags and run away again. While waiting for a cab, however, he sees a woman who is wearing glasses at night. Back at the hotel, Man-wol cackles at the shock Chan-sung is about to receive, but Manager Noh notes that seeing a ghost for the first time without a warning could be fatal for the guy.

The woman takes off her sunglasses. Chan-sung is stunned to see holes in place of her eyes and runs away in the opposite direction, screaming. The ghost is about to get him when Man-wol shows up, informing him that her gift—the ability to see ghosts—will work everywhere he goes.

Man-wol and Chan-sung end up at a famous dumpling restaurant and in true millennial fashion, she takes pictures of her food. The guy who used to be Mayor of Beom-cheon before Man-wol exposed him notices her. Man-wol informs Chan-sung that not all ghosts are scary and most look normal, and points to the ghost of a kid eating in the same restaurant. Chan-sung wonders if she’s also a ghost, and she turns serious, replying she’s not dead or alive, she’s just there.

When they’re out of the restaurant, Man-wol sends Chan-sung to buy her tea, while she deals with the ex-Mayor. When the mayor stabs her in the chest, she flashes back to her past, when she killed people with similar ruthlessness. Chan-sung returns and is horrified by what he sees. As Man-wol lays slumped over a pole, she tells Chan-sung that if he turns away now, she will let him go, and Chan-sung takes the chance.

Soon enough, however, he returns with a wagon and offers to take her to a hospital or back to her hotel. Annoyed, Man-wol stands up and removes the knife from her heart. She tells him that he’s just lost his chance to run away. She magically sends the knife zooming to find the mayor and end his life. Chan-sung tries to sneak away, but Man-wol informs him she won’t hesitate to kill him.


Song Joong-ki in a still from the Netflix Korean movie Space Sweepers
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Indoor Enthusiast

Indoor Enthusiast (Esha) is usually found going on rants about how Ji Hae-soo from It's Okay That's Love and Sung Bora from Reply 1988 are the best heroines to grace our screens. Thrillers like Secret Forest and rom-coms with sprinklings of feminism à la Because This Life Is My First hold a special place in her heart. She can be reached at [email protected]