Previously on “Memories of the Alhambra”, romance! Science fiction! Fantasy! Action, crime, comedy, mystery, thrills!
Much has been happening in the parallel universes of this genre-bending Netflix original series. But if for some inexplicable reason you haven’t been keeping up with the instant Korean classic, all 16 episodes of the eminently binge-watch-worthy show are available as of today.
For a hit that could easily have drifted into melodrama while taking itself too seriously, Memories has never lost its light touch (or its feature-film production values). So, as we wait for news of a second run, of which television-land is desirous, here’s a non-spoiling spoiler for all the novitiates.
Receiving a cryptic message, financier Yoo Jin-woo hares over to Granada, Spain, to meet Jung Se-joo, who is the creator of an augmented-reality game that brings to life battles from the Middle Ages centred on the Alhambra fortress-palace. The young genius disappears before Jin-woo can buy the rights to his game, but instead he chances upon Se-joo’s sister, hostel owner Jung Hee-joo.
Jin-woo and Hee-joo (played by big noises Hyun Bin and Park Shin-hye, respectively) soon become entangled in a sticky web of avatars (thankfully not blue), screaming warriors, swords falling from the sky, attacks by vengeful ghosts and the apparition of a floaty female Spanish guitarist.
“Real” and “alternative” fudge further as Jin-woo goes desperately seeking Se-joo while beginning a slow-burning relationship with Hee-joo. Game boy, however, is at grave risk, with the dark side also seeking a piece of the AR action by foul means or even fouler. Lining up for that team are his cunning ex-wife, a business rival and a damnable, grasping professor intent on destroying Jin-woo, who he believes killed his son. And for a dash of comic relief, don’t forget Seoul’s very own Keystone Cops, forever chasing the good guys down the wrong alley.
The immersive game becomes increasingly hazardous as it impinges on what looks like the outside world and players rise through its levels. But never mind the blood, fights on mean city streets, fires, exploding cigarette lighters and colliding worlds: will there be a cheesy Hollywood ending for Jin-woo and Hee-joo? That’s what the fans really want to know.
“The Grand Tour”: fast cars, explosive set pieces and Jeremy Clarkson
I confess: I broke the law. Very quickly. But in my defence, it would have been rude not to, barrelling towards Andorra in a McLaren supercar. OK, so it wasn’t big and it wasn’t clever, but it did make real some of the vicarious pleasures involved in watching “The Grand Tour”, the third series of which is now melting tarmac on Amazon Prime.
As a car programme, it’s unbeatable for blowing up helicopters, crashing motorbikes and demolishing shopping malls with a half-track. Being on telly is obviously a get-out-of-jail-free card, not least for three clowns in their big-top tent studio and anywhere else on the planet they might show up. And then there are the cars, some of them sensational. So I can understand the appeal of watching grown men doing daft things in expensive vehicles. (Given the chance, I’m sure a gang of girls could be equally irresponsible. The Grand Tourette? Perhaps not.)
But let’s be honest: this is a show about laddish japery, in which the big bloke (Jeremy Clarkson) bullies the little bloke (Richard Hammond), while the middle bloke (James May) holds the big bloke’s coat. Yes, it’s all playground puerile, it’s the evil church of the infernal-combustion engine and it’s just the sort of thing about which we should all be foaming in these po-faced, holier-than-thou times of instant, anonymous feedback. Except we’re not. Because it’s fun. Remember that?