Saturday, October 29, 2016

Just Finished Watching... Gran Hotel (Grand Hotel) on Netflix


Twice actually. That's right, I loved it so much, I immediately went back and watched it all for a second time. Be warned, this post will be essay-length and probably gushing.

Seriously, its been a loooong time since I've loved a TV show this much. Not for the first time, I am thanking all the fates and Gods that Netflix came into my life and provides such varied and popular content... in terms of TV shows. I've heard some people complain about the movie catalogue, especially the limited Australian version we get down here. But I'm not a movie buff, so it doesn't bother me.
For those of you who know absolutely nothing about this show (like me until a few weeks ago) here's the basics:

This is a Spanish TV series (so be prepared to read subtitles if you don't understand Spanish... I have to say, I've got a few basics of the language down now after spending so many hours listening to it being spoken and reading the translation, and I soon worked out that the subtitles didn't always represent exactly what was being said on screen). Some people have called this the "Spanish Downton Abbey," but is it so, SO much more than that. It's more like Downton Abbey meets Game of Thrones -- less rich people with (historical) #firstworldproblems and more murder and mayhem. The actors on this show were amazing, and had great overall chemistry that doesn't come along very often... but when it does, then something wonderful happens.

The show starts off in 1905, when a young man, Julio, goes to the Gran Hotel in Cantaloa looking for his sister -- who was a maid there -- because he hasn't heard from her in a while and is worried. The hotel is owned by the Alarcon family.
The patriarch has recently passed away, and the scheming matriarch, Theresa, who knows almost everyone's secrets and will do anything to keep the hotel in the family is now in charge.

There's the son, Javier, who basically just spends the family money on being drunk and whoring. Then there's the oldest sister, Sophia, who married a Marquise, but seemingly gets overlooked all the time. And finally there's Alicia, the youngest of them, who is gorgeous both in looks and personality. Soon after arriving back from an extended trip, her mother convinces Alicia that she has to marry Diego, the hotel manager, because after her father died and left many debts, Diego was responsible for saving the hotel and family from ruin. Diego is an a-hole disguised as a gentleman.
And all that is introduced in the first ep.

Julio sees Alicia for the first time getting on the train to Cantaloa, and is immediately struck by her, though of course she doesn't notice him. Once they both arrive (separately) at the hotel, Alicia joins her family, while Julio goes around to the back entrance looking for answers about his sister. But there is no doubt Julio is more than a little interested in Alicia.

Julio soon figures out something weird is going on, as people claim his sister left, but no one has any information about when exactly or where she went. He meets Andres and their bromance begins right away. Julio pretends to be the new waiter (managing to get rid of the actual new waiter who turned up not long after him) and convinces Andres to help him find answers about his sister.

That night, there's a ball or some kind of party. Julio dresses up as a Man of Means to question a guest who apparently accused his sister of stealing, leading to her supposed dismissal. But its soon revealed this lady doesn't know what Julio is talking about -- the story was false -- and leaves more questions about his sister's fate.

Que Alicia entering the conversation. She's just become engaged to Diego, but there's no doubt she's charmed by Julio, probably despite herself. Later, when she goes out to the balcony, Julio follows her, offers her a cigarette even though she doesn't smoke, and dares her to try it.

And thus the most epic TV romance of all time begins. I never thought any couple would bump John and Aeryn from Farscape off the top of my fav couples of all times list, but Julio and Alicia managed to do it. In fact, they completely blew John and Aeryn out of the running.
Seriously, if this were an English speaking show, I swear it would have legions of obsessed fans shipping Julicia (totally called it) with gifs, graphics, youtube fan vids and fan fiction galore. But alas, few people outside of Spain know what they're missing out on.

But back to the story. It doesn't take Alicia long to figure out that Julio was not who he said (a gentleman) in the days following, and she eventually finds that he is in fact the new waiter. By now, Julio is convinced that his sister has probably been killed, and is determined to stay, pretending to be a waiter until he finds out who did it. When Alicia confronts him, he tells her everything, and she ends up agreeing to help him discover the truth, as long as he leaves when he's got his answers. Of course, things are not that straight forward, and finding answers proves to be more difficult and dangerous than either of them expects.

As they slowly discover clues, all the time spent working together brings them closer, and despite Alicia's engagement to Diego, she and Julio have chemistry and connect in a way neither of them can deny, despite the difference in class (which was obviously a big deal back then). Seriously, these two are so cute together, so many times I was like "omg the feels! I can't even take it!"
I won't spoil the answer to what happened with Julio's sister, but toward the end of season 1, once he has all the answers, he decides to leave, and tells Alicia to come with him.

She does, but just before they're about to leave, Julio gets news that the answers he had weren't the full truth, and he decides he has to stay, to get to the bottom of things once and for all. Alicia is devastated -- she'd made the choice to leave and start a new life with Julio, and didn't want to go back to the hotel, even temporarily.

But Julio won't be dissuaded, and he leaves her standing alone outside the train station. Upon returning to the hotel, Alicia feels she doesn't have a choice but to honor her engagement to Diego, even though both her sister, Sophia, and Julio tell her she doesn't have to, shouldn't go through with it. She pretty much tells Julio he had his chance and ruined it. At this point, I think a small part of Alicia simply married Diego because Julio had hurt her badly, and she wanted to hurt him in return. But also because Diego was very good a manipulating people, and had convinced both Alicia and her mother that marrying him was the only thing Alicia could do.

Into season 2, and Julio hasn't left the hotel, but decided to stay after Andres had a bad accident on Alicia's wedding day. Julio actually thinks someone tried to hurt Andres on purpose, so aside from helping to look after him, he's determined to find out who is behind it, because no one messes with his brotp and gets away with it.
Alicia and Diego return from their honeymoon, and Alicia is obviously surprised to find Julio still there, when she'd expected him to leave after she got married. Julio's feelings for her haven't changed, and he doesn't even bother trying to hide it.
Alicia tries to resist, pretends like she's over him and moved on, but the only person she's fooling is herself. When Julio tells her about his suspicions over Andres, she agrees to help him (only for Andres, not for him) and once again they are partners in crime.

Meanwhile, Diego is beginning to show his true colors, and as Alicia realizes the man she married might be a complete a-hole, if not outright monster, she and Julio grow closer again. It's not long before they give into their feelings, and Julio becomes her everything -- whenever she is upset or needs anything, he is always there. As their search for answers about Andres becomes more complicated, they discover clues that her own father may have been murdered, and then it becomes a matter of Julio helping Alicia discover the truth for a change.

In the meantime, Diego gets a clue that Alicia might be having an affair, and becomes increasingly possessive, jealous and an all around jerk.  
Toward the end of season 2, Alicia finally cracks under Diego's scrutiny and tells him she loves someone else, but won't say who. This spurs Diego into showing her the type of man he really is. Later, when Julio finds out what happened, it's enough to break him, and he goes after Diego.

In the end, circumstances luckily prevent Julio from following through on his revenge, but it becomes apparent that someone is out to destroy the Gran Hotel.
Into season 3, Julio and Alicia are more in love than ever, but she can't escape Diego, as back then, a wife was literally considered a man's property, but that doesn't stop them from trying. Alicia's friend, Maite, who is also a lawyer, comes along to help her get out of the marriage, but Diego swears he'll never let her go and is determined to find out who her lover is so he can kill him.
While all this is going on, someone is sabotaging the Gran Hotel, and all sorts of things are going on. It soon becomes apparent that this person wants revenge on Diego.
The entire season is spent with Julio and Alicia trying to find a way to be free, while discovering the truth of Diego's past. I won't tell you what happens in the end, but suffice to say, everyone gets exactly what they deserve. But most importantly of all, Julio and Alicia get their happy ending.
Phew!
Even just recounting it all makes me want to watch it a 3rd time. And I haven't even managed to get in all the other non-Julicia related stuff that went on -- Javier and his schemes which he sometimes got Julio mixed up in that were always hilarious. The depths of the Julio-Andres (Juldres?) bromance, which also has an easy spot in my list of all time favorite bromances.
Julio regularly going all Fight Club at the local inn to solve his problems. Detective Ayala and his dunce of a sidekick who had the unenviable job of investigating the goings on at the Gran Hotel while people tried desperately to keep their secrets. The other affairs (even one with a priest! Nothing was sacred). The baby stealing (yep, you heard that right). The serial killer. Illegitimate siblings. The many, many murders. The scheming and back-stabbing. The slapping. Oh my god, the slapping. I know hitting people isn't the answer to anyone's problems, but every time someone got
slapped (usually Javier) I was guilty and loving it (except for the couple of times Alicia slapped Julio, that just hurt!).

I think part of the reason I loved this show so much (apart from the forbidden romance that was handled so well... I'm a huge sucker for forbidden romance) was the fact that I could never guess what was going to happen next. The twists were just brilliant. Usually in a TV show or movie, it's hard to surprise me, because my story-telling author brain will correctly guess the plot, usually before whatever I'm watching is even half over. But every time I thought I knew what was going to happen on this show, something would come out of left field, leaving me surprised and loving every second of it.
If you've got Netflix and you haven't discovered this show yet, then you're missing out on some seriously good television.

There is only one bad thing I can say about this TV show, and that is I couldn't find it available on DVD with English subtitles in my region (Damn you Australia, you have thwarted me again!). I would buy this is a second if it I could get it, but while it's available in the US with English subtitles, and I could buy it, the region limits mean it wouldn't work on my DVD player... Unless I brought a US DVD player at well... seriously, I love this show so much, I would almost consider doing that!

In the meantime, I am impatiently waiting, as I discovered many of the people behind this show are making a new show for Netflix called Cable Girls, apparently based on the phone operators in the early 1900's, and the actor that plays Julio has a role in it (hopefully a main one, he's a brilliant actor!). I'm assuming Netflix will release it world wide like they usually do, so will be hanging off my subscription into 2017 until its released... and then I'll probably binge watch it in a matter of days if it's anything like Gran Hotel.
Do yourselves a favor, people, and get into Gran Hotel right now!






17 comments:

Carol Sjostedt said...

Lovely review Jess. I am not young and have seen many movies/series & don't remember one that captivated me more. I have watched it several times & see something new every time. It has everything, One vague disappointment was the last episode. Alicia, having been wild to leave with Julio, especially after he was injured, is suddenly not sure she will bother! She has sympathy for the man who raped, beat & controlled her. It was her mother's intervention (of all people) that turned the tide of her feelings. Very odd, I thought. How did you react to this? Carol Adams, Another Aus fan.

Jess Anastasi said...

Hi Carol, glad you liked my review!
And yes, I did find Alicia's sudden hesitation in the last episode a bit out of character. On one hand, it could be said the writers were doing this just to squeeze a last little bit of will-they/won't-they tension out of the romance.
On the other hand, I think that was always part of Alicia's weakness when it came to Diego -- he knew exactly how to manipulate her into doing what he wanted, and even after all the terrible things he'd done to her, this still held true.
What I was REALLY disappointed about was Alicia running off before she heard the doctor say she was pregnant. I so wanted to see a scene with Julio finding out he was going to be a father. I think they really missed a big final plot point with that, and couldn't really understand why they let the audience find out, but had Julio and Alicia leaving completely ignorant of the fact.
Still, there's no denying that this is a very special series that nothing else can measure up to. "Captivated" was definitely the right word to use!

Carol Sjostedt said...

Hello again Jess, yes I guess that made sense to the writers - a bit of last minute uncertainty. Can't help thinking they could have produced this another way though as it also spoilt the friends last dinner, sigh.
Springing the pregnancy on us at the last minute was typical of the twists & turns theme for these very clever writers. However, they could hardly let Alicia or Julio know, or it would have led to another explosion of reactions/story lines, just when they were wrapping up. We are left to wonder what would happen later. Whose baby? (Making the timing for Julio is very problematic). What difficulties would arise as they both privately wonder during the pregnancy? Thankfully, the viewer is spared this anguish with the final credits showing a very cute mini Julio. 😜

BTW. what was your fav scene? Mine is a toss up between the 'when I offer you a cigarette it will mean' scene & Julio appearing in the mirror after Javier's 'death'.

Regards, Carol

Jess Anastasi said...

That's the thing -- if they'd brought up the pregnancy an episode or two before the end, or even at the beginning of the last episode, THAT could have been the final last minute uncertainty as Julio struggled with whether he can accept possibly being father to Diego's baby. Though, I have to imagine they would have worked out that Julio was the father considering Alicia was only with Diego twice in the end -- On New Year's eve, which was a bit over 6 months ago from the final episode, and then a few days (or maybe about a week?) before they leave. Assuming she's 3 or 4 months pregnant, the baby was obviously conceived somewhere in the middle... I may have spent too much time thinking about this!!
Anyway, I think that would have worked better for some last minute tension, rather than Alicia suddenly hesitating on leaving.
But the mini-Julio? Omg so gorgeous!
And as for my favourite scene? Oh boy, I have SO many. Yes, the scene where Julio appeared in the mirror after Alicia found out about Javier was fantastic. Also, the scene where they were hiding in the cupboard together from Diego and Julio told Alicia he'd loved her since the first moment he'd seen her at the train station. When Alicia went looking for the gun her cousin had hidden in the hostel and Bear came for her, but Julio burst in at the last second to save her... ending with Diego's man seeing them kissing, leaving them thinking it was all over. The first time Alicia helped patch up Julio after he'd been fighting at the Inn. When they first discovered the secret room and Julio teased Alicia about being afraid of rats and she was determined to prove she was brave (so cute!) When Julio finally found her in the smuggler's cave where Diego had locked her up and the confrontation that followed... I could go on all day. I just loved it all!

katrynn said...

I just watched the final episode this morning. It is so addictive. There romance was so passionate. i got emotioanlly invested myslef. i laughed and cried and am seriously thinking like you did to start again. I agree with you Carol I loved the "when i offer you a cigarette" scene and their time together in the secret room. That scene was beautifully done. I can honeslty say I am addicted. Another Aussie hooked :)

Jess Anastasi said...

Hi Katrynn!
So cool to see another addicted fan! Seriously, this show just blew me away, it was impossible not to be emotionally invested! Being an author, stories are my life trade. I've read so many books, watched so many TV shows and quite a few movies, but nothing has ever completely consumed me the way Gran Hotel did. And I can say without a doubt that nothing will ever come close to measuring up to it.
I think its now trending on Netflix Australia, so there must be a lot of people getting similarly sucked in ;)

Carol Sjostedt said...

Aha, an addicted group of 3 now. 😱. I thought I was going to be saved from my obsession as it was supposed to leave on the 15th, but it's still there. 😳. I want to watch it again, but am afraid it will suddenly vanish. Consumed is a good word Jess.

Another observation. The writers dont seem to give us any clues as to why a young, poor working class man was so well mannered, literate and socially adept. He could pass himself off as anything. Very odd. And beguiling. 😜

Jess Anastasi said...

NO! I didn't realize it was a "limited time only" deal! Now I'm even more desperate to get it on DVD. Pretty sure I will die if I never get to watch it again!
And I had wondered that myself, why Julio was so clean cut for someone supposedly of the lower class. I just figured maybe he learned how to be a con man when he was a thief? Oh well, despite the inconsistencies, it still works so well!

Carol Sjostedt said...

I thought the writers were suggesting a farming family fallen on hard times. (The gold cuff links, silver cigarette case, literate mother).

Take heart Jess, if Netfix takes it down (have obviously already extended by couple of days) there are heaps of you tube clips. I imagine they wont releas subtitled DVD until Netflix licence expires.

What fun it is to share some thoughts & ideas. 😊 Carol

Carol Sjostedt said...

Hi again, I have just realised by looking at videos on the yongonzales international website, that Netflix edit & clip scenes. For example, the train scene and the scene where Alicia hops into bed with Julio after him being shot. They were important bits too and I can't speak Spanish. 😨 Makes you wonder how many more were edited out. I've always wondered why Angela's sister is shown hovering in the doorway on the night Julio went to Alicia after Diego assaulted her. Something missing there.
You are on the right track, Jess, hanging out for the subtitled DVD's. I hope they will be complete. Carol. 😊

katrynn said...

Now Im intrigued. I always thought the episode with the clock that hypnotised Alicia was unnecessary it didnt go anywhere I wonder if there is more to this story line too.

Jess Anastasi said...

That's so annoying! I wonder why they did that? Now I'm going to be obsessing over what the differences were and why. It's also interesting to note that some of the youtube clips I've seen, the translations are slightly different to the ones Netflix provided, leaving me wondering which was more accurate. I REALLY need to work out a way to get this on DVD (with subtitles and the edited/cut scenes included) to figure this all out!!

Carol Sjostedt said...

Annoying indeed. If those 2 scenes have been edited, imagine how many more. The editing matters, even though it is only 30 secs or so as it is very significant dialogue, showing their deep intimacy. I would love to know what was said even in those two scenes. There are probably dozens more. 😡 I cant imagine why these two - there must have been far more trivial scenes that could have been cut.

Oh my, Just did a check - amazon complete set - 51 hours 47 mins. Netflix 49 hours 30 mins. Could be some extras on DVDS i suppose, but.....

Phoebe Dean said...

I'm a few months late to the party here....but I am just as obsessed as you 3! I loved loved loved every second of this (and I watch a hell of a lot of TV). I couldn't press pause all week... (I barely slept!). I am an absolute sucker for forbidden love stories though...even now I can't stop watching Julio y Alicia edits on youtube... HELLLP!

Anyone have any other suggestions as far as forbidden love stories go? I'm even so in love with Yon Gonzalez and Amaia Salamanca that I stalked their IMDB pages for something new! I need a fix! But, unfortunately I feel Yon's character isn't as important in the new 'Cable Girls' (happy to be told otherwise!), and Amaia seems to be a secondary character in 'Velvet'.

I need a fix and I don't know where to go! Hahahahah. If only this show was still running. I was very upset to reach the end :'(

Phoebe Dean said...

Also - to follow up all the discussion about cut scenes and mis-translations, I watched the series here http://wlext.net/series/gran-hotel-season-1 I'm not sure if this is the same version as Aus netflix or not? But when I compare those translations to the ones I have seen on some youtube clips... the ones I watched with made more sense/seem more accurate.... so if thats not the netflix version, watch from there when you're up for another rewatch!

I also don't think anything was cut from the version I saw....if anyone has a youtube link to an extended scene you didnt see on Netflix, send it my way! They I can let you know if that website has the full version :)

Carol Sjostedt said...

Hi Phoebe, yes it was wonderful & very addictive. I have a youtube library of clips, lol. I don't want to get hooked again, as it took me weeks to stop watching it, which has never happened to me before. Glad you found an uncut version. I quite liked The Cable Girls, but it is not in the same class as Grand Hotel.

Sophia Ebert said...

I just read your post after I finished the series and literally rewarched all Julio and Alicia scenes. And I'm soo glad, I found someone, who is as obsessed with the show as I am :)
I just loved every single minute of it and I guess generally speaking I'm probably a bit luckier as there's a dubbed German version on Netflix for it. But still, I don't know a single person, who knows it :/
And I also realised the different translations. I understand bits and pieces of Spanish and also know that the sentence structure just requires slightly different translations sometimes, but still it's always a pity to not exaclty understand it the way they originally said it. For the German translation the translated stuff differently again.

As of movies the actors play in, I've seen that there is a movie with Yon Gonzalez (Off Course) which is available on Netflix (at least her in Germany)