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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!