W Two Worlds Episode 7: A simple romance in everyday life  

Yeon Joo takes over as the author of the comic, which results in a light-hearted, fun and sweet episode. I didn’t write about this in detail previously but this series does comedy really well too and this is an episode is a perfect example.

The whole contract marriage between Yeon Joo and Kang Chul is so hilarious and over the top that it’s almost as if the show is poking fun at Yeon Joo for her crazy fantasies. Loved the scene of Do Yoon presenting the four choices of romance to Yeon Joo. Her facial expressions are hilarious and Do Yoon trying to re-enact Kang Chul’s options is just great fun. There’s so much sweetness when we see Kang Chul carrying out loving acts through referencing a book, and it’s funny yet endearing to see him bumbling through the hair tying  (admittedly most guys wouldn’t be able to do that too). I have to give a lot of props to the cast, but particularly Han Hye Kyo who has impeccable comic timing and performance.

Even before we reach the ending, there are already hints that this romantic interlude is fleeting. During her night in prison, Yeon Joo voice-overs that her own life felt unreal and she began to believe that her life in the comic was real, ignoring her mum’s concern or her job as a doctor. The “realness” of her comic book existence ironically becomes true as the contract marriage between her and Kang Chul makes her a real comic book character who can be hurt and killed, as we learn in the next episode. While tying her hair, Kang Chul says that they need to do as much as possible as he’s not sure when she will disappear again, as they are still confined by the rules of the comic book world. And at the end of the episode, we learn that their marriage marriage has revived the purpose of the killer, who now wants to kill Yeon Joo since he was created with the mindless motive to kill Kang Chul’s family and bring misery to him. While the dad had decided after Kang Chul’s death that he was done with the manhwa, he won’t be able to do so now because his daughter’s life is now at stake and the killer will need to be captured in order to save her.

I’d like to share further thoughts on this show in comparison to the Queen In-hyun’s Man. I had previously commented that QIM was slower in plot development, which is still true and my stand remains that W Two Worlds is an infinitely more competent and complex series in terms of writing. However, upon thinking further about QIM, I have observed that it plays within very fair rules when it comes to the travel between worlds and does not keep adding new rules that confuse the readers. The time travel is relatively straightforward and built on very sensible rules – It is activated by the talisman that can only be used by Boone Do; in the historical world, he is transported when he faces a death situation but in the modern world, he can summon himself back. These rules are established in the first few episodes and they don’t vary even towards the later half. This makes the drama more grounded and easy to understand, compared to W Two Worlds where new rules keep being added on, even in the final episode. I’ve read that many viewers fell away because they became confused.

To me, this is not a big issue – some kind of internal logic would be good but I am more interested in the storyline, character development and thematic exploration that arises from the travel and this is where W Two Worlds really excels in. Furthermore, the supposed loop holes provide more room for speculation that also allows the reader to fill in the gaps which I have really enjoyed doing. In fact, my further theorizing has often led me to uncover further consistency in how Song Jae-Jung has constructed the series, which makes me admire her even more!

Final note: There’s an interview with Song Jae Jung on dramabeans which is definitely worth a read. Some interesting nuggets include how she hasn’t watched Episodes 15 and 16, how apologetic she was to Han Hye Joo for Yeon Joo’s ending and how her motivation for the series started from Goya’s painting. Do check it out.

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W Two Worlds Episode 8: The dream reset 

Key developments in this episode:

  • Yeon Joo’s marriage to Kang Chul makes her a comic book character, thus causing her to lose her invincibility.
  • The killer hunts her down in the real world and shoots her, but she is teleported into the comic world in the nick of time.
  • Soo Hee is saved from completely fading when Kang Chul reaffirms her purpose in his life.
  • Kang Chul decides that the best way to save Yeon Joo is to make all that has happened since he woke up in the hospital a dream. That way, Yeon Joo won’t be a part of his life and she will be safe from the villain.

The first half is this series has just been the best eight episodes of any series ever, filled with jaw dropping plot twists, intense emotion, laugh out loud humour, heart stopping action, intriguing exploration of the rules of interdimensional travel, deep philosophical discussions on destiny as well as heartwarming romance. The story has just raced along and it seems like we’ve been given a whole series of plot developments within half a series.

While the episode ends with Kang Chul awakening from a dream, the person who truly experiences a rude awakening in this episode is Yeon Joo. She realizes her romantic happy ending with Kang Chul does not come without a price and also that it has implications on others, namely Soo Hee. Just as Kang Chul accepts his fate at the end of the episode (though we later learn he has other plans too), Yeon Joo also painfully accepts that she cannot change the storyline of the comic and the best would be to let the story run its course, and that being the female lead character of the comic isn’t as fun as she thought it’d be.

I usually groan at amnesia or reset storylines because I see them as unnecessarily adding pain and angst to the drama. However, in the context of W and how the drama has been constructed, it works because it is truly the only way to keep Yeon Joo safe, given that the killer at this point had been created such that he can never be discovered or killed. At the same time, it opens up some dramatic possibilities as we are given the opportunity to see how the manhwa would continue given Seong Moo’s encounters with Kang Chul. With Yeon Joo writing herself out of the comic, Seong Moo is effectively back in control and it will be interesting to see the new directions he takes the comic in.

Fun facts about this episode that I learnt through watching the behind the scenes special:

  • Most of the stunts on the show were done by the actors themselves. Most remarkable was Soo Bong’s sharing that the whole sequence of him driving backwards away from the killer was done by him and it was the scariest thing he had ever done! New admiration for him!
  • A lot of the stills for the series show the actors using electric fans and we learn that it’s been one of the hottest summers ever! We get a fun behind the scenes preview of the shooting of the final roof top scene and Lee Jong Suk cutting the scene because the area he stands on is way too hot!
  • Not pertaining specifically to this episode, but we learn that Han Hyo Joo was the cheer leader of the team, always keeping everyone’s spirits up. Kudos to her!

W Two Worlds Episode 9: The failed happy ending 

[Image credit: Dramabeans.com]

We’re now halfway through the series! Yay! And I get more excited moving backwards because while I am a strong supporter of the series as a whole, I cannot deny that this series had a significantly stronger start than ending. Each epsiode kept me on my toes and I kept getting more and more impressed with Song Jae Jung’s ambitious story telling. It was so powerful that I rewatched the first half of the series with my wife till the wee hours of the night and we both proclaimed it’s the best TV drama we’ve ever watched. It was that impressive.

I’ve watched two other dramas pertaining to the interaction between two different worlds – Signal and now Queen In-hyun’s Man (episode 9 by now). While both shows explore deep issues about the implications of changing the past, the amount of interaction between the two worlds in W is just one notch higher than both shows. The characters are not just participants in the other world (i.e. the comic world) but have the power to actively shape what goes on. We keep getting introduced to new rules governing the comic world, which is intriguing and fun. Plus the

Going into this episode, I was concerned it was going to be a typical slow moving transition episode where Yeon Joo pines for Kang Chul throughout. However, the characters quickly get into action in putting together a happy ending for the comic. While Yeon Joo continues to have heart breaking brief encounters with Kang Chul, Seong Moo and Soo Bong are actively writing the end of W after receiving some help from Kang Chul.

Given that Seong Moo had never meant for the villain to be caught, writing this happy ending isn’t easy and Soo Bong asks how they are going to kill the killer since they had made his crimes perfect, with no plot holes. Seong Moo admits some plot holes are inevitable, but they need to ensure the face they give to the killer is logical to Kang Chul. This is where we realize Kang Chul has also helpfully provided them with the case files of all his research on the case to ensure that the killer they create does not fall within the suspects in these files. A smart move indeed! Seong Moo has already decided on the killer’s face and Soo Bong gasps when he sees it.

We move back swiftly into the real estate manhwa world where Ajusshi alerts Kang Chul that they’ve managed to catch the killer on the rooftop through a black box camera of a delivery truck. We watch the video and realize that the fact of the killer is that of Seong Moo himself. Gasp! He claims this is the face that Kang Chul will remember and thus won’t be suspicious.

The return to the revenge thriller storyline excites Crazy Dog who waxes lyrical about it to Yeon Joo. This prompts her to call Song Boo who then relates to her the planned happy ending that will happen over four episodes. The killer’s identity will be revealed through the W channel and he will be promptly captured by the police. However, just getting him captured is insufficient and dad intends to kill the villain off through Assemblyman Han. Now that the villain’s identity is revealed, Assemblyman Han’s case against Kang Chul is void and he’s asked to step out if the presidential race. Angered by this, he sends people to kill the villain and frame it as a suicide. However, one of the accomplices is caught by W station’s crew and featured on the network where he reveals Assemblyman to be the mastermind. Assemblyman Han is caught and the comic gets the happy ending that everyone wants.

Of course Yeon Joo is not as interested in all these and wonders what happens to his love life. Soo Bong tells her that there will be a happy reunion between Kang Chul and Soo Hee at the end, but the story won’t go so far as having them date or get married.

Yeon Joo realises that she has really just faded away completely from the Kang Chul’s world and nobody will remember her. While reminiscing on their happy moments, she falls asleep but is awakened by an announcement that calls all personal to come and help. She responds to the call and we realize she’s back in the comic world again and more importantly, the planning ending has not gone and planned. We learn that there has been a shooting at the W network right as they were announcing the discovery of the villain’s identity. More scarily, we return to dad’s studio and realize that his face has been stolen! The episode ends with the villain taunting Kang Chul and Yeon Joo staring at news of the shooting, shocked by this recent turn of events.

So much to talk about in this episode! Where do we start?

Let’s start with Seong Moo since he’s back in the author’s seat. While the reason he gives for giving the villain his face is so that Kang Chul will believe it, part of me wonders too whether it’s because he believes he can have some more control over the character given that it’s modeled after himself. It could also be seen as him confronting his own dark, “killer” tendencies and trying to entrap and eradicate that side of himself. He regains control over the narrative of W too and keeps it as a revenge thriller, deciding not to pursue any possible new romantic ending for Kang Chul. By bringing the narrative back on track, he wins back a segment of his readers like Crazy Dog who are now psyched about what’s going to happen and even more impressed that the writer has done a “Hitchcock” move by writing himself into the comic. This victory is shortlived though because just one episode in, he has lost control of the narrative again and now the villain goes on a killing spree at the W network and details the planned storyline. More importantly, Seong Moo has lost his face in the real world and it now seems like we only have Yeon Joo to rely on to save the day.

As for Yeon Joo, she’s now the only one besides the villain who has knowledge of the two worlds and how to move between them. Kang Chul’s memories of this have been erased thus rendering him ineffective. I like that the amnesia trope was not over-played in this episode and there’s also a realization by Yeon Joo that her disappearance from Kang Chul’s life may have benefitted him as he now returns to being the Kang Chul everyone loved before – always strong, never discouraged, everyone’s hero.

However, Yeon Joo’s appearance and exit in the comic book world in this episode went against what has been previously established and what happens after this episode too. It seems like she appears whenever Kang Chul briefly remembers her because he still has some recollection of the dream. However, how does she leave then? It was established that she can only leave when his emotions changed. What’s more bewildering is why she appears in the hospital at the end of the episode. Who brings her in? Is it Kang Chul and why? It can’t be that he needed her medical support this time round because there’s a hospital full of doctors. Could it be the villain who pulls her in – but there’s no real reason for that too? Another possibility is that there’s a bigger force at work driving this narrative, determining who gets pulled in, where they appear and how they leave. We never quite get an answer for this.

What I thought would be logical was if Yeon Joo had realized through reading the comic that things had gone wrong, then she rushed to her dad’s home and realizes he has lost his face. From that point, she then realises she needs to enter the world to save Kang Chul and set things right. However this would have been less exciting and shocking compared to what actually happened – just wish there was a little more consistency and clarity on why Yeon Joo reappeared in the comic a second time since there’s no reason why dad, Kang Chul or the villain would bring her in. If anyone has any theories, do let me know.

Moving on to Kang Chul, he has decided to accept the “wretched fate” that dad has given to him but tells dad to stop running away and bring the story to a proper close instead of repeatedly trying to kill him without any context. Once again, Kang Chul helps to give dad a sense of purpose to bring the revenge thriller to a meaningful close and win him favour in the public’s eyes. He devises a plan for the dad to create a convincing suspect that he can believe in, based on all the case records of W. When we piece together Kang Chul entire plan including how he saves Yeon Joo by asking her to draw everything as a dream sequence, we realize that he was really actively devising a comprehensive plan in the previous episode.

What this shows too is that Yeon Joo’s decision to save Kang Chul from death was not in vain, as it helped him come to terms more with the fate that he had been given by Seong Moo. What has changed though is his motivations, which are no longer just about solving a crime but to protect and save the woman he loves. The killer needs to be identified and taken down because he now knows of Yeon Joo and will find ways and means to kill her. However the loose end that Kang Chul fails to address in his plan is that the killer knows of the existence of both worlds and has already attempted to kill Yeon Joo in the real world. This unfortunate gap is what leads to this plan for a happy ending to fail.

What I really like about this show is that it maintains a very tight core of three characters which are continually challenged and developed and their relationships give the crazy twists and turns of this series a strong emotional core.

All in all, yet another strong episode with so much happening both in terms of plot and character development. Impressive work!

W Two Worlds Episode 11: What happens next? 

I’ve been very intrigued by the numerous comparisons made in many blogs and forums between W Two Worlds and Queen In-hyun’s Man (QIM), another series about traveling betwewn two worlds written by Song Jae-jung. Most reviewers are of the opinion that QIM is a superior series in terms of plotting and rationalizing the travel that happens between two worlds. I’ve only watched 7 episodes of QIM but I have to say that W Two Worlds is markedly more ambitious in terms of exploring the relationship between the two worlds and well-paced in ensuring the plot moves along swiftly. This episode is a perfect example of pacing done well. A lot of things happen in this episode and every scene is purposeful in pushing the plot forward.

We start off in the real world where Yeon Joo immediately gathers medical supplies to save Kang Chul. However, upon reaching her dad’s home, she realizes to her horror that he is now Faceless and being controlled by the killer! She manages to wrestle Faceless dad away to save Kang Chul in the nick of time but things are not so simple as the killer confronts her and attempts to strangle her. She turns off the tablet  which buys her just a few moments with Soo Bong before she’s transported into Assemblyman Han’s office. She then realises that it’s not only Kang Chul who can pull her into the comic world, but the villains can do so as well.

Following that, we fast forward a month. Yeon Joo then goes to Kang Chul’s apartment, where Do Yoon lets her in on where Kang Chul has been hiding all this while. She takes a bus to meet him and they reunite. We learn that Kang Chul has been fading out because his fugitive status makes him no longer suitable as the hero of the comic.

After they spend some time shopping for clothes, eating ice cream and buying groceries, they eventually return to Kang Chul’s place where we learn that Yeon Joo had left behind a copy of issue 33 of W which has been Kang Chul’s reading material for the past month. The episode ends with Kang Chul asking her what happens after issue 33 and whether he’s her husband.

Wow, that was a lot packed into one hour! I thought that Kang Chul catching up on all that happened through the comic book was really neat and I never saw it coming! It was also a great way to set up the relationship between him and Yeon Joo moving ahead.

Speaking of their relationship, I was rather unmoved by it the first time round, but in this episode, I found their scenes very heart-warming and endearing. There’s a groundedness to the relationship now that they’ve gone through more. It’s no longer just about replaying romantic scenes from the book for the sake of it. They’ve been thrown into circumstances where the everyday romantic things are a natural part of their lives.

Kudos to Lee Jong Suk for playing the revised version of Kang Chul so convincingly and movingly. The revised version of Kang Chul after the dream reset is more steady, less impulsive and focused on moving ahead rather than dwelling on the past.

I recently read a post on a Facebook group where Song Jae-jung commended Lee Jong Suk for the breadth of his acting and shared how his role in this drama is equivalent to three dramas because he returned from death three times. It’s high praise when the writer commends an actor for bringing her character to life and I completely agree with her on how excellent his acting is!
Ending this review with a theory of mine… Something that bothered me is where exactly does Issue 33 of the comic start and end. Seems like it starts off with Kang Chul injured on the roof-top. Since that scene, we’ve had several scenes ending with “to be continued”. Based on what Kang Chul tells us, he knows all that has happened up until the dream reset, which means some of the “to be continued” scenes may not indicate new issues. I have a theory where the Web version of the comic is different from the print version and the print version us a consolidation of several Web episodes. This makes sense given that in later episodes, the Web version of the comic seems to be updated real time as the events occur, something that’s not possible with the print version. I’ve obviously been spending too much time thinking about this show! Haha

W Two Worlds Episode 12: The Second Awakening 

Andrew: This was a fun episode, filled with cute scenes, new revelations and victorious moments for our protagonists. It’s also the only episode that ends with a happy ending, minus the finale.

The episode begins where we left of with Kang Chul questioning Yeon Joo about what happens next in the manhwa. The portal between the two worlds then opens up and both of them step through it together to enter the human world. A significant moment because it’s the first time they move across the worlds together.

Once they enter the human world, it’s homework time for Kang Chul as he needs to catch up on what happened and also to get to know Yeon Joo or his wife better.

Before he catches up on what happens, he decides to dismantle the laptop so the killer has no chance to seize control again. Following that, he catches up on what happened and then spends the night figuring out what’s next. His next step is to reassemble the tablet and confront the killer where we realize the killer is still in control as he’s managed to manipulate events such that even though Kang Chul didn’t die, he will eventually cease to exist as he is a fugitive and thus no longer the righteous hero of the comic.

When Kang Chul first appeared in the real world, he reacted to the revelation of himself being a manhwa character with despair and anger, which led to him shooting Seong Moo and then jumping off a bridge. This time round, his understanding of the comic world prompts him into action and now he has to fight for his existence. There’s a greater fighting spirit and determination in this second version of Kang Chul and I would argue that can be attributed to the fact that the killer has been humanized, which awakens his sense of mission. While Kang Chul downplays Seong Moo’s  role as a god, there’s no denying that his decision to provide a face to the villain has helped Kang Chul recover his sense of purpose.

From there, we go on to the next set of “homework”, which is him getting to know Yeon Joo. I appreciated that Kang Chul’s feelings did not all suddenly return and their relationship is now starting from the very basics of dating and getting to know each other –  a stark contrast from the first time round where they got married and Kang Chul read a book to find out what sweet things he could do for her. This time round, their relationship is starting on a more real, grounded footing which is why it’s also more convincing to me. I liked the scenes of him visiting her in her place, seeing her room and the scenes from the comic. His “No comment” reaction after kissing her was so hilarious!

Jasmine: see, I’m not so convinced about that. I am not sure if Kang Chul is working backwards and trying to reverse engineer his affection for her. His calm, collected demeanour, which has worked well for more heroic scenes, comes off a little stilted here.

Andrew: Following that, they go on a date which is where we get important revelations.

First, we realize that apart from meeting Kang Chul that night, Seong Moo also had an encounter with the villain and agreed to make him the protagonist. The villain was in fact the first character to become self aware of the two worlds. This explains why their previous attempt at a happy ending did not work.

Jasmine: now this is exactly what makes W tick. In many dramas, flashbacks tend to be draggy and add no value to the plot. In W we have numerous flashbacks, probably more than is the norm, yet the flashbacks not only add to the plot but sometimes change it entirely.

Andrew: Seong Moo’s power and control over his characters is continually downplayed and we have seen how both Kang Chul and the villain have gained control over him and taken over their own destiny. In light of what happens in the finale though (no spoilers at this point), I would have appreciated more of a struggle between author and character throughout, rather than Seong Moo always displayed to be at the losing end. We know he’s a depressed man who left his family, but certainly he would have some power over the comic book which he authored? Why did he still choose to give the villain his own face after having that encounter with him?

Kang Chul continues by saying he had chosen the wrong moment to reset because the villain was left with the awareness of the two worlds but not him. This was how he managed to manipulate that to his advantage and prevent the happy ending originally intended. Also, we learn that the manhwa is only a portal between the two worlds and that Dad did not create everything in both worlds, only the aspects that are common across them. In order to achieve victory, it is time for Kang Chul and Yeon Joo to now use the variables to their advantage. Yay!

This is a great development for Kang Chul’s character as he’s now using his knowledge to gain control over both worlds. We also get to see both him and Yeon Joo work together to bring about a positive end. He decides to test out his hypothesis that he is able to move between both worlds at will. He ties up the villain and alerts the police. He then fakes his own death, but alerts Do Yoon that it is a set up and it’s best for Soo Hee to still think he’s dead. He adds that once she knows he’s dead, she will be given a new purpose in life and can continue to exist even while Yeon Joo and him pursue their relationship together. Finally, he tests out his second hypothesis that he can return to the real world once he finishes a mission and a voila he does! The episode ends with him telling Yeon Joo that she’s going to realize he’s a much better than the previous version of himself. And that’s true indeed.

There’s a lot going on in this episode and I love all the revelations and insights that we get into what happened previously and all the rules of the comic book world. The only part I’ve wondered about a lot was the fake death of Kang Chul. Was this really necessary and was the purpose of that really just to free up Soo Hee’s character? In the earlier storyline, she rematerialised once Kang Chul reinforced how important she was in her life not as a love interest, but as a friend and personal assistant. Wouldn’t the same work here? Or was the purpose of faking his death to free him from the comic world so he could pursue his relationship with Yeon Joo in the real world? If so, do the readers of the manhwa know that his death is faked? How does this cohere with what he told Yeon Joo earlier that the ending of the comic (and not real life) is one where Kang Chul gets married to Yeon Joo?  Too many questions really.

Nonetheless, I really liked the work done with Kang Chul’s character and the relationship between him and Yeon Joo this second time round. The first time round I felt that it was difficult to relate to Kang Chul and I honestly felt little sympathy with him even when he committed suicide. However his competence and earnestness in this episode has successfully humanized him and made him relatable. All in all an excellent episode!

W Two Worlds Episode 14: Saving Yeon Joo 

It wasn’t much of a surprise that Yeon Joo will get revived, so the question really was how we get there.

Across the recent episodes, we’ve seen Kang Chul gain greater control of movement between the two worlds such that he is now able to not only transport himself, but bring other people with him across the two worlds – an ability he wasn’t able to control in the previous episode. In this episode, he brings Yeon Joo into the comic book world so that her death will not be real and then he also summons the Congressman out into the real world so that the laptop can be taken by Soo Bong and Seong Moo. He’s arguably at his most brilliant in this episode in manipulating both worlds and bringing about the necessary circumstances for victory through speaking to both Seong Moo and Assemblyman Han in both worlds.

Part of me wishes though that there was more complexity to Assemblyman Han. After the viciousness and creepiness of the killer, the Congressman just doesn’t cut it. In the finale, we learn that since Congressman aims to be president of the comic book world, he cannot be aware of both worlds or else the comic book world will break down. I felt this could have been explored in earlier episodes leading up to the finale in terms of the different implications of different people knowing the truth of the two worlds. There was so much potential there.

Returning to the core of this episode which was the resolution between Kang Chul and Seong Moo, I thought that was very well done. Arguably, the writer had to bring Seong Moo’s character to even lower points just to highlight how heroic and strong Kang Chul was. However it provided a good mirror on what had happened in the series earlier. Kang Chul as a comic book character had arguably “saved” Seong Moo’s life earlier as the comic book brought hope back into his life after the divorce. Earlier on when shooting the dad, he had also deliberately shot him at a spot which wouldn’t kill him and now he prevents dad from jumping off. Kang Chul has certainly come a long way from being constrained by the rules of the manhwa to now being well versed enough to be able to convince the dad about the possibility of saving his daughter.

The conversation at the hospital rooftop was meaningful. We learnt that Yeon Joo was Chul’s first “real” family and his first opportunity to experience emotions that were not manufactured. Beyond that, she represents the fate he has chosen for himself, not some pre-determined fate and thus proof that he is human, just like all of them. This speech by Kang Chul represents to me why their love relationship is convincing to me. Some comments I have read have spoken about how the love between Yeon Joo and Kang Chul feels false and rushed because there’s no exploration of how their feelings develop. This, to me, seems to be imposing the expectations of the romance genre on this series. The crux of their relationship is that it represents to Kang Chul how “human” he is and how it has empowered him to gain control over his life.

The whole scene ends with him piggy backing Seong Moo and acknowledging him as family, not just his author. Now this was neat to me because it brings in another way of viewing the author – character relationship, which is something I’ve enjoyed about this drama. In the first exchange between Kang Chul and Seong Moo, the relationship between author and character was portrayed as master and slave. Seong Moo spoke of how Kang Chul could never break out of the construct he had created; that he could only take justice through legal means and Kang Chul spoke continually of how he had been tormented by Seong Moo’s pen. Now, the author and protagonist are portrayed in a cordial relationship with the protagonist even advising the author on how to take the story forward. Certainly this is what happens too when writers decide to take long term series ahead and have to think back on how the characters have been created in order to move ahead.

This scene between Kang Chul and Seong Moo then launches us into Kang Chul’s plan to save Yeon Joo which is honestly a lot of fun to watch, especially since Soo Bong is involved! So now we learn that a message can even be sent from the manhwa world to the real world and because of that, the dad regains control of the tablet and Yeon Joo is saved. Soo Bong’s scenes are always great but he was particularly hilarious this episode with his exchanges with Crazy dog. His great excitement and joy when Yeon Joo calls him was also extremely touching and mirrors how many viewers feel.

And the episode ends with Yeon Joo running out of the hotel, seeing Soo Hee and the words “final episode” appear on the screen. What’s going to happen next? Will they get the happy ending they all desire? What exactly does the happy ending entail? This is something I will discuss further in the review of Episode 13. 🙂

Part of the joy of watching a TV show for me is reading what others think about it and seeing others dissect and analyze the show. In this aspect, the dramabeans reviews have been excellent and I always look forward to reading them as much as viewing the episodes. Check out the review for episode 14 here.

W Two Worlds Episode 15 

Since I started with reviewing the finale, it’d be easier for me to do my episode reviews backwards – from episode 15 all the way to the premiere. Let’s see I have the stamina and determination to finish writing on all the episodes!

It is unfortunate that the pace is slowing down, given that it’s always better for shows to end on a bang. A lot of criticism of the series centres on how it started off very strongly but tapered off in terms of pace and plot twists towards the end and more importantly, it started to make less sense too as the writer seemed to rely a lot more on the magic laptop to push the plot forward.

For me, the important question as always is whether there is important work with the characters being done and the answer remains yes, even till the very end.

In the home stretch of the series, the focus on Seong Moo’s storyline becomes amplified. This is critical to the series as his story needs to come to a closure as well. So in this episode, we see that he’s been teleported into the webtoon world where he’s tormented by memories of the killer. Not just tormented, he even becomes the killer at times – but worse than that, he realizes he has to kill to ensure his survival as a character in the manhwa.

What I liked about this development was two fold. Firstly, it allowed Kim Eui Dung to display his amazing repertoire of acting skills when he transforms from Seong Moo to the killer. His facial expression really inspires so much fear and dread! Secondly, it’s a continuation of the redemption storyline for him as he learns to overcome the control of the killer within and eventually bring happiness to Yeon Joo. I assume this was why he was brought into the comic for a final episode, because he would play a critical role in its ending. This “twist” in Seong Moo’s storyline because it added an element of tension to the whole episode which would have otherwise lacked because the Congressman just isn’t quite as menacing and complex as a villain.

As the series comes to its end, I am increasingly convinced that what Kang Chul had to contend with after he killed the killer was not the Congressman but really destiny/fate itself and how that functions within the rules of the manhwa. The rule of the revenge thriller where the hero and villains cannot both have a happy ending is the biggest hurdle that our protagonists need to overcome going into the finale.

Kang Chul is, however, tired of fighting already and tired of being the lead character. In this episode, he no longer shows the drive and sharpness of mind that we saw earlier when he returned to the world a second time and devised a plan to defeat the killer. Instead, what we see is almost a defeatist attitude when he removes the ring from Yeon Joo and decides to stop fighting for the one thing that represented his free choice. This is undoubtedly a stupid decision, which I am glad Yeon Joo reverses in the finale, but it does show how defeated and exhausted Kang Chul has become. After trying repeatedly to fight against his destiny, he seems to have lost the will to do so in the end. His decision to leave the ending in Yeon Joo’s hands is also representative of that exhaustion.

Yeon Joo, on the other hand, still continues to display some fighting spirit and a keen awareness and determination for that happy ending through playing by the rules of the comic. She tells Doo Yoon to drop her off once she knows that Kang Chul because she knows she will be in danger. She questions Kang Chul’s decision to run away from prison because he can never get a happy ending if he keeps breaking the law. She devises the plan to add on a video camera to the torturing scenes so that there will be evidence against the Congressman. She’s still retains that fighting spirit in working towards the happy ending.

I loved the ending of the episode, which was a nice way of mirroring how we are anticipating the finale yet I wonder also of this was a barbed comment by the writer to viewers of the show who fell away in the second half because they could not make sense of what was happening. Nonetheless, this was a well done penultimate episode, not perfect but pushing the storyline ahead sensibly.

Few other comments:

  • Glad that So Hee managed to get a happy ending and free herself from being tied to Kang Chul’s fate
  • There should have been more of Soo Bong in this episode! Love that guy!
  • My theory is that all that happens to Seong Moo in this episode doesn’t actually appear in the webtoon because it would be too much of a contradiction to suddenly have him appear as a character again. This theory seems consistent with the finale where we aren’t actually shown scenes of him in the final episode.

W Two Worlds – finale 

What a ride it has been! I started out watching this drama with little expectations and the early episodes just continually blew my minds with the crazy twists, cliffhanger endings and how “meta” it was in terms of deconstructing character and the notion of authorship. This show is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable and brilliant shows I’ve watched to date and not just within the Korean drama genre.

Did the finale live up to the promise of the earlier episodes?

To me, it did and it did so perfectly by bringing the themes full circle and in a way that’s characteristically “W” with the exposition on how the “happy ending” came about (though part of me was really wondering who the voice over narrator was in the second half of the episode?).

In my earlier speculation, I had anticipated that a redemption storyline would happen in the finale for Oh Seong Moo for all that had happened. And it did happen – in more ways than one. He finally regained control over the  manhwa that he had lost control over and ended it in a way that he wanted to. He freed Kang Chul from the construct of a character who was born to suffer and brought happiness to Yeon Joo’s life through his sacrifice of writing a “contradiction” into the villain and thus causing himself or the villain to disappear.

Was it a bit of a stretch for us to believe that the manhwa could end without Yang Chul’s story actually ending?

Certainly it was. However the story doesn’t shy away from that and foregrounds the fact that even though the ending was sad, the readers could accept that it was so, because it was logical – a contrast to the protest from readers earlier on when Kang Chul committed suicide in the Han River.

If the comic had to illustrate the deaths of the Congressman and Oh Seong Moo, it would have become implausible and confusing. This brings to mind an interesting question of what actually goes into the comic and what doesn’t. Is everything that we witness during the episode an exact replica of what appears in the manhwa? While the drama doesn’t offer a clear answer on that, my view is that it’s certainly not the case. For example, when Kang Chul returns to the human world a second time with Yeon Joo, all that happens in the comic book world seems to come to a stand still until the point where he manages to summon himself in and hand the killer over to the police. Similarly in the finale, what the readers would have seen is the first half of the episode, but not the background action that happens in the second half.

Given that this difference between what we see and what the manhwa readers view, my theory is that the whole Seong Moo storyline in the last two episodes is something that happens in the “background” and not foregrounded. For manhwa readers, what happens in the final episode is Kang Chul goes to prison and Yeon Joo finally recovers from her coma to visit him. Then, he manages to escape from prison to find her in the house but Congressman kidnaps Doo Yoon in an attempt to get Kang Chul back. Yeon Joo and Kang Chul scheme and discover videos that can expose Congressman, but before Kang Chul heads down, he takes the ring off from Yeon Joo to free her then he heads to confront Congressman and gets shot, then eventually dies. This theory coheres with the fact of how Seong Moo’s ending is edited out because of the contradiction – perhaps not just his ending but his whole appearance in the final episode is edited out so that the episode makes sense and Kang Chul gets a tragic ending but fitting to his character.

However the ultimate question that remains unanswered then is who decides these rules? Who decides the rules of the day manhwa world and how people can move between it? If the show ever has a sequel, these are the questions that it can begin to explore, though I am not sure how it can do so. These questions were skirted around in this season and that’s why many viewers also find the show ultimately dissatisfying because the whole premise of the show which is travelling between worlds wasn’t explained.

To me though, such explanations would have detracted from the kind of story the writers were going for. While being very meta, the focus was always on the construct of characterization and what happens when the character takes on a life of its own. This happened to both the hero and the villain who took on lives of their own because the writer arguably tried to bring them on a direction that contradicted their character construct. This was a story that was ultimately brought full circle and that would be so much to unpack and discuss regarding this.

Was the show really about the romance between Yeon Joo and Kang Chul? Arguably that was the hook and the aspect that made the show marketable and popular; however that wasn’t the main story and that is what the ending also reveals. The show ends with Yeon Joo saying that while W has ended, the story between her and Kang Chul has just begun. However, they no longer need to fear for their lives and can now live as ordinary couples. This line to me summarizes what the series was all about – it was about characters trying to break free from the destinies written “for them”, trying to devise different ways to get that “happy ending”. Ultimately it was only when all 3 main characters came together and achieved their respective reconciliations that the story was able to end and their lives continue. This is why W Two Worlds still remains to me one of the most ambitious stories ever told.