W— Two Worlds (2016)
Directed By Jung Dae-yoon
Oh Yeon-joo’s (Han Hyo-joo) father went missing while writing the last chapter of his popular webtoon, W, and so she visits his office to figure out what happened. In his office, she sees the last scene of W where the main character Kang Chul (Lee Jong-suk) was stabbed several times. While reading a note written by her father, a hand from the tablet pulls her into the comic, and she finds herself on the rooftop of a building and trying to save Kang Chul’s life. Oh Yeon-joo saves Kang Chul’s life and soon discovers that she can teleport between two dimensions: the real world and the comic book world.
W isn’t the typical South Korean drama that I normally see. It crosses several genres from a romance to a suspenseful thriller and has a unique storyline that I personally haven’t seen in a kdrama before. The storyline does a great job of balancing the romance and the thriller aspects—one genre does not overbear the other. One of my favorite scenes is when Kang Chul interrogates Oh Yeon-joo while pointing a gun at her and then, later on, he kisses her. In just one scene, you go through a rollercoaster of emotions, from fear to surprise. The writers did a great job in presenting great scenes and dialogue that really impact a viewer’s reactions.
I think W is a drama that executes the concept of different dimensions well. The framework to which this drama is told is in either reality or the comic book world. The comic book world is set in an alternate Seoul that still runs on the laws of reality except that these webtoon characters do not die—they still live on in their alternate dimension. Yet when a real life person travels to this alternate Seoul, they cannot die unless they become a crucial part of the narrative. Another thing that W executes well is their back stories. A lot of what happens occurs in flashbacks—so every scene is important towards the overall storyline. There are many loopholes in this drama. The writers did an excellent job in explaining how these possibilities are possible in the mechanical world they have built for W.
For this post, there are two characters I would like to comment on: the main protagonist in the webtoon, W, Kang Chul, and Yeon-joo’s father and creator of W, Oh Sung-moo. Even though Kang Chul isn’t real, Kang Chul represents all of us to the extent that we are individuals who want to control our destinies. As for Oh Sung-moo, he could metaphorically represent “god” as he is the creator of the W world. Hence, when Kang Chul confronts Oh Sung-moo about whether or not Kang Chul will have a happy ending, he learns the truth that his life is determined by the writer’s pen and not by his own personal will power and choices.
When Kang Chul confronts Oh Sung-moo about whether or not Kang Chul will have a happy ending, he learns the truth that his life is determined by the writer’s pen and not by his own personal will power and choices. Oh Sung-moo states that Kang Chul is his creation and his personality and life is an already predetermined configuration. Thus, as viewers, we see ourselves as Kang Chul and question if our lives are already predetermined and to what extent do we have in controlling our destinies. Kang Chul does not want to die without full-filling his life purpose which is to find the culprit that killed his family. Even though Oh Sung-moo attempted to kill Kang Chul numerous times in the series, he is unable to do so because Kang Chul has so much determination to live and survive. Similarly, we, as people, do not want to die without contributing something to the world and to the people we love. Kang Chul represents that “everyday person” which is why I really enjoy his character and Lee Jong-suk does a great job in this role. (Out of all his dramas that I watched so far, I think this drama role truly shows Lee Jong-suk’s skillfulness and capabilities as an actor.)
Kim Eui-sung does a fine job in his role of Oh Sung-moo. He portrays Oh Sung-moo as the starving artist/writer. Oh Sung-moo yearns for fame at the cost of his family and he also suffers from depression and a lack of self-confidence, the complete opposite of his character, Kang Chul. Furthermore, Oh Sung-moo eventually suffers from a personality disorder as he believes himself to be a murderer. I won’t expand on Oh Sung-moo’s character story because it contains a lot of spoilers and his character plays an essential part in the story.
The last thing I will say about that this kdrama is the role of the W fans. As for any fandoms, fans can be a bit eccentric—they would make a fanfiction of their favorite characters or even criticize the storyline if it isn’t going the way they wanted. In this kdrama, the fans are like that. When W‘s storyline goes in a different direction, away from the author’s original style, the fans become concerned because it isn’t what they envision the conclusion of W to be. I think that a writer for a long-running manga or a webtoon keeps the fans in mind when he or she concludes or ends a series. When an author creates a story, the story not only belongs to the writer but also the audience as well. The author creates the world and characters, but it is the reader that brings it to life.
W is definitely one of my favorite Korean dramas of all time due to its unique plot and its commentary on storytelling and narrative structure. I would actually recommend this drama to first-time Asian drama watchers or individuals who love the alternate universe concept. As for the romance in this show, it isn’t overbearing so people who aren’t a fan of the love genre can enjoy W as well.
You can watch this series on Viki.