W Two Worlds (2016) – Korean Drama Review
Let me start by saying that W Two Worlds is cool beyond words. It takes cool to a whole new level and then keeps on elevating it throughout its 16-episode run.
W Two Worlds has crept into my heart and has occupied a permanent spot in it. There are dramas one watches, enjoys and largely forgets. But then, there are those that one’s thoughts keep drifting back to. Those that keep on impressing the viewer long after they are over. This drama fits in the latter category.
This show works on so many levels! It’s suspenseful, it’s intelligent, it’s thrilling, and, of course, romantic.
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W – The most popular manhwa in Korea
(A manhwa is the Korean equivalent of the Japanese manga.)
Haven’t we all fallen head over heels for a fictional character at one time or another? Now, imagine getting to meet that character and live in his fictional world. That is exactly what happens to Oh Yeon-joo. She has grown up reading W. Kang Chul, the main character, and he has been her perfect man since she was a teenager. Not only is Yeon-joo a fan of W, she is, in fact, the writer’s daughter. So she has a much closer link to this manhwa and its characters than most.
The real and fictional world collide in the very first episode. Oh Yeon-joo finds herself pulled in to W only to come across a man who is bleeding out from stab wounds on a rooftop. It is only when she is back in the real world and reading the latest edition of W that she realises that she has just visited that world and saved the life of Kang Chul. And thus begins their love story.
Does killing one’s own character count as murder?
“I drew it. It’s my artwork. I can do whatever I wish to when it comes to my manhwa! I created everything in my manhwa. How could it be murder if the creator destroys his own creation? It’s not murder; rather it’s judgement. It was my mistake to create him.”
It quickly becomes evident that Oh Seong-moo, the writer of W and Yeon-joo’s father, wants to finish his best-selling manhwa by killing Kang Chul. Now, there is normally nothing wrong with killing off characters in one’s writing. As long as it makes sense in the context of the story. The problem here is that the writer set up the entire manhwa in such a way that the protagonist has one goal: to find the murderer of his family and bring him to justice. So, killing Kang Chul and leaving the mystery unsolved is a betrayal of his readers’ trust. And, even more importantly, it is a disservice to his characters.
Interestingly, because Oh Seong-moo made Kang Chul to withstand any hardship, he instinctively resists plot points that don’t make sense to him. Kang Chul does not accept death when it’s senseless and so the story starts changing in ways that even the writer cannot control.
Kang Chul – The main character of W the manhwa
“Do you have any idea what I went through? You wouldn’t be able to withstand any of it, but I went through it countless times. With those petty fingers, you drew like an absolute being. You took no responsibility. I remember every pain.”
Kang Chul must be one of the strongest characters in the history of fiction. Nothing can break him or his will. His name even literally translates to steel. It makes him very appealing to both men and women (in different ways of course!). Even before meeting Kang Chul for real, Oh Yeon-joo sighs that “he is handsome, talented, well-mannered” and that “his eyes are very sexy.”
Down the rabbit hole…
Remember Neo’s choice between the red and blue pill in the Matrix? And Alice falling down the rabbit hole? In the context of those stories, they were real people awakening to a different world. They always knew they were the real people even if their eyes were opened to the false reality around them. That was something that kept them going and gave them strength. Kang Chul, on the other hand, is a fictional character that takes a bite of the apple of knowledge only to find out that everything he is and has known came from the imagination of a man who was escaping his own reality due to depression and unhappiness. Talk about an existential crisis!
For a fantasy where characters move between a real and a fictional world, this drama is surprisingly applicable in real life. With great messages sprinkled throughout such as that the world doesn’t come to an end if one cannot achieve one’s initial goal. All one needs to do is to set a new goal and live life one day at a time. If this goal doesn’t come to fruition either, again, set a new one no matter how hard it is to let go.
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How does one fight a faceless villain?
This is the ultimate cautionary tale for all writers. If one doesn’t tie the villain down by rules they become unstoppable. W Two Worlds has one of the truly scariest villains I have ever come across. It’s not even that the villain is particularly violent or gruesome. Rather, it’s the fact that this villain cannot be stopped. He was written to appear and disappear to move the story along and that’s exactly what he keeps doing. There is nothing more frightening than someone that has no ties and rules. How does one fight something completely unpredictable and unstoppable?
An epic love story with life and death stakes
“I’m one of those people who want your life to be a happy ending. I am your fan. Really.” – Oh Yeon-joo
No matter how attracted one may be to someone, it will often come to nothing if one doesn’t act on that attraction. If love is indeed a matter of choice, Oh Yoen-joo and Kang Chul would keep choosing to love each other. Time and time again they proved the strength of their bond in W Two Worlds. There is no question that they love each other deeply. Their breathtaking love story is all the more natural because the barrier between them is very real. Physically being in two different worlds is enough of a conflict without adding unnecessary drama to their interactions. One of the songs from the OST describes their struggle perfectly and painfully:
“You’re so close, yet so far. I love you and I will have you. My imagination creates you and when I see you I imagine again on this path with no end. We’re dreaming the same dream, but why can’t we be together? When can it be the same?”
Lee Jong-suk as Kang Chul, the man with a character of steel
Lee Jong-suk has a knack for picking very interesting projects to star in. From I Can Hear Your Voice (2013), to Pinocchio (2014), and now to W Two Worlds (2016), each project has been more impressive than the one before. And that’s saying something since I love each one of these dramas. Of course, it’s not just the projects. He has shown his amazing and natural acting skills again and again. It’s gotten to the point where I have Lee Jong-suk withdrawal symptoms if he takes a year off dramaland. I can’t wait for his upcoming drama While You Were Sleeping (2017) and am trying not to let myself get my hopes up too high.
Why you should watch W Two Worlds
This drama found the perfect balance between suspense and comedy. It’s something Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (2017) tried to replicate and failed at, unfortunately. That drama felt like two disjointed stories throughout. W, on the other hand, achieved the right blend so flawlessly that it takes one’s breath away.
And the soundtrack! Oh, it will send shivers down your spine in the best of ways. It’s soooo good! As soon as the first episode starts, the music slams into you like a tsunami. It’s epic, dramatic, and suits the tone of the drama perfectly. Even the plot and development in the first four episodes of the drama move so fast that it makes one’s head dizzy with giddiness. It’s very unusual for a drama to start off so strongly.
W Two Worlds is about responsibility. It takes an in-depth look at what we all love: fiction. It explores what happens when a writer doesn’t take his piece of writing seriously and cuts corners. Just to sell further volumes, the writer neglects the plot and proper character building.
A writer, as a creator, has a great responsibility. He or she is like a parent and each parent has certain responsibilities to his or her offspring. Whether he or she chooses to act on those responsibilities is another matter. When what you’re writing makes no sense to the characters, they will start rebelling against the paths you force them down. Be they one’s real or fictional children.
Questions, so many questions!
Can these two really have a happy ending? Will they be able to live together? What happens when a human gets stuck in a manhwa world? Can a manhwa character live and survive in the real world?
What happens after a manhwa finishes? Do the characters live on beyond the page, do they flash out of existence, or do they freeze on the ending of that last page? Can a writer atone for his neglect of his piece of writing?
These are just some of the questions that are tackled in this drama. Watch W Two Worlds if you are intrigued enough to know the answers to these questions!
Content note: Viki rates it as PG13. There is some violence, guns, and blood. However, it never gets gory or extreme. There is also nothing to have to hide behind a pillow for. This applies to both the violence and romance.
Photo Credits: MBC
Have you watched W Two Worlds yet? What did you think of it? If given the opportunity, what fictional characters’ world would you enter and potentially start an epic love story with?
“The stuff that dreams are made of.”
“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.
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