“Until the final episode ends, we can’t get out of here. We’ll only be free once it ends. Whether it’s a happy ending… or a sad ending.”
Now, the story of characters traveling back and forth between the two worlds — reality and fiction — has finally come to an end. And W has officially joined the list of dramas setting off to a great start and ending on an underwhelming note, which is really too bad given the fresh plot, interesting characters, and nifty directing. The writing was clever for the most part, but became too complicated for its own good.
My enthusiasm for the show has cooled off in the last few weeks, no thanks to the seemingly neverending string of twists thrown at us. I was initially thrilled to see them. I was also thoroughly intrigued by the premise and eager to figure the manhwa’s workings and rules out, but somewhere around the reset, my brain stopped trying. There was just too much going on — so many unforeseen development occurring, so many new variables popping out at a moment’s notice — that i came to conclusion it’s pointless attempting to understand ‘em since the newly introduced rules will soon be broken anyway.
The second half of W still packed a lot of jaw-dropping moments, and despite resorting to merely going along with the ride, i still ended up with a lot of questions. Expositions continued to be narrated to us, but some of them just didn’t add up. I can live with a few minor loose ends but not the major ones. I can deal with ever-changing rules but not inconsistent ones.
For better or worse, i didn’t jot them all down, but here are those i could recall:
- Method of entry.
It’s established that Yeon-joo enters W whenever Chul or other W characters think of her, but that isn’t always the case. E.g. she wasn’t summoned when Chul was wondering about her identity or whereabouts in episode 1; Chul was focused on So-hee when Yeon-joo magically disappeared from Su-bong’s car upon being nearly shot by faceless villain in episode 8; or that time after she reappeared inside the prison after saving Chul.
- Method of exit.
It’s made really clear that the only way out is by ending the chapter. Yet Yeon-joo was able to slip in and out post Chul’s river suicide and memory reset. It was never mentioned if the summon could be momentary. The same applies to So-hee’s brief visit to the real world.
- Materializing point.
Sometimes, they’d disappear from one world and appear in another at the exact same place, sometimes the location varied greatly. Too many instances to list.
- Reason for existence.
All webtoon characters’ lives revolve around Chul; once they lose significance in his life, they begin to fade away. At one point, Yeon-joo became the heroine and thus a mortal manhwa character. Following this theory, she should’ve experienced some fading after the reset since Chul no longer remembered her — she didn’t. Curiously, Dad did, after he’s deemed a villain yet helping the hero. I couldn’t fathom the means of escaping one’s predetermined setup and thus living on. They did that to So-hee, but not to Do-yoon or Chul’s other staff. Unless Chul worked toward ‘freeing’ them off-screen, Do-yoon would’ve been gone the moment Chul needing no bodyguard or stopped being the hero. Or maybe none of these mattered anymore the moment “The End” appeared.
- Double body.
Dad suffered atrocious consequences by drawing his face as the villain’s while Chul got off scot-free despite sharing the same DNA with a cadaver.
As for the questions, the most burning one is how W’s characters came to life. As in, does this phenomenon happen to other webtoons/manhwas as well? Is it simply due to Chul’s incredibly strong will to live? Next: who determines which parts included in the chapters and uploads them to the internet? Then: what/who decides who’s the lead character? Cuz i can never understand Chul’s fading when he’s the story’s hero, even after he became a murder suspect. He could very well be framed for it (which was exactly the case)! And people could still follow his journey toward clearing his name. If that’s owing to him veering off from his heroic characterization, why nothing happened when he decided to forgo pursuing faceless killer in lieu of his romantic path with Yeon-joo?
Another thing is the red herrings. Initially, we’re led to believe Chul survived the time freeze as he’s Yeon-joon’s original creation; turns out it’s applicable to anybody aware of the fictional setting. This realization opened the interdimensional portal in two occasions, which made me question what prompted the first materialization (when he grabbed two people into W)? I guess i could go on forever, so let’s stop here.
In the end, the plot was unnecessarily convoluted. I think the twists are there just for the sake of twists. Case in point: the manhwa’s ending, which i didn’t appreciate for being blatantly misleading. My opinion concurred with many watchers/commenters: it made no sense that the villains’ death which ended the serial for good didn’t make it to the published version. Although the readers would probably think Han Cheol-ho’s demise was too easy. (The face-offs between Chul and Faceless were too quick for my liking, but they’re pretty satisfying nonetheless) Still, it’s a relief that he wasn’t as strong-willed as the other two. Villainy-wise, he wasn’t half as menacing as Faceless that it’s somewhat anticlimactic to make him the bigger threat. His means were rather old-school, and he didn’t even get far with his malicious plan.
In retrospect, there is only one timeline in W, cycled twice with differing sets of actions. Many preferred the first half, but i actually found the second half more fascinating and liked the couple’s groundedness better. That said, i wasn’t feeling either love lines. I never managed to fully enjoy the romance mainly since it was always transpiring with looming peril on their tail. It’s easy to buy Yeon-joo’s attraction since Chul was drawn based on her ideal type. Chul’s was a different case. I too believe Chul didn’t (have time to) love her in the second half, and he probably stuck with her out of obligation, since that validated his humanness.
I was more invested in his quest, though he’s battered and undergone near-death conditions a bit too often that it’s hard to worry about his survivability in the latter half. The malleable nature of the fiction world played a part too. Because anything’s possible with that magic tablet at hand. That’s why i wasn’t in the slightest bit sad that Yeon-joo died there, as she could easily be revived. Still, it needs to be put into good use. Chul’s biggest mistake was handing the final decision-making to Yeon-joo. While it’s sweet of him to let her decide their ultimate fate, i knew things wouldn’t end nicely once she refused to make a decisive choice. Don’t get me wrong, i too wished Chul AND Dad could’ve made it out of the ordeal alive, and to make that a reality, i fully expected Chul to take charge in manipulating the webtoon’s plotholes to their advantage. Alas.
We still get a happy ending, but is it truly a happy one if earned through another’s sacrifice? What makes it okay for Chul to kill a few enemies but not okay for Dad? The show didn’t justify Dad’s newfound antagonistic status and disintegration in the webtoon. There’s a nice poignancy about Chul becoming human and Dad turning into a manhwa character, about Chul breaking free from his predetermined settings and Dad trapped in his own manufactured settings. Still — how could the creator die a villain inside his own creation? How would those in real world make sense of his passing, with neither explainable cause of death nor body to bury?
The ending was unsatisfying in many levels, and the plot lost me halfway through, but i still deem W a well-executed fantasy drama with a fresh take on interdimensional travel. Real people entering a fiction world isn’t novel; fictional characters stepping out of
comic book the screen is. It offers wish-fulfillment material, gripping ride, vivid visuals, and neat transitions.
I have no major issues with the cast’s performances. Lee Jong-seok was stable, Han Hyo-joo was believable, Kim Eui-sung was the star of the show. He portrayed two characters distinctively you’ll be convinced there were two different people with the same face. The line blurred toward the end since Dad retained fragments of Faceless’ memories and traits, but his dual personality personification was one of the best i’ve seen. I hated Dad early on, terrified by Faceless later on, then sympathized with Dad in the end. His farewell scenes opened my waterworks.
My favorite characters, however, are the show’s scene stealers: Su-bong and Crazy Dog. Their commentaries and reactions to the manhwa’s haphazard development mirrored mine closely. Too bad neither had much screen time; they were hilarious together! If anything, i really have to applaud Su-bong’s mental resilience: he’s dragged into the mess, went through many traumatic events, and remained sane! Two other characters i wish to see more of are Do-yoon and So-hee, whose presence was so limited albeit being Chul’s trusted sidekicks. The couple’s weighted love line came at the expense of other characters’ development or significance.
That a show’s ending is more important than the beginning for my overall impression of it is quite clear. That a show bursting into the scene with a bang and bowing out with an anticlimactic ending is pretty common. That a show’s happy ending can leave me dissatisfied… is something i’ve never thought could happen. Yet that’s what i felt about W: Two Worlds‘.
Maybe Show showed us too many false endings that by the time we reached the real one, all faith has been lost. Or maybe the last one was indeed the weakest one. *shrug*
Director: Jung Dae-yoon
Production: MBC, 2016
Cast: Lee Jong-seok, Han Hyo-joo, Kim Eui-sung, Lee Shi-un, Lee Tae-hwan, Jung Yoo-jin, Park Won-sang, Heo Jung-do
Genre: Fantasy, Romance thriller, K-drama (16 Episodes)