In today’s golden age of television, I must admit that most of us, and myself in particular, have become quite picky when it comes to picking what our next favorite show is, or what our next show to binge watch is. When it comes to Korean dramas, I tend to become a little bit wary that it might end up being too formulaic, and that I might get bored in the middle of it. However, thankfully, “W-Two Worlds”, one of the highest rated Korean dramas of the year, managed to pull off a high concept and highly original premise well, while balancing it well with the usual Kdrama elements.
After watching all sixteen episodes, plus the behind the scenes special, I can say that I really enjoyed the show, and, as a writer, it also got me to think a little about my craft.
In a nutshell, I would describe this drama as a crossbreed between the film “Stranger than Fiction”, and a crime and action thriller.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT!
The series follows Oh Yeon Joo, a surgeon and daughter of the Oh Sung Moo (Kim Eui Sung), the creator of the best selling web comic (manhwa) called “W”, who ends up getting transported in and out of the world of the web comic, after her father goes missing on the day the final episode of the series will be published.
The rest of the series follows her interactions with the main characters of the web comic, and its lead character, Kang Chul (Lee Jong Suk), who, somehow has gained a will of his own, and has been changing the web comic from within the world of the web comic.
As their worlds collide, secrets and truths are revealed which end up having drastic ramifications for the world of “W”, and for both Yeon Joo and for Kang Chul, who end up falling in love with each other.
Aside from the fact that the premise is original and unique, I loved how this drama managed to throw one curve ball after the other to the viewers. At certain points, I thought that the rules were finally clear, and then all of a sudden, a variable appears or something else happens that have immediate ramifications on both worlds.
The show’s world building was great, and MBC really pulled out all of the stops in showcasing how they could make use of technology to really pull it off. Among the feats that they pulled off, three major things really impressed me- that moment in which everyone in the world of “W” stops as if time has stopped in the prison; the moment in which a portal via a comic panel opens up and the camera pans across the scene to show the animated side before Kang Chul steps into reality; and the moment in which he manages to avoid slamming into a huge oncoming truck, and everything stops.
The drama also made me think about how writers, such as myself, actually do have a responsibility to their characters and their readers. An issue that came about over and over again, what with fans commenting left and right about what they thought about particular chapters, and when Kang Chul confronted Oh Sung Moo after discovering that the main antagonist of “W”, who killed his family, did not truly exist, as his only purpose was to create a tragic backstory for Kang Chul. This was a clear reminder to always make sure that the characters I create, even if they are minor characters, always serve a purpose, and that they always have believable motivations.
Now, let’s talk about the acting.
This is the first time that I have ever seen Lee Jong Suk perform, so I might have to watch a few more dramas of his to give out a better judgement on his acting skills, but from this drama, I could see his potential to go on to be great, albeit it was only seen in glimpses in this drama. This was most seen in the part when one of the antagonists, Han Cheol Ho (Park Won Sang), was torturing him to find out more about the power of Sung Mo’s drawing tablet. During that scene, while he was on the floor, he looked up and answered back, with a crazy glint in his eye, that quite impressed me. Because of this, I would love to see him act not as the leading man, but as the main antagonist in a drama. (If he has already done that, please let me know the title of that drama so I can watch it soon.) However, he did prove himself as an action star in this drama.
While Lee Jong Suk is an up and coming actor, this drama marked Han Hyo Joo’s return to television after six years. Just like Lee Jong Suk, this was the first drama that I have seen her in. However, based on this drama alone, I can say that she can act. Her facial expressions, and in particular, her eyes were very expressive, and you could really see the inner struggles going on inside her while she was interacting with Kang Chul, especially before she revealed to him that he was just a character in aweb comic.
Kim Eui Sung was brilliant was both Yeon Joo’s father, Oh Sung Moo, and as one of the main antagonists in the web comic. He was able to bring something different to each character, which allowed the audience to properly identify which one he was playing at the moment. The best acting, that he did in the series, for me, was towards the end of the series in which both the killer and Oh Sung Moo himself were battling for control over his body.
Park Won Sang’s Han Cheol Ho was menacing and a great antagonist; and Heo Jeong Do, who portrayed Yeon Joo’s professor at the hospital she worked at, was perfect as the comic relief, and as the embodiment and eyes of the audience reading the manhwa, as he is a big fan of “W”. Lee Si Eon was good as Park Soo Bong, Sung Moo’s assistant and Yeon Joo’s friend, but at times, his screaming got a little bit tiresome.
All in all, “W-Two Worlds” is a refreshing drama with an original premise that allowed MBC to capitalize on the technology they had on hand to make it work and seem believable. There were many ways that the drama could have become too cheesy, but it never became too campy to enjoy, to the point that almost every episode went by like a breeze.
P.S. If there really was a “W” manhwa, I would definitely rush to the bookstore and buy five volumes in one go.
Favorite Episode/s or Scene/s:
- When Yeon Joo realized that she had become part of the comic.
- The entire sequence in which Kang Chul discovered that he was a web comic character, and the entire fictional universe stopped, leading up to him crossing over to the real world.
- The moments when they showed us that the web comic, and Chul in particular were changing things within the comic, starting with the moment that he decided to hang on to the bridge instead of committing suicide, much to Sung Moo’s surprise.
- That scene after Chul escapes death via a huge truck, and he looks up, and the panel suddenly changes to the words “Who are you?”, addressing Oh Sung Moo.
- The scene when Yeon Joo’s professor opened his computer and the episode ended with the words “Final Episode” appearing on the screen.
- The moment when Soo Bong discovers that Sung Moo’s face has been taken by the killer.
- When Kang Chul’s mentor gets shot in the hospital while recuperating from a gunshot wound.
- The moment in the bathroom when Yeon Joo is suddenly surrounded by water, and discovers herself in the river where Kang Chul jumped off from.