I finished this drama in only four days and given the limitations of my watching schedule, that was quick. In fact, I didn’t go to work last Wednesday just so I can finally binge it until the end. (What can I say, I excel in truancy!) W-Two Worlds was exhilarating, but confusing. And I knew I was being manipulated (FEEL THIS! FEEL THAT! BE SHOCKED! ANOTHER TWIST/PROBLEM JUST SO I CAN THROW YOU IN FOR A LOOP!) but I was complicit in the manipulation. I knew it had faults but I was too into knowing what will happen next that I didn’t mind the things (everything!) being glossed over. And here I am trying to make sense of what I really feel about it. Do I like it? Do I hate that it pulled a bag of tricks on me and then left me hanging? (I won’t be careful about spoilers so read at your own risk!)
The first six episodes were fantastic. I was sucked into the drama’s world (well, two worlds, heh) and I breathed it like air. I couldn’t get enough of the unique and wonderful premise, which I’ve never seen before in any kdrama and probably in Hollywood too. The artist of the Korea’s number one webtoon W goes missing prior to the deadline of the last episode of the cartoon, where he planned to kill its protagonist, Kang Chul (played by Lee Jong-seok). Trying to find her father, cardiothoracic surgeon Oh Yeon-joo (played by Han Hyo-joo) ends up pulled into the world of W through her dad’s tablet. There, she saves Kang Chul’s life, who was stabbed on the rooftop of the hotel he lives in. Oh Yeon-joo finds herself constantly transported into the world of the manhwa Kang Chul lives in and DUH, the two begin to have romantic feelings for each other. And then they die. Kidding! Well, they always almost die because life in Kang Chul’s world always has high stakes.
Each episode raised questions I dearly needed to know the answers to. How and why did the tablet became a portal between the two worlds? How does it all work? How does Yeon-joo get out of the manhwa? When does that “to be continued” chyron appear? With every episode, answers were given yet more questions were brought up. I gobbled up all the twists and turns and surprises from the first six episodes. They also started their romance and it was actually cute. This is me, me who doesn’t find Lee Jong-seok handsome. That’s a real compliment right here. I admittedly let out a few squees because CUTE! And this kiss, I actually like. RAWR
Then, the seventh episode happened and the noble idiocy act started. Granted, I didn’t hate it the first time because I knew why Kang Chul thought it was the only way to save Yeon-joo from the killer out to kill her. But it was so so painful. The subsequent episodes showing him not even remembering Yeon-joo because of the reset (basically, making everything a dream and this kdrama’s version of the dreaded The Amnesia Plot) was so painful. I still didn’t mind… that is until Kang Chul 2.0 got on the romance train again.
It was so inorganic. It felt like he didn’t really love Yeon-joo but since he learned from the manhwa that he loved her BEFORE, he just kinda accepted that and all. I wanted him to fall in love with her AGAIN but instead all we got was angst. I know, I understand, the stakes are high and most of the time in the drama was spent on trying to BE ALIVE and romance can take a backseat but I just hoped for more build-up. Something that I can believe in. Instead, it was like, okay, so the romance is back, you guys! But nope, no time to dawdle and make it feel organic. It was like I was forced to like the romance still because they’re ~inevitable~ no matter what so let’s just get on with the show. That’s not how you do it, Show. Still, I wanted a happy ending for them but it wasn’t because of the romance, it was because I wanted Kang Chul to be a ~real boy~ in the ~real world~ being ~happy~ and being happy meant Oh Yeon-joo.
Even as if I didn’t much care for the romance anymore, I was still as invested with the drama. Even as if my questions seemed like they were never going to be answered, I was still so glued to the screen.
I guess it didn’t help that I binged the first six episodes on Sunday until 2:30AM, watched the seventh episode on Monday, then saw the next two on Tuesday, then binged the rest on Wednesday. I finished it in four days and I had all the episodes with me. Even as questions bugged me (How can that happen? Why? Did the rules change again? Why is someone’s arm disappearing?), I didn’t stop to think much about them because I just kept on watching because I WANNA KNOW WHAT HAPPENS. I NEED TO HAVE A HAPPY ENDING.
It was only now that I had the time to analyze. I wonder if I followed this one while it was ongoing if my interest would have waned by the second half when I had the time to think about all the questions and what is lacking. But since I didn’t have the time to care about world building rules (the show didn’t as well), I just went with what the writer was pulling, what feelings I was supposed to feel.
My unmet demands with the romance and the plot and world building aside, good lord do I love the cinematography on this one. Kang Chul’s world was vibrant, very fitting with how comics do look like. Contrasted with the muted tones and colors of the real world, it was a stark difference. I think the story would still work even without that different coloring but the directing and cinematography really elevated the material to a visual feast. The editing I applaud as well because the narrative wasn’t confusing. Aided by the contrast of the two worlds, the transition from one world to the other was done well.
Everyone delivered acting-wise, especially Kim Eui-sung as Oh Sung-moo, creator of W and Yeon-joo’s father. Good lord, he was amazing. I think Lee Jong-seok was also amazing as Kang Chul as he never made me think or feel that Kang Chul was not a real human, that he was just a cartoon character. Right from the start, he grounded Kang Chul’s emotions in reality and I felt every single thing he felt. Good lord, was that a blast to watch. I know, in his mind, he’s a real human, but as the viewer, you know that he’s not. But I never felt like he was not a real human. Great job! I already know Han Hyo-joo can deliver, especially the heartwrenching bits. I do think the leads tried their best to sell the romance but there wasn’t just that crackling chemistry for me.
Although I do think this show spent SO MUCH TIME in flashbacks to events that JUST HAPPENED and in recapping everything EVERY TIME. I’d go into an episode with nothing new happening for the first 10 minutes or so and honestly, those kinda bored me. Then we get to see how someone saw the scene WE ALREADY KNOW with nothing new added. Those screentime could have been used to further the romance! Or answer my questions! Or build the world better! Alas, no dice.
Anyway, I still like this show. Not love, which makes me sad because at 2:30AM when I finished episode 6 I was so sure everyone was wrong: HOW COULD THIS ONE HAVE A MEH LATTER HALF? THIS IS PERFECT. Oh well.
W-Two Worlds was definitely cracktastic. I think semi-binging it help me turn a blind eye to its flaws while watching because it was such an addicting ride. If I followed it week per week, giving me a week to internalize and turn the whole episodes around my brain, I might have been as angry/disappointed as a lot of people.
As it is, I was amazed at the unique and innovative meta wonderland that W-Two Worlds was and how effective it was in wringing emotions (more in the vein of panic and worry and anxiety) out of me, and while I’m not dissatisfied per se, I’m also not satisfied. Does that even make sense? And thus ends my attempt to extract words out of my brain and ending up with a non-synthesis. Did I even answer the question I sought to answer? Haha!